Follow Catalyst’s voyage at:
April 22, 2012
Dear Friends and Family,
We have enjoyed our last few days in the Bay Islands. After Robert and Terry left, we enjoyed a pot luck and a morning beach walk with other boaters at West End. Last Wednesday, the park service came and took off all the round ball markers that floated to mark the mooring lines attached to the underwater sea anchors in the bay. That still left boats tied to the moorings but without the markers. Once the boat leaves, it is more difficult to find the mooring lines so less likely boats will want to stay there. The trouble is, all that is there now are lines floating just at the surface and it would be easy for props to be caught in the lines as boats may be passing through, unaware of the hazard. Actually, the day they did this, most of the boats cleared out anyway as we had winds from the west and that made the anchorage very uncomfortable. We had planned to return to French Key Harbor the next day anyway so we left about noon on Wednesday instead. So the west wind did what the mayor had not done, it emptied the anchorage.
Because of the mass exodus, French Key was pretty crowded. We had stopped along the way to get fuel so didn’t arrive until close to dark. The next day we did some provisioning and getting ready to go and after enjoying time with friends and a pizza party at Brooksey Point, we were ready to take off the next day. We only did a short trip east back to Calabash.
The winds were almost gone and the seas calm so it was a motor but easy because you are usually going in to the wind to get there. We had told you about this area in another log with the dinghy canals all along the coast. We did the whole thing this time, including the 2 miles of mangrove tunnels at the end of the journey. The tunnels were well maintained and trimmed but shallow and at the lowering tide, we were hitting bottom when we came back out of them on the way home to the boat. I have some pictures of how pretty it was in the tunnels. You could see the reflection of the trees in the water.
What was not so beautiful is that all along the coast, you find trash. People live with it in their yards and along the edge of where their homes are.
We have seen this all over the Bay Islands. I don’t know if the dump sights get washed in to the water in bad weather or if that is just how trash is disposed of. There certainly are trash receptacles all over the island. It makes me glad that we put energy in to keeping our countryside and shore lines in the U.S. clean of trash. I suppose if you consider it normal, you are not offended by it. I remember it was pretty trashy before Lady Bird Johnson started her campaign. It just takes pointing it out and changing peoples minds.
We spent only a night in Calabash and the next day motored in sweltering heat with no wind to the next island east, Guanaja. This is an interesting place and to follow along with what I am writing, check out the satellite view of our last position report.
You will have to move to the west of our location or pan to a larger view, but you will see the capital town of Bonacca located on a tiny group of islands just off the main island. I don’t know why the town was founded there except there is very little flat land on the main island and the bugs ashore are notorious biters but this city of more than 8,000 is on only 100 acres of land.
Many of the houses are several stories high and along the outside, houses are built on stilts on the edge of the island. There are no roads or cars, just 5 ft. sidewalks that wind around the town. We saw that some of the houses do have a yard but not many. Many homes are built over the boat houses. People all know each other and it would be hard to live a very private life here. The good news is that there is little crime because you can’t get away with it. We were there on a Saturday and a lot of businesses were closed People were sitting along the sidewalks and visiting, trying to catch a breeze in the calm weather.
We came in to town not only to explore but we checked out of the country with Immigration and Port Captain’s offices. The streets don’t have signs marking them and even the Port Captain’s office had no sign to let you know what was inside. The people there know where everything is, so why does one need a sign? They cost money and the government doesn’t pay for it.
There are a few settlements on other parts of the island and people have built homes and businesses on the shore of the big island but by in large, anything you need, you would get in Bonacca. The whole area of Guanaja has no more than about 10,000 people.
Some people who like ultimate privacy have built on rocks or shallow areas in the harbor. One large structure is a dive lodge and it looks a little like Alcatraz built out on the rock, though of course much more comfortable accommodations!
One of the houses looks like an Eskimo igloo but it is a family home.
Since you don’t really need a car because you can’t drive them anywhere, you rely on a boat for transportation. This is also a fishing area and the island is ringed by docked shrimp boats. We saw that everywhere in Honduras as it is not season for shrimping and so the boats are in port for several months.
We had dinner last night with friends we met in French Key Harbor and who have been here for several weeks. They are heading to Panama eventually and we may catch up with them if they are still there next year. Their boat is pretty interesting. It is a refitted fishing boat. It is all metal and quite large. The inside is mostly all open and it seems like a New York loft apartment. It is like no other cruising boat I have ever been on. They have booms that swing down to hold a para-vane under water “wings” that help prevent the rolling motion many of these boats can experience.
We enjoyed their company at the local favorite restaurant of boaters which is located on the shore of the big island near the most protected anchorage on the island. The place is called Manatee Restaurant but is actually owned and operated by Germans.
They make traditional German food. We had a salad medley and garlic bread which was really good and then Rob had roast pork, spetzle and sauerkraut and I had German sausage with mashed potatoes, gravy and sauerkraut. I also had a couple long glasses of dark German beer. It was an expensive meal related to what we have been used to paying but the place was a real treat. We also made a new friend in the light fixture. We are used to these visitors in our Florida life so no surprises here.
Today, the forecast front is upon us. It came through last night causing one boat to drag. Wind and rain whipped up around midnight but we were snug and felt confident on our anchor. We are also at the head of the anchorage with this wind direction so not worried about someone blowing down on us. It has continued to blow today and it makes getting around by dinghy a wet experience so we are not out doing our last chance of exploring. Instead, I am staying dry and writing to you.
If the weather supports it tomorrow morning, we will take off for the island of Providencia which is owned by Colombia but located off the coast of Nicaragua. It will take about 3 days or more of constant sailing to reach it. We will cover about 375 miles and hope to gain speed sailing over motoring. There are some deserted island reefs along the way. We hope to pick them up for a visit next season on the way home. From Providencia, it is about 48 hours straight through to Bocas del Toro which is where we will leave the boat for the summer. Once we arrive, we can make reservations for the flight home.
We should be able to do a log from Providencia letting you know about the passage but underway, we will be without e-mail access. We feel this wind condition from the north west is a real gift as this part heading east is usually the most difficult since it is usually against the prevailing easterly winds. It is usual to wait for no wind and motor so we feel very fortunate. Now, if the winds are not higher than the 20 or so forecast, we will be in good shape.
Sue and Rob
Ready to leave Honduras