We left Utila on 12 March after spending a great week there diving and enjoying the wonderful little places on the island. We headed out with little wind and a general swell heading to the eastern end of Roatan to stay at Jonesville Point Marina for about a week to do some maintenance, refresh a few things and get familiar with Roatan. We had visited the island 6 years ago and stayed with friends on the east end but we had to reconnect as cruisers.
Mountains on the Honduran Mainland visible from Utila.
We started out with a little wind ahead of us that enabled us to sail for an hour or so before it dropped to nothing. Then we motored. The distance between Utila and Roatan is about 20 miles at the nearest point with Roatan lying to the northeast and farther from the Honduran mainland. On the Honduran mainland are high mountains that are visible frequently on Utila as they were when we left but we watched as they became shrouded in haze as the day wore on. Very shortly after rounding the southeast point of Utila we began to see the hills of Roatan rising out of the water. For most of the trip we could see Pumpkin Hill of Utila, the only high spot on the island and the hills of Roatan at the same time. Roatan is like a long mountain with various peaks along its ridge as it sits in an almost east-west alignment off the coast.
Fading view of Pumpkin Hill.
Roatan, with Utila and its sister Guanaja form the Bay Islands of Honduras. The islands were actually British for many years before being turned over to Honduras. The old-time residents on the islands speak a form of English that is very similar to that spoken in portions of the Chesapeake Bay, Bahamas, Jamaica, Belize and the Caymans. Most likely because the inhabitants were separated from the mother country by hundreds of years. There are many Spanish-speaking inhabitants who also speak English because of the large influx of tourists to the islands. In fact, the only 2 people we found on the islands speaking mostly Spanish were the Immigration Officer and Port Captain. Probably being government officials they were required to transact in Spanish. Most prices everywhere were even listed in US$.
With Amekaya at the dock, Linda at the bar I am washing down Amekaya.
We tied along side a long pier for what became a fun week in a very out-of-the-way place. The dock had no shore power so CJ, the young dock hand brought down an extension cord that we plugged into. It would run most small power needs and the battery charger (although the batteries were mostly topped off from solar and wind) but not our air conditioner. So at night we ran our genset to cool down the boat. When it came time to fill the water tank we were able to reach a potable water faucet that was actually spring fed. Life was good.
Our mast from the top of Lodge.
Our plan for our first day was to pick up a rental car so we could do provisioning and shopping at the many stores on the island and facilitate some work we needed to do. But first we met our friend Janice Rowland who had been there for several months while her husband traveled back and forth to the States for medical appointments. We got together for happy hour and dinner but we met one of the owners, Dennis who was an absolute hoot.
Looking our from Cal's after our Lunch with Janice.
Jonesville Marina is owned by the Trico Shrimp company of Fort Myers, FL and the bar is named the Trico Bar and Grill. Dennis one of the owners spends lots of time at the marina. During the course of that evening and many others he joined us at our table and whenever our drinks were low told us he was buying us a drink. I think in the 9 days we were there we paid for less than 10 drinks for the two of us. Like most of the places we've been beer and rum drinks were less than US$2. It's very easy to like that. They also had entertainment on Tuesday afternoons that was quite good.
Trico Tuesdays at the marina with great local entertainment.
As planned we picked up our car at the airport and Sherry, who co-manages the marina with her husband Bryan, took us to the airport for our car as she had to pick up a guest for one of the other places they manage. We were then able to meet up with friends on Mikhaya and Moody Mistress from back in the Rio for a quick chance to catch-up. Both boats are similar Moody 43's.
Happy hour at Sundowners Beach Bar with great music.
Over the next couple days with the car we got to grocery and hardware stores on the island to shop for things we hadn't been able to get on board in many months. We also got the chance to spend time with other friends on Roatan. On Friday I got out with Tropical Divers in the East End for 2 dives in some very rough conditions. For several days later in the week and over the weekend the trade winds were very heavy. Unfortunately, the wind drove swell into the marina and rocked us for several days at the dock. But after a fun 10 days we left the friendly family at Jonesville and headed to the West End.
