Monday, March 2, 2009

Hello, Honduras

A week ago we arrived in Roatan, Honduras. Roatan is one of the Bay Islands, a wonderful and beautiful little group of islands about 30 miles north of the Honduran mainland. We had a glorious and uneventful four day passage from Key West. Within a day of arriving, the Bay Islands were already at the top of our list of places we've sailed - they are less crowded, less polluted, less expensive, and have friendlier people and a closer knit cruiser community than anywhere in the eastern Caribbean. In short, we love it here.

A Quick Trip and a Big Fish

We left Key West early on a Thursday morning with a very light southerly wind and headed due west. Our forecast called for the light southerly to clock around to the west and then northwest and build to 20-25 knots. As soon as we got our west wind, we took a left turn and headed straight for Havana, Cuba, 90 miles to the south. We had great weather for getting across the Gulf Stream, and moved through it quickly. The sun was setting and Cuba was rising on the horizon, and just as I was about to pull the fishing lines in for the night the large reel started screaming as something took our bait and sounded for the deep. We were thrilled to have a fish on, especially since we'd lost a decent sized Wahoo earlier in the day, but the timing wasn't good. The seas were kicking up, it was getting dark, and that meant I'd be trying to clean a fish on deck in the dark on a rolling boat. Lizz and I are pretty well practiced at this by now, and 30 minutes of well-executed fighting later we brought a 4 foot long bull Mahi Mahi along side. We hefted his 50+ pounds aboard and got to work cleaning him. We're still enjoying the best Mahi I've ever had!

Cuba!

Once we were 2 miles off of Cuba, we turned west and paralleled the coast and fringing reef. I was surprised at how rugged and undeveloped the Cuban country is. I suppose it makes sense, it just seemed odd. Here we were sailing along, a stone's throw from a country we knew little about and were technically legally prohibited from visiting. We had done our research beforehand regarding current, and our plan worked out well. By following the Cuban coast closely we had positive current of 1 knot or so all along the coast, and then by turning SE after rounding the western tip of Cuba we kept that 1 knot of current for another 75 miles. What is generally an uphill swim for cruisers heading our direction turned out to be a lovely sail with additional help from the current.

Roatan & Friends

We were first welcomed to Roatan by about 3 dozen dolphins playing and frolicking in our bow wave as Roatan and Guanaja rose above the horizon on Monday morning. We experienced the forecasted squalls but they weren't severe. About 200 miles earlier we had realized that due to a mix-up we didn't have paper charts for Roatan, and our digital charts didn't have much detail. We were trying to pick our way through a reef into an anchorage. We could see the boats, but we couldn't figure out how they got in there. Roatan rises sheer from the ocean floor - 300 feet from shore it is still 600 feet deep - not good for trying to pick your way through a reef in poor light. On our third try we were welcomed again, this time by a friendly cruiser named David. Instead of just telling us how to get through the reef he hopped aboard and guided us through himself! It turns out David is the norm and not the exception - everyone we've met from cruisers to locals are invariably warm, friendly, and happy. The snorkeling is fantastic, the water clear and beautiful, the pace is laid back, cold beer is $1, a cab ride across the island is $3, there is a well stocked grocery, and the weather is beautiful. Hard to imagine a more wonderful place!

Lovely Days

Our good friends Lee and Petra are here with us for a week. Tomorrow we'll sail down to Cayos Cuchillos, a handful of small cays 20 miles south of here. We'll snorkle, hike, relax and report back as soon as we can.

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