Roatan has been a backwater stopover for yachtsman for years. Cruisers have enjoyed this beautiful Caribbean island paradise but have had little in the way of amenities and have, for the most part been on their own. As Bob Dylan so eloquently put it ‘Times They Are A Changin’, now yachts can now enjoy the same idyllic location but with a host of improved facilities including moorings, marinas, water taxis and a host of other conveniences.
The entire west end of the Island is part of a protected marine park called the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve (SBWEMR). After three years of management, including grants from USAID, PMAIB and CORAL, there are now approximately 60 dive moorings, 12 yacht moorings, 2 fishing moorings and six main channels marked within the SBWEMR boundaries. The dive moorings stretch from Flowers Bay to the Odyssey and although yachts are not allowed to directly tie to the dive moorings, visitors are welcome to share these moorings with dinghies to dive and snorkel.
This area of the island is host to many hotels, restaurants, bars and other activities that can be enjoyed by visitors arriving by yacht. A morning dingy ride to West End to enjoy a cup of Honduran coffee and a baleada is a perfect way to start your day. Sample the night life, so much to do!
For those looking for a shore tie, a number of resorts offer full service marinas. Amenities include electricity, water, ice, fuel, and immigration clearing services; provisioning services, laundry, and hot water showers are also offered by some resorts along with wireless Internet service. Electrical pedestals are wired to U.S. standards and all have both 120V 30A and 240V 50A service. Drop-ins are welcome at most marinas, but reservations are necessary to guarantee a slip.
Cruisers bare a huge responsibility and are in direct contact with the reef system. Every year the SBWEMR receives a vast quantity of visiting yachts, primarily between the months of November and May, which peaks around March (Semana Santa) with over 25 yachts visiting each day. While there are a very small percentage of yacht owners who spearfish and collect conch and lobster illegally, the vast majority of boaters are very eco-conscious and respect regulations. While staying on the island, cruisers help to contribute to the economy through the purchase of fuel, provisions, and eating and drinking at bars and restaurants.
On May 1st 2010, with backing from the Municipality, a mandatory mooring fee of $10 a day, $40 a week and $100 a month was introduced. Before the fee could be introduced with funding from Project AWARE, older moorings were renovated and additional ones were installed to accommodate 20 visiting vessels. To supervise the visiting yachts, a part time Park Ranger has been employed to monitor the vessels and to ensure that fees are paid and park regulations are observed. An additional benefit of the Ranger is to monitor the mooring field and Blue Channel, which are hotspots for poachers, with vast numbers of conch inhabiting the seagrass.
By using money generated from the mooring fee, funds are be used to develop community focused projects, this way visiting yachts are able to give back to the community. It is estimated that visiting yachts to the Park generate anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 annually through the introduction of this fee. Projects within Sandy Bay and West End that will benefit from this contribution include the installation of new trash bins, renovation of schools as well as many other useful projects chosen by the Patronato.