Our Passage From Roatan to Providencia

To travel straight through from Roatan to Bocas del Toro, our first stop in Panama, would mean running approximately 140 hours (or seven days) straight through. You now know how I feel about lengthy passages, and since there are several secure places to anchor and explore along the way, we obviously chose to break up the journey into several legs.

Our first stop along the will be Providencia. The island sits off of main land Nicaragua, but is owned by Colombia. It’s a popular stop for  cruisers on their way to and from Panama.

Monday: We left our Fantasy Island family in the early morning, for a 70-80 hour run to Providencia . A “great” weather widow had been predicted for days, with winds at 5-10 knots, and waves at 2-3 feet, sometimes less. Before we even tossed the lines, Scott bashed a toe when making final checks in the engine room (good thing he’s better at shaking off pain than I am).

We headed east, with our slip neighbors on Scurvy Dog off our port side, as they traveled to Guanaja for a few days. After six hours or so, as we passed by Guanaja, the winds and seas picked up considerably. By evening, we were into a hefty, unnerving head sea. If I had to describe it, the movement feels like being on a roller coaster ride, when it’s traveling across a stretch of short hills; a continuous undulating motion.

Unfortunately, the sea state had me too rattled to do my usual night shift, so Scott filled in. I laid down with Howard, who was also less than thrilled with the change in wind and seas. He hadn’t used his litter box in over a day, and now that we were under way, his bladder was beyond full. The poor guy was too nervous to get to his box, with our rolling, up-down movement, so he relieved himself on a towel in front of the saloon doors. When he finally finished, I threw it outside into the cockpit, to deal with it once we’d anchored. He then settled into his usual travel spot on the couch.

After re-acclimating myself to passage rolling, I realized that we’d been dealt a bad hand with the forecast, and that the winds weren’t dying down anytime soon. I relieved Scott in the wee hours of the morning, and he got some rest.

Tuesday: The winds died a bit during the day, but were still nowhere near what was predicted. We’d set a course to travel almost 40 miles off the coast of main land Honduras, hoping to keep clear of any pirate activity that randomly occurs in this area.

In the early morning, I spotted a large boat on the horizon. I thought it was something commercial, and went to wake Scott so he could confirm. He didn’t feel that it was a commercial boat, and changed course to stay away from it. We haven’t needed to check for boats at a greater distance until now, so by the time I noticed it, the boat was within two miles of us.

When Scott changed course, the boat did the exact same. Three more times Scott changed course, and three more times the boat followed our course change. After the fourth course change, Scott said to me, “they’re coming at us.”

I began to immediately shake uncontrollably, at the thought of being boarded. We’ve heard about many incidents of cruisers being boarded, robbed and assaulted while passing through this area, and therefore chose to travel this far off shore. This was not what we had planned for.

Scott put out a pan pan call on the vhf, stating that a large, steel boat was coming at us. A pan pan is an international radio distress signal,  less urgent than a mayday signal. At the same time, I was alerting my brother-in-law on the Delorme, as he’s our level-headed, emergency go-to. I gave him a brief description of what was happening, and he received our latitude and longitude coordinates with the text.

The boat replied to Scott’s pan pan, saying that he saw us. Scott made him aware that he’d mimicked four course changes that we’d made,  and the captain replied that he was heading for La Cieba, on main land Honduras. Scott replied, “fine, you hold your course, and I’ll hold mine.” It took forever for him to move away from us, and then finally turn away.

Shortly after, a huge pod of dolphins arrived for a visit; there must have been 15 or more. It was as if they knew we’d been shaken, and were there to lighten the mood. They stayed and played around us for almost 30 minutes, before heading off on their way.

It got hotter and hotter as the day went on. We tried to keep the pilot house doors open, and let in as much air and breeze as possible, but had to close the port side after a large wave broke on us, splashing water all the way down into the saloon. The heat made it even more challenging for me to sleep, but Howard was faring better, sleeping under a fan, with a damp towel.

