Monthly news magazine for Roatan,
Utila & Guanaja
January, 2005 Vol.3 No. 1
 
Calendar Style
Bay Islands Voice Updates:
feature story / editorial / local news / business

Fact or Fiction? - Written and Illustrated by Thomas Tomczyk

1.

England has its unexplained crop circles, Peru has its giant desert patterns and now Roatan has its mysterious road paintings. A 100-meter long yellow stripe appeared on the road in Dixon Cove and some people say it is the work of "Lower Civilization from Outer Space." Have the ETs undertaken preparations to land their Interplanetary Vehicle on the Bay Islands? After all, they could be on the lookout for an inexpensive place to settle down and retire, and surprise, surprise - they decided on the Bay Islands. Even more disturbing is the theory that the line might continue to eventually stretch all across the island. Bay Islands VOICE investigated this development.
On October 14, Roatan woke up to disturbing news: their road system has been changed forever - it has, at least in part, been marked by a mysterious yellow line on the main road in Dixon Cove. On a moonless night someone or something painted a 100-meter long, yellow, broken stripe roughly in the center of the 6-meter wide road. Even more disturbing was the continuous 3-meter long side line - something unprecedented even in San Pedro or Tegucigalpa.
Our investigation concluded that the stripe has a rather earthly provenance and originates in the frustration of some Roatanians about the dangerous conditions of their roads. "We can't wait for our government to do something," said Fidel David, owner of a motor parts store in Dixon Cove. David, from San Pedro Sula, wanted to do something other than whining, promising and appealing like some Roatanians have done in the past; he bought a roller and took matters into his own hands.
For about Lps. 1,000, David bought a gallon of Transito yellow paint and, with the help of two workers in two hours, he gave the Roatan road system a makeover. The yellow stripes are 5 inches wide, one meter long and one meter apart. They are not all quite straight, nor point in the same direction for that matter. The typical spacing on medium speed roads is two meters, but who cares, we have joined the 20th Century. We are catching up.
David is planning on buying an additional one or two gallons of paint to extend the division line for another hundred meters or so, and even plans to paint a crosswalk.
According to David, the Transito Police even offered assistance in the project.

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2.

Are there really air conditioned stables on Roatan?
Hot, humid climates aren't always ideal for people, let alone horses. With the price of electricity at an all time high, some people can't afford a fan above their bed, let alone an air conditioning for their 'caballo'. A rumor of an extravagant horse owner spoiling his/her horses has run the length of the island. Bay Islands VOICE has tracked the mysterious owner to dispel the myth. Julia Zygler has 20 Arabian horses in her Lost Isle Ranch in Conch Cay Point by Port Royal, but no air conditioning. To make the horses more comfortable, 12 fans move the air in their 11 stalls.

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3.

In Honduras, you don't go to jail when you're over 60?
If that was true, Honduras and the Bay Islands would probably be terrorized by the elderly running around settling their scores. As if their preferential treatment at the bank line wasn't enough. The confusion probably originates with the Honduran law allowing for house arrest which can be administered for as long as it takes - years sometimes. The reality is much less dramatic. According to article 183 of the Honduran penal Code, "pregnant women, nursing women, people with terminal illness and persons over 60" should be placed under house arrest while awaiting trial. After they are convicted, they all go to jail and time spent under house arrest doesn't reduce their sentence. The penalty for homicide is 15 to 20 years in jail, depending on the circumstances of the crime. Roatan prosecutor Lic. Marcio Moya helped us clarify this dispute.

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4.

Can you spearfish anywhere outside of the Sandy Bay-West Bay Marine Reserve?
It is confusing to see all those people with fins, spear guns and fish walking on the side of the road in Los Fuertes or Flower's Bay. Is spear fishing really illegal if so many people are doing it? Well, paradoxes abound and contrary to the underwater reality, spear fishing is prohibited anywhere on the Bay Islands. The Marine Reserve is only a place of greater enforcement of protection of the environmental laws. According to Irma Brady, president of Roatan's BICA, the Bay Islands marine protection law is the same everywhere in the department. The fines for spear fishing or net fishing can start with a warning, a fine, confiscation of fishing equipment and, in especially serious cases, a jail term.

