Monthly news magazine for Roatan,
Utila & Guanaja
June, 2006 Vol.4 No.6
 
Calendar Style
Bay Islands Voice Updates:
feature story / editorial / local news / business

written by Jaime Johnston / photos by Thomas Tomczyk

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME
The Legend of 'Nine Tops' Baseball Lingers On
The Nine Tops after the 1973 tournament in Tela. Standing: Cheryl Galindo, Doc Polo Galindo, Clyde Lestie, Marco Galindo, Bill Brady, Na, Polin Galindo, Na. Sitting: Washington Watler, Na, Na, Basil Sanders, Julio Galindo, Alfredo Mann, Moody Bodden. (Photo: curtesy of Bill Brady)

On the eve of the first National Baseball Championship to take place on Roatan this August, baseball is on the minds of many. The foundation of island baseballers however lie deep, 25 years deep.
Talk to any of the members of the Coxen Hole Nine Tops and they'll tell you how things used to be back when their baseball team dominated the sport on the islands and Honduras' north coast. It was a time when sporting events were a family affair. Topped with BBQs, band dances, three generations of fans shared bleachers at the baseball fields.

"At that time, we had no worries. Money didn't mean anything, greed hadn't entered the picture yet and land wasn't worth much," said Nine Top outfielder Bill Brady, "We just loved baseball." There was a core group of players who stayed with the Nine Tops from start to finish- almost a 15-year dynasty.
They traveled by plane, bus and boat. They bought their own baseball diamond, stocked their own equipment and played baseball for the pure love of it.

Nearly 25 years later, each of them has gone their separate ways. Some are living abroad, others stayed on Roatan and became businessmen. Looking at the old Nine Tops photographs is like looking at the Roatan's 'who's who.'
Although their cleats were retired years ago, many of the veterans keep their eye on the sport in Roatan. The face of the league has changed, but the old Nine Tops remember fondly "how it used to be."

A 'field of dreams' in Gravel Bay.

