story / editorial
written by Jaime Johnston / photos by Thomas Tomczyk
THE LOVE OF THE GAME
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
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.
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.
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
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."
'field of dreams' in Gravel Bay.
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
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
Play-off game in Sandy Bay
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.
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.
young baseball player during practice in Sandy Bay.
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,"
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
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.
story / editorial
/ local news
______________back to top
Chaos of Saving Time by
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
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
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.
story / editorial
/ local news
Afraid of the Big Black Wolf? by
protest ignited by plans of development of an 11 slip Costa Tesoro
West Bay marina owned by 'Black Wolf Resorts'
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
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.
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.
two weeks a construction barge stood in West Bay waiting to
commence work on an 11 slip marina.
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.
Islands Community leaders organize to secure funds and commitments
to pave 13.5 kilometers of new roads
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.
repairing damaged surfaced of the West Bay road.
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
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.
Other Face of Destroyer
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
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
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.
and Americans Agree: Bay Islands are the Place to Be.
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
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
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
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.
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. (
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
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
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
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. (
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
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
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.
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
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.
Crew of 19 foot boat:
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
story / editorial
/ local news
Wave of Inter Island Transport by
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.
America's first passenger, commercial catamaran to begin
service in Roatan.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.