After my little rant about the "yacht" the other day, La Gringa sent me a link to this Letter to the Editor of the "Honduras This Week" online magazine. In it, a guy named Holger Peters points out some safety considerations of the new high-speed Galaxy Wave ferry that runs between Roatan and La Ceiba. Among his criticisms is the fact that the life jacket closets are locked and supposedly only the captain has the key. This is, no doubt, to keep them from being stolen.
It is a sad fact of life here in Honduras: Anything that is not securely tied down or locked up will mysteriously "grow legs" and walk away. We've had it happen so many times now that it's just funny and reminds us that we're not being as diligent in securing our things as we should be. And here's something unbelievable: One of our (former) workers stole a little propane torch from us. We needed it, so we "borrowed" it back. After a while, he had the gall to ask us to return it. Our own torch! (The subject of Guanajarians and their rampant thievery could be the subject of a long, long post.)
Coincidentally, I was given a tour of the Galaxy Wave by the owners before scheduled service was begun. The boat is new, comfortable and impressive. The owners seem very safety-conscious. As I walked the decks, I wished that we had something like this that ran between Guanaja and La Ceiba. It could be a huge convenience, especially if they were to use the old municipal dock near downtown. But no. Guanaja just doesn't have the economy to support such a thing. We're lucky to have airline service, I suppose.
Mr. Peters may have his concerns; the government of Honduras quite obviously does not share them. In the U.S., we say that regulations are usually "written in blood" - that is, they're the result of the injury or death of innocent Americans. But no such mechanism or even long-term federal conscience exists in many of these third-world countries. There is simply no accountability.
On the other hand...
My foreman had been down on the mainland for a week just after New Year's. He was returning the other evening on the yacht. (I'm sorry, every time I say "yacht" I chuckle to myself. It's like in the movie "Back To School" - the way Rodney Dangerfield used to do that classic Rodney eye-roll whenever he addressed the head of the school, Dean Martin, played by Ned Beatty.)
To even get to the yacht from La Ceiba, passengers must take a bus east to the town of Trujillo. The yacht is slow, and in heavy seas the ride is uncomfortable to the extreme. It is not an easy journey. They tell me that it sometimes breaks down enroute.
Anyway, Devant (the foreman) called when the boat was leaving Trujillo. Should get in around 6:00 or 6:30 or so, he said. By six I was on the government dock, waiting. ...And waiting. Finally, around 7:15 a light appeared on the horizon. A boat slowly approached. But instead of coming directly into Banacca, it circled completely around the Cay. Taking the scenic route, as it were. One of my workers happened to be waiting for it also. He told me that it did not come directly to the pier because even though there is a clear and deep channel for boats approaching from the south, the yacht had already run aground not once but twice! And not in bad weather, either. Same captain both times, a guy who has been living and sailing in Guanaja for over twenty years. I thought to myself, did this captain once work for Exxon? Did he once pilot a ship called The Valdez?
There are little hand-held GPS navigators for sale now that cost less than $100. Such a device could easily be used to accurately navigate the most intricate course. Perhaps boat captains in Guanaja do not make enough money to afford such a luxury.
Devant told me that he'd bought a motorcycle and was bringing it up on the boat. Sure enough, as it docked I looked through the windows and saw that it was right there with him in the passenger cabin. Yes, yes... I know...third-world country and all. But it is still strange to me, how informal things are down here with regard to safety on both the federal and personal levels. Even after the tragic accident that resulted in the death of our young front-end loader driver Javier, you still see people driving boats at night without lights all the time. And nobody seems to care.
Living here is a big adjustment, let me tell you.