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Don’t Try to Rescue a Portuguese Man-of-War!

11 Feb

Don’t Try to Rescue a Portuguese Man-of-War!

It’s overcast on Roatan today. A weather system blew in during the night. The sunrise unseen covered with grey rolling clouds. In the distance, the usual soothing sound of waves encountering the reef—replaced with the roar of them breaking hard. These are the days I love to walk on the beach. It’s too breezy for the sand-flies to grab on and bite my shins. No need for sun-screen or hat—it would blow away anyhow.

Strolling along with Mona (my dog), she chases crabs, and I comb the shoreline for new found treasures. Pieces of coral, shells and sponge litter the beach, all worthy of being admired. Occasionally I find a starfish or two, too far from the receding tide to return to the sea on their own—I toss them back in the water. Hopeful the rescue will be successful.

I’ve also learned a lesson on what NOT to try to rescue.

During one of my walks, on a day such as this one, I came across a creature I had never encountered before. It was the most unusual thing I had ever seen. A translucent blue…bag, water sloshing inside, with pie-crust crimped edges, and sand encrusted stringy tentacles bunched up underneath.

I nudged it with a stick, and shooed Mona away when she came to take a sniff. I suspected it was some kind of a jelly-fish, but with my limited (zero) knowledge of marine life—I really wasn’t sure. Even if it was something that could sting me, didn’t it deserve to return to the sea? It obviously couldn’t get there on its own.

I tried to pick it up with the stick. This didn’t work. Poor thing just plopped back down on the sand—getting even more coated. The next available rescue tool was my flip-flops. One in each hand, bring them together like salad-tongs ready to toss a salad, I scooped up the creature and flung the blue glob toward the sea. I stood back and watched as the creature bobbed along. Proud of my accomplishment I whistled for Mona, and we continued our walk.

After progressing only a few feet, I felt a strange burning sensation on my arms and legs, red angry welts confirming the locations. I realized my error. When I launched the creature, I was unable to contain all the tentacles with my footwear, a few grazed my arms and legs—I had been stung!

Racing back home, I skirted around the creature. It had washed ashore again, only moments after I had thrown it in the water. While I read-up on what I had tried to rescue, confirming it was a Portuguese Man-of-War, the stinging began to ease.

I told marine-suave friends what I had done, they jokingly suggested that the next time I attempted this kind of thing, I just have to get someone to pee on the stings (supposedly the best remedy). I assured them that wouldn’t be necessary. I learned my lesson—don’t try to rescue a Portuguese man-of-war!

***

This story was also featured in Honduras Weekly Don’t Try to Rescue a Portuguese Man-of-War

Roatan Vortex

20 Jan

Roatan Vortex

Did you ever see the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind?”

When I saw it (a million years ago) I found it quite humorous when the character played by Richard Dryfuss became obsessed with recreating an image of a mountain that consumed his every thought. He started sketching what he saw in his minds-eye. From there he moved on to building it out of mashed potatoes, and ultimately dug up his back yard to construct the mountain out of mud, chicken wire, and just about anything else he could find around his yard. To the complete dismay of his wife, he built it in the kitchen.

He had to understand the vision and ultimately get to this mountain.

While I never went that far…I did become obsessed with Roatan. One day, in late 2004, I was sitting at my desk (at work, in Cambridge, Ontario) when one of our Company sales-reps came in and mentioned that he was going to Roatan for a diving holiday. I had never heard of Roatan, and I’m not a diver. That should have been the end of it. But I couldn’t get the word Roatan out of my head. I started Googling every possible way to spell Roatan that I could think of.

R-O-A-T-A-N, that must be it! References to an Island in the Caribbean Sea and the quality of diving offered there started popping up. Once again I need to stress that I’m not a diver…heck, I can hardly swim. And if I’m going to be totally honest…I’m AFRAID of water. I had visited other Caribbean Islands before (enjoyed them all) but never felt the draw to them like I did to Roatan.

Once I discovered Roatan, without ever having been there, I knew that someday I would live there…I just had too!

For the next while, life carried on as usual. But every chance I got I continued to research Roatan. The exact location, the towns and villages, the people, the history. I intrigued and bored family and friends with my obsession. And then in July 2006 the most tragic event imaginable happened and for the next year I didn’t give Roatan a thought. As my soul healed, my obsession resurface…I had to go to Roatan.

Once I made it here in August 2007, I knew I had found home. The Roatan Vortex had pulled me in!

So is that the end, was getting here the culmination of my obsession, sit back and relax, I’m finished. Since moving here I have encountered (and become good friends) with many people who felt the same pull to the Island. From all over the world we have been drawn to be here. Is it just a coincidence?

I don’t think so!!!

Where the Heck is Roatan?

29 Dec

Where the Heck is Roatan?

Where the Heck is Roatan?

Answer – Between Utila and Guanaja.

At least that is what the very popular tourist t-shirt has printed on it.

Without making you feel like you are back in grade school geography class, (I would get pretty glassy-eyed in that class). I will keep the explanation simple.

Roatan is a small island off the coast of Honduras, in the Caribbean Sea. On one side is the even smaller island of Utila, and the other side is the island of Guanaja (hence the t-shirt). All three islands are part of the chain of islands known as the Bay Islands.

Roatan is surrounded by the second biggest barrier reef (Australia is first). The beaches are soft white sand. The foliage is lush and tropical, (yes, bananas and coconuts grow here), starting from the beaches rising toward a central ridge of foothill’s. I don’t think they qualifies as mountains—okay, so not boring you with geography isn’t my only reason for keeping the details simple.

When I stand on our dock looking to the North, a few hundred miles away (I think) is the border between Belize and Mexico. To the West (when watching the fabulous sunsets) I am facing Guatemala. South is mainland Honduras, and to the East is the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. I should mention that Honduras (which Roatan is part of) is in Central America, between Mexico and South America. I’m not trying to be condescending; before I came here I didn’t know exactly where Central America was, let alone Honduras.

With great pleasure, I could tell you so much more about Roatan; the ocean, teaming with coral and marine life, the jungle landscapes, the glorious year round tropical climate, the diverse cultural mix, tourist attractions, etc. etc. etc. But there are many sites offering much better information on these kinds of details.

What I have to share is a firsthand account of living here. And through that I believe you will come to love it as much as those of us who have chosen to call it home. Roatan is a hidden gem worthy of exploring. But be warned: Once the Roatan Vortex pulls you in…You will never want to leave.

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