by Karen Sullivan, aka Roatan Rose
In 1978, the Bay Islands of Honduras were placid and undisturbed by hordes of tourists or gunfire. Few people had heard of their spectacular underwater charms. On a sabbatical from teaching high school, I sailed there from St. Thomas as crew on a 72-foot wooden ketch named Taormina, and we six lived at anchor in one of Roatan’s lovely bays. We happened to have the only single sideband radio on that side of the island. One day, a charter boat captain named Tim asked me if I would listen to the morning SSB weather forecast from up in Texas, and relay it out to him on VHF Channel 6. Sure, I said. Others were listening, too, so a few days later Tim said, “Why don’t you just put it out every day at the same time? You don’t need to contact me. I’ll bet others would want to hear it, too.” Sure, I said. Word spread. Within a week there was complete silence on the VHF from 11:15 to 11:30, while all 50 fishing boats and the entire sailing community awaited my daily forecast. Anyone foolish enough to break silence was shushed off the air by the fishing fleet. After another week of this, Tim complained over a beer at the Bodega one evening that my voice was too matter-of-fact, too plain-spoken, too…. unsexy.
“Unsexy?” I asked. “What do you expect, it’s a weather forecast!”
“Well. . .” he replied, “can’t you liven it up a little bit, I mean, can you make your voice DRIP?”
“Oh. I get it. Okay.”
The next day’s weather forecast really woke up the island. Dozens of radios crackled into life when I finished, asking who I was and would I like to come visit them. I didn’t answer any of them. As weeks turned into months, a rumor started that the weather girl, (I always signed off as Roatan Rose), was a water nymph living up in the mountains, very reclusive. Everyone on the island was trying to find out who Roatan Rose was. Nobody who knew was telling.
And the forecasts? Absolutely magnificent. My voice dripped. It vamped. It positively oozed. The Fishing Fleet adored it. Listenership was so high that word spread back to the States. Fan mail began to arrive. One guy even sent money and asked for a photo. I couldn’t just keep the money, so I cut out a picture from one of the captain’s Playboys and sent it.
This is the vampy forecast I gave on April 1, 1979:
“Hiiii, all you sailors out there in bareboat land. Once again, this is your Weather Girl, Roatan Rose, coming to you with another hot flash… *sigh* An important announcement follows the weather.” (At this point I read the actual forecast verbatim, adding a breathless “Be sure to take COVER!” for an approaching cold front.)
“We have been notified of the following extremely urgent situation. As you know, the water shortage in Panama has reached critical proportions, so, in cooperation with the United States Navy, the Panamanian government has begun towing icebergs from the North Atlantic to this stricken country. The first one reached the Mona Passage about six days ago, and unfortunately broke away from its towing vessel at approximately 15 degrees 10 minutes north latitude. The unusually strong prevailing easterly winds, combined with the Antilles current, have caused it to drift into the Bay of Honduras area, posing a navigational hazard to all vessels. You are hereby warned to stay clear of this iceberg. Should you sight it, please notify us immediately. The iceberg will be accompanied by a U.S. Navy destroyer until a tow can be resumed. This is your Weather Girl, Roatan Rose. Until tomorrow, goodbye.”
It was like opening a floodgate of merriment and longing. (Not to mention that Panama has a RAIN forest.)
“SIGHTED BERG, SANK SAME!” some wag shouted.
Pleas for Roatan Rose’s company continued. “Rose, I MEAN IT, WHERE ARE YOU?” begged another. “PLEASE answer me!”
“Oh, I get it! April Fool!” blurted a third.
Many years after I left the island, I heard people were still asking about Roatan Rose. Well, it’s high time I confessed. All these years I’ve lived with the secret. I just couldn’t stand it anymore.
Cover photo of Taormina at anchor. French harbor in Roatan by Karen Sullivan
you’ve got us laughing out loud
Love this story. I have a roatan story too which I’d love to share with you some time. Not as good as your’s though, Roatan Rose.
Good grief, Karen – That has to be the funniest story you’ve written yet! Those poor, horny sailors must’ve guzzled their beer rapidly after listening to the sultry Roatan Rose! Did you do a last forecast “signing off” forever? If so, I’m certain there must’ve been many heart beats stopped momentarily, and even more beer guzzled to drown out their fantasies! Hilarious.