In the early evening, I spotted another boat on radar. This one was smaller and farther away. I woke Scott, and we both watched  it slowly approach. The boat had running lights, and when it got closer to us, they changed course and moved away. We assumed they were legitimately fishing,  and running without radar, making it unable to see us until we were very close. Big sigh of relief number two!

I finally got some bits of sleep, and relieved Scott sometime around midnight. The stupid winds were sustained at 23 knots, and as a result the seas were big. Scott’s toe was looking really ugly, and we assume he’d broken it. Luckily, he says, it’s a “non-essential” little toe. We were on track for arrival in Providencia by sunset on Thursday. A few hours later than we’d planned, but still better than a Friday arrival.

It had become sauna-hot inside the boat, as we weren’t getting  air from the strong winds outside. By now, I couldn’t stand the smell of myself, and vowed to take a shower the next day, no matter how challenging!

Wednesday: We listened to Chris Parker at 7am. His forecast must have been for a parallel universe, because we were seeing a much different picture outside our windows. Instead of his continued forecast of 5-10 knot wind, we had sustained 20s. with large swells. At several times, Scott would take us down a half knot or so in speed, to try and improve our ride, and we watched our arrival time get later and later. We were now on course for a Friday morning arrival…for the love of Pete!

At this point, Howard and I were thoroughly done with this passage! The seas, wind and heat had gotten very old. Howard kept trying to relocate, becoming sick of just laying on the couch under a damp towel. Unfortunately, moving around was a wobbly go, and every new location was unstable, so inevitably it was back to the couch.

As we passed far off of the Honduras/Nicaragua border, Scott spotted two large ships on the radar, at the point where we were to make our final turn. Thinking that they were up to no good, and working together, he changed our course to avoid coming close to them. However, they never moved, so we assumed that they were just fishing, most likely with one large net strung between the two of them…whew!

With the worst of the “threat” area behind us, it was time for me to bathe! I could stand it no more, and went down for a shower. Luckily, our guest head has a built in seat, and I made good use of it, emerging a new and unoffensive person!

As I came on shift at 9:30pm, lightening was visible all around us. Lightening is one of Scott’s two biggest fears (fire being the other). It’s scary enough when you’re at anchor, or in a slip, but on a passage, you’re an open target. I kept an eye on the radar, watching the front come closer and grow larger.

At the same time, the winds became more and more calm, subsiding to 3 knots…calm before the storm?  I hoped not.

On a positive note, Scott had finally caught sight of the Southern Cross constellation, before coming off watch…..pretty cool!

Thursday: I woke Scott in the early morning, as the front had finally come to within ten miles of us. We watched, amazed, as the whole ugly thing broke apart and passed by, moving off behind us. We were grateful to have dodged the bullet.  However, the stronger winds had that had been blocked for the last twelve hours or so by the large storm front came quickly back, in full force…terrific.

As the morning went on, Howard must have thought that the motor was never going to stop, so he may as well eat. He was a machine, making up for lost time, and chowed through an entire can of food in a flash. His balancing skills also improved, as he braced himself in front of the food bowl.

Finally, we caught sight of Providencia in the distance!

We had somehow made up time, and were on track to arrive and anchor at 1pm…hooray!! We stared at the island, as it inched closer. This time Scott was the impatient one, feeling that we must have slowed down (we hadn’t), and why the heck was it taking so long?!

As a final icing on our passage “cake,” the entire island was suddenly blocked from view…by rain. A lot of rain….a big, wide dark swath of pouring rain.

Luckily, there was no lightening associated with this one, and it moved quickly. In just minutes, we were traveling through a downpour. However, with no lightening threat, and little wind increase, we were happy to have the boat get a good rinse before coming in to anchor.

As we came into anchor, I immediately hailed our friends, Marina and Kevin, on s/v Lucky Seven. We hadn’t seen them since we left Isla Mujeres two months ago, and I was eager for a hello. Marina replied, saying that it was good to finally see us arrive, and Kevin came over by dinghy soon after we dropped anchor.

