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Roatan's Robinson Crusoe by William Lewis
Philip Ashton Account Rivals that of Alexander Selkirk

Moving a canoe.

Two months into Ashton's capture, the pirates stopped on Utila where they repaired their boat and cleaned the bottom of their schooner. After a few days Low's crew departed east towards Roatan.
Low's men landed on 'Port Royal Cay,' likely Fort George Cay, where the pirates built huts, drank rum, entertained themselves by firing guns, and worked on repairing vessels in their possession. "Roatan Harbour, as all about the Bay of Honduras, is full of small islands which pass under the general name kays," described Ashton of his environs.
On March 9, 1723, a party was organized to fetch water from a creek in Port Royal Harbour. Dressed only in a frock, trousers and a milled hat, Ashton was hesitantly allowed to join the water party in Port Royal Harbour. Ashton was barefoot and had no tools.
While on Roatan, excusing himself to look for coconuts, he went further and further from the pirate landing party. Eventually he was outside their musket range and ran towards the woods. Ashton lay in the thicket "destitute of all help and remote from the track of navigators." He hid for five days close to a creek observing the pirates, who eventually packed up and sailed away.
Since he had no knife, no tool at all, he could not hunt, or even cut up the turtles he could catch on the beaches. His entire diet consisted of fruits. Fig trees, seagrapes, and coconut trees were abundant and provided Ashton sustenance. Observing the wild hogs gave Ashton the idea that he could eat papayas, "orange, oval-shaped, of a brownish color without and red within," a fruit he never seen before, but found extremely tasty and nourishing.
Exploring the island, Ashton found Indian artifacts and pottery shards in the area. He walked along the island that he estimated to be 10-11 nautical miles long.
With time Ashton learned to use a stick to uncover the nests of turtle eggs that supplemented his diet with protein. He dried the eggs in the sun to make them harder and easier to eat, but since he had no ability to start a fire he could not cook them. His numerous attempts at creating fire by rubbing sticks proved fruitless.
"A small black fly creates such annoyance that even if a person possessed ever so many comforts his life would be oppressive to him," accounts Aston about the sand flies that proved a consistent and major nuisance.
Ashton spent nine months like this, without a single time seeing another human being. He passed the time by "rambling from hill to hill," looking for food, swimming to cays, looking at sky and water. Not a good swimmer, Ashton would construct a sort of lifejacket out of bamboo that would allow him to float and propel himself towards to nearby cays, a place to escape sand flies.
He built some huts to shelter him from mid day sun and rain. They were constructed from fallen branches and trees, covered by leaves, with one opening facing the water to allow breeze to get in and observation of the horizon for any passing ships.

Notorious pirate Edward Low.
Eventually Ashton set into a routine of spending nights on a cay and swimming to Roatan in the day where he would gather fruits and drinking water. On his way back to the cay he would tie his clothes on his head to keep them from getting wet.
He experienced a couple close encounters with a "shoveled nosed shark" - a hammerhead - and "alligators" - crocodiles, that abound in the waters around Roatan. On one occasion a hammerhead hit Ashton hard on his leg. On another occasion he was attacked by a wild boar who ripped his trousers with his tusks.
Ashton suffered much from having no shoes and his feet were constantly covered in scabs that would never have time to heal properly. Over time the Massachusetts fisherman succumbed to weakness, depression, eventually loosing track of days and months. Only figs and wild grapes kept him alive.
In November 1723, the weakened Ashton noticed a small canoe with a man approaching. The visitor was as surprised as Ashton to see another human being and it took some assurance from Ashton to tempt the sailor ashore. They eventually shook hands and the visitor presented himself as a native of North Britain.
The man had spent 22 years with "the Spaniards" that threatened him and influenced his decision to flee to Roatan. He traveled with this dog, ammunitions and supplies of dried pork. The visitor readily shared his pork with Ashton.

