FROM THE LOG # 16
April 10 to May 26, 2003
(Click on a photo for a larger version)
We cleared out from Belize at Big Creek near Placencia, but had to wait a couple of days after that for suitable weather for eyeballing through the barrier reef. When the clouds finally cleared we staged at Ranguana Cay, near one of the reef cuts, for one night. The next day with the sun high in the sky we found our way out and set course for Utila, the westernmost of the Bay Islands of Honduras, 80 nautical miles to the east.
At daybreak we were surprised of how high and close to us the mountains of the Honduras mainland looked. The country consists to 80 per cent of mountains with an elevation of up to 3.000 meters. The rest is fertile plains close to the coast and valleys between the mountains. Since the afternoon of the previous day we had seen several cargo ships carrying logos such as Fyffes, Chiquita and Dole. We were approaching the country where the word Banana republic was invented.
We anchored in Puerto Este, the main habitat of Utila before noon. The sun was already high in the sky and we had no problems finding our way in between the reef and shallows. As usual, there were no markers although this is a port of entry. Because of historical reasons the main language on the islands of Honduras is English, even though Spanish is the official language. Most of the islanders are black, but there are many descendants of Brittish immigrants. The lady at the cashier of the hard ware store told us that her ancestors had arrived from Scotland in 1815. She looked as if she had got of the plane yesterday herself.
A couple of days later we sailed over to the mainland to take a look at La Ceiba Shipyard, where we planned to haul out Scorpio and leave her on the hard for the summer, during our vacation in Finland. Approaching the breakwaters we could see the wreck of the huge dredge that had sunk in there in a northerly blow a couple of weeks earlier (the same one that we hade weathered among the mangroves at Twin Cays in Belize).
The wreck now forms a sort of an extension to the eastern breakwater. A little more to the west and it would block the entrance completely, but now we only had to dodge it slightly. The damage is said to be in the $20.000.000 range and the insurance company has written it off as a total loss. One more addition to the already considerable armada of ghost ships in this area of the world.
We found a convenient berth at the charming Lagoon Marina, a mile up the river and neighbor to La Ceiba Shipyard. The owners Toni and Rita had arrived here only 4 years earlier and already had established an awesome estate. At their arrival there was nothing here; no roads, potable water or electricity. Today they are the owners of a well constructed, tastefully designed and well maintained property only 15 minutes drive from La Ceiba, the third largest city in Honduras.
The shipyard, owned by Americans, was founded a year later. Also there everything seemed to be functioning. We met with the manager Dale and made appointments for the haul out three weeks later.
We made several trips by taxi to La Ceiba for provisioning and searching for spare parts for the constantly pending projects aboard; "Cruising is boat repair in exotic places”. We were as always amazed by the amount of guns being carried around. The streets and shops were full of security guards with imposing pump rifles; street sweepers, they are called. At one time we sneaked in to have a cool bear at a bodega and discovered that iron bars behind the counter sheltered the staff. The beer was handed out between the bars in exchange for the payment. We guessed that we might have strayed too long out of the safe areas, but all vent well – probably because it was in the middle of the day. I would not recommend a visit after dark.
After a week we headed out to the islands again for our last two weeks. The weather was now very hot and humid and we hoped for some cooling breezes in the Cayos Cochinos and the island of Roatan. We stayed several days at the charming Cochino Grande using the courtesy moorings laid by The Plantation Beach Resort. The only problem here was the lack of wind. Thereafter we visited both The French Cays and West End at Roatan. In the French Cays anchorage we had a week of strong winds, especially during the nights with gusts up to 40 knots, which kept us relatively cool. However, the dinghy rides ashore were a very wet experience. The French Cays Yacht Club is a nice establishment, but the really pleasant surprise was West End. This time of the year with well-established trade winds from the east we found complete shelter from the waves at West End. However, in the winter with frequent northerlies it probably would be an other story.
The last weeks passed quickly while we started preparing for the storage of the yacht. On May 26 we hauled out and 3 days later we were on the plane heading for Helsinki.
The journey continues in September 2003. We hope you see you back again.