TBT - Return to Roatan

The island of Roatan. To me, in the late '60's, the name evoked visions of a lush tropical eden in the 'undiscovered Western Caribbean'. And it was, and still is, a beautiful island paradise surrounded by fabulous coral reefs in a small chain of islands just off the north coast of Honduras.

My wife Barbara and I had the opportunity to visit Roatan in 2011 while on a cruse ( Celebrity 'Solstice' ). For Barbara it was a first time encounter - but I had been to the island many times since 1969, when my former wife and I went there hoping to find opportunity in the undeveloped tourism industry of the Bay Islands.

As it turned out back then in 1970 - we settled on Utila, the adjacent island to the west of Roatan. Over the next five years we enjoyed modest success in helping to develop tourism there and on the coast in La Ceiba. All of this area of the Caribbean is basically one community - with extended island families living and working in the region of the islands and the coast.

Just prior to our cruise I tracked down and phoned Morris Woods, an old friend in Honduras that I had not seen in over 30 years. His father and I had been partners in the island bar 'Bucket of Blood" on Utila. Morris is like family to me so it was great to be able to contact him. He agreed to meet with us for an overdue reunion on Roatan when our cruise ship arrived .

Funny how easy it is to quickly re-establish a good repport with great friends after a long absence. When Morris met us there outside the wharf gate it was just like ole times. I even started using island words that had long been dormant since leaving the islands. In the '70's Morris taught me many archaic English words that the natives still use - like complementing someone by telling them they look 'fat', and the opposite - the derogatory word 'meager', another popular word to describe people in the islands. To stumble or trip up is to have something 'humbug' you.

Barbara had seen in the tourist brochures that Roatan had some great zipline operations. So Morris drove us up onto the rugged mountain spine of the island to one of those enterprises that boasted five platforms on the long zipline run back to the coast. She had a thrilling adventure that afternoon while Morris and I drank beer and did some catching up on what we had been doing with our lives.

Everyone was to be back aboard the ship by 6:30 PM for the departure to the Cayman Islands. We got back to town around 5 PM and Barbara proceeded to the ship - I hung back with Morris to have a couple more beers at a local bar and to continue talk about old times. It was difficult to say good bye to Morris and Roatan, but at 6:20 I finally strolled on to the cruise wharf to find it deserted, accept for a couple anxious crew members who asked my name - and then they hustled me over the gang plank just before pulling it into the ship. Returning to the cabin - Barbara said she received a call from the captain at 6:15 asking if she knew were I was as everyone was aboard but me and the ship was ready to leave Roatan.

I hate waiting in lines - so being the last to board a ship with 4,000 people worked fine for me!