Sign-up for Bay Islands Voice Updates:
feature story / editorial / local news / business

Doubling the Course words by Kate Coats & photos by Thomas Tomczyk & Matt Coats

The Fifth Bay Islands Triathlon changes course and opens lanes to long Distance Athletes

On the morning at 6am of the Race day, March 18, the West Bay Beach was deserted. Soon a bustling group of volunteers was moving about, Asetting up signs, preparing kayaks and attempting to place the giant buoys that would serve as the swimmers markers. Ryan Klauson, volunteer and dive instructor at Native Sons, West End, eyed his kayak cautiously, "I've only kayaked twice before, he muttered as he trudged into the ocean.
Athletes milled about, carrying their bikes cautiously across the sand, checking their gear, stretching and warming up. Everything was in place. Even the sun was attempting to break though the clouds and a decent crowd had gathered. The transition area of the 2007 Bay Islands Triathlon was again centered around the Mayan Princess Resort.
The race for the first time in its history featured a double Olympic distance and the eight athletes that signed up for it were in the water first. It was 6:45am. They were about to attempt a 3000m swim, a 80 kilometer bike ride and a 20 kilometer run.
A few minutes later the Elite athletes in the Olympic distance lined up. The Roatan event was key for many of them as they cumulated qualifying points for this year's Triathlon World Championship and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Their goal was a 1,500 meter swim, a 40 kilometer bike ride and a 10 kilometer run. Last from the beach were the sprint and relay athletes. They competed in a 750m swim, 25 kilometer bike ride and 5 kilometer run.
To distinguish groups and individual athletes, each one of them wore a different colored swim cap and wore a number painted onto their arms by volunteers. A letter on the back of their calves indicated the distance they competed in: L for long, O for Olympic and S for sprint.
One of the long distance competitors was number 51, Michael Chastain, from South Carolina. He competed in about 75 triathlons including, three on Roatan. While Chastain was getting prepared for the island race the RECO electricity black outs affected his morning diet and possibly performance. His breakfast was limited to some fruit and cereal before the race. His normal, large, cooked breakfast was off the menu.
The giant, 30 foot Barena blow-up beer bottle stood next to the finish line and was given as a directional marker for the swimmers. Next to the banner, holding a Barena flag, stood two 'Barena girls' in their shorts and skimpy turquoise tops with matching eye shadow.
With the "pop" of the starters' pistol, the race began and Athletes launched themselves into the undulating waters of the Eastern Caribbean. The volunteers in their kayaks watched nervously. From their viewpoint they could see the tidal drop that left the reef just a few inches below the surface in some areas of the course.
30 minutes later, surprisingly, first out of the water was Great Britain's Jodie Swallow. She came out even ahead of the Elite Men who had started with a two minute lead. There was a silent moment of consideration and then the crowd erupted in supportive cheers.
Swallow was a great swimmer and she has been competing in swimming since the age of 12, but it was likely that she had missed out part of the course. A reason for disqualification. The judges and volunteers responsible for keeping an eye on the swimmers were still in their kayaks and Swallow just ran through the resort, into the transition area where she quickly pulled on her biking gear and bike.
As the Olympic distance men began to pour up the beach, signs of close calls with the reef were everywhere. Several of the athletes had bleeding cuts on their legs and chest from the sharp reef they hit into.

As the roads were still slippery from the night rain some athletes fell. Number 20, USA's Dan MacKenzie, returned in the back of a truck, clinging on to his bike and wincing at his cuts. Red Cross volunteers were stationed in tents next to most dangerous curves and ambulances stood by to take accident victims to the Roatan hospital, if need be.
After making the hills of West Bay, going into West End and Sandy Bay the cyclist did an about turn and made their way back to The Mayan Princess' transition area. This year's running course was changed to include more paved areas around Keyhole Bay and Lighthouse estates.
Back at the finish line, first spotted was Chris Lieto from USA. He took his time crossing, took a dip in the ocean and strolled leisurely past the spectators before crossing the finishing line. Lieto was beaming at the crowd as he drank water and turned to watch second place arrive. "I love to smile", he said, pouring some cold water over his head, "I always try to enjoy it, if I win or not."
Next in was Nicolas Becker from France. He was all smiles too, "I should have won. I won last year and should have won this year, but Chris was too strong on the bike. The rest of the race I felt great." Becker had been out of the water first, lost time on the bike, but made up quite a distance in the run. He stopped to thank race organizer Leslie Poujol Brown. Taking bronze medal for the Elite men was Leonardo Sauced from Mexico.
To no surprise, Swallow was the first of the Olympic women to cross the finish line. Her bike and run times appeared to be almost as fast as her swim and she managed to increase her lead over the rest of the field. The TV crew rushed to her for an interview, but she stepped back. "I don't know if I've won yet, we have to wait and see," said Swallow.
The officials was still at a loss, citing the power outage as causing the problem in deciding if there had been a foul or not. I took the moment to chat with Jodie. She was in good spirits. She joked about the toughness of the run - "My peddle came off half way around, I had to do most of it with one leg."
Soon the mood tensed up a little bit as Elite competitor Joanna Zeiger finished. She grasped her chest and was in distress. She had suffered an asthma attack during the run, but had pressed on through. Zeiger had been behind Swallow in the swimming heat and was adamant that Swallow had cut in two buoys early.
"They had told me that it was hilly, but this was insane," said Zeiger. "I thought it was meant to be hot here. No one told me that it was muddy." Zeiger was officially awarded first place and Swallow disqualified. Second place was given to Eva Ledisma from Spain and bronze to Mexico's Adriana Corona.