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5.

Who is the biggest dog of the Bay Islands?
An Irish Wolf Hound named "Tess" is the clear winner. The dog, 4-1/2, lives in West End and has a full-time dedicated dog walker. The giant breed hails from Ireland and was bred to hunt wolves. The 150 lbs. "gentle giant" stands 6' tall, can swallow a chicken in two gulps and enjoys a diet of four pounds of dog food a day.

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6.

Was there really a $1 million donation from Melinda Gates to Sandy Bay Orphanage?
Not quite. As far as we have researched, Ms. Melinda Gates is quite unaware of Roatan. Since 1994, Bill and Melinda Gates' foundation has given $7.5 billion to projects through the world. Only a small fraction has directly been given to Honduras, one exception being the $1.5 million grant to CARE International in 1998 "to provide family planning, AIDS/STD prevention and reproductive health services in Western Ghana and Honduras." Some of the foundation vaccine programs for measles, mumps and rubella have benefited Honduras.

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7.

Who 'really' has the most rusted-out car?
Karl Stanley's Isuzu Trooper takes the trophy. Even the West End owner is not sure of her production year, we used a carbon-dating estimate… late XX century. The headlights do work and at least one high beam does. The driver door is tied to the frame with a seatbelt.
The whole floor rusted away and about one-third of the roof has disappeared making the Isuzu a convertible or giving the car a claim to a giant sun-roof. "The headliner was so bad you could be making penicillin out of it," said Jeff Thekan, previous owner of the automobile. Sitting in the back one can see the road below and sky above. "I'm waiting for it to die," says Karl.

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8.

Who's Bay Islands VOICE most social person: Sandra Sampayo, Larry McLaughlin perhaps, or is it Governor Clinton Everett?
It's hard to accurately measure how social and popular someone is. We found our own gauge; we counted the times each person appeared on the social page of Bay Islands VOICE. Here are the results. Without a doubt, Sandra Sampayo was our 2003 Most Social Person. In 2004, Governor Clinton Everett pulled ahead and appeared on the Bay Islands VOICE social pages more than anyone else - five times. Larry McLaughlin and Joely Thompson weren't far behind, both appearing three times.

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9.

Are there Alligators on the Bay Islands?
That actually is true. Occasional sightings of the endangered "Crocodilus Acutus" happen in Old Port Royal and Saint Helene's Creek. Guanaja's West End has a couple specimens and, every couple years, a rumor places one in the Utila swamps. In 1940-1960, the Bay Islands exported small amounts of alligator skins and an American briefly attempted an alligator meat export business in the mid-1990s.
For an everyday sighting, you don't have to travel further than First Bight. Calvin Bodden, a Jonesville businessman, keeps five alligators at his Animal Kingdom farm. Alligators can live up to 80 years; Bodden's oldest is eight. The reptile was caught in Calabash Bight and grew to six-and-a-half feet on an unsteady diet of the animal carcasses and fish. "We feed them only once a month," said Bodden.

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10.

Parrot Tree workers find a box of treasure in French Harbour?
Every couple of years, someone seems to find a treasure chest somewhere on in the Bay Islands. It is probably the same one. The most recent 'treasure find' took place in June on the construction site of Black Pearl Mall. The "bulldozer guy" picked-up a piece of black plastic pipe and referred to it affectionately "our treasure box." Within days, the island was buzzing about the golden find. Still, nobody left their job, retired on a Caribbean Island. Paul Getler, construction superintendent at Parrot Tree is still looking for his treasure. "Gold? We don't like to talk about that anymore," said Getler.

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The System Sinks - by Thomas Tomczyk, Managing Editor

While working on this issue's business story: "The Business of Boat crashing," I came to some sad observations.
If a boat found itself disabled in a Marine Reserve in the US, the Coast Guard, Police and all kinds of environmental organizations would be involved in the rescue and investigation efforts from the start. In Honduras and on the Bay Islands, there is no functioning system of dealing with such a crisis. The stranding of Circes, only 200 meters from AKR in the middle of the Sandy Bay Marine Reserve, proved the inability of Roatan's enforcement institutions and

