West End

West End greeted us with suffocating heat. Our days begin in the mid 80s, with humidity at 70%. By mid afternoon, the humidity drops to 60% (oh joy), but the temperatures climb to the low 90s before dusk brings a reprieve. Today has been the worst so far. When I woke up at 5:30 we were at 84, with the humidity at 80%. The day has been spent as immobile as possible.

Howard spends more time outside in the mornings now. He enjoys the breezes in the cockpit, before the heat builds enough to send him inside and into a coma.

In the evenings, he’s become mesmerized by the fish light that Scott hangs off of the transom. I have decreed that there be full supervision, after seeing him hang by one arm while swatting at fish with the other!

Our first day into town was miserable for me. I was literally reduced to tears in the heat; there was no escape. I couldn’t have been more soaked through in under an hour if I’d walked through hurricane rains. Shame on us, for going to town at 11:30. We have done better since, going ashore in either the early am hours, or right at dusk, when temperatures are more tolerable.

That said, we have gotten the lay of the land, which isn’t hard with one street running through town.

We’ve enjoyed some of the places along the main drag, and have found the local grocery store. The stall selling vegetables and produce has some of the best stuff we’ve seen, and we’re happily stuffing our face with lettuce and salad!

Scott discovered a small stall where local women make incredible food, at cheap prices. In addition to the yummy kebabs, they sell baleadas, which is made up of a of a folded flour tortilla that is filled with refried beans and cheese. You can add roasted meat, avocado, plantains or scrambled eggs as well.

They are one of the most common street foods in Honduras, and at 1.47 US a piece, are more than enough for us to share. The egg, avocado and chorizo makes a tasty breakfast!

We had been tying up at the town dock when going ashore, which is used mostly by the local water taxi pangas and snorkel boats. It’s a very busy pier, and no matter where we tie up, even with an ok from one of the drivers, we always seem to be in someone’s way when we return. Everyone is very friendly about it, but it’s frustrating just the same.

Luckily, our neighbor at anchor caught us at the dock yesterday and shared a better location to use. It’s much quieter, closer to Sea Life and, it comes with the perk of having a smoothie shack! Michelle makes a mean, and huge frozen treat!

In the next few days we plan to sample some more drinks in town, and peruse the stores. There are also some inviting beach bars that are very near where we’re anchored. We are hoping that the winds cooperate for us to move to French Harbor in a few days. It’s a short two – three hour trip “around the corner,” but we have to travel into the wind to get there, so will wait for a forgiving day.

In the meantime, we’re enduring the heat and humidity that comes with the territory. Here are some photos of our days here so far.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

On To Roatan

We raised anchor and left the area near Graham’s Cay to head for Roatan. The sun rose through clouds, keeping the early morning temperatures below 85 (thankfully) and providing nice views on our way out.

We made our way back past El Bight and Bonacca, and through water that is crystal clear 60 feet down!

Howard wasn’t happy to leave Guanaja, as he got in some last sniffs…

Soon, we were traveling in 5,000 feet of water (I forgot to mention that on our way here from Mexico, we were in depths of 16,000 feet!). Scott chose our travel day perfectly, as we enjoyed pleasantly calm water all the way. We “flew” along, averaging  7.0 knots!

 

It was so pleasant that Howard enjoyed hours of sleep, in many positions..

Roatan is a long,  long, long island, and was in sight for hours before the shoreline finally came into clear view.

We did an eight hour run to West End, the farthest point that we plan to visit. From here, we’ll make our way back east along the island, making for a shorter trip to Guanaja when we return.

Coming into the anchorage was just a bit challenging, as electronic navigational information for the area is vague  (we were working off of an 8×11 black and white photo copy). Scott had me go up onto the bow as we entered the anchorage, passing over gorgeous views in the water below. He was concerned about possible rocks or coral heads just below the surface, but we went through and into the anchorage smoothly.

We are currently anchored off of West End. It’s popular with tourists, but much quieter and more low key than Isla Mujeres.