It was perhaps the local athletes that exemplified some of the finest elements of competition and good spirit of the competition. During lunch the crowd ran out from the restaurant to greet the last finishing athlete. It was Dr. Paul Gale, 34, an Anthony's Key Doctor who was competing in his fourth Bay Islands Triathlon. Racing in the Olympic distance, he raised his hands as he came to the finish and into the arms of his wife.
"The last time I was in the water was a year ago. The last time I was on a bike was nine months ago. And the last time I run was three weeks ago," said Gale who's lack of training put the whole "train at least for six weeks before the race" theory to shame. Gale had major problems in the swim portion of the event and he spent an hour in the Red Cross station to recover some strength. He didn't give up, finished the bike portion and jogged to the finish line in 7:45 minutes.
feature story / editorial / local news / business ______________back to top
by Thomas Tomczyk
feature story / editorial / local news / business______________back to top

Taking Out Trash by Thomas Tomczyk

Local and national efforts come together in a campaign to reduce the amount of bottling companies' plastics left on Roatan

Semana Santa will become an opportunity to begin a national recycling campaign where transparent plastics will be taken off Roatan and an educational campaign will raise awareness of the trash problem on the Bay Islands.
The effort is spearheaded by West End Marine Park, AKR, Barefoot Cay, PMAIB, Roatan Municipal and BICA. In a series of meetings with local bottled water sellers: Sun Water, Warren's Water, Agua Insular, Natural Spring, Cerveceria Hondurña and Pepsi, an agreement was reached of how to implement Paragraph 35 of the 2005 Bay Islands environmental law. The law that requires companies importing plastic products to the archipelago to provide recycling centers and means of removing the plastics from the islands.
As a result of these meetings a recycling center with the compacting machine will be based in Spring Garden Two and operated by INVEMA, a recycling company based in San Pedro Sula. The plastic, at his time only transparent and semi-transparent, will be compacted into large cubes and transported to San Pedro Sula where the used bottles will be recycled.
According to Lidia Medina, Roatan Municipal Environmental official, there are around 200,000 pounds of plastic battles brought to the island every month. Cerveceria Hondureña's offered to transport free of charge to the mainland, 420,000 pounds of trash every month. The price for the collected transparent plastic on Roatan should be around Lps. 3 a pound, and for semi-transparent plastic, Lps. 1.5. According to Medina these prices should create enough of an incentive for some individuals to dedicate themselves to collecting transparent plastic battles from around the island.

The program is meant for the entire Roatan island and start off a national recycling program. While Guanaja is already removing many of its plastic bottles, Utila has no immediate plans for recycling or plastic removal program. According to Medina, the next step will be figuring out how to reduce, or eliminate the plastic bags used in the grocery stores around the island. "We are starting slow, but we want to expand the program through education and awareness," said Medina.