We all went into town together, rapidly chattering to each other as we tied to the town dock and made our way to find Mr. Bush, the customs agent; we needed to start our check in, and they needed to pick up their papers. Mr. Bush started our check in process, but there seemed to be no hurry to finish. We expect it to take a few days.

Once back aboard Sea Life, we probably should have slept, but were too wound up. Kevin soon hailed us on the radio…”we’re coming over.” We had drinks, and enjoyed a dinner of peanuts, pretzels and potato chips, while catching up on the last two months of each others cruising lives. In no time, it was 9:30, and Marina declared it time for us to sleep!

With our windy, bumpy passage behind us, we look forward to exploring Providencia for a week or so…..or at least until I can forget the last four days! Here are photos from our passage.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel’s Sloth And Monkey Farm

We couldn’t leave for Providencia without spending time with our British friends, Richard and Jan, who are circumnavigating on s/v Morpheus, so we made sure to save time for a day of fun. In the morning, we made our way to Daniel’s Sloth & Monkey Farm. Daniel’s had been on our radar since we found out it existed, but they were closed for renovations on our first attempt at a visit.

Jan, Richard and I set out on their dinghy, while Scott stayed behind. We had decided to pay an agent to check us out of Roatan on a weekend, and he didn’t want to miss the man returning with our passports and exit papers.

Daniel’s “farm” is actually a house with many large cages behind it. His brother, Luke, came out to give us a tour and introduce us to the animals. Daniel started with just a few animals as pets, and has expanded to include several varieties. The cages are very large and kept meticulously clean. It is also obvious by his way with the animals, and by their behavior, that Luke and his family truly care for them.

We began with the coatimundi, or jungle raccoon. Their long, narrow nose balances their long, straight narrow tail. They definitely resemble raccoons, and we learned that they are more friendly. However, because of their sharp nails, we didn’t interact with them.

After stopping by the raccoons and agoutis, we were lead into one of the monkey cages. The three young monkeys were immediately smitten with Richard.

These little guys were not quite as old as Cheeky, our youngest  Fantasy Island monkey. They climbed all over us, and were very adept at unsnapping the back of mine and Jan’s hats while trying to remove them.

When monkey play time was over, we headed for the cages that held macaws and parrots. We were able to feed both types of these beautiful birds. The macaws were a bit heavy, like holding Howard on my forearm!

Luke pointed out several sloths sleeping, un-caged, in the surrounding mangroves (obviously, they are too slow to escape!). We saw two adults…..and a baby!

Sloths are naturally nocturnal, and are only awake for an average of four hours a day. Fun fact, they only poop three times a week, so that four hours is predominantly used for eating. Each evening, Luke and his family hang clusters of leaves from the trumpet tree for the sloths to munch on when they awake.

Many of the sloths at Daniel’s have been brought there by people from the mainland, who have rescued them from harm. Daniel’s Farm now host school groups, educating the children about sloths, and their non-threat to humans

It was now time to do what we’d really come for…hold a sloth!! Luke went into the mangroves along the water’s edge, and helped Snow White down for us to hold.

He placed her on each of us in turn, in a bear hug hold.

She seemed perfectly comfortable to be held, and turned her head to check us out. Sloths have an extra vertebrae in their spine, similar to an owl, allowing them to turn their heads 180 degrees in either direction.

Her fur was coarse, but not scratchy, and we didn’t even feel her “toes” on our back. She has such a sweet, “smiling” face!

When we’d each had time with her, Luke took Snow White back to here perch in the mangroves. He was careful to make sure that she had a firm hold before letting go.

In a sloth’s flash, she had assumed her previous position, and was sound asleep. Would she even remember us when she awoke for dinner?

Of course, there was only one thing to do after an awesome, but hot and buggy day with the animals….bobbing! This time, we stayed in our own back yard, spending the afternoon in the water off of the beach at the resort.