Before the Nine Tops, there were the Coxen Hole Nine Stars started by Julio Galindo and his brothers in the 1960s. After losing a tournament in La Ceiba, the team returned to the island and the Nine Stars were replaced by the Coxen Hole Nine Tops. Most of the original Nine Tops struggled to recall the exact start date of the team. The consensus however, is that he team began in 1970, or 1971. The team was well on its way in February 1971, when Bill Brady, a Peace Corps volunteer from Ramseur, North Carolina arrived in Roatan.
He knew he was there to contribute to the community and so, he helped with the construction of schools, churches, different projects. But he didn't know what he was getting into when he joined the Coxen Hole Nine Tops. "What I learned is that if I helped anyone here, they helped me more. I got another perspective on life through the eyes of a different culture," said Brady.
Brothers Luey and Larry McLaughlin returned from studying and working in Tampa right around the time that the team was formed. They joined Brady, the Galindo brothers and the other Nine Tops.
In addition to the seven other island teams: Flowers Bay, Gravel Bay, French Harbour, West End, two teams each from Sandy Bay and Coxen Hole, the Nine Tops used to play against visiting sports ambassadors: AAA teams from the States and also missionary teams. "We played against different teams from Roatan and the other islands, but we beat everybody around," said Larry McLaughlin, Nine Tops first baseman.
According to McLaughlin, the Nine Tops were the last team from the island to win a mainland series. They used to play games on a vacant lot, where Roatan Bilingual School is today located. "The field wasn't as nice as it is now. It was a lot smaller. It wasn't the greatest, but we were happy," said Curby Warren, another Nine Tops player. The field had almost no grass and was mainly red clay.
In the rain season, it was covered in mud, so the league stuck mostly to summer games. "It wasn't full size, but, even today, no field on Roatan is regulation," said Robert Wilmouth, an outfielder. After that field, the team also used to play in the thicket area behind the hospital on lots owned by the Price family. In the early 1980s, a group of Nine Tops players bought some land in Coxen Hole. Larry and Luey McLaughlin, Julio Galindo, Curby Warren, Marlon Bodden and Nine Tops supporter Nachio Serrano purchased the parcel of swampland. They cleared it, filled it in and continued to play ball, on what today is Coxen Hole stadium.
On the island, the heated rivalry was said to be between the Nine Tops and the Sandy Bay Pirates. The Nine Tops even managed to steal away the Pirates' top pitcher, Basil Saunders, now a chef in New Orleans. Brady recalls that the Pirates games were like mini-festivals. The community would have a "Queen of the Pirates" and play music. "They wound up beating us a couple of times, but we don't like to admit that," said Brady. There were several seasons where the Nine Tops didn't lose a single game.
The main competition for the Coxen Holian's came from Utila. "Playing in Utila was really the most exciting times, special times," said Warren. There were two teams: Utila Playboys from the Cays and the Utila Red Devils from Eastern Harbour. "I remember the Howell brothers from the cays- they were some real athletes. We had amazing camaraderie between the two islands," said Brady.
The team would travel to Utila for a weekend series, flying in on old DC-3s. And, if Brady's memory serves him correctly, the landing strip was about three feet longer than was needed to take off. "When we went to Utila, we were treated like kings and when they came here, it was the same thing. It was like a carnival," said Brady. In Utila, the games were packed with fans. According to Luey McLaughlin, Nine Tops sometimes had more native Utilians as fans than at home in Roatan.
Luey McLaughlin, a third baseman, keeps in touch with some of his old rivals from the Playboys. The Utila games usually find a way into the conversations. There is one such game that sticks out above the victories to Galindo. The team was playing against Utila and they were down one run at the bottom of the ninth inning. Galindo went up to bat with Luey McLaughlin on second base. Galindo failed to hit and they lost the game. "Man, did that ever bug me. I felt responsible for a shutout against us and it was rare for a team to shut us out," said Galindo cringing.
When teams traveled to Roatan to play, the Nine Tops would charge a Lps. 3 entry fee to help cover the costs of hosting the visiting team. "Julio and Larry used to handle the arrangements and make most of the decisions. We had the best players all the time and we were the club that traveled the most," said Wilmouth.
Nine Tops always practiced the day before game day. Wilmouth recalls the big crowds that were drawn when American missionary teams would challenge the Nine Tops, or even a college team that once came to play on the island.
"We had some good athletes and good competition," said Warren. According to Warren, several Nine Tops were picked up by mainland scouts to play in the semi-professional league in Tegucigalpa. Those players included Moody Bodden, Charles Saunders and Herbert Bernard. Bodden was the team pitcher and one of the strongest batters. "I can't remember anyone on the island as good as Moody Bodden. He was born talented and he could have made it in the majors," said Julio Galindo. Bodden never made it to the big league and he lost touch with most of his old teammates after leaving Roatan. Many of the Nine Tops are under the impression that he now struggles with life in New York. Saunders has since relocated to Utila and Bernard lives in Boston. Their Utila counterparts also sent players to Tegucigalpa which was a respected league at the time. The Tela tournament led to an influx of invitations to play other mainland tournaments.