Bay Islands Environmental Law
Article No. 35: The introduction and commercialization in insular territory of plastic bags and containers, including those used for selling purified water, refreshments and liquids for human consumption amongst others is prohibited. By exception, the company that distributes these products may request an authorization before CETS for the import and commercialization only if it commits to placing centers for collection of containers that have been introduced and to the posterior withdrawal from insular territory. If that authorization is granted, it will be revoked in the case of non-compliance, causing the corresponding sanctions.
A man walks thru uncollected knee deep deposits of plastic containers in the Brick Bay.
Balseros, Again
A group of 22 Cubans begin the 2007 Cuba to Honduras refugee season. It could be a record setting one
As Bay Islands, due to strong northern winds and high waves, were cut off from the Honduras mainland for three days, a 29 foot home made wood vessel landed on the shores of Punta Gorda on March 6. Even the fringing Roatan reef didn't stop the 22 Cuban balseros who in the middle of the night, at 3am, landed their craft at Punta Gorda.
Seven days earlier, on February 27, the wooden boat left Camaguey, Cuba aiming for Puerto Cortez. Their Daewoo 36 horsepower car engine pushed the craft, Gabriel, south. When their home made brass propeller broke in the middle of the crossing, the crew made a makeshift propeller out of a pine plank of wood, twice.
The Cubans left the shores of Camaguey at 11am and didn't report any presence of the Cuban Coast Guard. It is not clear if the Cuban government, led in the past six months by Raul Castro, has relaxed the control of its maritime waters for refugees.
The 22, including three women and four men with university degrees, entrusted their lives to the quickly nailed together vessel. "We were packed like sardines in oil," said William Lopez Nicot, 37, from Camaguey. The blue painted Gabriel was nailed together out of 1" by 4" planks and had almost no lateral bracing. A thin coat of fiberglass on the outside of the shell kept out the seawater. A five meter pole served as a mast rigging for a dozen sewn together shrimp feed sacks. A box placed in front of the rudder and held together by a copper wire, laid the most important instrument- a sea compass.
The crew went thru two storms and listened to Radio America for weather updates, but the key to the successful crossing of the Caribbean was the northern wind that pushed the rickety vessel South for 600 miles.
After landing in Punta Gorda, the migrants asked a local to be taken to the fire station. "We asked to be taken to the fire station because we knew they would help us," said Nicot. At 4:30 am, the Cuban migrants were sitting, wet but safe, in the Dixon Cove fire station.
As immigration officials took the Cuban's documents, Roatan Municipal provided the balseros with food and a cell phone. The Catholic Church provided clothing.
16 of the 22 had family members or friends that already made the crossing to Honduras before. Only one, Alfrade Rodriguez, 36, has lost a family member in the sea journey. The fate of two other balseros, Roberto Loreno and Gustavo Merejon, who left Camaguey for Honduras in another boat about the same time as crew of Gabriel, is not known.
On March 12 one of the Cuban balseros, unauthorized, left the frontera police guarded premises of the Dixon Cove fire station and is presumed to made his way to the mainland. On March 22, the remaining Cubans received permission for temporary movement in Honduras, got their documents back and left Roatan for the coast.
While the affair for the Cubans on Roatan was winding down, the case of accusation between Honduran Immigration Chief, German Espinal, and local authorities was only beginning. Espinal accused the Mayors of the Bay Islands, and Mayor Dale Jackson in particular of colluding with trafficking of Cubans for monetary compensation.
According to La Prensa, Mario Acosta, Roatan Municipal's legal assessor, declared the comments as irresponsible. The fiscal against corruption and organized crime has begun investigation to determine the involvement of the Roatan and Gracias a Dios authorities in the trafficking of Cubans.
The Camaguey Cubans and their 29 foot 'Gabriel' that brought the balseros 600 miles to a Beach in Punta Gorda. The wooden vessel is kept at Henry's Cove Resort.
Murder at the Yacht Club

A German Hotel Owner is gunned down at his Business

Nicolai Winter, the German owner of the French Harbour Yacht Club was gunned down at his hotel by a man in this thirties, presumed to be from the mainland.
On March 6, 2007 around 9:30pm, the murderer checked into a room at the hotel and came back to ask for Winter's assistance in opening the room door. While Winter with three other Yacht Club staff walked towards the room, the assailant pulled out a 9mm gun and shot Winter several times. The assailant then fled the property on foot.
According to Yacht club staff Winter was alive for some time after the shooting. Bay Islands Voice was notified of the shooting and called Preventiva Police, DGIC and Ambulance in Dixon Cove. No one picked-up the phone. After a visit to the Dixon Cove ambulance station the attendant said "none of the vehicles are working."
The frontier police and DGIC police arrived at the crime scene 30 and 60 minutes after the shooting, but no immediate search of surrounding area was done and no road blocks were set up. The murderer, presumed by the police to be a contracted killer, was not apprehended.
Winter bought the Yacht Club in 2004 for in excess of one million dollars. The legal future of the Yacht Club is far from certain. According to Honduran law, in absence of a testament, Winter's closest relatives: his mother, or his sister will inherit the property.
According to Felipe Danzilo, a lawyer involved in the sale of the Yacht Club, Winter did not yet make all the payments on the property. The previous owners of the Yacht Club: Marcel Hauser and Peter Beuth, still hold a mortgage on the Yacht Club.
Within a week of Winter's death the old owners of the hotel brought the "Pluribus" company owned by Daniel O'Connor, a American business owner from Tegucigalpa, to serve as a "safe keeper" of the Yacht Club business interests. O'Connor made efforts to assure the continuous functioning of the business: that the employees received their salaries, hotel stayed open and he plans on having the Yacht Club's restaurant open by Semana Santa. "Every business has a value as long as it is running," said O'Connor.
O'Connor, who has lived in Honduras for 12 years, was shocked by the lack of concern about the murder displayed by local business community and local business leaders. "This is disappointing in a community that prides itself on being tourism oriented," says O'Connor. "This will bring a negative impact on tourism here."
feature story / editorial / local news / business______________back to top

