story / editorial
of an adventure novel by Don Pearly
wife Susan was aboard as a perk that came along with the contract.
Second in Command was Tom Wozniak, a gung-ho F.B.I. Academy drop-out
with a terrible selection of friends. His weapon of choice was an
Uzi that he kept with him day and night, rain or shine. He never
had the opportunity to use it off of the practice range, but he
had high hopes that someday he could spray his way to fame. Most
of his adult life had been spent guarding Henry Stewart as he made
his merry way around the world entertaining and enjoying the fast
life. He was locked and loaded as they say.
The security team had been told their vulnerable times would be
in ports along the way. The ship would leave Miami and head straight
for Ambergris Caye in Belize. An overnight there and then on to
Roatan, Honduras. Another day there and straight back to Miami.
They felt once they were out at sea they could kick-back and enjoy
the scenery and from the looks of the guests and the guest's guests
it would be a very scenic voyage.
They stood at their designated posts while the ship upped anchor
and as she steamed out of land's sight they turned their thoughts
to flexing and hanging around the pool areas. With three eight-hour
shifts and only twenty-five men including bosses, they had but eight
men on duty at any one time. Not a lot for such a huge area with
all of its decks and sub decks.
had absolutely nothing to do and Al was whipping up some cream puffs,
so she grabbed Margarita and they donned their bikinis and headed
for the biggest pool. This was a rare treat for the two of them
and they were going to have the time of their lives before risking
same when the games began. Pockets full of cash and a key to charge
anything on. They had been warned not to go crazy in the shopping
mall, but it was not a serious threat.
They ordered two double Margaritas in honor of one of their names
and toasted to the present. As if by coincidence two of the eight
security guards who were on duty just happened to station themselves
directly above the two girls. Soledad noticed before Margarita and
they formulated a bit of a plan. A few glances, a quick smile and
the scene was set. After half an hour of baking in the sun they
both jumped up and headed for the Jacuzzi platform overlooking the
entertainment deck. Oddly enough both security guards felt it was
time to do a little roaming patrol work and followed at a safe distance
trying to look casual.
The girls were in the tub by the time the men strolled up and tried
to start a conversation. It went rather awkwardly and one of the
men walked off the deck and back to his post. The other, a tall,
thin blonde surfer type knelt down and really got into the "What's
your sign" questioning. He seemed to want to concentrate more
on Soledad, so Margarita said she had enough and she was par boiled
and going back to the cool pool. This left the two of them alone
and now Mr. California surfer really started coming on.
He ran across two decks and stole someone's sun tanning lotion.
Without asking he poured some in his hands and started rubbing it
on Soledad's shoulders. She put up with it for about three seconds
and then suggested he stop what he was doing. She said it in such
a friendly manner he took it as nonsense and continued pouring and
spreading. After another ten seconds she issued still another warning
by saying something about his getting back to work, she was fine
alone. This too went through one ear and out the other so she casually
reached up and waited for his hand to round her shoulders headed
for parts unknown. He was now on both knees and really reaching
out in about a forty-five degree angle. It took nothing at all to
firmly grab his finger and lean forward just a taste. He struggled
for a couple of long seconds and then plunged head first into the
hot tub, Glock, hat and golf shirt, watch, wallet and passport.
By the time he recovered he was alone except for four old ladies
pointing and laughing.
BACK IN THE CARIBBEAN
back on Roatan, Doug and Victoria are putting the last minute touches
on the plane. The numbers they chose to paint on her fuselage were
copied from a Mayan Island Airlines commuter plane out of Belize.
They looked good but if traced would lead the authorities on a wild
goose chase right back to nowhere.
They had added four forty-gallon fuel tanks to the interior of the
craft giving them enough air time to get to the target and over
to the final destination with the load. The load consisting of the
cash, jewels, Sean, Steve and Margarita. Everyone else had to leave
via some other means; this was all this plane could carry.
In Belize Don, Bridget, Johnna and Ruben did a last minute rehearsal
on their act. Costumes in ready and plans gone over. This foursome
would have to remain on board the ship after the project's completion
so they would need to remain anonymous at all cost. Stocking masks
and surgical gloves were packed under a false bottom in a suitcase,
enough for the entire assault team so these guys could not miss
Johnna had contracted to open a small specialty shop in the ship's
mall. She would go on board with Belizean handicrafts, some books
and some musical C.D.'s. Hidden in her load would be twenty-one
high powered electrical stun-guns and forty-two pairs of handcuffs.