After three days the visitor, who never gave his name to Ashton, departed on a hunting trip. Ashton, due to weak health and sores on his feet had to stay behind. It was the last they saw each other. "When he was absent for about an hour, a violent gust of wind and rain arose, in which he probably perished," accounts Ashton.
The short visit uplifted Ashton's spirits and left him with five pounds of pork, a knife, gunpowder, tobacco, tongs and flint to make fire. With these minimal resources Ashton was able to endure the rainy season that arrived and slowly begun to recover his strength. Lobster and turtles proved to be especially good eating.
A few months later the survivor came across his companion's canoe washed out on shore. This confirmed the likely death of his companion.
Ashton used the canoe to paddle to Helene, Moratt and Barbaratt and one day decided to embark onto a voyage to clearly visible Guanaja. This was an open ocean voyage of 12 miles from Barbaratt, or 22 miles from Port Royal.
He spotted a sloop off the island's east end, but stayed clear of it as it could have been another pirate ship. He hid his canoe and then journeyed across Bonacca's forrest that was so thick that he had to crawl on his hands and feet for distances of half a mile or longer. It took him over two days to cross the 'Pine Island.'
When he approached the place where the spotted sloop was anchored, she was already gone. He took a nap on the beach, but was suddenly awakened by gunfire and nine canoes closing in. He ran into the forest and deducted the men to be Spaniards. The men fired 150 shots towards Ashton, but eventually retreated to a ship flying an English flag.
It took Ashton three days back to retrieve his canoe and he suffered from lack of food, as Guanaja was not as abundant in fruits and nourishment, and "the insects were infinitely more numerous and harassing." He thus decided to cut his Guanaja exploration short and headed back, paddling back with the current towards Barbaratt and Roatan, "a royal place to me compared to Bonacco."
After several more months of living on the island, in June 1724, Ashton spotted two canoes arriving at his cay. He was hesitant in making contact with the men as the memory of the Bonacca confrontation rang as a caution. Curiosity led the men to a conversation and they presented themselves from "the Bay of Honduras."
The visitors were extremely amazed as to Ashton's worn appearance, and skeleton-like body. They embraced him and carried him on their hands to the canoes.
The party consisted of 18 men, led by John Hope and his companion John Ford. They fled the Mosquito Coast anticipating a Spanish attack from the sea and the Spanish allies, the Indians, attacking from the land.
Hope and Ford had had previously lived on Barbarat for four years, fleeing the Mosquito Coast for similar reasons. They returned again and constructed two houses on a cay of Barbarat's coast named by them Castle of Comfort.
The group had brought hunting dogs, flour, firearms and nets for turtle catching. An Indian woman accompanied them and took care of cooking and washing.
While initially Ashton appreciated his companions' care and provisions, he soon decided that: "Yet after all they were bad society, (…) there was little difference between them and pirates." After a few months Ashton recovered some of his strength and was able to join the group in hunting excursions.
While Ashton was away on a hunting party on Barbarat, a group of pirates raided they cay and chased them back to Roatan. The group of pirates served under the command of Spriggs, who deserted Ed Low in pursuit of their own riches in the Bay of Honduras. Spriggs' two vessels anchored in Port Royal - Rotan Harbour, to work on the boat maintenance and replenish water and food.
The pirates murdered one of the Bay men, placed his body in a canoe full of tar and set it ablaze. They raped the Indian woman and moved the rest of the prisoners to Roatan.
Aston and his companions observed the happenings from a distance and for five days survived on raw provisions, afraid to start a fire that would give away their position. The pirates did eventually leave, and left the prisoners with some supplies and no large canoes, only a flat bottom boat worthy of a passage to mainland.
The party led by Hope decided to head back to the Mosquito Coast and Ashton decided to stay behind with John Symonds, and his Black slave. The plan was to wait for Jamaican fishermen to eventually come to Roatan, as they usually did in the spring of each year, and take them to Jamaica and eventually England.
As the rainy season ended the men decided to head to Guanaja and then to the mainland to trade some turtle shells for shoes and clothing that could be had from boats presumed to be sheltering there.
Upon reaching Guanaja, the men were surprised by a vicious storm, possibly a hurricane, that lasted three days. They eventually spotted several vessels and made contact with men dressed in an English fashion.
The vessels were part of a convoy heading to Jamaica that separated during the storm. The brigantine accompanying man-of-war HMS Diamond came to Bonacca to get water for the sick crew. Ashton was welcomed aboard and offered a paid position of a seaman.
He said goodbye to John Symonds, who decided to stay behind. It was March 1725. Ashton soon reached Jamaica and sailed north to the port of Salem, which he reached in May - almost three years after being taken by the pirates.

Flipping a turtle on its back.
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Two Wrong Choices

Faced with choosing between a Demagogue and a Scaremonger many feel they have to make a choice of whom they support. I don't.

I asked my mother if I had to go to the peace march and she said, "no." I wondered if I would have problems since many of my friends went to it. The country's leaders felt it would be better to call the parade "a peace march," and not showing up for the march would mean lower notes at school and potentially getting on a "black list" of people not supporting the regime.
It was 1979 in communist Poland, I was 10 years old and it was May 1, the international workers day. "The peace march" provided an opportunity for the communist government to display their unity and indoctrinate their societies into thinking that they live in a great place and are ready to march for peace.
From that time on I was always suspicious of government organizing demonstrations, and especially suspicious of any government propaganda that would have the word "peace" in it, flying doves, or the term "unanimous" associated with it.
There is a pattern: the government of free societies: US, Canada, Western Europe, and Japan, are not in the business of organizing marches or demonstrations. The governments that organize the marches and display them on their TV as commercials of people's support are: North Korea, China, Libya, Iran, and lately… here.
At this point the majority of political dissenters have been silenced. I talk to them and they are often intimidated, uncomfortable to voice their opinion. They are local business owners, islanders that are black, white, Garifuna, many Europeans, and some Americans.
This is the third coup I have experienced: after the Jaruzelski coup in1981 Poland, and the internal 2002 coup in Eritrea. After living for 18 years under communism, I don't easily fall into paranoia when someone is calling someone 'Hitler,' or a 'communist.' I am more concerned with freedom of speech curtailment as signs of totalitarianism.
For me it's scary when almost all private print and TV media abandon objectivism, impartiality and honest reporting in favor of one-sided propaganda - both left and right. The media that did not fall in the official line - TV Globo, Canal 36, Radio Progresso - were shut down, their equipment confiscated and some of their journalists beaten up.