Tomorrow, we’ll start to explore our new surroundings. Here are many more photos of our travel to Roatan.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

Our Private Island Dinner

Yesterday morning, two men in a panga boat stopped by to say hello. They were intrigued by Sea Life, and the Aluminum Princess. After chatting for a bit, we learned that Jeff and Terry have been visiting Guanaja during the winter months for the past ten years, and were staying at a friend’s house nearby…on a private island.

Just a few hours later, as Scott was off snorkeling, fishing and having general “pretty water” play, they returned with and invitation for dinner. A meal on land, that I don’t have to cook?? Absolutely we’ll come!

At 6pm, we boarded the Aluminum Princess, and  headed to our private island dinner!

Jeff and Cindy, and Terry and Paula helped us tie up to the dock, and then gave us a quick tour before we headed up to the boathouse deck for drinks and snacks.

The island was originally built for a group with Doctors Without Borders. In addition to the boathouse, there is a large, main house, with a kitchen, eating and lounge area, and then several small houses throughout the island.

After drinks and snacks, we enjoyed our meal on the porch of the main house, prepared for us by two lovely local women. They should open a restaurant, their food was fantastic!

We answered questions about our cruise, how we started, where we’d been so far and where we planned to go from here. Jeff shared some local Guanaja contacts with us, for various needs. They’ll come in handy when we return in a few weeks.

It was a wonderful evening, and a great way to end our brief stay in Guanaja, before heading off for Roatan.

Thank you so much, to our gracious hosts! My camera isn’t the best in the evening, but I snapped a few photos before it got dark.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Guanaja…It’s SOO Pretty Here!

The waters surrounding our anchorage off of Graham’s Cay were beautifully clear.

Scott enjoyed many hours of exploring and snorkeling. By the way, the Aluminum Princess has recently been equipped with an oscillating fan (thank the Lord) and a rod holder…ain’t she fancy!

In the evenings, Scott would drop his fish light off of the swim platform, providing hours of entertainment for Howard. The fish were so intriguing, that he eventually ended up hanging down and swatting the water…I couldn’t watch.

We also took the Aluminum Princess over to Savannah Bight for a “drive by.” Sitting opposite Graham’s Cay, on mainland Guanaja, Savannah Bight is the larger of two main settlements on the island.

We all enjoyed the anchorage here, especially Howard, who spent much more time outside.

Here are some photos from our anchorage off of Graham’s Cay.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Graham’s Cay, Guanaja

Graham’s Cay sits just off of mainland Guanaja. The small private cay is owned by Graham Thompson, who purchased the property shortly after Hurricane Mitch devastated the island in 1998.

On a quick side note, Mitch stayed over the island for three days, with sustained winds of 100 mph. The high waves eroded northern coastlines and damaged lagoons. It also destroyed nearly all of the plants and trees on Guanaja, also uprooting or knocking down almost the entire mangrove forest. I’ve also read that Mitch produced waves of 44 feet in height! Here’s a photo that I took when we first arrived.

And here’s one taken after Mitch came through. Amazing.

Ok, back to Graham. Originally from the Cayman Islands, Graham developed the cay into  Graham’s Place resort. The original hotel was made into five private rooms, and then four villas and a 16 room hotel were added.

The property is immaculately kept, with many areas for seeking both sun and shade, and the entire island is filled with colorful buildings, tables, chairs and plants.

The views from Graham’s property are beautiful, with clear shallow water leading into a mosaic of green, before meeting the darker blue of deeper depths.

Graham has also enclosed an area among his decks, and made it into and aquarium. There are a conch, some huge groupers, a variety of fish, and many turtles. Looking down on the fish didn’t provide the best photo opportunities, so I focused on the turtles. They are sizeable, and some of the large shells are really beautiful. There is also an area where the turtles can nest and lay eggs. Once hatched, the small turtles are released into the wild.

With low season approaching for tourist travel, we have had the place to ourselves each time we visit. We’ve enjoyed good food, refreshing caipirinhas and exclusive attention from the very friendly staff. The cay provides a large area to walk and stretch your legs, and many places to sit, lounge or swing.