BACK ON BOARD
was approaching and although everyone involved was tense they all
agreed to try and have some fun. Dressed to the nines and looking
beautiful and handsome they all made their way to the dining room.
No childlike signals between the working people and the imitation
guests. Some were served and some were serving. Al peeked his head
out of the window just in time to see Soledad enter with Sean, Steve
and Margarita. They had signed up for a table together and made
a beautiful foursome. Both of the girls had managed a quick power-shopping
trip at the ship's mall after the hot tub incident and were wearing
new shoes and accessories.
Just as the waiter brought the salads, two already-drunk cowboys
from Oklahoma stumbled into the room. Thinking they were really
cool and necessary to the happiness of the other passengers they
started working the room. "Hey boy, buy this table a drink
and put it on 1st Class Stateroom 103," shouted one of them
to a passing waiter from another section. When he tried to explain
it was not his table the cowboy grabbed him by the waistband and
pulled him into his face. "I said get them some drinks."
The waiter agreed and bolted out of the room.
Then the two hailed a few other people they thought they knew from
the life jacket drill and tripped their way past Sean and Steve's
table kicking one of the legs which caused their water to spill
all over. They kept going, never knowing what they had caused; and
Sean and Steve let it happen, knowing they could not dare get into
anything that would call attention to them. They had a feeling they
would meet again though and shot glances to each other.
That second meeting did not take long to happen. After dinner the
foursome teased Al who was still stuck in the kitchen and went upstairs
to the gambling deck. This room was about 150 foot wide and 200
foot long and contained every machine, table and device known to
the gambling world. Noises and music and chatter and flashing lights
came from the slot machines, yelling and laughing and cheering from
the crap table section and on top of all that KENO numbers being
called out over the P.A. system.
Just like Las Vegas or Atlantic City only newer and more exciting.
Change girls in tiny bikini-type costumes, cocktail waitresses with
complimentary champagne or any drink you can think of. Casino gentlemen
in tuxedos who can supply their clients with anything Wal-Mart pharmacy
can and then some.
Just as the group entered, someone had a big win at the crap table
in the center of the room. Whooping and screaming they all had to
look. Guess who, the cowboys from hell. Heading for anywhere but
there they found four contiguous seats at a newly opened black-jack
table and sat down. Before they could adjust their crouches there
were two waitresses at their sides asking what their favorite beverages
were and at what frequency did they want them delivered. This was
going to be a great evening, one to take the edge off the nerves.
About twenty minutes later with Sean up $500 and Steve down about
the same and the ladies losing a hundred or two, it happened. In
all the juke joints in all the world, the cowboys wobbled and bounced
off of people and landed in the only two empty black-jack seats
in the room. Within a minute one was hitting on Soledad and the
other on Margarita. That is, hitting and spitting being in an almost
out of control drunken condition. The girls did their best to avoid
any contact and ignored the touching and pawing that came in waves.
When Soledad started to get up to leave one cowpoke grabbed her
by the elbow. Without thinking she knew at least eight moves with
which to put him under the table but instead paused and then jerked
her arm free. She moved over to Sean, then thought she should not
be bringing this problem to him so she headed into the crowd and
across the casino. Not one to lose a Heffer, the idiot was hot on
her trail knocking into men and women alike. He saw her as she exited
the casino and went after her.
Once outside Soledad thought she was safe and slowed down. Busting
out of the doorway was her stalker. "Hey pretty lady, where
you goin?" She looked around, saw they were alone and let him
advance in her direction. She even put on a smile and let her wrap
fall open revealing a very inviting form. He lost contact with her
eyes and as he was looking down a taste he noticed a knuckle coming
into his vision. One blow to the forehead and his vision failed.
His eyes were watering, his head hurting, he was disorientated and
in pain. It was in fact so painful, he almost sobered up but not
quite. As he wiped his eyes so he could see where it was again,
the same knuckle headed for his mustache. That was all he remembered
until security brought him to with one of those little glass tubes
wrapped in woven cloth. He could not tell them a thing and shook
them off heading back to the casino.
story begins exactly one and a half years ago when Sean Avalon signed
a contract with Araqe Industries to retrofit an 800,000 ton luxury
liner that was well over the hill. In dry-dock at Engel's shipyards
in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The twenty-seven year old ship, formerly
the "Queen of the Caribbean", has been re-commissioned
the "High-Roller," and is being stripped to bare metal
so she can be completely rebuilt using the latest in construction
materials. She has been picked to bring space age technology to
the maritime world, which will make her the fastest and most comfortable
ride on the ocean.