Representatives of Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Corporation, Honduras' biggest investors, spoke highly of president Zelaya, even after his ouster. This echoes the overall position of the US government who had nothing to gain and everything to lose in supporting the Honduras coup.
The US would be going against practically all of the international community, looking as hypocrites. The US would find itself alone, supporting a government that has only partial support in the society and will be gone in six months, replaced possibly by another leftist candidate and Zelaya's right hand man for three years, or a candidate who studied at the Moscow's Patrick Lumumba University under Brezhnev.
While the tourist business has suffered disproportionally more than other industries from the post June 28 chaos, the entire country will have to go through years, maybe decades of image rebuilding. Investors, aid organizations and tourists will continue to perceive Honduras as an unstable, weak country with corrupt officials and internal economic divisions, and no structured ways to handle them.
The only economic activity that has actually increased in Honduras is drug smuggling. The revenue of this commercial enterprise doesn't figure into the economic annals, but is likely to surpass that of coffee, remittances from abroad, or on a bad year…tourism. US aid spent on Honduras, $190 million, amounts to less than five tons of cocaine. That much is moved in four planes that land on Utila or Guanaja in a week.
The soldiers stationed at the Utila and Guanaja landing strips were there for six weeks after June 28, not because of a rediscovered commitment to reduce drug smuggling, but a preoccupation to keep one dangerous individual out of the country. When that threat diminished, the troops abandoned landing strips for the barracks and the drug smuggling planes and boats returned.

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Giant Estrellas Crush Vida by Jennifer Mathews photos by Benjamin Roberts

Last Season Winners Dominate their Opponents

Minutes later, No. 9 Ozzie Bodden found himself on the eleventh meter one-on-one with the Vida goalie, who miraculously saved the Vida from yet another hit from the Estrellas. In the final minutes of the game, Estrellas' No. 11 Reagan Bodden dribbled the ball past two players, passing the ball through one players' legs, and firing it through the defending hands of the goalie.
Adding insult to injury, the Estrellas fired one last goal attempt, which was blocked by the Vida goalie. The Vida desperately tried for one last free kick for a goal, but were foiled by the goal bar.
The strength of the Estrellas this season could be credited with the return of two key players who have been playing pro level with Vida on the coast: No. 7 Roy Bodden and No. 11 Reagan Bodden. When asked about their return, Reagan responded, "Because of the political situation, our father [team's owner Wally Bodden] thought it best to have the family together to play for this season."

A dangerous play at Vida's goal.

Winning the second game in the season against the Los Fuertes Vida on September 27, champions Santa Helena Estrellas are proving to be stronger than ever.
The Estrellas dominated the first half, beginning with an immediate goal by No. 9 Ozzie Bodden. Soon after, No. 3 Jerrick Diaz sealed the Estrellas' lead making it 2:0 Estrellas, off a header from a right corner kick.
In the beginning of the second half, the Vida kept the Estrellas on their heels with several goal attempts, leaving the Estrellas to counter. The Estrellas countered with a beautiful display of ball control, an accurate pass from the side to No. 11 Reagan Bodden, who dribbled the ball past the goalie and shot a low ball goal, past Vida's last defender.

A Canadian Man Killed During Robbery

Dallas Martens, 31, a Canadian schoolteacher was shot dead on the side of a road while he attempted to help his wife who was assaulted by two armed men.
On September 18, Dallas Martens and his wife Krissy Larsen-Martens celebrated their first wedding anniversary at a West Bay restaurant. Driving back, they decided to glance back at a property they were considering to purchase. Around 8:30pm, they pulled off the West Bay road and drove around 50 meters to a half finished house.
According to the testimony of Krissy Martens, two tall men, Spanish-speaking, masked and armed with guns appeared and attempted to rob her. Krissy Martens said that Dallas Martens confronted and distracted them, so she was able to escape and run towards the main road, then catch a taxi towards West End to come back with help.
By September 30, Roatan police had arrested four male suspects and considers Krissy Martens as a suspect in the case.