The staff here at Graham’s Place was incredibly helpful in getting our refrigerator parts delivered. Alex, the manager here, promptly replied to our call for help and provided detailed information on how to proceed. He also paid the customs and delivery fees, allowing us to reimburse him when we picked up our parts.

Flying through Honduras is not dangerous, and Guanaja is completely safe. If you’re looking for a beautiful,remote and low-key island get away, consider Graham’s Place! Here are more photos, including many turtles.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

Movin’ Down Island

With the forecast calling for winds below 20 knots, we planned to move out of El Bight and farther down the coast yesterday morning. However, on our trip into Bonacca for some food and an ATM run, the winds appeared to have picked up instead.

The Aluminum Princess slogged through white caps and sizeable waves in the open waters between our anchorage and town. With Scott wanting to tow her behind us when we moved, and concern for a comfortable stay at anchor, we decided to wait until this morning to change our location.

However, as I worked in the cockpit late yesterday afternoon, I noticed that the towels drying on the line weren’t whipping quite so violently (after getting slapped pretty good in the head by one earlier, I should know). Realizing that the winds had died down, I woke Scott from a nap, and we scurried to ready and go. It was only an hour ride to our next anchorage, but we liked the idea of waking up the next morning already settled.

We raised anchor and headed out of El Bight, around the corner and further down the coast of Guanaja. As always, the views did not disappoint along the way.

As planned, the Aluminum Princess tagged along behind for the ride. After a short and easy hour, we arrived at our next anchorage, off of Graham’s Cay.

Graham Thompson runs a small resort on his island, appropriately called Graham’s Place.

We’d already planned to visit, having heard great things from fellow cruisers. Most hotels and resorts, and some islands in general, aren’t always welcoming to cruisers. Sometimes this is for good reason, but for the most part it’s frustrating and unnecessary. In addition to him being friendly toward cruisers, we now have another reason to like and meet Graham.

Unfortunately, we had no luck with Mexican Fed Ex, and getting the compressor for our refrigerator through customs. At whits end, Scott got Defender involved, the company we ordered the parts from. After more back and forth with no clear instructions or reasoning on the issue, Scott told Fed Ex Mexico to send the stuff back.

He then received an email asking for his credit card number, to pay for “fees and storage.” There was no cost given for said “fees and storage,” and Scott replied that he did not intend to pay. He was through with the matter, having done what little they’d asked of him, with no result or explanation as to why.

Defender has been just as frustrated with the issue. They have someone who deals just with Fed Ex, and with international shipping, and can’t get a resolution. Fed Ex Mexico wants Defender to pay 500.00 for return shipping. Defender has decided to just let the parts go, write it off and refund Scott his money (less original shipping). The company has been terrific to us the last few years, during our refit, and this is a true testament to their exceptional customer service, going above and beyond for Scott.

Ok, so we now turn to Honduras, and getting the stuff shipped there. I again reach out to our friend Louis, who is proving an invaluable resource. He suggested that I contact Graham Thompson, to ask how to proceed. A great idea; a local man, who could point me in the right direction.

It turns out that Graham didn’t point at all. He quickly replied to my email, giving me the information for a shipping company based in Miami, that he and his son use for things that they cannot get locally. Once our parts are in Miami, we can choose to have them shipped via boat or plane, with his name on the package. When they arrive in Guanaja, Graham will be notified. He will pick up the items, pay the fees and we can reimburse him…hoo-RAY!

However, this stupid saga continues. When Scott called Defender to re-order his parts, he feared the sale price originally offered had ended. It indeed had, but they honored the sale price for him…of course. However, the parts are now on back order until the end of the month! This was disappointing to hear, as we know that there are perfectly good parts sitting in Merida, Mexico!

We plan to go ashore and say a big hello and thank you to Graham, as well as get final details before the parts come in to Defender and the order goes through. Since it will take weeks for that to happen, and for the stuff to arrive here, we plan to stay here a few days and then head on to Roatan. We’ll stay there for a few weeks, and then return here to wait for our shipment. Neither location is a bad place to be stuck!