Sean, a licensed Electrical Engineer specializing in maritime electronics,
skillfully came in as the lowest bidder on the project, counting
on cost over-runs to keep him in business. He is meeting with his
Navy buddy Steve Pitts, an employee of Araque Industries, by the
way, to put together a master plan for the looting of the "High-Roller"
on her maiden voyage. An extremely difficult task considering there
will be twenty-five highly trained security men and women on that
trip, above and beyond the normal complement of one hundred and
fifteen sea-going staff. She will carry about four hundred and fifty
paying customers who have agreed to have with them a minimum of
$20,000 in American greenbacks to prove them worthy of being the
first gamblers to take to sea on the "High-Roller." They
will also be paying an additional $8,000 per person for that privilege.
The cruise is sold out a year and a half in advance, and with a
waiting list again as large.
Estimating four hundred and fifty times $20,000 plus a cash bankroll
of another $1.5 million required by the gaming commission to be
available in case everyone has a winning streak, coupled with the
normal Pursers stash, the two men come up with an estimated net
worth of over $ 10.7 million. A floating Fort Knox that also carries
jewelry worth another million or three.
The problem is of course how to neutralize almost six hundred men
and women all at the same time, for a long enough period for them
to locate and take everything of value. They have that plan.
SEAN AT WORK
Sean calculates the need for 950 foot No. 8 wire to link a single
engine room control to the bridge, for example, he requisitions
instead 1,900 foot of No. 8 wire. If he needs a V.H.F. antenna with
600 ft of coaxial cable he orders two antenna with 1,200 ft of coax.
In fact, ironically, Araque Industries finds itself financing the
take-over of their own vessel.
As Sean's men run the cables here and there according to the schematics,
Sean and his friend and helper Matthew branch off to a 10 x 12 foot
space directly under the main bridge. This space has but one entrance
and has been outfitted with a large hasp and a larger Master lock.
A professionally made sign has been permanently welded to the entrance
hatch and it reads, "CLIMATE CONTROLLED SPACE--NO UN-AUTHORIZED
What is underway is a split personality for the ship. Eventually
with a flip of one knife/shunt switch and a dozen toggle switches,
all of the electronics in and out of the bridge will be diverted
to this secondary control room rendering the regular equipment useless.
Ship's steering, engine speed and direction and all communications
systems will be under the command of the phantom bridge.
is an ex U.S. Navy Warrant Officer who spent four years on Shore
Patrol duty. He was now under the employ of Araque Industries as
one of its Chief Pursers and with his seniority had managed to not
be assigned to the maiden voyage, but would rather be going off
on a three week paid vacation. To get him on his own company's ship
as a guest would take the assistance of a professional Hollywood
make-up artist. Fortunately Steve's Lady of four years was just
that. Margarita had worked the studios for many years and had accumulated
enough materials to disguise a soccer team so their own coach would
not recognize them.
Steve was to be aboard and to lead his team of seven men and women
as they took out the ship's security force. All seven were into
Martial Arts and some type of petty illegal happenings. None were
hardened criminals but none were angels either. Several had been
Navy pals and others were picked up along the road of life. All
were eager to share in this venture and had pledged loyalty and
cooperation to either Shawn or to Steve personally. They could all
be trusted, they hoped. These magnificent seven had manipulated,
conned and bought their way aboard as stewards, cargo handlers and
All of this action was to be accomplished with a minimum of bloodshed
in an effort not to piss off anyone too badly. If it could go down
as the armed robbery of a totally insured vessel in International
waters, there might not be too much sympathy or heat. If there were
injuries or death especially to the passengers, that would be another
story and would no doubt cause a great chain reaction. The assault
team would be armed but would try to rely on the element of surprise
to do their jobs. Their special equipment consisted of pepper spray,
eye wash and lots of duct tape.
REST OF THE TEAM
Henricson was a professional cook specializing in pastry. He had
worked aboard cruise ships off and on for ten years or more. He
signed up for and was awarded the position of lead pastry chef for
the maiden voyage. His live-aboard was Soledad, a Martial Arts Instructor
and holder of a 3rd degree Black Belt in Tai Kwan Do. She managed
to sign on in the scullery right next to the baking area.
