Utila at Night and a Captain’s Charter


Night Rides

“It’s nice to have someone to experience this with.  In 30 years, it’s gonna be nice to talk about this with someone.”  I say this to Oba as we ride under the new-moon black sky on the unstable dinghy from the bar back to the sailboat.  The low bass beats from two adjacent dance clubs, reaching their sounds way past their long wood plank docks, trail behind the hum-stutters of the outboard motor.
The stars give faint silhouettes to our neighbor boats.  Pinhole diamonds are our only guide since the moon is hidden far below the horizon.
Chilly droplets splash Oba and I every ten seconds as we bounce easily over the steady ripples of the bay.  This town isn’t wild, but it is cool.  Every day there is a drink special in at least one of the dozen bars on the main drag.  The cast is basically the same and newcomers become allies on the escape from the routines of life.  Conversations meander through small crowds and the night vanishes like a stiff drink.  I am happy to ride with Oba through the charcoal darkness back to our floating home in the bay.
(Holds the boat together)
(Holds the boat)
(Use Caution)
(Do Not Use Caution)
(Old houses)
(Their views)
Night Crawlers
My old buddies!  I’m pretty stoked/terrified to be sharing shadows with Central American wildlife again.  Ok, so everyone agrees a 5 inch diameter tarantula is a cute fur ball, but some of these guys are not so cute.  I’ve only seen a scorpion of about 3 inches long so far.  My friend Tiffini accidentally stepped on one 6 inches long in her kitchen and and said it was “beautiful”.  The deliberate stroll of shiny armor, raised pinchers, and a poised stinger does not give me the warm and fuzzy feeling.
Banana spiders are just cool and all over the Jade Seahorse, an artist’s dream-turned-reality spanning a hilly two acres and completely covered with intricate designs and architecture.  It’s 20 years of carpentry, tunneling concrete, random vertical tile work, and every bizarre, durable object conceivable, fastened in life-size Alice In Wonderland patterns.
Crabs cross-criss the streets at night, jousting with oncoming dirt bikes and golf carts.  I don’t know if they are standing their ground out of bravery or trying to be invisible.  Neither plan seems to be working.
Even with the addition of some common wolf spiders and sand flies, the island isn’t that scary.  It doesn’t take long to get used to their appearance and the fact that they are trying much harder to get away from us than the other way around.  There are also iguanas, which only come out in the daytime and another world of nocturnal underwater hunters.
(Some of the scariest things aren’t scary at all)
Night Walks
A boy of about 5 rides by me on a Big-Wheel, rolling his head back like Ray Charles, looking around at the world.  The sun went down 2 or 3 hours ago, and the only adult I see around is a woman trailing about 15 seconds behind on foot.
Bicycles, dirt bikes, tuk-tuks, and 4-wheelers pass me on whichever side is convenient as I make my way up the windy concrete road.  About half of the vehicles have lights; the others and I rely on silhouettes created by shop lights and the rare green glow of street lamps.
It’s not unusual to see divers and locals with a joint in their mouth or behind the ear.
The local economy is based primarily on diving instruction. Divers are pretty chill.  So is the island.  The culture is somewhere between paradise and a shot of tequila.
I’m leaving my friend’s restaurant and heading to a bar called Babalu’s to meet my brother, Oba, and other friends for a drink.  The island has only three expensive items: restaurant food (except baliadas and pastillas), bar drinks, and diving.  These are still cheaper than most places in the world.  The thing with this island is normally people drink either zero drinks or they drink 10.  I’ve been averaging about $25/day.  That’s cheap for the U.S., but expensive for Central America.
First Charter
Captain Steve (he received a confirmation email and is officially El Capitan) had his first Charter.  Passengers: Tiffany, Danna, Amy, Will, Rory, and Dom.  Steve, Oba, and I crewed the boat while the others fished and held on for the wild ride.
The sea was somewhere between rough and really damn rough.  The boat took some crashing waves on its beam and bow that I don’t think I’ve ever seen.  The center of gravity for a floating object must be below the waterline (more specifically the center of pressure) to achieve stability.  With nine people on board, the boat had an extra 1300 pounds on it’s deck (roughly 4 feet above the water line).  She was rolled more dramatically in the waves.
The boat ride lasted close to 5 hours and one passenger was sick.  Next time it will be half as long and not nearly as rough.
The payment: loaded sandwiches made from homemade sourdough, tropical drinks, and two cartons of eggs.
Scattered rum bottles, broken sunglasses, and plastic cups produced the aftermath of a fraternity party ambushed by pirates.  Great success!
(Banana pudding is up there with southern biscuits and NY pizza)

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