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private sector to effectively control and resolve a situation that is likely to repeat itself in the future.
If a vessel becomes a hazard to a reef and the captain/owner is incapable of dealing with the situation, there should be a system in place to quickly deal with such a situation. Despite the lack of resources, the Port Captain or the Police should be able to contract salvage crews with the promise of payment from the owner of the boat. If, after the salvage operation was completed, the owner couldn't produce payment for the rescue effort in a timely manner, part of or the entire boat should be sold off for payment.
One issue is pursuing punishment of any guilty parties in such occasions; the other is securing the timely protection of the reef. Only luck prevented Circes' three diesel tanks from floating onto the reef and spilling in the direction of the AKR's Dolphin pens.
The inability to bring effective action is even more surprising when considering how many people and businesses depend on the reef for their livelihood. It is not every month that a vessel becomes stranded on a Roatan reef. It does happen occasionally though and, as the island population continues to grow, this type of accident is likely to repeat itself with greater frequency. What did everyone learn from this disaster? We will find out next time a boat crashes into the reef.

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Lighting Up The Town by Jaime Johnston

The 2004 Roatan Christmas Festival attracted thousands of people from across the islands. The first two days, December 6 and 7, featured an assortment of parades: bikers, boats, horses and golf carts. Fireworks lit up the sky for the festival opening. "New additions this year were the Golf Car parade and the Junior Bikers," said Festival Committee member Connie Silvestri.
Of the over 50 vendors, many featured homemade baked goods. A group of Patronato Jonesville women set up a stand selling island-style cakes and sweets. "The yucca cake took the longest," said Helen Thompson. The women were raising money for their own festival in Jonesville. Last year, the group sold ten cakes. This year, there brought cakes, brownies, cookies and custards tempting the sweet tooths of the island. Their specialties included corn cake, rum cake and the Jonesville original, Lady Golden Glow cake. The Jonesville eight were: Helen Thompson, Ivette Ducker, Lisa Thompson, Bonnie Thompson, Cathie Thompson, Dale Jones, Wendy Carter, Sharie Jackson; this group could challenge anybody to a cake cook-off. "If we sell enough we will be back tomorrow," said Helen Thompson.
New to the 2004 Festival, the golf cart parade featured eight entries. On December 14, Caitlin Hyde sat in the middle of a line of decorated golf carts; Hyde, 10, was a first time parade driver. As her small fingers gripped the wheel, Hyde reported, "I am scared about making the turns and hitting something." The cart was decorated with dozens of glittery ornaments, colorful lights and ribbon. A miniature Christmas tree was perched atop the cart and metallic blue garland was wrapped around the wheel. "Blue is my favorite color and there is a lot of blue," said Hyde who spent three hours decorating the cart with her mother, Robin. As the parade began, Hyde made last minute checks. She had extra batteries for the lights and a CD player with songs from "Superstar Christmas" sounding in the background. At the last minute, she was told that her cart will be escorting Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus around the parade route through French Harbour. Her eyes darted between the passengers and the steering wheel. "I was nervous before, but now I am very nervous to be driving them around too," said Hyde.

If the parades weren't exciting enough, there was always the game corner of the festival. The most popular was the "water dunk tank" built especially for the festival by Dale Jackson, owner of Diamond Jack. Jackson built a nine-foot high metal cage contraption that displayed volunteers sitting on a swing, ready to be plunged into a water cistern. The "dunk tank" was triggered by accurately throwing a tennis ball into a 9 inch-diameter circle. "I've never seen anything like it," said Oscar Angel Gonzales. The eleven-year-old Gonzales was dressed only in his underwear, ready to risk a plunge swinging on plank.
The closing of the festival included judging the "Best Lit Homes", a band dance and a grand finale of fireworks. The festival was planned by a committee of ten volunteers who began organizing events three months ago. According to Hyde, the 'late' start caused a delay and some pressure in collecting money. Despite this, the festival had approximately 130 sponsors. "Everyone helps in many different ways and it takes everyone from the cleaning crew on the streets, to the Police who offer their service providing a secure and safe environment for everyone to enjoy and experience the cheer of Christmas," said Silvestri.
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MR. TATUM

Mayor Eddie Tatum, 37, was born and educated on Guanaja. Before being elected to his first public office as Guanaja's Mayor, Tatum has worked managing his family's dry-dock and freight service businesses. He is married and has two children. In the 2005 elections, he decided to run for a 'suplente' to congress. Now two main candidates, Audly Philips and Richmond Hearston, are running to take his place as Mayor of Guanaja. Bay Islands VOICE talked to Mayor Tatum about the trials and tribulations of being a mayor of the island that fell behind and is trying to catch up.