At West End we knew we would be meeting up with other friends on Mikhaya and Moody Mistress but also Trish and Tom on Double Up who we spent time with in Antigua. After days of high winds there was barely a breeze so we motored the 15 miles from Jonesville to the anchorage by the West End. Using way points Trish had given us we crossed through the reef and put down anchor in a sand patch we found among the heavy turtle grass. Over the time we were anchored there we found our anchor holding very well in some heavy winds.
One of our dinners with Trish and Tom and the Beach House.
Over the next 2 weeks we spent time with our friends. Trish and Tom also had dive gear so most of the days we went out in our dinghies to dive sites and blew bubbles for an hour and Linda snorkeled over the amazing reefs. Roatan has some of the best diving in the Caribbean. We saw many turtles and eels swimming along the wall. Tom and Trish always carried spears to kill Lionfish that provided amusement watching them get killed and then having a fish come by and swallow them in one bite. Hopefully the fish will learn they can eat these tasty morsels of invasive species and the Lionfish will get under control or even eliminated. Unfortunately I never had my camera ready to catch the banquet.
Getting ready for another dive.
Our last dive was on the wreck of the Aquia. One of the 3 wrecks on Roatan. The wreck was in 105' of water and featured several swim through opportunities although unlike other wrecks I've swam through there weren't lots of fish around. During our decompression phase of the dive after the deep water we swam the reefs in shallower water with beautiful canyons of colorful coral.
West End beach at night.
What a great 2 weeks we had. Dive in the morning, dinghy to the dive shop to drop off our tanks for refill, take a nap, have happy hour and dinner. The weather was beautiful and it was Semana Santa (Holy Week) and the West End was packed with tourists celebrating the holidays. Besides all the excitement there were fireworks on several evenings. While this was just a part of our ongoing liveaboard cruising it seemed like spring break with all the celebrating going on. Dive, nap and party. How can it get any better?
Sunset from Roatan West End.
The day before we left our friends Bob and Nina on Moondance arrived from Belize and the last night we had a very nice dinner with all our friends.
Our last night dinner in Roatan on 2 April.
The calendar was ticking and we knew we needed to head back to the Rio in order to prepare the boat for us to leave. So after just a few weeks we sadly left Roatan and headed back to Utila to enjoy Tapas Tuesday at Mango Tango and then check out of Honduras for our trip back to the Rio so we could get back to the States.
Running on the spinnaker on the way back to Utila.
We had great wind for the 20 mile passage back to Utila with the wind on our beam for about an hour before coming behind us so we hoisted the spinnaker that took us right to the channel where we needed to haul it in and turn through the shoal to the anchorage. We pulled down the spinnaker and motored in and anchored in the same sand spot we were in before.
Cruising at 8 kts.
Once anchored we tried to make reservations at Mango Tango only to find they were closed until later in the week. In our last few days at Utila we visited some of the places we had been before and enjoyed another dive trip. We went out again with Utila Dive Center and had 2 more wonderful dives. Besides a great wall dive complete with turtles and eels we also got so see a moray swimming along the bottom for a great distance and watch as he slid in and around coral heads. We met crews from several new boats and quickly made new friends spending several happy hours with each as we got to know them.
Our anchor buried on the bottom of East Bay in Utila photo taken from the cockpit.
But, it quickly became time to leave and we coordinated with our friends on Livin Life who had moved over to the West End of Roatan to buddy boat back to the Rio with them. We were both concerned with past incidents of assault that had occurred along the Honduran coast between Utila and the Rio. It isn't really the hot spot for pirates but attacks have occurred. Livin Life was leaving from Roatan and we decided that we would go around the east end of Utila and head north northwest until we were well clear of the coast and then head southwest into the Bay behind Cabo Tres Puntas. By coordinating we should be close in the event of any issues.
Sailing across the Bay to Livingston.
We coordinated our departure as we were both clearing out of Honduras and the process on Roatan required more time than did we. So late afternoon we brought in our anchor and motored out of the harbor and pulled out our sails. The first part of our sail was a beat into about 25 kts of apparent wind at less than 40 degrees so it went very slowly with big swells slowing us as well. After an hour and 3 tacks we made it out around the northeast point of Utila and fell off to a beam reach as we quickly shot up to 8-10 kts of watching Utila shrink in the dimming sky as we ran away from the island. Our plan was to get about 25 miles north of Utila before we turned west getting us far from the Honduran coast line and closer to Belize. We finally turned downwind and went to just the jib which we carried until about midnight when the wind dropped to the point it wouldn't hold the sail. At that point we brought in our sails and motored.
