January 1996 - Honduras to Rio Dulce

1 January 1996   Isla Cochinos, Honduras
We had a lie in until half past nine.  It’s the first day of a new year and as usual we’ve got hangovers.  We took the boat over to check the other anchorages for somewhere a little more protected from the SE wind.  The whole island group is a National Park and anchoring is forbidden anywhere.  We found moorings by Cochinos Pequeno, but they were in a worse place.  We looked at the other Cays which looked gorgeous, but no bloody moorings.  Very frustrating!  We ended up back at Cochinos Grande. 

After lunch, we went ashore and walked along a trail to the lighthouse on the top of the island.  The resort’s dog “Nikey” came along to guide us.  It was a nice 30 minute walk up to the lighthouse, but unfortunately we couldn’t see any view through the rain forest trees.  We walked back down and went for a snorkel.  Well, Brett, Glenys and I did – it’s really hard to get Craig to come snorkelling with us. 

At about six o’clock, just after the sun went down, Harry who is looking after “Our House” called across and said that he was going over to Cochinos Pequeno because the wind was NW15.  Three nights ago, he was trapped in this anchorage with wicked NW waves.  We were a bit apprehensive before he called and were worried after he left.  We decided to stick it out.  We had a New Year chicken dinner with Christmas pudding which was great.  By the time we went to bed, the wind was down to 10 knots and had backed to the west, thank goodness!

Bay Islands, Honduras

2 January 1996   Isla Cochinos to French Harbour, Roatan 
We had a very peaceful night.  There wasn’t a breath of wind and we had blue skies as we motored across to Roatan.  There was a big 2 metre swell from the east.  The strong cold front is still expected in the Yucatan Peninsula tonight and will affect us tomorrow, so we want to be somewhere a little more protected than the Cochinos. 

All the same yachts were in the anchorage at French Harbour. Glenys and I went for a dive, which was spectacular.  The visibility was wonderful and the scenery is very alpine with vertical cliffs and sand gullies filled with white sand.  As I swim off the edge of the vertical cliffs, it makes me want to go skydiving.  We had a quiet evening in the very peaceful, protected anchorage.

3 January 1996   French Harbour, Roatan
We were woken at three o’clock in the morning by a banging noise.  I went up on deck to discover that the boat in front of us had swung very close to us and the guy was banging on our pulpit.  He had 40 metres of rope out compared to my 25 metres of chain and consequently had an incredible turning circle and was wandering about the anchorage (bloody Americans on their pieces of string.) 

We were the last to anchor, so I said that we would move.  I went to start our engine, but it wouldn’t start!  I guessed that there must be air in the fuel system so I set about bleeding it – not the nicest thing to do at three o’clock in the morning!  It took me 10 minutes, by which time the other boat had decided to re-anchor.  We went back to bed, but the boys were wide awake and Craig kept padding into our cabin and telling us that he couldn’t sleep. 

At half past six, I had to get up to listen to the weather – this two hour time difference with the West Indies is a pain in the neck.  I learned that the cold front was still heading our way.  At eight o’clock, the cold front hit with torrential rain and 30 knot winds.  Boats were dragging all around us, but we were OK.  I felt fairly smug that I had bothered to drop the anchor in a sandy patch clear of the thick weed that covers the rest of the anchorage. 

We filled our water tanks with rain water.  We did school work and then had a quiet afternoon.  Barry and Carol from “Pipe Dream” (Can) came for a beer.  Glenys foolishly opened a 1.5 litre bottle of red wine, which we polished off between the two of us.

4 January 1996   French Harbour, Roatan
Yet Another Hangover this morning – will we ever learn?  We did school work in the morning.  I walked down to the fishing port to check out the fuel dock.  They didn’t have any diesel - what sort of fuel dock is that? However, they did point me over to the west end of the fishing port.  I went back to the boat and we had a quiet evening.

5 January 1996   French Harbour, Roatan
Went round to the fishing port to get fuel.  It took us a while to find the fuel dock.  We motored back to the anchorage and I went straight into Coxen’s Hole to clear out.  It cost me $40US to clear out – what a rip off!  I had lunch in a small café with Earle and Kandy from “Sticky Bunz”.  A bit of an odd couple – well she is anyway.  (Kandy was the person who annoyed me on Christmas Day).  I went back to Glencora and played the clarinet while Glenys took the boys to the supermarket. 