The couple came to Roatan to adopt a baby in December 2008. While waiting for the paperwork to go through, they both worked at the Sandy Bay Alternative School and volunteered at the Familias Saludables AIDS project.
A $7,000 reward, gathered mostly from couple's friends and Roatan's foreign residents, was announced for information leading to the arrest of the suspects. Four men suspected of involvement in the murder were arrested on September 26.
This is a fourth month in the row, and fifth this year, that a foreigner is killed on Roatan. In January, Roger Walls, another Canadian and like Martens also from Saskatoon Province, was shot and eventually died.
Canadian government posted a travel warning for Honduras: "Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Honduras, with the exception of the Bay Islands, where Canadians should continue to exercise a high degree of caution."

Mysterious Tourist Death Case Reexamined
A Year after the Incident, Police Charges two Foreigners with Murder

A trial has reopened about the mysterious death of Dutch tourist Mariska Mast, 23, that took place in the early morning of August 23, 2008.
On September 22, Ji-Soo Han, 25, a South Korean citizen who was present during the incident, has been flown to Roatan after being arrested in Egypt. Han was arrested on an Interpol warrant when attempting to leave Egypt where she worked as a dive master.
Another Interpol warrant is still in place for Daniel Ross, 30, British and Australian citizen at whose apartment Mariska's death occurred. Following the incident, Ross, a West End dive instructor, spent five days in the Roatan jail, but was eventually released. While his British passport has been retained by police, he fled the country on his other, an Australian passport.
While originally Mast's cause of death was determined inconclusive, Fiscalia now say that Mast died due to "cranial lesion." Numerous marks on the body implied a possible strangulation attempt or beating, and alerted the Dutch authorities who in turn put pressure on the Honduran police investigators to reexamine the case. Dutch embassy representatives and private investigators made several visits to Roatan to work on the case.

Mast went out drinking with Ross then followed him to his West End apartment, which he shared with Han. According to Ross and Han's testimonies from 2008, sometime around 3am, Mast collapsed and hit her head on a toilet chipping her tooth. Mast's condition deteriorated, and around 6am she was driven to the Coxen Hole hospital in the back of the landlord's truck. Upon arrival she was pronounced dead.
The details of the case are unclear and evidence has been disturbed. Authorities are suspicious of Ross leaving the hospital and returning to the apartment where the landlady has seen him cleaning up the death scene before the police could arrive.
The local dive community and police have several possible explanations for the death: accidental death from falling down, decompression sickness mixed with alcohol, battery during an attempted rape, or rough-sex-gone-bad incident.
Implications of the case reemerging go beyond the possible prosecution of the two suspects. If Mast's death was indeed a murder, not an accident, she would be the first tourist killed on Roatan in recent times.

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The Business of Hoist

An Old-Time American Helps to Keep Utila Boats Dry

Dock made his fame and money designing custom made teak wood water skis in the1960s, selling and designing custom ski boat equipment and in 1970s and in 1980s, and organizing water shows across the US. "We did shows for five million people in one year," says Dock.
On Utila, Dock is in the hoist business to keep busy, not to make money. Whenever he runs out of hoist parts - motors, chains, bearings, etc. - he contacts his US supplier, American Power Hoists.
The typical 'Dock Rail' hoist design incorporates ordered parts, locally purchased elements, and recycling. Dock uses plastic Coca Cola bottles, still bearing Coca Cola logo's and filled with concrete, to serve as weights. They assure that the bands fall vertically into the water and allow the boat to easily slip in and out of them.
Hally Whitfield, Dock's newest client, says that he saves around 22-23 minutes per every lowering or hanging of his boat. Dock explains that the reasons for installing an electric hoist, or switching from chain to electric hoist, are not purely to save time or energy. "It's a fisherman's status symbol to have an electric hoist," explains Dock.
While most of his hoist are meant to lift dories that ply Utila's bay, the Cayos and venture as far as La Ceiba, his biggest hoist so far could lift a 13,000 pound boat. However, his customers don't need a warranty on the simple mechanism. "I haven't had one break yet," says Dock.

Dock Rails with his latest hoist.

"If I need something… someone else needs that something too," says John Humason, known by just about everyone on Utila as "Dock Rails." This is how Dock got into the hoist business in the first place. He got tired of manually lifting his Utila boat out of the water and ordered a hoist kit from US and customized it. Since assembling this first hoist in the mid 1980s, Dock has become Utila's official "hoist installer." There is hardly a boat with an electric hoist that hasn't been installed by Dock, and there might be 50-70 of them. In 2008 he installed 12 hoists, this year only one.
Dock rides Utila's main drag in an aluminum golf cart, wearing a hat made out of folded palm leaves. Since coming to Utila in 1971, Dock Rails has become one of the island's most recognizable figures.


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