A Play-off game in Sandy Bay
Players came and went, but baseball continued to thrive on Roatan. Warren describes his youth as a simpler time. Without television, night clubs and bars there was more time to share one's youth and energy. "There was a different interest in sports when I was growing up. There was more participation," said Warren.
The Nine Top's enthusiasm eventually spilled over into success. The team began to carve out a reputation on the coast, traveling to Cortes, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa for tournaments. One of the Nine Tops biggest victories was at a tournament in Tela in 1973. In their first game, Coxen Hole matched against Tela who brought in a pitcher from Utila. "They thought they would wipe us out with him and we shut them out.
Other teams were shocked at what we were doing," said Julio Galindo. Then, the Nine Tops played Tegucigalpa and won that game. Galindo attributes the victories to a good use of their bench. Henry "Brother" Kelly was a relief pitcher for the Nine Tops in that tournament. Kelly, now a musician in New York, was one of the original Nine Tops.
It was during this tournament that Brady has some of his fondest memories. Doctor Polo Galindo, father of Julio and Marco, was a big supporter of island baseball. He traveled with the team and the tournament in Tela was no exception. The Nine Tops were playing one of the final games and with Coxen Hole up to bat, they were tied in the ninth inning.
Before anyone could bat, Doc Polo Galindo left the bench, walked over to the batter's box and placed Lps. 200 on home plate. It was a wager the Nine Tops ended up winning. They won the Peggy Aykock Tournament Championship in Tela that year. "Back then, Lps. 200 was a lot of money. Doc Polo was a fanatical baseball supporter," said Brady. In a team picture of the champion Nine Tops, original players Washington Watler and Enrique Rosales are pictured with the small group of teammates. Watler has since moved to the States, as has Rosales who runs an ice cream business in Miami.
A young baseball player during practice in Sandy Bay.
"The fame of quality of athletes on the islands was always known, even before the island teams got there," said Brady. The Nine Tops' record on the coast opened up invitations for other island teams to travel to their tournaments. Julio Galindo, a catcher, was one of the team's leaders. He used to consult about the line-ups and different strategies. He and Larry McLaughlin took on somewhat of a managerial role.
Although the face of the Nine Tops changed over their 15-year span, the team nucleus remained the same. Throughout the seasons, Coxen Hole picked up different players. One of them, Hilario Willis, was a shortstop from Nicaragua who first played on Utila. "We had a group of players that joined us from other teams. They had to earn a status to play with us," said Julio Galindo. According to Galindo, one of the team's strengths was that they understood each other. When the team was traveling, it was understood that some players could afford to chip in and some couldn't contribute. But, it never prevented the Nine Tops from making their trips.
"Nine Tops were by far the best team on Roatan," said Warren. The team bought their own equipment and also shared it around the league when they had extras. Warren has noticed a decline in baseball on the island. He attributes it to the expense of the sport and the influence of the mainland migration. "The people from the coast have really built an interest in football here and it is a lot less expensive than baseball," said Warren.
At that time, many of the players were working and had different connections to the United States. That kept the team stocked with equipment whenever someone would make a trip north. "Luis, Larry and Julio were big contributors to the team in that way," said Brady.
Nine Tops continued playing for 15 years, before the team hung up their cleats in 1986. "We got old," laughs Warren, "The guys left to study or work off the island." Right around the time when the Nine Tops were ending their dynasty, a committee was formed in Sandy Bay to raise funds for a baseball field. The committee included Brady and his wife Irma, Silver Connor, Dennis Anderson and others. Nine Top player Marlon Bodden was Mayor at the time and allowed the group to use the municipal bulldozers and heavy equipment to build the diamond.
The field in Coxen Hole is still privately-owned by the old Nine Tops nucleus. Although it doubles as the home field for football's Arsenal, it is still the community baseball diamond and that's where the national championship will be played in August.
Wilmouth also remained involved in baseball after his career with the Nine Tops. In 1999, he managed Gravel Bay's Kool & the Gang, a role he kept for three years. He doesn't get up to the ball fields as much as he would like to, but he has noticed several outstanding players in the league now. "Stacy Miller with West End is an all-around player and he's as quick as they got. Also, Hiram Mann is another strong player," said Wilmouth about a newer generation of players.
In the early 1970s, the Peace Corps volunteers used to supply equipment for the school baseball games, now most of the cost are incurred by individual donations. Wilmouth sees a need in the community for the promotion of sport. He thinks that more sports fields and parks are needed. "We've invested too much money in cement. There's no future for kids in cement. We need parks, fields so kids don't end up on drugs or drinking somewhere," said Wilmouth.
Galindo still tries to make it around to the ball fields on Sunday afternoons. "A lot of talent goes to waste on this island and I blame people of my generation for that. There isn't the support there needs to be. When I was playing, we were mostly all middle class, working guys- we could afford to support ourselves. Now, we have a lot of lower class players and people from all different backgrounds- they need some help," said Galindo.
He remembers an older man who made a big impact on youth when the team was just getting started. Edward Price used to let the teams play ball on his property and let them use his home to have meetings. "He was a hero of an old man and I think we should pay tribute to him by naming one of the fields after him.
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Chaos of Saving Time by Thomas Tomczyk

