Santa Helena – Roatan’s Little Sister is Booming.
The newly constructed Saint Helene dock is set on the south side of the island in an area known as The Point, a short walk to town and a stone’s throw from the town itself. The Bodden family donated the strip of land where the dock meets land. The dock was built by funds coming from PMAIB (Proyecto Manejo Ambiental de Las Islas de la Bahia) at a cost of Lps. 6.4 million or $261,000 and comes just in time for the island to open to development and tourism.
Santa Helena is booming, real estate prices have doubled and tripled, there is now water and a brand-new dock. “It’s been the best year in history of Saint Helene,” said Bay Islands’ Governor Gino Silvestri. “Electricity, water wells, schools and now transport.”
Sadly, according to several islanders, most of the land shave been sold to outsiders. “It’s a bit like West Bay, the best pieces of land are owned by foreigners.” says Mathew Harper, a businessman, who has been living and coming to Santa Helena since 1980s. Proving that land ownership of Santa Helena is especially difficult. “You talk to five different people and you hear five different opinions about who owns what” says Harper.
Santa Helena would have had a dock much sooner, were it not for a failure of the original winner of the construction bid. Initially in 2017 a Tegucigalpa based company won with the lowest bid for the dock construction but was unprepared and unexperienced in this type of a project. Honduran law requires that the lowest bid be accepted, regardless of the experience or qualifications of the bidder. “They put maybe six posts,” says John Tellford Bodden, a seaman from Santa Helena. It took legal action, and over a year delay, for PMAIB funds to be recovered from the Tegucigalpa Company.
‘It’s been the best year in history of Saint Helene.’
A new bid was placed and Island Concrete, a Roatan based Construction Company with vast construction experience, won it. Within several months the 110-foot-long dock was completed. The 20-foot-wide, 45 square meters concrete dock is supported by 45 pilings and big enough for boats the size of Tropical Wave. “I feel proud. It’s going to change the island for good,” said Edward Eike, owner of Island Concrete.
Saint Helena, unspoiled and undeveloped island is home to around 1,000 people and 250 homes. It is a 40-minute ride from Dixon Cove on Tropical Wave. Safeway Maritime donated the trip to Saint Helene bringing in government officials, press and many curious. Captain John McNab, owner of Safeway Maritime, piloted the Tropical Wave east from Dixon Cove, along Roatan’s southern coast all the way to Saint Helene. The docking procedure took skill and the 147 foot Tropical Wave became the biggest boat to ever dock on Saint Helene.
The changes to Santa Helena are coming from other sources as well. Rotary club financed construction of the three, badly needed wells on the island with $156,000. “Before, Islanders would either drink rainwater or brackish water. Helene has a high-water table.” explains Brian Blackwell, 63, an American residing on Saint Helene. According to Blackwell a five-gallon jug of water that costs Lps. 35 on Roatan is sold for Lps. 60. “Groceries [here] are the double the price of that at Eldon’s. Its old Caribbean style living. Unlike Belize it has not been corrupted,” said Blackwell.
According to Mike Wittry, Roatan’s Rotary past president, the next project for the community of Santa Helena is the construction of a 30,000 Gallon cistern that could provide water to most island homes. The life on Roatan’s sister island is changing drastically.