Gustavo had been a Navy Boatswain's Mate and could drive anything
that could float. He had been working at the shipyards overhauling
the engines on the "High-Roller" but had been fired for
missing too much work. He would have to go aboard as a paying guest.
The love of his life was Verleene, who made her living as a physic
palm reader. She was hired by the agency to entertain the guests
for the entire trip.
Doug and Marion were both pilots and had been living together for
a decade or two. They flew cargo out of Roatan, Honduras and had
managed to acquire and overhaul a fairly new Cessna Caravan that
they had outfitted with pontoons for ocean landings and take-offs.
They had brought it up from a 250-foot deep grave off of Guanaja
where the famous singer and song writer Jimmie Buffet had lost her.
No one knew of the salvage operation or of her new condition. She
was ready to fly but no one knew she existed. They would join the
circus act right near the end of the venture.
Finally there was Don and Bridget, Johnna and Ruben. They had a
traveling magic act and contracted with several cruise lines to
come aboard for one night and do their special show. They would
join the ship when she made her first stop off of Ambergris Caye
in Belize, Central America where they called home.
That makes twenty-one in all, and only a mere six hundred potential
adversaries to take care of. The plan had better be a good one.
time is now. With one week remaining until the sailing, all hands
showed up at Hooters Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale for their final
rehearsal. Those who needed to be in disguise were in disguise,
those who needed to have special equipment brought that along. Everyone
had a plan book and a proforma depicting everyone's part down to
the last detail. Who did what, where they were to do it at, and
exactly when they were to do it was all in the book. Everyone had
memorized their part as well as their partner's part, as well as
everyone else's parts in case of an emergency. It was like a Broadway
play with everyone able to perform almost in their sleep.
Hand signals and verbal codes were practiced and everyone was surprised
at how well the other guys did. This was now a tight group capable
of anything. They hoped.
Tickets and money were disbursed. Steve and Shawn, Soledad, Matthew
and Margarita all needed tickets and the $ 20 thousand in cash to
show upon demand. This was not a cheap buy-in and many personal
items were in hock shops as well as a 2nd mortgage or two on record.
The evening ended with a three shooter toast and everyone went their
and Margarita arrived right on time. They happened to get in line
a few couples behind Matthew and Soledad. Sean and Matthew were
both wearing beards and sun glasses and flashed on how much alike
their disguises had made them look. They went through the sign up
and found their staterooms, then back up on deck for the waving
to the poor spectators who would not be sailing this day and a few
unnoticed nods to some of the other players. No one had checked
them for their cash and no one would, but that detail had been covered
just in case. Now the cash was a bother to all four of them and
they wondered just how secure the ship was. What if someone else
had the same idea they did? Paranoia strikes deep and it takes one
to know one.
The life raft drill went off well and everyone was eager to steam
out to sea so they could start trying their luck. The gaming rooms
would be locked down until the two mile marker had been achieved.
International waters and international rules.
The weather was calm and the day absolutely beautiful. Some of the
wives were headed for their staterooms to change into something
better suited for the swimming pool areas.
The ships security force stood out like sore thumbs. Wearing black
golf shirts with a gold badge embroidered on the front and carrying
Glocks as sidearms for everyone to see. A few had on golf caps with
again the gold badge telling the world what they did for a living.
They were a mix of personal bodyguards and bank security people
trained just enough not to shoot themselves. All with fresh haircuts
and prepped to greet the paying guests with a smile and a good morning.
Head of Security was Captain John Thompson a retired Chief of Police
from Trinity County, California. He had not seen action in over
ten years but knew the ways of the street and commanded everyone's
respect and attention.
story / editorial
/ local news
______________back to top
Palestinian Quagmire By Thomas Tomczyk
they destroyed almost everything inside, including the Cross,
the Holy Book," said Jerusalem Post Father Manuel Musalam.
The Christian community expressed interest in leaving Gaza
where Christians have lived for 2000 years.
The situation of Palestinian Christians in Palestine has
been deteriorating rapidly since 1948. Amongst the 1.5 million
Palestinian refugees in camps scattered in Syria, Jordan,
Lebanon, Gaza and West Bank there are no Christians. They
have left for the West--US, Europe even Honduras--and have
integrated into these societies' fabric.
like Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem's Christian Quarter,
which used to be strongholds and symbols of Christianity
in the Holy Land, are becoming overwhelmed by exploding
birthrates of Muslim families. A Muslim woman with 10-12
children is seen as a "long deployment weapon"
in the battle for control of the region. It is likely that
"baby-factories," not katiusha rockets will tip
the scales of who will control the heart of the Middle East.