On May 7, Honduras began a Daylight Savings Time (DST) experiment that will last until September 3. This is the second time Honduras has attempted DST transition. In 1994 Honduras experimented with the system, but abandoned it that same year. When on May 5 I've heard of the measure two things came to my mind: joke or insanity. The definition of insanity is: 'do something over and over again and expect different results.'
In the region only Cuba, Guatemala, Bahamas and Mexico observe DST. Guatemala, beginning this year, is the only other Centro American country to implement DST. The dates of implementation do not coincide with Honduras and it has five, not four months of DST.
DST was fist introduced in Germany in 1916 and in 1918 US made DST official. Today, around 70 countries around the world observe DST, but it is generally accepted the tropical climates generally do not vary enough to justify DST. Honduras becomes the southernmost country to attempt DST change. Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands do not implement DST as the variance of daylight hours is not significant enough to justify the change.
Honduran government presented several reasons for introduction of DST: energy conservation, reduction of traffic accidents and crime.
A US Department of Transportation study found approximately 1% savings in energy costs is DST is used. In 1974 US attributed a saving of around 10,000 barrels of oil a day to the measure. For a country like Honduras, with 2.5% of the US population, this would translate to 250 barrels, or 12,500 liters a day. This adds-up to around 1.5 million liters over the course of four months. The cost to the Honduran consumer is around $5.25 million, or about 75 cents per person.
In a tropical country of Honduras, the theoretical savings in energy costs from not using electrical lighting are offset by the cost incurred by cooling costs. People coming back from work early now need to pay for the expense of cooling their homes with fans, or air conditioning.
Unlike in the US, or industrial countries, much crime in Central America takes place during daylight hours. As the night approaches and people go back to their homes, street and violent crime actually goes down. The introduction of DST in Honduras could actually increase crime.
The reduction in traffic accidents is likely offset in the first two days of applying the laws where the sleepy drivers, after losing one hour of sleep, on the early hours of the morning cause extra traffic accidents. In the US, when one hour of sleep is lost, there was an increase in the number of traffic accidents.
The disruption in sleep patterns correlates with lost productivity as sleep-deprived workers adjust to the schedule change. Much effort is spent reminding everyone twice a year of the change, and thousands are inconvenienced by showing up at the wrong time when they forget about the change.
Honduras is too small, too poor, too economically codependent of a country to introduce DST by itself without coordinating it with its Central American neighbors. International transportation companies have to reconfigure and reprint their schedules. Central American banks and regional institutions that used to have an eight hour work day to conduct their business, now only have six.
Vast majority of Hondurans live off agricultural activity and thought the world DST is especially unpopular amongst people working in agriculture. As they rise with the sun regardless of the time, Honduran agriculture workers are placed out of synchronization with the rest of the community and have less time to actually conduct their 'town business' after tending to their fields.
For me the fact and manner how the DST was passed was just as interesting as its consequences. Like the US government is addicted to oil, Honduran governments is addicted to passing laws, regulations, whether or not they make any sense or even be enforced. Introduction of DST is yet another example of government paternalism, deciding that people themselves can't be responsible enough to wake up earlier, or later depending on their needs and likes.

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Who's Afraid of the Big ‘Black Wolf? by Thomas Tomczyk

Citizens protest ignited by plans of development of an 11 slip Costa Tesoro West Bay marina owned by 'Black Wolf Resorts'

On the morning of May 6, two days after a construction barge owned by Kelvin Bodden docked at West Bay, a meeting was called by several West Bay residents to discuss the development of the 11 slip marina. The residents were concerned about the marina's negative environmental and property value impact. The building of the concrete pylons could stir-up sediment, the traffic and extended stays of live-aboard yachters at the marina could increase waste and create oil leaks and the image of West Bay as a destination would become more commercial. West Bay is usually hit hard during winter storms and a marina there could hardly provide adequate boat shelter.
Over the last several years T.J. Lynch, Canadian developer, realtor and owner of Black Wolf Resorts, has alienated a part of the West Bay community through the way he has developed his Costa Tesoro condominiums and the marina development plans served as a catalyst in bringing a number of grievances to the surface.
"It's a 'Flintstone village'," said Ed Moulder, owner of Bite on the Beach restaurant, referring to the Costa Tesoro pool construction. Moulder raised the issue of squalid conditions in the Costa Tesoro worker's camp, the destruction of the iron shore during construction of the project and exceeding of area building coverage.
Lynch answered the concerns by pointing finger at unethical construction practices undertaken by other developers in the area. "I'm an environmentalist. That's the price we pay for progress, that is going to happen with, or without us," said Lynch.
The 100 ft Costa Tesoro concrete dock, largest in West Bay, was originally built in 1996 by, then mayor, Jerry Hynds, who started do develop the site into a hotel, but in 2001 sold the property to Lynch. The 11 slips proposed in the construction drawings are advertised for sale, starting at $75,000.
"We are going to do everything legally not to make this happen," said Marco Galindo, a local business owner. Preventing the project legally from proceeding could in fact be tricky. Lynch developing the property legally and has documentations to prove it.