Here are a few photos from our short trip “down island.”

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Pizza Night In El Bight

As you know, Scott and I loved pizza night when we were in Isla Mujeres. We looked forward to chatting with fellow cruisers, and then the yummy pizza and garlic knots at Oscars. As we left to head for Honduras, and Guanaja, we wondered when we’d get really good pizza again. Well, our wait was short!

As we checked online for reviews of local places to eat, only three showed up. Mi Casa Too, our place on the hill. Manati, run by Klaus and Annette, who helped us with our propeller. They moved here from Germany over 20 yeas ago, and run a beautifully casual bar, specializing in German food and beer. The third listing was for Hans’ Pizza. The reviews raved about his pizza, and stated that Monday was pizza night..”If you see smoke, he’s making pizza.”

There were no photos with the reviews, and we could see no visible evidence of a third restaurant in the bight. After scanning the shoreline with our binoculars, we caught sight of the top of a thatched roof, just down from Manati. We learned that it was indeed Hans’ place, when Klaus sent us there to talk with him about our propeller.

Hans is originally from Germany, but has called Guanaja his home for more than 40 years now. He owns a large piece of land here in El Bight, that sits on the water’s edge. There is a small bar, large outdoor kitchen, and several spots for enjoying shade, all built by Hans.

After meeting Hans, and talking about our propeller, we ended up staying for a few hours, enjoying cold beer and meeting the others who were gathered there.

He seems to have a group of regulars who come every morning and spend the day. Some are cruisers, who linger longer than planned at anchor before continuing on, and others call Guanaja home permanently. They pitch in with food preparation, tending bar and other things to help Hans around the property.

As we talked that first evening, enjoying his homemade red wine and bread, Hans offered to make pizza for us that Friday (and a loaf of bread for me!). We considered ourselves quite special, not having to wait for the usual Monday treat!

When Friday came, I arrived with dessert in tow, as a thank you for Hans’ extra effort. There were several of us gathered, and we chatted while he got to work. Hans makes his own dough, and the only ingredient that isn’t raw or fresh made, is the Hunt’s tomato sauce from a can, used for the red pizzas. We’ll forgive that. His oven is a large barrel, fueled by a roaring wood fire underneath.

Most chose to have half of their pizza with tomato sauce and half with white. The white sauce is a fresh made crema, that is sold in town. It’s similar in consistency to sour cream, but not taste. We followed suite with a half and half,  and our pizza was delicious! We left with full, happy bellies, and looked forward to returning on Monday!

When we returned for dinner on Monday, there were many more people. There was a large group of local residents seated at one of the long wooden tables, who were there to celebrate a 13th birthday. Inside the bar, and throughout the property,  other locals and “regulars” chatted and drank.

After the birthday group was fed, it was our turn. We were told that some evenings, the wait is quite long. John, a cruiser who’s spent a month of Mondays here, didn’t get his pizza until 10pm one night! Hans tries to accommodate tourists and larger groups first. Fair enough, we were content to watch and wait.

We chose to go with an all white pizza this time. Hans’ traditional way is topped with caraway seeds, onion and bacon…delish!!

He even whipped up some key lime pie in the oven, but we were too tired and stuffed to wait for it to cool. We will leave soon, to visit Roatan, and return here for a few more weeks. Hans has promised to smoke some fish and make us our first breadfruit, which will be in season when we return. Cheers to our chef and new friend!

Please check out more photos from pizza night, and of Hans’ property!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Boats Big And Small…And Many Friendly People

We are surprised at the amount of large, commercial boats that come and go from this area. In addition to the many commercial fishing boats that work the local waters, there are often larger ships loading and unloading goods. One ran aground recently, just behind where we’re anchored. Two fishing boats helped to free it, before it headed south.

Since there are very few cars on the island, and the main town is only accessible by water, most locals seem to motor, or row where they need to go by boat.

Water taxis are also popular, ferrying both locals and the few tourists that visit back and forth.