By daybreak we were around the Guatemala border and continuing on we were anchored behind the Cabos Tres Puntas by 1030. On several occasions during the evening and early night we spoke to our friends over the VHF but soon we got out of radio range. After getting down the anchor on a beautiful morning we had breakfast, napped and swam. About 1600 that afternoon we saw our friends Livin Life approaching on radar. They got their anchor down before sunset and we all had an early night to get ready for crossing the bar.
Late afternoon anchored off Cabo Tres Puntas.
The night was beautiful with a full moon and even some phosphorescence in the water that was still and peaceful after our previous night's journey. What a contrast to how we left it earlier in January. Swimming around the boat during the day we found lots of starfish and dead sand dollars. I think there's a correlation because we've seen this before. I believe based on research that starfish eat sand dollars (or at least the animal part of them).
The beautiful peaceful evening slipped by quickly as we all got a nice night's rest after our passage from the Bay Islands. In the morning we lifted anchor to cross the bar just before high tide. Remembering our first experience crossing the bar where we ran aground and had to be pulled off we approached the crossing apprehensively but once again we got across the bar without touching. We're now 2 for 3 in successful crossings. We put down our anchor in the Rio Dulce with the brisk river current and a sea breeze opposing it pushing us around as we tried to back down on the anchor. With it down we called our clearing agent Raoul to come out to get us checked in.
Livingston's main street.
Normally clearing into a country is not an issue but we arrived on Sunday and that meant we would be charged a premium and the officials would not be immediately available although we advised them we would be in so they were expecting us. There was another boat in the river that had come in ahead of us so it didn't take too long for the authorities to arrive and request our paperwork. They advised that we could collect our papers in an hour and we set about for lunch.
The Livingston waterfront.
In about an hour Janice from Livin Life came by and took Dave and I ashore to collect our papers and pay the fees to secure our entrance to Guatemala. Janice returned to her boat and Linda stayed aboard to be sure that heavy-handed elements from Livingston didn't come by to help themselves to pieces of the boat. Dave and I went to the ATM to withdraw Quetzales, the local currency of Guatemala because they do not accept US$ and walked to Raoul's office for our documents. For whatever reason the documents weren't ready as advertised and we stood outside of the office in the 95 degree Guatemalan Jungle heat for 2 hours until we finally got our docs and could head up the river.
We rushed back to the boats and got underway quickly as the day was fading and we wanted to make Texan Bay before dark. While the river is easy to navigate in the daylight it becomes difficult at night because there are obstructions along the way and shallows that protrude far from shore that must be avoided. At night seeing these becomes more difficult and the entrance to Texan Bay is narrow and visual piloting is required.
Anchored in Texan Bay.
We made it into Texan Bay and got the anchor down before sunset. But our friends on Livin Life developed an engine issue a few miles from the Bay but made it in before dark and we all went in to Mini Mike's for dinner and a welcome beer for being back on the Rio. I've written about Texan Bay in previous blogs but it is a very pretty respite from everything. It is well protected from weather, shallow with good holding, peaceful and the community of Mayan's and ex-pats that live there keep it that way. During the day tour boats go through the Bay to take their tourists up the several creeks that go back into the jungle.
The jungle at Texan Bay.
About noon the following day we got ourselves together and motored the remainder of the way to Fronteras, also known as the town of Rio Dulce and into RAM Marina where we spent last year. We brought our boat back home to the Rio unexpectedly and not happily. We now had to rush to get Amekaya prepared for our departure to the US and we had to get ourselves ready as well. We didn't want to be back in the Rio and we didn't want to be returning to the US now. But life gets in the way of living. Our cruising time was cut short and we didn't make it to Panama as planned. In all, we had a great time in Belize and the Bay Islands. I can see why some people do that every year. It could become addictive. But now back to the States.
Back to the hustle bustle of Fronteras.
A beautiful Roatan sunset.