For two weeks a construction barge stood in West Bay waiting to commence work on an 11 slip marina.
On August 8, 2005, Lynch acquired a Ministry of the Environment (SERNA) permit, for the improvement of the Costa Tesoro. On October 5, 2005, he also obtained a Municipal Building Permit for the 'improvement of the Costa Tesoro dock.' Even though the Municipal permit has 90-day validity, the permit to proceed is typically issued automatically.
During a Municipal Corporation meeting on May 5, a 'hold of work' request was issued on the marina project by Mayor Dale Jackson. According to Mayor Jackson Lynch's SERNA permit is category C2, not Category 1, and permits only repairs and minor improvement of the dock. "The word 'marine,' or 'commercial boat slips' are not used in the permit," said Jackson. "It's no way that 99 percent of the people who don't want the marina could be wrong."
Some residents were frustrated not necessarily because of this incident, more so due to the failure of the legal system in protecting the Honduran environment. Some see SERNA as indiscriminately giving away development permits and notice the lack of the Municipal enforcement of building laws. "Paying fines is seen by a lot of people as a cost of doing business here," said Ed Moulder.
"The [Roatan] Municipal should tell SERNA if they are allowing something that affects them negatively. If the Municipal fails to hold SERNA accountable, then the citizens should step in," said Julio Galindo, President of the West Bay Improvement Association and Roatan City Councilman. Galindo, complained that SERNA issues permits without mitigation, i.e. asking neighbors and community about how a particular project would affect them. Also, SERNA, nor Municipal requires posting of the permits by the applicant.
The barge contracted in constructing the marina slips remained in West Bay until May 17, leaving due to a coming storm. Lynch remains resolute in developing the dock into a marina
.

Season of Paving

Bay Islands Community leaders organize to secure funds and commitments to pave 13.5 kilometers of new roads

A slow race to which Bay Islands road will be first paved during the Zelaya presidency has begun. The 16 kilometer Guanaja road between Mangrove Bight and Savannah Bight, already graded and approved during Maduro, has a head start, but new paving proposals came out to some promising start.
After virtually completing the paving of the Flowers Bay road plans for more paving of additional Roatan roads are finalized. On April 5, Jose Bonnano, minister of SOPTRAVI, signed an agreement with Punta Gorda community leaders to pave a 3.2 kilometer stretch of the Punta Gorda loop. The central government committed Lps. 10 million while local community promised to raise the rest, estimated at Lps. two million.
On May 18, in another meeting with Melvin Martinez, minister of highways, Santos Guardiola Mayor Terry Bodden and Julio Robinson representing private SG businesses discussed the government paving another 11.3 kilometers of road between Oak Ridge and Camp Bay village. The cost of the project is estimated at Lps. 48 million with another Lps. 10 million promised by private investors. The road construction could also be funded by "A Post Mitch Account" kept in custody of the Central government with funds available for Bay Islands schools and roads. Details about the size and restrictions of these funds are becoming available.
On Roatan Municipal side, two private developers began organizing investor groups to pave the French Harbour to Mud Hole road. John Edwards, a Canadian- Honduran developer, is organizing private owners to 'chip and seal' the first 3 mile section. With an estimate cost of $250,000 a mile, six private investors already promised $600,000 in funds.

Crew repairing damaged surfaced of the West Bay road.

Michael Cox, an American developer, is organizing another group of private investors interested in paving the 4.5 mile Mud Hole to Marbella section. Roatan Municipal expressed interest in participating in this undertaking as well. Even though the construction and maintenance of these roads is the responsibility of the central government it is the Roatan Municipal government and private investors, because of the increased property values, who are most interested in paving the roads. "The government has other priorities. We feel that it is going to take too long and we can step in," said Mayor Dale Jackson.
For the foreseeable future on Roatan Municipal the central government has budgeted to finishing the last 100 meters of the Flowers Bay road and the reparation of the West Bay to West End, up to Santos Guardiola road. Widening of the road to four lanes in Los Fuertes is also planned by Roatan Municipal.