We stayed in the water, drinking and talking, until thoroughly pruned, and then headed off to meet the others at the pavilion. We took advantage of Pizza Inn & Bojangles delivery, and had an easy, yummy and “healthy” dinner of pizza and chicken, before parting ways and heading to our boats.

Our time with the monkeys and sloths was awesome, and the four of us had a great day together. We again have to say good bye to new friends, hoping to share an anchorage or marina again somewhere down the line. To quote a line from a Billy Joel song, “Life is a series of hellos and good byes, I’m afraid it’s time for good bye again.” How true these words are in the cruising world…Cheers mates!

Here are many more photos of our day at Daniel’s Sloth and Monkey Farm.

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

Our Last Days On Roatan

As I’ve mentioned, we returned to Fantasy Island to prepare for our journey toward Providencia, and eventually Panama. Scott was finally able to repair our refrigerator with only a few slight snags along the way. Things were pretty disheveled for a few days, but well worth it to finally have normal cooling and freezing on board…hurray!

We rented a car, to visit Eldon’s for a fill up on cold and frozen foods. Luckily, I remembered that Howard is soon due for his rabies shot. Since I’d much rather take him by car, than by dinghy and cab in Panama, I searched out a vet on the island. Dr. Soto, at Animal Kingdom, was great. He saw us with less than a day’s notice, and was very good with Howard, despite my cat’s “sassy-ness” (If anyone happens to be cruising in Roatan, and are in need of a vet, I’ve included Dr. Soto’s information in my photos).

Howard pitched such a fit that I think only half of the vaccine actually went in, the rest running down my hand. Nevertheless, I left with paperwork that shows Howard’s rabies vaccination is good for another year, which is most important to customs officials. The charge for our entire visit was 13.00 U.S.!! At home, the vaccine runs 60.00, in addition to the cost of a vet visit…so Animal Kingdom’s price was a great surprise! Howard was not as impressed or happy as I was about this.

Even thinking about the whole experience stressed him out.

Now that Howard was set, we focused on the rest of our pre departure errands. We first grabbed a quick lunch at Bojangles. They are the only U.S. fast food-type place on Roatan, and we were surprised that they beat out McDonald’s. Pizza Inn also shares the space. Apparently, it’s also in the U.S., although we’ve never seen one in our area. After our chicken lunch, we made stops at the marine store, Ace Hardware and Eldon’s, for a final “fill up.” I’ll miss that awesome American item-filled store!

Next up was the Megaplaza Mall (I think “mall” is a stretch”). There are several useful places here…two phone stores, two banks, a pharmacy, several clothing stores, a few food places, a second hand store and a place much like Walmart, which had everything from furniture, to electronics and appliances, to housewares, to toys and mattresses. We found some shorts for Scott at one of the clothing stores, and scored a 4.00 salad spinner at the second hand store!

We also made a stop into the pharmacy. They operate differently here than in the U.S., in that everything is located behind glass cases. You ask the counter person for whatever you need, there are no off the shelf items.

After we’d run all day, it was time to make some popcorn for the cruisers, and head to the pavilion for Friday movie night. The movie of the night was Captain Ron, a favorite of Scott’s (I’m learning that it’s a favorite of most cruisers). It was a fun way to unwind from our whirlwind day. Here a a few more photos.

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

Monkey Business On Fantasy Island

There are many animals and birds that roam the property of Fantasy Island Resort, but the monkeys are definitely the stars of the show. Until recently, there were seventeen monkeys on the island, but they were so mischievous toward guests that the owners had to relocate all but three (the rest have found good homes). Cheeky is a male, and the youngest of the three.

Lucy and Ethel are older females, and Scott and I have yet to tell them apart.

Mischievous is definitely putting it lightly. These three rule the island, sometimes with an iron fist! They will open hatches, climb into boats and take things. Scott and I witnessed one of the girls come out of a sailboat with an entire canister of powdered coffee creamer. She proceeded to climb to the roof of a nearby building and pour the creamer down her throat, her mouth covered in white powder. We’ve also see them slide down electric wires like they’re vines, and dig at the electrical boxes. It’s a wonder they’re still alive.