Bay Islands VOICE: What are your accomplishments while in office?
Mayor Eddie Tatum: We are quite proud of how transparent we have run the municipality. What has been frustrating is the projects that we haven't been able to realize yet. The road project for example. We haven't received the support, monetary support, of the central government that we were due.
B.I.V.: Is there a specific route for the road project at this point?
E.T.: There has been a study done on the north side of the island: connecting Savannah Bight to Mangrove Bight and moving along the north part of the island to the airport. Personally, I think that is the right place for it to go. The north side of the island is the most beautiful part of the island. We need to develop tourism and we need to put in the right infrastructure.

B.I.V.: What kind of tourism do you see developing on Guanaja?
E.T.: We want to focus of the 'upper-class' tourism. We don't focus so much on the backpacker tourism. No offence, but with the fragility of the Bay Islands we need to focus not on the quantity, but on quality. (…) We hardly had any success with that. Our main problem is the lack of proper infrastructure. We need to prepare ourselves for tourism first. We need to have a nice road system, nice garbage collection system, sewer system. (…) Since the Hurricane Mitch, tourism on Guanaja had dropped. We feel that we were victims of the central government who first said Guanaja was so devastated, but then they never went back to see how we were recovering. Last administration used us to get aid for the country, but none of the aid went into Guanaja.
B.I.V.: Still, until the 1960s, Guanaja was the most prosperous island of the archipelago.
E.T.: Guanaja was a pioneer in the Bay Islands. We started the fishing industry, the tourism industry; we even had the airport on Guanaja before Roatan [did]. Population concentrated on the small cays and that has caused the setback of Guanaja. We did not worry about getting infrastructure, a road system. We were confused, people were saying 'let's stay unique,' but now most everybody has learned that unique doesn't work. We have to come on par with the rest of the world.
B.I.V.: What about a regular passenger boat between Guanaja and the mainland, or even Roatan?
E.T.: I am not so sure we need this type of facility. Many of the investors here complain about the growth of the population, Roatan being so easy to get to. We don't want to make the same type of mistake on Guanaja. If we had implemented that kind of service, we would get a lot more people.
B.I.V.: What portions of the proposed law [Article 107] has the biggest implications for Guanaja?
E.T.: Actually, there isn't much of the law that has implications on Guanaja. We have good beaches to develop and I'm in favor of 'no artificial beaches.' We have seen it being tried and it hasn't worked as expected. It's better to leave nature as it is.
B.I.V.: Do you have any advice for the next mayor of Guanaja?
E.T.: Don't get your bubble blown-up so big, so when it gets popped [its easy to get-up and keep on going.] There were big expectations for a lot of support, but it has been to the contrary.

The Road of Confusion

Some Church of God people see the timing of the work linked to an effort by some private individuals to pave the road themselves. On November 29, at the weekly pre-election National Party meeting, Julio Galindo, owner of Anthony's Key Resort and candidate for Roatan Mayor, discussed the possibility of paving the road with his own resources. "We said, 'Let's see if we can get a [Municipal] permit and do it," said Galindo. "Why should the community suffer? (…) I don't see what the sidewalk has anything to do with the road." Two local construction companies were asked for an estimate to do the work, but the situation moved in another direction.
Five days later, on Saturday, December 4, the road was cordoned-off by an eight-person Diamond Jack crew contracted to do the road base, working with four road construction machines. In 24 hours, the disputed road was leveled and a six centimeter asphalt top was poured by Constructora Eterna from San Pedro Sula at a cost of Lps. 75,000. "It was the smartest thing to do," said Nicole Brady, secretary to Mayor Jerry Hynds. According to Brady, the Roatan Municipal will continue efforts to gain possession of the fenced-off sidewalk.
Still, the pedestrians seem to be the ones left out. No marked road crossing, or even a temporary sidewalk was built on the road's east side.

by Thomas Tomczyk

A year-long dispute over a Thicket Mouth stretch of sidewalk and road gets resolved. Or is this just a temporary fix?