The Other Face of Destroyer

USS Stout comes to Roatan on a goodwill mission


Destroyer USS Stout, commandeered by Captain Kiss, pulled into Coxen Hole Harbour on May 14 through 17 and anchored out about one mile out to see. "Its deep here and we stretching our chain to the limit," said Enc. John Becker. The USS Stout's 30.5 foot draft and its lack of side bow thrusters made the vessel unable to dock at the Coxen Hole dock.
The 505 foot destroyer, built in 1992 in Pascagoula, Mississippi, is part of the battle group of aircraft carrier George Washington. The ships four GE LM 2500 gas turbine engines are powered by jet fuel and produce 100,000 horsepower that can propel the destroyer to 30 knots. 8,300 ton USS Stout is armed with Tomahawk Missiles, Strand ship to Air missiles, Harpoon missile launchers, one Mk 45 54 caliber lightweight gun, two Phalanx CIWS missiles and Mk 46 torpedoes.
Based in Norfolk, Virginia, the ship's crew consists of 23 Officers, 24 Chief Petty Officers and 291 enlisted sailors; one quarter of the crew is women. The Stout's crew served a six month tour on destroyer USS Laboon in the Persian Gulf, before being flown back home and reassigned to USS Stout. This is one of the first time that an entire crew of a large US vessel is taken of and reassigned, for cost saving and strategic reasons.
USS Stout is a second US vessel, along side US Coast Guard frigate Underwood to visit Roatan in May as part of the CEA program. "Anything that might make us feel like brothers and sisters is great," said Gerry Lou Miller, a Canadian who visited USS Stout on a visitor tour. Gerry Lou Miller with her husband Tom, from British Columbia, recently retired to Roatan took advantage of the opportunity to visit the vessel.
US Navy personnel became the country ambassadors making an effort to improve the US perception in the Caribbean. The destroyer's visit is part of the Coperación entre las Américas (CEA, or Cooperation between the Americas) program that links 12 Caribbean basin nations. While Stouts sailors volunteered in repairing a Punta Gorda school and played (and lost) to the Roatan's footballers, the ship opened its decks to visitors from Roatan public schools.
Escape To Honduras Cubans and Americans Agree: Bay Islands are the Place to Be.
In 2006 more Cuban 'balseros' landed in Honduras than in the US. A growing number of Cuban refugees make their way to Honduras. A few of them arrive in the Bay islands. Some make Bay islands their home.
At 7am on 16 January 2005, Enrique Aleman Insula and six other men left the Cuban province of Camagüey in a nineteen foot home made raft powered by a 9.5 horsepower engine. With 80 liters of water and headed for Honduras. If the seas are calm the journey takes around six days, but most of the rafts are home made and run into difficulties in rough seas, currents.
Between December and May, the 700 mile journey has become the preferred paths for Cuban 'balseros' trying to make their way out of their country and eventually to US. A half way stop are the Cayman Islands where the refugees are allowed to stay 72 hours, provided with food, clothing, fuel and even life vests for the rest of the journey to Honduras. If their vessel is not judged seaworthy, the refugees are returned to Cuba.
Even if the 'balseros' manage to outmaneuver the Cuban coast guard, they still have to avoid the US coast guard and navy. In 1995, US and Cuba signed an 'wet-foot dry-foot' agreement under which Cubans found at sea would be returned to Cuba, while those who reach the US would be allowed to become legal immigrants.
Honduras is one of several alternative paths for Cuban refugees trying to make their way to US. Some 'balseros' fight the strong currents of the Yucatan channel in an effort to reach Mexico. Others make their journey to Dominican Republic and for around $4,000 smuggle make their way across 90 miles to Mona Island, part of Puerto Rico.
According to Honduran government figures, the number of 'balseros' arriving on Honduras' shores have been doubling every year since 2003. In 2003 there were 69, in 2005 259 and in 2006 there are already 500. Some 'balseros' wash up in Gracias a Dios, Guanaja, some on the beaches of Roatan.
After his escape from Cuba, Enrique was picked up by the US coast guard. He was exhausted, hadn't eaten for five days and hadn't slept for ten. Lucky for Enrique, his boat was found in international waters and the refugees were given a chance to appeal to president Maduro for the chance of landing in Honduras. Maduro granted them this right and the group arrived on Roatan where, thanks to the generosity of local population, Enrique's six friends were able to continue their journey to Guatemala, Mexico and eventually arrived in the US. Enrique however, is left in limbo. Without any documents he hasn't left Roatan for a year-and-a-half.
Enrique has been out of prison for nine years, his tattoos on his hands and chest are slowly fading. When he was 20, he was sentenced to two years in prison for battery. Enrique explains that because of other offences while in prison he ended up serving seven years.
Enrique, an articulate, energetic thirty-four-year-old man has been lucky. He not only survived the 11 day ordeal in stormy seas, he now has a girlfriend, a job with a construction crew and an apartment in Thicket of Coxen Hole.
B.I.V.: Did you encounter problems leaving the Cuban coast?
E.A.I.:
There was a coast guard boat that tried to sink our boat. They tried to tell us to come on board, but I told my crew not to talk to them. "Turn back or we will make you," they [Cuban coast guard] shouted. Then they approached us at high speed from both sides to create waves that would sink us. If we didn't have a boat in good condition it would crash us. Then they tried tying a rope and pass it underneath our boat to flip us. We found a shallow place where their boats couldn't follow us. This lasted from 10am to 4pm. (…) All my family are fishermen. We all come from Santa Cruz del Cur. I know how to navigate with the stars and moon and we reached a point [at 4:30am] where we could see the light [aura] of Caymans. At 6am our motor quit. We couldn't fix it and I made a sail out of fabric. We moved slowly until 9pm when the bad weather begun. For the next six days we had a storm with waves as high as 10 meters. We spent six days without eating anything. One time a wave almost overturned us. It was slowly moving us North-East. We only wet our mouth and tongue with water. So we didn't feel the thirst. At 2:30pm on January 26 there was a helicopter above us. At 5:00pm US coast guard [ship] came. I was the weakest because I didn't sleep for 10 days. (…) Because we were in international waters they gave us an option of where to go. They talked to president Maduro and he accepted us to come to this island.
B.I.V.: What kind of supplies did you take with you?
E.A.I.:
We started with 80 liters of water thinking we could re-supply in Cayman Islands. We had 200 liters of diesel. We tried not to take food with too much salt. Best are cookies, bread, juices, fried meat, cheese, but fundamentals are water and medicines: against pain, IV solution, [medicine] antidepressants, gravinol against seasickness. It's important to always wear hats and long sleeve shirts.