Most mornings, you’ll find them in the resort’s lobby, stealing whatever breakfast they can from the guests and wreaking havoc in general. Always on a quest for fresh water, they’ll drink from the cooler in the lobby, leaving the knob up and the water running when through. The same goes for the showers in the dive area, they’ll turn the shower on for a drink and then leave it running.

At happy hour, when cruisers gather in the pavilion, the monkeys usually appear for peanuts, climbing from person to person searching for their nutty treats (Scott always keeps some handy in his pocket).

If you’re not careful, they’ll help themselves to your drink to wash down the peanuts. I left a glass of wine unattended for a second, and turned to find it in Cheeky’s hands. He also managed to get a hold of margaritas that were left over from Cinco de Mayo, which made for an interesting and hyper evening.

If the monkeys take something from you, the best way to get it back is to trade for it (except for liquid, which they immediately drink, or dump on the ground). Just demanding it back is unsuccessful, and met with much attitude and noise. Everything is “child proofed” in the pavilion, with locks on the refrigerators and freezers, glass and utensils cabinet and tv.

Lucy will seek out a man she fancies, and stick like glue to him for days. Our friends Kevin and Jeff each told us of their experience with her on separate occasions, and we’ve seen it first hand with Steve, the dock master. For days, Lucy followed Steve from his boat to the office, running along rooftops and across tree limbs. If she couldn’t  make her way inside with him, she’d sit outside and bang on the door to get in. When Steve spent time in the lobby, using the internet, Lucy would lay on him like clothing. One morning, he went to his stateroom to make the bed, and found Lucy sitting on it!

All of the monkeys tease dogs here at the marina constantly, working them into a frenzy.

They have learned to bark like dogs, and Lucy even tried to pick poor Libby (Steve’s dog) off the ground. I think she would have succeeded, had Steve not intervened. We frequently see Cheeky chasing the agoutis and peacocks around as well. No one is off limits.

Cruisers here are used to the monkeys antics, and are always ready for a surprise “hop-on” when walking the grounds, or while sitting in the cock pit. Scott and I had a visit up on the flybridge, while we enjoyed cooler weather outside. They tried to use our paravane rigging to climb over to us. When Scott blocked their attempt, Cheeky showed his frustration by throwing coconuts down from a nearby tree. Lucy/Ethel successfully persevered, and joined us on board.

Here’s some video:

Resort guests are usually surprised and often afraid of the monkeys’ in-your-face interaction. While bobbing in the water with Richard and Jan, we witnessed all three monkeys descend on some tourists who were sitting on the beach.

We went to help, and found Cheeky up in a tree with a tube of sunscreen in his mouth. He immediately realized that it was less than tasty, and threw it down onto the sand below. Ethel/Lucy had obviously done the same, as we spied another tube on top of a beach bed frame. A bag of chips had been ripped open and left for dead on a nearby beach lounger, obviously not their favorite flavor.

We then spotted a girl whimpering with fear, while Cheeky curled his tail around her neck and grabbed her face. He meant no harm and was just saying hello, but she was terrified. Jan went over to intervene, and Cheeky quickly jumped to her, just in time for another guest to hand him a sugar packet! In a flash, he’d ripped it open and gulped it down…great, added energy. Thankfully, they lose interest quickly, and were soon off on their way.

Howard hasn’t escaped the monkey’s attention either. They have recently noticed him through the windows of the boat. The girls were especially interested, and came in for a closer look, getting pretty worked up when they make eye contact.

We were surprised at how Howard kept his cool during the interaction. Here’s video of the monkeys eyeballing Howard through the pilot house window:

We’re going to miss their daily antics. It’s been such a treat to interact with them up close, whether we want to or not! Here are many more monkey photos.