I asked a Palestinian Christian who was born in Jerusalem
where he'd rather end up: in Palestine or Israel. "I
don't think it [division of Jerusalem] will happen, but
if it did, we want to be in Israel. We [Christians] are
safer here," the 40-year-old Greek Orthodox told me.
Fear and messianic fervor are two of the most visible emotions
that drive the Middle East. Visiting the Holy Land one cannot
help but wonder at the inevitability of prophesies. If everyone
believes something will happen, there is no way for this
not to happen. How can you argue any different. The Muslims
believe their Al-Aqsa mosque will be destroyed; Jews believe
that they will rebuild a temple there. Red heifers are bred
to perfection in preparation for the temple sacrifice; menorahs
and plans for the temple are readied. Cemeteries facing
the Mount of Olives have no room as people believe that
is where the last judgment will take place. Armageddon,
a plateau south of Nazareth, is waiting for the battle to
end all battles.
The stage is set and the audience is waiting; the roles
have yet to be filled.
blanket term "I support Palestinians" tells more
of someone's opposition to Israel, or in general to Jewish
interests, than of their understanding of Palestinian reality.
Palestinians are so divided and antagonized religiously,
politically and geographically, that if you plainly support
Palestinians, you support all of the warring factions and
in reality no one at all. I support the Christian Palestinians
and their interests that lie in the prosperity of Israel.
The situation is extremely complex. The region's dozens
of religious and a few ethnic groups have been at different
levels of conflict for millennia. Peace has never existed
in the Middle East, just ceasefires. To expect anything
else is unrealistic.
If you have any doubt that the Palestinian community is
divided you just have to look at the Palestinian Druze,
a religious group derived from Islam and considered by Muslims
as a heretic sect. The Palestinian Druze have associated
their interest and survival with Israel. They all hold Israeli
passports, serve in the Israeli Army and have fought in
all Israeli wars.
Also the Palestinian Christians' interests are far removed
from Muslim Palestinians. "We don't belong here, but
we are surrounded [by Muslims]," a Christian Palestinian
in Jerusalem told me. Fear has engulfed the shrinking Christian
communities in Bethlehem and Gaza. After the 2005 Israeli
pull-out, Gaza's Christians have been increasingly victimized
by their Palestinian Muslim compatriots. In 2007 churches
and Catholic schools were looted, several Christian businessmen
killed and unveiled Christian women assaulted.
story / editorial
/ local news
Notch Clinic By Thomas Tomczyk
Friends Foundation Renovates Yet Another Health Center on Roatan
the central government pays for the doctors' and nurses' salaries
and the water and electric bills of the clinic, Roatan Municipality
stepped in to pay for the guard and housekeeper salaries. This could
prove key in keeping the clinic going as the lack of maintenance
was the main reason why the clinic deteriorated to a state of being
Other changes are on the horizon as well. Before the renovation
the clinic typically handled one patient at a time, causing long
patient queues. Kandy Hyde, LFF president, says that with the new
organization of care system, patients will be prepped by nurses
before seeing the doctor. "We need to train them [clinic staff]
in a new, more efficient way of delivering care," said Hyde.
The 6,800 consultations that took place at the French Harbour Health
Center in 2006 could double with the new facility and reorganization
of patient care.
LFF, which constructed a Pandy Town Clinic and French Harbour Clinic,
plans to focus more on clinic staff training in operations and management.
The idea is to use the available resources effectively and not let
the new clinics fall into disrepair and mismanagement.
Four nurses, a general practitioner doctor and a dentist will tend
to patients 7am to 3pm. After 3pm, and possibly 24 hours a day,
the clinic will host visiting volunteer medical specialists from
the US. "The idea is to turn the clinic into an urgent care
center," said Hyde.
The new 2,400-sf clinic facility practically doubled the clinic's
size. There are three exam rooms, office, dental office, a pharmacy
and direct access for emergency vehicles. The equipment in the dental
office alone cost $20,000. The plans and construction quality of
the clinic reflect US standards. With much of the labor cost donated
through three volunteer groups from Florida Hospitals, the facility
was given turn-key at $35 a square foot, quite a feat for a place
where construction can easily cost $100 a square foot.