While the long process of paving the streets of Coxen Hole has finally reached the Point, a 40-meter long, 6-meter wide stretch of road has become a symbol of competing interest of church and state. The Church of God refused to give up its fenced-off sidewalk. The Roatan Municipal refused to pave the road in front of the Church's and Bilingual school's fence.
The base of the Church of God claim was that the 5-foot strip of land was church property badly needed for the students and congregation. "Our will was strong. And we ware praying that this [road paving] was eventually going to happen," said Church of God member, Howard Bodden.
By early November, the Church of God community stopped filling in the pot holes in the road. In the last weeks of November, some private individuals brought gravel fill for the road, but were prevented by the Church of God representatives from improving the road condition. "We just had enough of that," said Harvey Kelly, Church of God member.
The standoff lasted for over a year. The Church of God bought ads in "La Prensa" to state its position; the Municipality was waiting it out.
The Church of God members were tired of breathing in the dust created by passing cars. The road users were frustrated by the traffic, discomfort and road hazard. Many people were embarrassed by the image the unpaved, pothole ridden-road was creating in the eyes of tourists and visitors. "It should have been resolved from day one," said Governor Everett, also a Church of God member. It seemed like only a miracle could resolve the dispute. And, election year is a perfect time to ask for a miracle.

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The Circes' Circus by Thomas Tomczyk
Dozens of people are involved in the rescue effort of a vessel marooned on a reef in the heart of the Sandy Bay Marine Reserve. What follows is a story of near tragedy, errors, negligence and luck-of-the-draw avoided ecological disaster.

The weather worsened and the rescue became unfeasible. Three diesel fuel tanks with 50 to 300 gallons of fuel detached from the boat and created the risk of spilled fuel reaching AKR's dolphin pens. "One of the tanks busted, but luckily the fuel was blown away from the reef," said Irma Brady, president of Bay Islands Conservation Association, BICA. BICA did file a complaint with the Roatan Fiscalia.
Over the course of the next several weeks, pieces of fiberglass, plastic and PVC littered Sandy Bay beaches for miles. The boat's disintegration not only caused damage to the reef, but to some businesses. "I feel really angry, because I make my living from the reef," said PJ, owner of Coconut Tree Divers in West End. Coconut Tree divers kept an eye out on the disintegrating shell of the boat and managed to salvage and repair the fiberglass top from Circes. They plan to place it on top of their own Bottom Time dive boat.
Trevor Dempsey, 31, an English dive instructor with Pura Vida, signed a $6,500 contract with Bridal to clean up the debris and salvage the two 1.2 tones 871 Detroit engines. Working with four other divers and boat captains, the clean-up crew spent around 400 man hours picking up boat parts: fiberglass, screws, wires, clothes, "100 cans of beer." "Everything that was on that boat ended up on the reef," said Dempsey. Working during free time and after work, the clean-up crew collected five truckloads of debris.
According to Dempsey, Bridal backed out of the signed contract and offered him the ownership of the engines instead. Dempsey managed to move one of the engines 30' away from the wreck, but when he came back to complete the salvage a couple days later, the engine was gone.
Working in strong surf and at only 8-10 feet of water "you could burn a tank of air in 40 minutes," said Dempsey. The work was technically challenging and dangerous. At one point during the operation, Dempsey became entangled in the boat's electrical wiring and had to spend 20 minutes cutting himself loose.