Scott got the chance to use one recently, when the Aluminum Princess had a set back. We also discovered how great the locals, and our cruising friends are.

We were on our way to town for “shopping day,” when the supply boat brings the weekly load of fresh fruits, vegetables and supplies. Scott went to increase our speed, and instead the motor revved up, but our speed remained the same.

Not wanting to get stuck in the choppy waters, we turned back and putted our way toward Sea Life. Whenever Scott tried to increase speed, the motor would again rev up, but not accelerate. He was almost certain that the bushing between the hub and the propeller had worn, allowing the motor to rev without engaging the prop. So it seems we needed a new propeller…the search began.

I started with emailing our friend, Louis. He was one of the first cruising friends we’d met in Isla Mujeres, and has spent much time here. I got a quick reply, telling us to find a local couple, Jim and Cathy. He described where there house was, and also told us to just ask anyone about where to find them. He also told us to see Hans, a German man who lives here on the beach (he also makes a mean pizza, more on that later).

We headed to shore, and stopped in to see Klaus and Annette, a friendly German couple who have been here for over 20 years, and run Manati bar. They also told us to go talk to Hans, so we walked the grass path, and over the bridge to see him.

Hans told us that he could “rig” the prop, but if we wanted a replacement, it should be available in town. Scott had already researched this, and had put in an email to the business he thought may have what we needed.

We stayed and enjoyed beer and conversation with Hans and others at his small bar, and then headed back to Manati. Annette and Klaus told us to stop by the next day, when they would help us call the store, just in case we got no email reply.

The next day, after our sweaty hike, we stopped into Manati, but found no one downstairs. Scott decided to give the email some more time, as we were still able to use the Aluminum Princess at a slow speed. A day later, we received an email reply. The place in town had what we needed…hurray! We were so happy not to have to order it!

That afternoon, a local panga boat made it’s way to our swim platform. It was Louis’ friends, Jim and Cathy! With all else going on, we’d forgotten to ask about them. It seems that Louis had emailed the couple about our situation, so they stopped by to see if we needed help. I think Scott wants to stay here permanently.

We stopped into Manati after our second hike, and found Klaus and Anntte sitting down to lunch. They had seen our boat tied to the pier the day before (we’d left it there to go and hike) , and went looking for us at Hans’. It seems that they’d called the store in town on their own, and were trying to let us know that the part was in stock. It’s so nice to have so many people here look out for us.

I convinced Scott to take a water taxi to get the prop, instead of putting back and forth to town in the choppy water. He dropped me at the boat, and then went back to shore. Annette phoned a water taxi for him, and soon he was off to town in style.

With part in hand, Scott now wondered how he’d work on the motor while we were at anchor. When the Aluminum Princess is up on the flybridge, the motor hangs off the back. He thought of taking it to the pier at Manati, and backing it up into shallow water. Eventually, he came up with this “MacGyver” idea that worked great!

The prop went on in no time at all, and after a brief test drive (with turns that I will not allow when I’m onboard) the Aluminum Princess is back in business!

A few more boat photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

A Evening Up On The Hill

There is a restaurant up on the hill here in El Bight, Mi Casa Too, which the owners run out of their home.

With it’s happy colors by day, and inviting lights and music at night, it has intrigued us since we arrived, so last night we headed up for a visit.

We tied up at the end of a local canal, and made our way up the many, many stairs to the restaurant. Enjoying plants and views as we climbed.

Once at the top, we discovered a large, wrap-around porch. At one end was a large open area with a bar and several tables. The owner greeted us warmly, and sat us at a table near the railing. We enjoyed the views of El Bight, and Sea Life at anchor below, while we waited for our food.

Our dinner arrived, with plates full of fish, salad, rice and french fries. At 12.00 US a person, it was more than we could eat. The music varied between island/reggae, country and Spanish, and we enjoyed listening to the locals at the bar sing along to many of the tunes. Eventually, we asked for our check. After several minutes, we got no check, but instead two more drinks…on the house! Well of course we’ll stay!