Jared Hynds Community Center and in front of the patient's files:
Kandy Hyde (RN)- Little Friends Foundation president, Maria Brooks
(LPN), Nancy Valladares (LPN), Dra. Suseth Welcome, Dina Urbina
Friends Foundation (LFF) performs another feat and opens a second
community clinic on Roatan. After only five months of intense work,
fundraising and coordination a French Harbour Health Clinic comes
back to life.
One of the main goals of LFF and government satellite Health Clinics
is to alleviate the strain placed on Roatan Hospital. With Pandy
Town clinic already operating and French Harbour clinic inaugurated
on October 19, LFF is certainly doing its share.
Through 11 main sponsors and over 50 smaller ones, over $100,000
was raised for the renovation and expansion of the French Harbour
health care clinic. Through the 2007 International Shrimp Festival
Coral Cay was able to raise $31,000. With around $25,000 in donations,
the Roatan Municipality was the second biggest donor.
Ferry to Guanaja
look forward to easier access to the island and tapping into Roatans
has had a sea link to Trujillo since spring 2006, but attempts to
link Roatan and Guanaja proved so far unsuccessful. "It wasn't
a great financial success, but it was a great experience for our staff,"
The key element in making the transport service financially sustainable
was the cargo transport. While until now the Guanaja boat served almost
exclusively locals, Thompson wants Bimini Breeze to tap into the growing
Roatan tourist market. "We received no financial help [to promote
Guanaja] from central or local government," said Thompson, who
hopes that the potential of a daily, convenient round-trip to Guanaja
will encourage tourists to visit.
Breeze' at its dock in Guanaja. (Photo Alfonso Ebanks)
old "Island Tours" ferry boat from Guanaja to Trujillo has
been replaced with a faster and more modern vessel, "Bimini Breeze."
On October 16, the 75-passenger vessel began service that is expected
to expand to Roatan in November.
The currently offered two-hour journey between Guanaja and Trujillo
costs Lps. 600. According to Donaldo Thompson, who with Espen Tandberg
owns the Bimini Breeze, the two hour journey between Roatan and Guanaja
should cost Lps. 750. The boat is planned to be based in Roatan's
Los Fuertes across from the stadium, where it would make six weekly
trips to Guanaja and continue twice a week to Trujillo.
Dream of Affordable Education Comes to Life
Instituto Tecnico has 10 classrooms, a library and a computer lab.
Its staff of 11 teachers looks after the education of grade 7 through
12 students. Unlike most government schools IT requires a 70%, not
60%, for a passing grade. "Some students tell me it is too
hard and they don't want to study here. But one of the concepts
is to keep the level of education very high," says Johnson.
school's beginnings were humble. It opened for business in 1999
in a wooden house in French Harbour. A year later the Tecnico moved
to a four-classroom building across the street. Their own building
in Brick Bay didn't materialize until 2005.
On Roatan, the Instituto Tecnico has filled in a vast gap in the
education needs of the growing island. Until then, the Bay Islands'
schools offered no educational opportunities to students interested
in studying a technical field. The school is meant to provide technical
education that would aid students in getting a work place or in
preparing them to go into University. According to Johnson between
50% and 80% of Tecnico students go on to University. Some of the
first ones are getting ready to graduate.
Johnson is not the first in his family to begin a school. In fact
he is third in a generation of family entrepreneurs and educators.
His sister Roselyn Johnson started Lake Rose English School in French
Harbor. His cousin Gloria Johnson began a Saint 'Maryland Institute
secretarial school' in San Pedro Sula.
Johnson graduated from Honduras' La Universidad Autónoma
with a degree in electrical engineering. This is where he met his
wife Carmen who works as the Instituto's administrator.
"My dream is to have electrical, mechanical and electronic
careers offered at the school," says Johnson, who plans on
approaching the embassies of Japan and Korea to help make this into
Johnson teaches a class
Johnson, 38, is an example of an island entrepreneur who, with little
capital and a lot of vision and determination, was able to fill
a gap in the Bay Islands' educational needs.
Over the last two-and-a-half years he has build a 10-classroom facility
on his property in Brick Bay. While today there is a two-storey
building, a basketball court and a meeting plaza, the process of
construction wasn't easy. Johnson spent a lot of his energy trying
to convince banks to lend him money for his school. He went to BGA,
Atlantida, Bamer, Lafise, etc. asking for a guaranteed loan to build
his dream school. The bankers all said no. "They wanted to
lend money only for homes, businesses," says Johnson, "but
not for education."