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

A Waterfall Hike On Guajana

We have arrived in Providencia, so there will be a rapid-fire of posts from the end of our time in the bay islands and the passage here:

On our second visit to Guanaja, we planned to hike up to a waterfall located on the north side of the island. We had to dinghy through a canal that cuts through the island, then travel down the north coast to a spot near the start of our hike.

As usual, the winds were blowing more than we’d have liked. They pick up in the afternoon in this area, and blow until early morning. Having stronger winds than normal to start with, we set out early, wanting to be back to the boat before they picked up even more in the afternoon (the Aluminum Princess is definitely up for that kind of ride, the passengers (especially this one), not so much).

We made our way through the wide canal, and around to the north side of the island.

We’d been told that boats can tie up to the pier at Bo Bush’s Green Flash Bar while hiking to the falls. Once I saw this cool-looking place, I decided it was also going to be a spot for my post hike reward beer!

We walked the beach, until higher water sent us into the trees. A wide path had been cut in the palms, mostly likely for horses.

We made our way farther into the woods and started our ascent. The path became more and more tricky for me. My legs and reach are shorter than Scott’s, so I had to find different ways to follow it. We stopped several times, as the air was thick with humidity. The farther along the trail we got, and the higher we went, the less breeze we could find. It was a suffocating, sweaty go, and we planned to cool off in the falls.

Eventually, I had to raise the white flag and surrender. Climbing in the heat and humidity had made me nauseous and light-headed, so I plopped down on a rock, managing to find a bit of a breeze. I could make out the falls through the trees, and that would have to be good enough.

Scott continued on, and came back soaked, so I assumed he’d taken time to swim in the falls. He’d wet his shirt in the water, but it had dried and was re-soaked with sweat by the time he got back to where I waited. Viewing the falls through photos he took was good enough for me.

We made our way back to the beach, climbing down the rocks and making our way through the trail. Soon, Bo’s Green Flash Bar was in sight, and I could taste my reward beer (reward for not passing out!).

Since green flashes aren’t common at 11:30am, we had the place to ourselves. Stephanie, the bartender, served us with a smile and told us about her family and the north side of Guanaja. We enjoyed a beer and great views through every window.

The winds were already increasing, so we resisted the urge to linger, and climbed back into the Aluminum Princess. Once through the canal, we bounced our way back to Sea Life. Luckily, the ride wasn’t as bad as expected, but we were still glad to have made an early exit from the north side of the island. We jumped in the water to rinse off our sweat, and then sat up on the bow in the swift breeze…poor man’s air conditioning! Here are some more photos of our waterfall hike.

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

On To Panama…By Way Of Colombia.

A weather window has presented itself this week, so we raced back from Guanaja and have been preparing full steam for the next leg of our journey.

We will leave this morning, and travel 60-70 hours straight through to the island of Providencia. The island sits approximately 100 nautical miles off the coast of Nicaragua, but is owned by Colombia, and many cruisers stop here on there way to and from Panama. We’ll clear in and stay for a bit, before heading on toward Panama.

Our friends Kevin and Marina, who are cruising on Lucky Seven, will meet us there. They left from the Cayman islands on Friday,  and should arrive today. We met them during our stay in Isla Mujeres, and it will be nice to see a familiar face when we arrive in Providencia. They plan to spend hurricane season in Panama as well, so we can all endure the heat together!

The last five days have been busy with passage preparations. Scott fixed our fridge (hooray!), and we spent a day stocking up on cold and frozen foods. We also visited the “mall” for some things, as well as Ace Hardware and the pharmacy. Howard also took a field trip to the vet for his rabies shot, so he’s ready as well.

We’ve said final good byes to our friends here at the marina, and spent a day with our British friends, Richard and Jan. After time with some sloths in the morning (more to come!), we enjoyed some more bobbing, this time here in our own “backyard,” at the resort. It’s surprising how quickly you get comfortable in a place. We already feel so at home here at Fantasy Island Marina, and will miss it.

