Thursday, May 20, 2010

A day on Roatan

View from Eric's house on Port Royal in Roatan, with Eric, Capt. John, John and JanOur day on Roatan with Capt. John's friend Eric Anderson and his family was the highlight of the trip. We got off to a late start because Eric had a flat tire while driving over to pick us up at Barefoot Cay Marina from his home at the east end of the island. On the drive back to his house, he gave us a guided tour of Roatan and how it has developed since he first moved there more than thirty years ago. Eric was the Cessna Aircraft rep for South America in the '70s and flew small planes over Roatan frequently in his travels back and forth. Eric's house on Port Royal in Roatan as seen from his dockFrom the air, it looked like paradise, so he convinced his family to purchase property there. To this day, they own a good portion of the east end of the island, including Port Royal Harbor on the south side, where Eric and his family live, and Camp Bay Beach on the north side, where Eric has a beach house. As he told us during our tour, he sees himself as the steward of his property, so he does what he can to control development on the parcels he sells off and is active in preserving the island's coconut palms, which are dying from a yellowing disease epidemic.

Eric at the helm of his skiff with Capt. JohnWhen we arrived at Eric's home on Port Royal, we were greeted by his wife Sarita, his three-year-old son Axel and the family's two friendly Rottweilers. We admired the views, flipped through scrapbooks containing mementos from all the past boating visitors to Port Royal, and then walked down to the pier for a boat ride in Eric's skiff. He showed us the small island a little ways offshore where he had built a runway so he could fly directly to his home, the ruins of a failed marina that was also the scene of a bloody murder, and a maze of mangroves that could be negotiated as a shortcut around to the north side of the island. They're rare in the area, but Eric told us to keep an eye out for alligators. He had once rescued one that had been knocked unconscious by a fisherman.

Eric with his wife Sarita and dog ShebaSarita and Axel, who did not go on the boat ride, had a nice barbecue dinner waiting for us when we returned. After dinner, Eric suggested that we drive over to Camp Bay. Nan and I exchanged contact information with Sarita, said our good-byes to her and Axel, and promised to sail into their beautiful harbor someday. Camp Bay was a long, pristine stretch of beach, spoiled only by a profusion of plastic bottles brought ashore by the waves. Eric's beach house was nestled back in the palms, almost invisible from the beach, which was intentional, according to Eric. He said he doesn't understand the desire to build right out at the water's edge, detracting from an otherwise uninterrupted view up and down the beach. The beach house itself was a marvel, a spiral construction around a central courtyard, with compact buildings for life's functions--cooking and eating, sleeping and relaxing--in the four corners, connected by stairways, like a modern Swiss Family Robinson. John, Eric and Capt. John on Camp Bay Beach (Note all the plastic bottles!)Bats had taken up residence under every eave and were dropping their guano everywhere. It was dusk when we were leaving, and the bats were busy hunting biting insects, so it was probably a worthwhile trade-off.

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