B.I.V.: How did you build your boat?
E.A.I.:
We started with 8 inch diameter [20 foot long] aluminum tubing that we cut and pounded straight. We interlocked them and insulated with tire tube. We bent it and gave it a shape of a boat. Then we stiffened it with wood and created a hole for the propeller. Four of us spent nine days working on it.
B.I.V.: Why do most Cubans leave for Honduras from Camagüey?
E.A.I.:
It's because of the lighthouse of Caveselte that serves as a reference point for Caymans. It's a terminal Cubans use. We leave there rested and with supplies for the journey to Honduras.
B.I.V.: How careful do you have to be not to be discovered?
E.A.I.:
You always have to be careful. Here they call them 'Soplon' in Cuba: 'Chivato' or informant. They sell information; tell the state security of Cuba that someone is building a boat. They burned one of the boats I built. In the area of Santa del Cruz is very difficult. It's better to build one somewhere else and bring it in.
B.I.V.: Are there women who undertake the journey from Cuba to Honduras?
E.A.I.:
I always told my friends that I wouldn't permit to bring in women. There are women who are stronger then men. I know of a boat that came back with two out of 22 people because a fight that broke over a woman who didn't want to let go of a baby who died. The boat sunk and only two people survived.
B.I.V.: Is it better to leave Cuban waters at night?
E.A.I.: There isn't a good time to go. If one needs to leave they can do it any time. (…) There are all kinds of people leaving: engineers, doctors, and police. When one leaves Cuba, one leaves with two options: to reach somewhere or die. Many lose their lives, but it's better to risk one's life they live under the regimen of Fidel Castro.
B.I.V.: What documents do you have currently?
E.A.I.:
Unfortunately all my papers got wet. (…) I don't have anything, but everyone here knows me. I still [in the year and a half] haven't been to La Ceiba. If I went to the coast no one would know who I am. I wish the immigration here gave me some kind of document so I could go to La Ceiba, to Tegus. I sometime want to send money to my family in Cuba, but the bank that can do it is in Tegus. (…) I am waiting for a copy of my birth certificate to be sent from Cuba but the more important document I need is my certificate of master builder.
B.I.V.: Your six friends had ID cards?
E.A.I.:
Yes, they carried they ID card. The way I understand it, once a Cuban reaches Mexico, he has an advantage of reaching US. A Cuban doesn't need smugglers. We only need to go to the Mexican authorities. One needs to take a lawyer, paid by one's family in the US, to do paperwork allowing the crossing of the US border.
B.I.V.: Did the people on Roatan help you?
E.A.I.:
Don Marco Galindo gave us $1,500 so they could continue their journey. The French Harbour and Coxen Hole churches raised additional money and this allowed them to reach Guatemala. In Guatemala they spent seven days and 27 days in Mexico. On the way they were assaulted and completely robbed. Now they are in US, except for Irain, who is back in Cuba.
Bay Islands VOICE: Why did you decide to leave Cuba?
Enrique Aleman Insula:
We left Cuba with the idea to better our lives and to help the people we left behind. I feel good here, but I want to continue with my dream of continuing [my journey] to the US.
B.I.V.: You only succeeded to leave Cuba after trying four times.
E.A.I.:
First time they caught me because my motor broke down two hours into the trip. September 1, 2004. They didn't arrest us, but they give us a fine for illegally leaving the country of 6,000 pesos ($200) and one month to pay it before it doubled. 29 of October I tried again. I was trapped by one coast guard boat, two fishing boats and another boat. They gave me additional 12,000 peso fine. Then I tried on November 6. There were some people from Havana that came to buy a boat. We salvaged a sunken boat, but the coast guard saw us and detained us. They didn't fine me, but took away my ID card. Still with by birth certificate I could leave for the US. I moved to Manzanillo in province of Gramma east of Camagüey where we worked making the boat from aluminum tubing. We then traveled west to Camagüey to look for a reference point: lighthouse of Caveselte. From there its 240 degrees south-west for Caymans. We left on January 16, 2005.
The Crew of 19 foot boat:
1. Enrique, 33, construction worker
2. Eduardo, 36, general physician
3. Odi, 38, tree nursery salesperson
4. Irain, 33, dance teacher
5. El Chino, 29
6. Erik, 27, PE teacher
7. Nesti, 24, artisan worker
feature story / editorial / local news / business______________back to top
New Wave of Inter Island Transport by Thomas Tomczyk
Central America's first passenger, commercial catamaran to begin service in Roatan.
The 160 foot Louisianan built catamaran with a seating capacity of 460 is scheduled to arrive on Roatan in July. The boat, owned by Safe Way Maritime Transportation Company is expected to travel between Roatan and La Ceiba in one hour, and the management expects the prices, currently at Lps. 300, to remain about the same.
The new boat, 'Galaxy Wave,' is expected to ease travel to Roatan and compete with airlines for the island's passenger and cargo transport. Safeway hasn't decided what will happen to its workhorse Galaxy II.
Safeway was set-up by three partners in 1994: John and Danny McNab, and Jerry Hynds. In 2001, John McNab bough out the two partners and since then the management has been done by the family.
The company started with a 100 foot crew boat "Tropical" converted to a passenger vessel that carried 150 passengers between Roatan, La Ceiba and Utila. In 1998, 105 foot, 150 passenger "Nautica" owned by Erwin Dixon competed with "Tropical," but was soon bought out by the growing and more established Safeway Maritime. With 130' foot "Galaxy II" coming into service in 1999, for several months Safeway operated three boats: "Tropical," "Nautica," and "Galaxy II."
In 1998 and 1999 "Tropical" serviced the Roatan to Guanaja route three times a week, but "Tropical" and "Nautica" were eventually sold and for the next five years "Galaxy II" became the only passenger vessel providing transport to the Bay Islands.
For several weeks in 2004 Utila owned 'Utila Princess' competed with Galaxy for the Utila and Roatan market, but the two companies worked out an agreement where 'Utila Princess' serviced Utila and Galaxy II was able to increase the trips to Roatan to two a day.
With four diesel engines Galaxy II produces 3,300 horse power and reaches La Ceiba in 1 hour 45 minutes. The Catamaran, under construction since February of 2005, will be a larger boat capable of reaching speeds of 37 knots, well above Galaxy's 23 knots. "We decided to go with the catamaran design because of the fuel economy, speed, stability and comfort [it offers]. It is the first catamaran in Central America," said Ron McNab, Safeway's operations manager.