In the evening, we went to the Yacht Club for a Mexican buffet, which was good food for only $7US a head.  Most of the other cruising folk were there which was fun.  The Californians did nothing but winge that the Mexican food wasn’t authentic!  We enjoyed it anyway.

6 January 1996   French Harbour to Utila, Honduras
Up early and set off for Utila. There is another front due tomorrow night, so we decided that we’d better leave today or we might get trapped in French Harbour for another 3 or 4 days.  It was a very bouncy beam reach with 25 knot winds and 2-3 metre seas.  As we approached the island, I was beginning to doubt that we would be able to get into the anchorage through the reef.  In the event, it was very straightforward and we anchored off a hotel called Utila Lodge.  The anchorage is nice and big, but the town’s electricity generator is incredibly noisy. 

We went ashore and were collared by Harry from “Our House” who insisted on introducing us to the owners of the Dive Lodge.  We walked along the main street to the airport.  There are 15 dive centres and about 100 instructors working on this tiny island.  The dive centres pay commission of $30/person/OW Course and $3/person/dive.  A lot of the business comes from backpackers who come over from the mainland.  It’s $5/night for a room and an OW course is only $150.  Two tank dives only cost $30!  There are loads of scruffy, young, fit instructors wandering about and they sell dive courses like people sell timeshare in Tenerife – they meet people at the airport or the ferry and try to persuade them to do a course.  It’s fascinating to watch.

7 January 1996   Utila, Honduras
The wind is from the SW this morning, bringing a bit of a chop into the bay.  The wind will probably swing to the NW as the front comes through tonight, so we decided to hang on where we are.  We did school work in the morning which took us up to half past one - we needed to do a lesson and a review ready for a test tomorrow.  A pod of dolphins came into the anchorage, so I went in the water to swim with them, but they didn’t want to play. 

The wind was from the west by lunchtime and we had a pleasant afternoon on the boat with 8/8 cloud cover but no rain.  After night fell, the first squall hit us with 25+ knot winds and lashing rain.  We had a very disturbed night with up to 35 knot gusts and lots of rain.  The air temperature dropped dramatically (down to 75°F) and we had to huddle together in bed under our thin sheet – it’s a long time since we had to do that!  Miserable night – I must have got out of bed about 10 times.  This front apparently dropped a huge amount of snow on Washington DC and shut it down for 24 hours!

8 January 1996   Utila, Honduras 
Miserable morning – cold, NNW wind 20 knots, 8/8 cloud cover and occasionally drizzle.  The forecast is for this front to head quickly SE to Porto Rico, so hopefully it will start clearing up soon.  Brett came in at nine o’clock and asked if he could start his test.  He knows that he’s got a lot of work to do and wants to finish it today.  The boys both did well in their tests and we went out in the afternoon to watch “Amadeus”.  I enjoyed it but the boys were confused by it and it went on too long.  We had a peaceful, if cold night (with a blanket!)

9 January 1996   Utila, Honduras 
Overcast morning with NW10 winds.  Still cold.  We did school work and then Glenys and I went for a dive which was OK, but bloody freezing on the way back.  I filled 3 tanks.  We are wandering around in sweaters and long trousers because it’s so cold.  I can’t believe the difference in weather between here and the West Indies.  The sky looked clear to the west, so in anticipation of leaving tomorrow, we went out for a pizza and spent our last Lempira.

10 January 1996   Utila, Honduras
During the night the wind came from the SW.  Not very strong but enough to cause an unpleasant chop in the bay, making us pitch all night.  By morning, it was overcast low cloud, with a depressing constant drizzle.  It was cold and we lounged in bed, under the blanket until half past nine.  When I say cold, it’s actually 74°F inside the boat but 65°F out on deck.  We have definitely acclimatised to 80°F weather and are going to die back in England.  To add to all this we had to do school work. 

The pitching was getting really bad by lunch time, so we ate the remains of last night’s pizza and went ashore to go to the movies.  They were showing Part 2 of Pride and Prejudice so we decided to skip that!  Instead we went for a walk up some very muddy paths until the mosquitoes drove us back.  We met Barry and Carol from “Pipe Dream” in town and we went back to the Utila Lodge for a beer, watching Glencora pitching like mad.  We went back, had dinner and snuggled down into our duvet.  The boys hid in their sleeping bags.