I have had no time to pour through photos and update the blog, so that will be something to take up my time as we travel the next few days. When we arrive in Providencia, I’ll catch you up on our waterfall hike in Guanaja, the crazy monkey business here at the marina and our day of sloths and bobbing. I also plan to write about our passages, how and when we decided to go, prepare for and endure them.

Be sure to follow the link on the Where Are We Now page, and check our progress over the next few days. On to Panama!!, by way of Colombia.

“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. He spent much more time outside.

Unfortunately, due to stronger winds in the wrong direction, we were unable to anchor here this time around. A weather window appears to be opening early next week, for us to start our journey toward Panama, so this morning we raised anchor, said a second goodbye to El Bight and headed for Roatan.

Scott wants to repair the fridge while we are plugged in, as cooling the unit back down will take a decent amount of power. We’ll also do a final grocery run, to stock up on cold and frozen foods, since we’ll be back at 100%. Hopefully, there will be time to squeeze in an outing before we shove off.

In the meantime, here are some photos from our anchorage off of Graham’s Cay. If you like pretty water, click here.

And here are some Guanaja grocery photos that I forgot to include with Shopping Day, for those who are interested.

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

Birthday Celebrations

The weather on Scott’s birthday wasn’t the best, and since we’d had such a great time at Mi Casa Too on our first visit (great food and free champagne for the owner’s birthday), we planned a return trip. It’s just so darned inviting!

Before heading up the hill, we stopped in at Manati for a quick drink and a hello. When we arrived, a birthday party was in full swing for Paisley, who made the permanent move to Guanaja two months ago. We were welcomed in, and soon realized that making it up the hill probably wasn’t going to happen. When Shawn arrived, (the owner of Mi Casa Too, and the place wouldn’t be the same without him there) the decision to delay a night, and stay at Manati was made.

We spent time chatting with the expats in attendance, as well as Klaus and Annette, who own Manati. Gus, a cruiser from South Africa, received my vote for best dressed. He and Sally have decided to stay here and buy property.

The canine guests enjoyed the party as well. Simba even came in a party dress, although I don’t think it was her idea.

Eventually we said good night, thanking Paisley for sharing her evening with us (she’s the brunette with long hair in the photo below). When I woke for a bathroom run at 3am, the music was still going strong!

We left Sea Life the next night to head up the hill, this time with no stops along the way. Once again, we climbed the million steps up to the house, and once again it was worth the climb.

Shawn was there to welcome us. We opted for seats at the bar this time, and he played the role of dj. While Shawn chose songs ranging from salsa, to reggae, to classic rock, to rap and country, the large tv behind the bar showed music videos for each one. It was more than entertaining, especially when the locals sang along to their favorites!

After great food and fun, we said goodnight and made our way back down the hill. It was a nice way to “extend” Scott’s birthday a bit!

Here are more photos of our birthday celebrations.

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

 

Shopping Day

Once a week, supply boats arrive from mainland Honduras, delivering food and supplies of all kinds to Bonacca, the main settlement on Guanaja. If you remember, Bonacca (or the cay (key) as the locals call it) is a small cay off of Guanaja that is home to roughly 6,000 people. Here’s a neat before and after photo of Bonacca, that shows how much the cay has changed over the years.

“Shopping Day,” as it is referred to here, is a big deal, and we have been told by many local expats here about going to the cay for the day. Since we haven’t yet visited Bonacca on actual shopping day, it was on our list during this visit to the island. However, strong winds were going to make for a very “spirited” ride, as Scott likes to call it. As we hemmed and hawed about making the trip, we were invited to go with Hans, and some others on his sailboat…… shopping day here we come!

On Thursday morning, our ride approached. Hans towed a skiff behind him, that would be used to drop off trash and get fuel while in town.

We prepared for a quick “touch and go,” as Hans pulled alongside for us to get on board. Unfortunately, I didn’t scurry fast enough, and as the boat pulled away I didn’t have a firm footing. My choices were to either slip into the water, or do a back bend over  Sea Life’s side rail. I chose the latter, channeling my inner yogi.

