Perched at the bow of the glorious “Maid’en Desert”, on a calm and balmy evening, I watch in the distance as the sun falls deep into the horizon and then simply disappears.

The Maid'en Desert.

Fog rolls in from afar and then slowly begins to surround my body and mind with the crazy feeling that even though I am separated from earth by enormous amounts of deep blue waters, I am still, yet not alone. My eyes fall closed, as I listen to the wondrous sounds of nature speak to me. It is here where I admire the dolphin’s faint giggles and the steady movement of the waters as the iron vessel moves ever so gracefully against the rise and fall of her voyage.

I am unaware of where I am, simply just a small speck on the surface of a gigantic world. I let my feet dangle freely from the open bow where I have made myself comfortable sitting with my legs through the double bars. The Maid’en Desert rises, then falls, then rises again. I am flying, quite like Rose and Leo did when they graced the bow of the Titanic. I bow my head and breathe a sigh of deep gratitude, for such a perfect moment of peace.

Genesis plays on a portable stereo that has traveled with me far from home, from my native New Mexico background.   “I can hear you calling in the air tonight………” the soft voice sings. Chills run down my spine as the words escape from the speakers. 

What a magnificent moment in time, one that I truly will never forget.  I smile to myself, as I stare to the very tops of the enormous sails that hover over 60 feet above me. Earlier that day, I had climbed to the very tops of them with my younger brother and sister, only to find that even from that great height that seemed to climb into the heavens there still was not even the slightest sight of land or human kind; just ocean, miles and miles of never ending ocean.

Intrepid route to the Caribbean.

This 60-foot steel hull, Bruce Roberts design sail boat, was built entirely by the hands of my father. This man had never sailed a day in his life and had only been a welder and machinist throughout his adult life; just a simple little blue collar worker who loved his family dearly and wanted to give them a precious gift . . . the adventure of a lifetime on the Maid'en Desert.

And so it went; we packed up, auctioned off everything that we owned in life, waved and cried our happy goodbyes, and headed off down the desert highways into the great unknown. By semi, we pulled our enormous work of art cross country.  Onlookers would often pull off the road just to stop and stare in disbelief as the land-locked boat made her massive way down the narrow roads.

News headlines were made from far and near, and some even called us crazy! Maybe we were, but the one and only thought in our minds was that life was truly short, and yet a blessing, so we did something courageous and exciting! Had my mother only known what she was getting into that frightful night when she requested to her dear husband to go on an exotic cruise?

Roatan, one of the Bay Islands.

We laugh aloud as we look back now knowing that even up to the moment of launch my Dad did not know if his precious work would even float! When she did launch and drop rapidly into the water by lift a sigh of relief and a cry of cheer rang throughout the crowd of onlookers.

So there we all were: two adult’s, my brother, my sister and myself, heading off to the Caribbean for a life of diving and sailing adventures in the Bay Islands of Honduras on the hand-crafted Maid’en Desert.

Eventually our crazy travels led us to the beautiful Island of Roatan, Honduras. Located in Central America, Roatan is a small island, but yet the largest of all of the Bay Islands. It stretches 33 miles in length. This island was not well heard of at this time, and in fact it was considered one of Honduras’ best kept secrets because of its serenity and seclusion, fabulous beaches, crystal clear waters with over 50 foot of visibility, and the most breathtaking coral reefs one could possibly ever dream of diving.

But the secret was not to last long.

How did we get there, you ask? A great hand from the Lord almighty, and should I say . . . accidently!

The crew in the Crows Nest.

Sailing at night requires all aboard to maintain lookouts and to sit at watch in shifts, but it can also be very dangerous. There are endless coral reefs that surround the Bay Islands. Most are charted on maps, others are not. The slightest shift in wind or a sudden storm can leave the ship off course.  

One very late night sea fog reduced visibility to nearly zero.  Night shifts had been exchanged throughout the evening and sleep was deprived. A sudden crash and scrape, then the slowing of the boat, brought all on board to immediate attention.

The engine compartment was opened after the boat was no longer in motion. We stared in awe and disbelief as water rushed in filling the bottom of the boat. By morning and after massive amounts of water was removed by bailing buckets and pumping we radioed for help.