Saving Eye Sight by Thomas Tomczyk

Two eye care brigades come on a mission to save Roatanians' Sight

March became eyesight care month as thousands of Roatanians took the opportunity for a free eye exam. Two Coxen Hole based churches organized two separate groups of eye doctors and volunteers that consulted, educated, gave away glasses and saved the sight of anyone that cared to wait in line.
On the afternoon of March 8 around a hundred people crowded in the entrance to the Roatan Hospital. A group of Northside Lions from Muskegon, Michigan, tended to a flood of people in need of eye exams and eyeglasses. "We're here to do God's work," said Bob Shallow, the group's leader, that from March 5 thru March 8 attended to around 2,000 patients. As the group's four eye doctors examined eyes of people with eye problems, other volunteers looked for glasses and fitted them to individual wearers.
One of the patients that took advantage of the opportunity to receive the eye exam and glasses was Eunice Dilbert, 22, from Pollitilly Bight. Dilbert starting having difficulty reading her Bible and novels a year ago and not holding a job, but couldn't afford the Lps. 500 eye exam. "I felt I couldn't read for as long as I did before," said Dilbert, who was given a free exam and fitted with +1 eye glasses.

Four schools from around Roatan brought in their students for the free eye check up. The entire student body of Juan Brooks School in Coxen Hole received an eye exam and around 100 of the students received prescription eyewear. "We love working with children," says Bob Shallow, project leader and a retired University professor. According to the Lions around 80-90 percent of people that came off the street and registered with the brigade, needed and received glasses.

Every year the Lion's group decides on the mission destination and 2007 was lucky for Roatan. "Most [eye care] teams that come to Honduras stay in Tegucigalpa," said Shallow who heard about Roatan and its population that needed lacked affordable eye care thru a friend who attended a Church of God Convention here in 2006. After an invitation from Church of God pastor Esau Brooks, the team set up their annual, week long mission trip for the island.
24 volunteers, including six doctors and five nurses, each paying out of their own pocket $2,000 for the opportunity to make a key difference in people's lies. To Roatan the Lions came with 8,000 prescription eye glasses, 1,000 'reader' glasses and 2,000 sunglasses. "Every Saturday morning we would collect, clean, store and enter into a computer system," said Shallow.
Two weeks later another group, this time 13 students from Pacific Universities' College of Optometry and three eye doctors were helping people with sight concerns at the Coxen Hole's Honduras Outreach Ministries. The group, called Amigos Eyecare, in four days of consultations were saw around 2,000 patients.
"Every year we bring a medical group to the island," said Marco Galindo, representing Honduras Outreach Ministries. Galindo works Dr. Richard Kimmic to coordinate a visit of a medical team to Roatan. Again, like in 2006, the group were eye specialists.
The doctors were able to consult with Glaucoma patients and prescribe both glasses and exercises that would prevent them from eventual sight loss. 'Amigos' helped around 20 children with cross eye problem by giving them corrective lenses. The largest group helped by the volunteers, were patients with Pinguecula, or growths on the eye, that appear due to prolonged bright sunlight and dryness of the eyes. According to Jennifer Gustafson, 24, Amigos group coordinator, around 98% of patients complained of dryness of the eyes that can cause this condition and eventually effect eyesight. Wearing sunglasses and using eye drops should prevent Pinguecula.
Click for the latest Roatan weather forecast.

No. 4
May 8

Vol2 No. 2

Vol2 No. 3

Vol4 No. 9

Vol4 No. 12

Vol5 No. 1

Vol5 No. 2