TOP: The charter boat Circes with a watchman on-board the day after the incident. (PHOTO: BICA) LEFT: The remains of the boat's 871 Detroit engine. (PHOTO: Marcus Schwarz)
This was not the first time there was a problem with the boat and its owner. Several months before the accident, West End residents approached Governor Clinton Everett with concerns about Circes harboring in Half Moon Bay without a holding tank, dumping sewage directly into the bay. Governor Everett wrote a letter to Lidia Medina, head of Roatan Municipal's environmental department.
Medina says that, despite numerous attempts, two of the Municipal environmental inspectors failed to locate the Circes' owner. "The boat was always gone in the day," said Medina. As maximum fines issued by Roatan Municipal never exceed $3,000, the Municipality decided to leave the investigation of the boat sinking to the Fiscalia. According to Medina, the Municipal is hesitant to impose higher fines so they would not be accused of overstepping their boundries. There are no fine increases for damage caused in the marine park. "This is not good. We should be able to impose greater fines for offenses that happen in protected areas," said Medina.
Marcio Moya, a Roatan prosecutor who did the inspection of the accident site, said that he couldn't locate Circes' owner and that the loss of the boat is enough of a punishment for its owner. The case is currently not being pursued.
Alfredo Acosta, Roatan port captain, said that he also couldn't locate Bridal. If a captain is found to be under the influence of alcohol while causing an accident, Honduran Merchant Marines can have his captain's licence suspended for six months. An additional fine of Lps. 10,000-20,000 can be applied for causing damage to the environment.
Two months after the incident, at the time of the VOICE going to print, there is a pending PMAIB and Roatan Port Captain's investigation. Pura Vida continues its clean-up efforts.

On November 4, around 6:30pm, Circes, a 52' powerboat, was coming back from a charter to Barbareta when it approached 'Mike's Place' dive site. Circes was heading west, maneuvering between the reef and Anthony's Key Resort (AKR) dive boats, just meters above 14 tourists who had been doing their Thursday night dive there.
AKR boat crew shouted and flashed their torches at Circes to avoid the divers below and the reef ahead. Circes hit a reef, "bounced off," and continued at "half throttle" above the AKR divers. "He nearly killed somebody there," said Samir Galindo, AKR manager. The boat hit the reef with enough speed to travel almost 20' feet on top of it.
The AKR dive boats picked up their divers and returned to help the crew of Circes. They picked up "six-seven drunk passengers," a crew member and a dog. Dennis Bridal, captain and owner of Circes, stayed on the boat.
Around 9pm, Karl Stanley, owner of Deepwater Submarine, hired a water taxi and, with Artley Thompson, a West End water taxi driver and Orvel Miller, headed to offer their help. "He [Bridal] was sitting below deck, without lights, dazed and in shock," said Stanley. It took 45 minutes for the three men to convince Bridal to leave the boat with some possessions. Bridal lived on the boat for months and all his valuables were onboard.
The next morning, Friday, Julio Galindo Jr., co-manager of AKR, passed by the stranded Circes to offer help, but was waved off by a deck-hand brought in to safeguard the boat. Later in the day, Julio Galindo Jr. offered the use of his dry dock to Bridal and any other help needed, free of charge. Bridal declined. "He admitted to me he was drinking [at the time of the accident]," said Julio Galindo Jr., who also notified the Roatan Port Captain of the incident.
Three days of calm seas allowed for opportunity to save the boat and limit the damage to the reef. According to Stanley, Bridal was not actively involved in the attempts at Circes' rescue. "He had plenty of time. He lost this boat due to his own negligence," said Julio Galindo Jr. Bridal declined to comment on record to Bay Islands VOICE regarding the incident.
Several people were asked for and volunteered their help and expertise in rescuing the boat. Stanley, along with Alejo Monterosso, a Roatan businessperson, spent their own $300-$400 to stabilize the vessel. "We had two of the three holes plugged in," said Stanley. French Harbour boat Bobby Junior came in to pump the water out, but the Circes was leaning too far and water was getting in over the bow. The boat needed to be straightened and Stanley offered to conduct the salvage for $10,000. Bridal declined the offer.
The value of the Circes was estimated around $400,000, and her engines alone could bring in $30,000 each. "He [Bridal] told me he had no insurance," said Stanley. According to Arlie Thompson, of AT Insurance, a year's insurance for a 50' pleasure boat costs 3.5% of its value.
On the fourth day the keel broke, the weather worsened and the salvage of the Circes became more difficult. On day six, A&D Dry Dock crew showed up to investigate the potential for rescuing the vessel.

Read past issues of
Bay Islands VOICE

No. 4
May 8
2003

Vol2 No. 2
Jan.29
2004

Vol2 No. 3
Feb.12
2004

   

Vol2 No. 14
December
2004