It took an extreme amount of manpower to dislodge the Maid’en Desert from her perpetrator, the reefs.  Roatan was full of generous and kind people who were more than willing to put their lives at stake for an all-American rescue. They had retrieved us and deposited us safely on the inviting shores of exotic Roatan. As fate would have it, my sweet Mom had received her wish after all — life on an exotic island.

The Bay Islands are a
dive and sail paradise.

One look around and we were all enraptured by our new island paradise.

This was it!  We were ready to go Troppo.

This was what we had been searching for and seeking so desperately. The flawless beauty, the simple living, the place in which you take a step back and a deep breath in and silently exclaim, “I did it.” What a true and real experience of one of God’s most perfect creations.

A few years passed by and we continued to dwell in our new found Roatan home. We began a family operated sail and dive chartering business known as Roatan Sail and Dive Charters.  The operation kept us busy and humble. Times were tough in the slow season, but we always seemed to manage.

Going Troppo means living
off the land AND sea.

Gorgeous green avocados grew wild so we never went hungry. Where else on earth could you have monkeys and parrots as pets or iguanas as roommates . . . especially when unwelcomed?  We appreciated the warm and friendly “hellos” of the natives who truly have deep passion and love for life and require very little in return to bring forth happiness.

 No, we never claimed fame or fortune, just the sure and pleasant idea that we had gone where no man had gone before . . . no man from New Mexico that is.

Our island life was full of thrill seeking adventures, and never ending stories to share with the entire world. This life may not have been for everyone, but it was for us.  From the breathtaking dives down the steep underwater cliffs to the stunning rays of colors in a brilliant ocean world we witnessed adventure first hand.

Fish darted playfully in and out of the distinct pink and white coral as we led divers to shipwrecks of long ago.  We swam with the dolphins at Anthony’s Key Resort. We hiked the tallest mountain to catch sight of the mainland 50 miles away; or we took a short trip into French Harbor for local market fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Ready for Honduras chartering.

If it’s a resort life you dream of, many await with their own inviting charm and character and different social experiences in the Bay Islands.  Love to island hop? This is the place! Want to go jeeping? Get in! Parasailing? Let’s go! This list could go on with endless amounts of big and tiny ways to amuse yourself on the Bay Island of Roatan; don’t take my word for it . . . go see for yourself!

Maid’en Desert is no longer in a Roatan slip and we have since left the island as one by one we grew, but things we did not leave behind were the courageous moments in the hands of the sea, the soul altering memories of a bright new world, and the lifelong friendships that can never be replaced.

Life passes by in the blink of an eye so my recommendation is to go Troppo at least once in your life.

Diving Highlights in The Bay Islands:

If scuba diving is what you seek, here are a few spectacular spots that one should explore while visiting the Bay Islands.

The silent beauty of the Bay Islands.

West End Bay: Beautiful coral reefs, spectacular views in crystal clear waters! Dive with friendly grouper that weigh much more than you!

Blue Channel:  Dive with large eels and multi-colored fish as gorgeous coral reefs surround you! Swim dive or snorkel in pristine open waters.

Cayos Cachinos:  Enjoy your diving in the most unique place! Thrill seekers have been known to swim with the dolphins who on occasion decide to join your group due to their curious and almost always friendly nature! Watch as large and graceful pelicans dive into the nearby waters, snatching up young fish and minnows.

Barabareta:  If you have not yet experienced the unique and beautiful black coral, this is your place to dive.

Guanaja: Some have been known to dive with sharks here, and encounters with huge schools of grouper as mating and meeting take place. Certain times of the year there are known to be thousands of these friendly fish who are all too curious and love to hang out with the divers.

Punta Gorda:  One of my most favorite places; I often listened to thrilling stories told by other divers! This place is also well known as “Dolphin Cavern”.

Click for the Honduras Travel BlogAlthough the depth of this dive is not extreme, you can dive right through a crack in the reef, enabling you to view light from both ends.  A unique and unusual surprise awaits you. Located in the very middle of the reef is a large cavern. The name “Dolphin Cavern” was delegated when a single diver happened to come upon this reef and noticed that the skeletal remains of a dolphin sat caged in the confined area. It had wedged it self into the crack of the cave, trying to make his exit, but never to return. The cave itself is approximately 30-40 feet in depth, and some have been known to become disoriented because of a wall of silver sided small fish that seem to swim so thickly, making it almost impossible to see through them to the other side of the cavern.

Feature and photos by Lisa L. Fellows, Jetsetters Magazine Missouri Correspondent.

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