In the end Johnson decided to build the school on his own despite
the reluctance of Honduran banks. With Lps. 4.5 million of his own
and some money borrowed from friends he constructed a facility that
now serves 180 students.
story / editorial
Airlines Aim High
North Coast Honduras Air transport targets up-market
40% of Garcia's business consists of shuttling Utila and Guanaja
resort passengers to and from their international flights in Roatan.
On Utila Utopia, Colibri Hill and on Guanaja, End of The World Resorts
all rely on RAS. The business of shuttling passengers between the
islands has been so good that the charter company plans on adding
three more aircraft to its existing two. The fleet runs on two six-
and eight-passenger Air Commanders and three five-passenger Cessna
One of the difficulties in basing a charter out of Roatan is the
island's airport facilities. "I should have a hangar, a place
to do my maintenance," says Garcia, "but I have no choice."
Garcia says that charter's relationship with Interairports who manages
Roatan and three other Honduran International airports is strained.
"They don't care about making a possibility of building your
own hangar at the airport because they want to build the hangars
themselves." Also, fuel stealing and aircraft security are
issues of concern for Garcia. "We are considering hiring our
own guard at the airport," says Garcia.
Another charter is Vuelos Expresos, a one-man operation by pilot
Selin Ordonez Pinot, which operates out of La Ceiba with dozens
of flights a year to Utila and which serves as the island's medevac
service. "This man [Pinot] has been a great service to the
island and helped many people in times of emergency medical,"
Dr. John McVay of Utila.
The medevac service from Roatan has typically relied on SOSA and
Atlantic charters to San Pedro Sula, which can cost as much as $2,000.
A private individual is stepping in to fill in the gap. Chris Gachet,
a Swiss Helicopter pilot since 1988, now based in Roatan, has decided
to launch an evacuation and charter helicopter venture. "There
is a need for 60-70 medical evacuations a year, but [these] do not
happen because of bad weather, night," says Gachet. To finance
his venture he plans to offer evacuation insurance at around $150,
with hotel guests at $1.50 a night.
Although uncertain where the two Bell Jet Ranger helicopters and
his two pilots will be based, Gachet is certain it will not be at
the airport. He is concerned about reports of stealing fuel and
the unwillingness of the airport authorities to lease him space
for a hangar. While the company is waiting for a Honduran aviation
pilot permit, he estimates to be ready for business in December.
Aleas de Honduras charter gets ready for a flight to La Mosquitia.
The Seaplane takes off in Dixon Cove.
While SOSA, Atlantic and Isleña Airlines have focused on
daily scheduled flights to and from the Bay Islands, several charter
companies have focused on the more affluent air traveler. Where
time and efficiency are more important than money, the niche air
transporters have boomed.
While Tegucigalpa and San Pedro have a wealthy class who own their
own airplanes, the Bay Islands have tourists and a well-to-do middle
class who needs the flexibility of charters to get them to and from
Honduras' big cities.
In fact the air charter companies are sometimes less expensive and
no more than 50% more expensive that flying with airlines. The greatest
difference between an airline and a charter company is that a charter
company doesn't have a schedule of departures, while an airline
is obliged to stick to its schedule no matter how many passengers
show up for a flight. All three local airlines in Honduras practice
price-fixing with their tickets costing exactly the same and raising
their prices exactly at the same time. Honduran Civil Aviation Association
(HCAA) which should overlook these practices, according to Gill
Garcia, owner of Roatan Air Services, gives the airlines a free
pass. Passengers don't put pressure on HCAA to hold the airlines
to their promise of scheduled flights.
practice has created a niche where several charter companies are
beginning to operate fixed schedules. Alas de Honduras charter,
owned by Osman Paz, flies from La Ceiba to Brus Laguna every Wednesday.
RAS has a scheduled fight between Roatan and Copan on Thursdays.
The Tablones Airport in Guatemala, 11 km from the Copan Archeological
Park, is perfect for quick Roatan to Copan tourists and RAS is looking
at converting its weekly services to bi-weekly.
a plane on several routes actually saves money and time. A $185
plane charter between Utila and Roatan, costs only $65 per person
versus $95 spent for the same flight on Sosa or Atlantic.
prefer to hire our plane so they don't risk sitting for hours at
an airport in La Ceiba," says Garcia.