January 6, 2011

Roatan, Honduras!

Hello Again!

     Roatan, Honduras turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise.  We spent two days at anchorage in Coxens Hole, a small anchorage on the east end of the island.  Coxens Hole has a cruise ship dock  where a new ship arrives daily.  The little town was not like other cruise ship ports I have been to.   Usually they wipe out a  property and build all new stores consisting of jewelry stores and shops that all sell the same thing.  This town was all original.  The markets were dirty little shops with makeshift  tables.   We found local produce, fresh fish and baked goods.  Labor must be cheap because the service is great!  They add up you basket on a small calculator and give you a wild number you can’t comprehend?  ($18 limperes to $1 US) We bought oranges for six cents apiece!!  Town seemed safe enough, but this might be due to the 20 or so armed police walking around with automatic rifles and shotguns!   We did not venture out at night!!

   Two days of this business was enough!  Heading east along the coat was another anchorage.  And go figure when you need to go east where does the wind come from?  The east naturally !!  Two hours of motoring got us to French Harbor.  French Harbor has a  tricky entrance, and right when you get to the most dangerous part you electronic charts go blank?  What saves you is the plastic 5 gallon cans painted red on the shoals  that you must go around.  We set the anchor at the east end close to the reef that blocks the ocean swell.  This is a nice situation, you have the ocean breeze and no waves!   There were a dozen other cruises anchored around and a small marina on Fantasy Island with several boats.  Jerry is the Dock master  for the 20 or so available spots on the seawall.  He gave us a warm welcome and lowdown of the events on the island.  One night the resort had a beach party with  rubber duck races, coconut toss, and hermit crab races!!  My crab lost… and my duck flew south!!  Oh well..

   The next day we went and talked to Bob who ran Paradise Airways, a small one plane fleet that toured the island in a open cockpit 3 seat ultra light.  What a rush to be back in a ultra light!!  I used to fly these things way back when I was in California!  Bob did a awesome job narrating the trip around the island.  Roatan has amazing diversity of homes,  the shacks on stilts over the water and the estates,  we saw them all from the air!!  The 40 minute ride was so much fun!!  Daria got out of the plane with a giddiness of a girl who just rode her first pony! 

   On the 5th day of our two day stay we went into the little town,  French Harbor. This is where the fishing fleet is based so the shopping was good.   We stocked up for the next leg of the trip.  We found most things on our list.  There seems to be Butterball turkeys everywhere!  Just that they cost $45 here!!  Pass on the turkey!!

   That evening we went to the dock for the social hour and met Dr. Jamie and the rest of the cruisers for a hour or two of sailing stories and the “where you from” discussions.   Dr. Jamie has a dive boat and  is a x navy seal and dive instructor.  He had time to get Daria certified with one on one instruction,  what a treat to get trained by the best!!  Daria passed her test and was certified in three days.

   Time to move on!  We cleared out of Roatan on the 21st  at 2:00.  We had a slight breeze on the nose and calm seas.  Motors on 7 knts. Into the wind.  It never fails that when you are on a sailboat the direction
 you need to go is where the wind is coming from!!   Oh well out with the fishing gear.  Two hours later, Fish On!!  We landed a really feisty dorado!  He gave his last wag of the tail only after covering the entire back of the boat with his blood!  An hour later we had a mouth watering diner.

   We motored on into the night.  We had 200 miles to cover from Roatan to the NE corner of  Nicaragua  before we could turn south.  The shoals off this coast are dangerous and we stayed well clear of them.  We made the turn 26 hours into the trip and set our course for Isla Providence ,Columbia another 180 miles south.  Another day of good winds and we would be there. We were just 5 miles out and the sun was setting.  It never fails, you can be at sea for three days and you need an extra 30 minutes to get into harbor!!  Motors on sails full 10 knots on the GPS and we still could not outrun the fleeting daylight.  This is when you hope the charts are right!!  We lined up with  the two lit channel markers and headed in.  Everything going just fine until an extra unlit channel mark showed up in front of us!! 
As Maxwell Smart would say, “ 99 we missed it by that much”  whew!!  Close call!!  Going deeper into the anchorage, the seas calmed and the winds subsided.  We steered close to the other boats at anchor and lowered the hook in 20 feet of calm water.  Time for that beer that has been waiting for three days in the refrigerator. 

   After every passage  I find myself grateful that I made another safe passage. I take some time to reflect on the trip and try to remember that the sea is not the place to make mistakes.    Safely at anchorage you can finally let your guard down and remember why you are doing all this.  Few passages are uneventful, there is always one or two things that will stick with you the rest of your life.  This trip was the unlit buoy in the channel and the shoals of the coast of Nicaragua that we passed in the night.   Oh, and the fish we caught!
                                                                                                   Peace!!!    The Captain