There wasn’t a way for me to get a firm footing, and slide back onto the side deck, and I couldn’t reach anything with my hands either. So there I was, bent backward over the side rail, hanging on while Hans made a second pass (of course, Scott was upset that I had the camera with me during all of this!). It felt like 15 minutes, but eventually the boat came back alongside, and Scott grabbed me into a upward position so that I could get on. The day was off to an eventful start.

There were seven of us on Hans’ 23′ sailboat, so we were a friendly bunch, sitting in the cockpit and on the bow. We had a smooth sail, and arrived at the cay in under 30 minutes.

Hans has a dock that he uses in town, but it was full when we arrived, as was the second place he tried. We headed for the main city pier, and tied up in front of one of the supply boats that had just arrived.

It was quite a site on the pier, as the two large supply boats began to unload. Many locals work the pier for the day, helping to off load the boats, and deliver the supplies to stores in town. Since there are no cars, golf carts, scooters or bikes on the cay, all of the supplies are loaded onto flat beds, and rolled through the streets, to their destinations in town. The scene was like ants attacking food, and then scurrying away with the crumbs.

As we headed into town, Hans arranged for some “shopping cart” help (a man with a wheel barrow).  We turned and made our way down the main street, dodging carts loaded with produce.

I expected everyone to head to the stores, but realized that it would be hours before things on the pier would be delivered. Instead, we followed Hans and the others to an open air bar on the main street. Before long, the tables were full of expats, drinking and chatting.

Some had lunch at the bar, which is sold from a cart on site, and others headed off for a restaurant. We bought a really cheap, and really good lunch from the cart. You choose either fish or chicken, to go with side dishes (beans, rice, slaw, etc.). Scott managed to talk his way into getting both!

Ok, so we’ve eaten, chatted and had drinks. It was time to shop…right? I got up to head for the stores, and was told that they were closed for lunch until 2pm. Huh?? Then why did we get here at 11:00?? And where was the “shopping cart” guy during all of this?? I realized that this was just as much a social event as a shopping trip. Most people only go to town once or twice a week, so shopping day is a chance for them to see each other, spend time together and talk. This was all fine and good, but by 2pm, it’s stinkin’ hot!

I needed very little in the store (we had already stocked up on canned goods and other things in Roatan), and had come mostly for fresh bread and produce. However, we had come with Hans, who needed to stock up, so it seemed we’d be in town for most of the day. Good thing the beer was cold and cheap…we ordered two more.

To kill some time, Scott and I decided to walk and see if the man who bakes bread had any ready to buy. This is where we go to buy bread…welcome to cruising.

Unfortunately,  it would be another hour or so before the loaves were ready. We asked the man to hold two loaves for us, and made our way to one of the produce stalls. They were still unloading things, but we were able to buy what we needed.

After more socializing, and much, much sweating (the breeze that we enjoyed in the morning had shifted directions, away from the bar), we went to get our bread. It was still hot from the oven, and we left with open bags of both wheat and white.

It was now suffocatingly hot in the bar (where many people still gathered, did they even need groceries?), so we waited for Hans back at the main pier. There was a great breeze on the upper deck, where we watched the ants still hard at it at 4pm.

There were just four of us on Hans’ boat for the sail back, as the rest of our group rode in the skiff. The winds were blowing in the 30s, and as we rounded the far side of the cay, the boat was heeled far over. My short legs had trouble reaching the port side cockpit bench, which we had to stand on for balance, so I was keeping grip with my toes. I am by no means a sailor…give me my roll-ly pilot house anytime!

As we crossed the channel, waves began to break over the bow. We weren’t heeled over anymore, but it was now a wet ride. I took this photo just before I put the camera away, notice Scott  hanging on. We got that spirited ride after all!

As we approached Sea Life, Hans lowered the sail, making it much more easy to climb aboard! He then headed off toward his pier.

We’d done shopping day with the locals and survived. I think in future, I’d go for morning socializing, and stick to the quick in and out of Friday morning shopping! Here are more photos of shopping day.

“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!”