Honduras was new territory for David and Suzanne and they asked for a little help in planning. Dayna of Blue did the research and up front arrangements which she presentated to the group while we were in Panama. Some of us made reservations for Fantasy Island Marina while others planned to anchor nearby in French Cay Harbor. Our stay in Honduras was wonderful. Several of the rally boats stopped in at Guanaja but we were among those who missed this island. Those who stopped reported that they loved it and many stayed on for some time. Sorry we missed it and will certainly visit if we pass this way again.
When anticipating passages we always keep an eye to weather and security. Since there had been two recent reports of harassment along the coasts of Niagara and Honduras we took a few extra security measures. When ever we are moving on groups form and plans are made as to departure time and route. Several “way points” had been discussed for routing purposes, they were identified with letters rather than location names and members of each group planned ways to be less vocal on the VHF radios so as not to alert local traffic as to their intentions. As was always the case, a daily Side Band Radio net was held at which time everyone checked in with a location and status. Happy to report that all went well and no problems were encountered. Our precautions may have been unnecessary although it was a good learning experience to think through ways to improve safety.
The journey from Providencia to Roatan Honduras is about 400 miles and started with a nice beam reach sail and a Mahi on the line. We were traveling with Suzie Too, Milpat, Harmony, Beyzano, Shamal and Oyster Mist and stopped partway through for an overnight rest at Vivario Cays. The weather changed dramatically during the night causing us to stay put for a second night after a blustery, rainy day. Jeff referred to it as a “snow day”, it was actually a nice break from the hot, sunny weather. Everyone in the anchorage was buttoned up tight doing various things to pass the time. We spent the time reading and baking, not sure why but rain somehow compels me to bake.
We arrived at Fantasy Island Marina in Roatan where Steve and Debbie had recently taken over management and quickly helped us settle in. Our placement on the dock was just beside the Tiki Palapa where all the social gatherings occurred. The only problem was a large pine tree nearby which dropped tons of it’s needles on Echo which we have been continuing to see on deck since then. Several of the rally boats anchored in the bay at French Cay and experienced quite high winds during the stay. There was concern of dragging anchor and it was quite a wet dinghy ride to shore but everyone fared ok.
Suzie Too were docked in a different area of the marina from us and were treated to visits each morning from a family of monkeys. David and Suzanne enjoyed the daily visits but forgot to put water and a snack out one morning. The monkeys voiced their displeasure by leaving a small present on deck. The monkeys also watched the beach shower and scurried out when someone turned the water on. Suzanne shared the beach shower one day after a swim.
Other than the needles we had a fantastic stay at Fantasy Island! Debbie and Steve were wonderful hosts – There were a few potlucks, a welcome party for the rally boats with a fire dancer and they assisted with organizing several things various people needed along the way. When staying at the marina you have access to the resort as well, the beach is beautiful and the pool was nice too. Several of us also did a dive with the Resort which was great. Also, Jeff and I along with Graham and Wendy dove on a plane and ship wreck from shore at the resort.
We took one day to explore part of the island on scooters. James of Ocean Rainbow did all the organizing and several of us set off to explore. We headed out together but split off at various locations then gathered at La Sirena Restaurant. This was a beautiful out of the way spot – very long journey down a dirt road but worth it! We also spent a “Suzie Too Sunday” on a beach at West End. Suzanne organized taxis for the trip so people came and went through the day. We bought a day pass with one of the resorts and enjoyed an afternoon of lazing on the beach. There was excellent snorkeling near by so we did spend some time in the water. Since it was the west end of the island Suzie Too, Milpat and Echo stayed late in order to see the sunset.
We moved to the anchorage at West End and hoped to do another dive before leaving Roatan. There had been some confusion as to whether of not you could anchor in this bay. As it turned out there were moorings but someone didn’t want boats there so they cut the lines. Even though anchoring was not allowed, you had to put down your anchor then snorkel around to find a mooring block, dive down to put a line through it, raise your anchor then tie up to the line you just snaked in. In any case, it was a nice spot and it gave us a chance to explore West End and snorkel on the reef which is beautiful.
We had a nice evening aboard Suzie Too along with Graham and Wendy of Oyster Mist and had planned a dive for the next day. Unfortunately the wind changed direction over night and was coming right in the cut for the harbor. The mooring Oyster Mist was on started dragging and the anchorage was very rolly so we canceled the dive and moved on to Utila.
Utila is a small island (4 x 7 miles) and is all about diving. From the anchorage we could see several groups of wetsuit clad students in the water or in groups ashore practicing their skills in preparation of obtaining their diving certifiication. Once ashore as you stroll up and down main street you see many dive related businesses, the “About Utila” website lists 18 different dive operators and reports accommodations available from $2 per night to luxury resorts. In addition to the 2 private islands for rent there are numerous listings for rooms, hotels, apartments and resorts – apparently something for every budget. Robert of Moody Mistress had described the island as “funky” which pretty much covers it all.
Early one morning we set out with a large group of rally members for two dives but we got much more than we bargained for! Christian of Blue organized the excursion with the Bay Islands College of Diving. As we were heading to the first site the captain noticed a pod of dolphins nearby and asked if we wanted to swim with them. Yes we did and it was amazing! They seemed happy to see us and were quite playful with those of us who dove down to them.
The first dive site was the Maze as it had some channels and a small cave which we peeked in to. Although I still use up my air before everyone else I am beginning to feel much more comfortable with each dive and this was a beautiful spot.
Back on board and heading to dive number 2 the captain became aware of a whale shark in the area and once again asked if we wanted to go in the water. We were fortunate to be in Utila as the whale sharks were migrating. The experience certainly demonstrates the circle of life – they feed mostly on plankton (no interest in humans) and apparently there’s some tie to algae booms which draw small fish for feeding, the small fish draw tuna for feeding and the tuna arrive in droves causing a “boil”. So, the tour boats watch for the “boil” or area of bubbling water and often find there is a whale shark around too. It was quite a frenzy to get us off the boat and swimming with the whale shark but amazing once we found it and began to follow. It was about 10 feet below us and didn’t seem to be bothered by our presence – such a magical experience!
Dive number 2 was at Airport Reef and was also beautiful. Among other sea life, there was a good size ray swimming along which was beautiful and Rob of Beyzano saw a sea horse. Once back on the boat Graham, the dive master, indicated that there were a few sea horses living under the dock back at the shop so Wendy, Suzanne and I went looking for them. I have been hoping for a sea horse for some time and was thrilled with seeing them!
We all agreed that this was truly a magical day in the waters of Utila!
All the rally members met later that day for a planning meeting, then we ended the day with dinner at the top Trip Advisor pick, Skid Row’s, just part of the funky vibe in town.
We had hoped to see more of the island the next day but once we got through the clear out process it started to rain so we headed back to Echo to prepare for travel to Belize that evening.
Our visit to the Bay Islands of Honduras was wonderful!
~ Jeff and Mary ~