The owner came to our table, asking if we were having fun, and if the music was too loud. He told us, “the gringos don’t usually like the loud music.” We replied that the music was just fine, and that we were having a great time. So great of a time, that we ordered two more drinks and settled in to watch the people at the bar sing some more.

After some more time passed, we again asked for the check, with success. We were finishing our drinks and preparing to leave, when out of nowhere the owner breezed by, placing a full, chilled bottle of champagne on our table! Exclaiming that it was his birthday, he did the same at all the surrounding tables, and then placed four or five bottles along the bar. It seemed like we were destined to spend the entire night there!

Bottles were opened, and as glasses were passed around everyone raised a toast to the birthday boy. I saw a cake behind the bar, and was hoping that it would get the same treatment as the bottles of champagne, but we decided to make an exit while we could… who knows what might show up with the cake!

We said good-bye, happy birthday and a big thank you to our host, re-corked our champagne to go and made our way back down the hill. A warm glow of light shown through the bamboo and palms, lighting our way as we climbed down to the water, and to the awaiting Aluminum Princess.

It was a terrific evening, and we plan to return again. The owner, the food and the fun are too much to resist! Here are more pictures of our evening up on the hill.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Hiking Guanaja

The internet has been iffy the past few days, so I’m catching up….

We spent two mornings this week hiking some of the hills around our anchorage. Covered with hats and long sleeves, and coated in bug spray we set out the first day, heading off on one of the local roads.

The plan was to walk some of the perimeter of the island, but Scott soon spotted a trail, so we made a right and started trudging upward.

As we followed it, the “path” got more and more narrow and overgrown. Just when I thought we must be wandering aimlessly, Scott would spot a blue dot sprayed onto a random surface meaning we were still on track. We passed several signs in Spanish, which Scott attempted to read. “Prohibited” was mentioned, but he didn’t feel that it applied to us….so on we trudged.

The trail made its way up, and got steeper and steeper. It was now completely covered with pine needles, which made for a slippery surface in places. We eventually came upon a clearing, where there was a reservoir that supplies the island with natural spring water.

I was ready to call the adventure complete, knowing I’d have to slide my way back down all those pine needles, but Scott was already looking ahead for the trail. We continued on just a bit more, where we enjoyed great views of the waters below.

We made our way back down the pine needle-caked path. I took advantage of a rope “railing” that locals had tied to some trees. It was a great help! Along the way, we could hear the water below ground, running downhill.

The highest point we climbed to was about 500 feet, and the total walk came in just under two miles. I’m sure it won’t impress serious hikers or backpackers, but it was nice exercise for us, and the views were great.

Inspired by our first “trek,” we set out again the next day, following a route that one of the locals suggested. This path started closer to the shore, and on more level ground. We passed beautiful flowers, bushes and plants as we made our way past houses nestled in the trees.

The paths around the island runs through people’s yards at times, which are fenced in, with “go-around” gates built in.

Along the way, we crossed many small streams and drainage ditches. The path across them was often questionable….I let Scott go first.

Eventually, we came to a paved road. It seemed to be part of a planned subdivision that never came to be, except for this huge house being built.

As we walked, the road got steeper, and steeper and steeper. Soon, it was as if we were on level 10 of a stair master work out! The road finally ended, and again we were rewarded with wonderful views.

At the end of the road, there were stairs that led up to a trail, which continued on up the hill. Of course, Scott argued his case for continuing on.

The path got immediately steep and was again caked in slippery, ankle-twisting pine needles. I did a few feet, and turned around, not wanting to push my luck. Scott left me behind, while he climbed on for a bit. I had a shady spot to sit in, and an Ipad with good internet, he could take as long as he liked!

Scott soon returned, and we made our way back down the ridiculously steep road. Our second hike took us higher, to approximately 700 feet, and we traveled just under three miles.

Both days we came back soaked through in sweat, but happy to have seen some of the local area up close, as well as up high. Here are many more photos from our two days of hiking Guanaja. You can also check out the routes we took on our little hikes by following the link on the Where Are We Now page.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”