Along with new boat the company will be moving its operations and opening a new dock in Dixon Cove. Since 1994 Safeway rented its dock space and in 2004 the company unsuccessful tried securing SERNA dredging permits to construct its own Coxen Hole dock capable of accommodating the Catamaran. The permits weren't granted, so the company purchased a 6.5 acre site in Dixon Cove. "It all worked out for the better. Dixon Cove is more accessible and convenient," said Jennifer McNab, Safeway's general manager.
The dock facility will open in July with upgraded security to follow shortly. Short and long term parking, cafeteria, internet café, tourist information center, gift shop, car rental and eventually a Hotel will be eventually open as part of the Safeway's Roatan entry hub. "In another five to ten years the transport to the islands will grow and we need to keep-up with it," said Jennifer McNab.
Safeway's dock in La Ceiba is also up for an upgrade to a bigger terminal and dock: from 90 to 130 foot.
The other two boats that offer passenger service to the Bay Islands is the 250 passenger 'Utila Princess' owned by Bruce Weardlay and "Island Tours" owned by Donaldo Thompson that currently travels between Trujillo and Guanaja. In May a skiff "Guanaja Express" begun operating between Utila and La Ceiba forcing Utila Princess ticket prices to drop from Lps. 400 to Lps. 200.

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May 8
2003

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