We anchored off Utila Town on the 7th December in the south facing bay there, which we thought would be quite sheltered only to be proved wrong. Each morning the wind came off the mainland at F4 and the bay was a choppy place to be until the wind veered to the North in the afternoon, however our anchor held well but getting ashore in the dinghy was a real challenge with swell bashing us against the jetty.
Nevertheless we managed to get ashore unscathed to clear in which at a cost of $6 is the cheapest we have yet encountered.
Having cleared in we went off to explore the island on foot, it’s around a 40 minute walk from one end to the other so nothing very tiring. The main and only street was packed sand outside town and roughly tarmaced for a few hundred yards in the centre of town. The main traffic was beach buggies, scooters and tuk tuk’s ( the local taxis) with a handful of pick ups. Given the size of the Island it was surprisingly busy.
Main Street Utila
Only 2000 people live here and their main business is running dive holidays off the nearby spectacular reefs and that’s about it, lots of cheap accommodation and a wacky feel to the place with lots of hippie types and a rehab shack on the beach.
We had further problems with the boat, one of which could have been disastrous. I noticed a strange reading on the solar regulator so checked out the wiring to find the fuse block under our bunk had melted and was glowing red hot. I immediately cut the power and went in search of a bigger fuse and an electrician to check out the electrics. We found Andy through the local hardware store. It turned out Andy did pretty much everything, including running the local water company and being chief of police. He came out, checked the system, fitted a bigger fuse block and we were back in business, for a while anyway.
I was still jump starting the engine and fired up to leave on the morning 13th December to spend Christmas on the next island in the chain, Roatan, after having exhausted all the Utila had to offer. We left in light SW winds for a slow sail and after an hour or so the winds died and we resorted to engine for the rest of the journey but in glorious sunshine. Getting in to the Fantasy Island anchorage on Roatan proved to be quite a challenge we made several attempts ourselves but kept running into shallows until a couple of local boats showed us a narrow channel right alongside the reef. Even then we only had 0.2m under our keel at the lowest point. Once into the pool, depths increased to 4m and we anchored in this beautiful enclosed spot, protected by reefs and sandy islands.
The anchorage at Fantasy Island Roatan
Roatan is a much larger and more commercialised resort and a major holiday destination for Hondurans. The island is around 50km long and 5km wide with numerous sandy beaches and off lying islands. Once again the main attraction apart from the beaches is diving on the world class reefs. We were on the south side facing the Honduran mainland which was about 30 miles away.
Sunset over the anchorage
Here we met some old friends and made some new ones, spent time snorkelling on the surrounding reefs, shopping and preparing for Christmas on the beach on Fantasy Island. The marina there had a thatched palapa (veranda) with a small bar where we could all gather for our Christmas dinner.
The beach on Fantasy Island. Interesting guests at the hotel, capuchin monkeys
About twenty of us had signed up for roast turkey and ham, although Gill had to show the marina manager how to cook the ham. Everyone contributed a dish and we had a good spread considering the limited facilities. I was given the job of carving the roasts. All went well apart from the weather which decided to send a squall in the middle of dinner, accompanied by horizontal torrential rain.
Some rather damp revellers
One of the boats, Kanthaka, owned by Thierry, a retired French Doctor, started to drag its anchor around six o’clock so a rescue party was organised, they fouled their mooring which disabled the engine, and meant we had to get lines ashore to pull them in. It was high drama on a very wet and windy night.
Thierry supervising the rescue
We were all soaked and cold and had to remove table cloths to avoid the tables being cleared by the wind. There we all were huddled in a group laughing at the scene, telling jokes and sinking a few more tots of rum from a bottle kindly donated by Thierry, just as well we were all seasoned sailors.
The snorkelling on Roatan was absolutely superb and I have never seen so many fish and the colours of the coral are so vibrant as you can see from the photos. There was also a patch of the reef known as lobster city where the lobsters lie thick and fat, unfortunately the reef is protected and so are these desirable dinner guests.
Looks good enough to eat. A school of Blue Tangs
While we were snorkelling on the reef one day and Gill was cruising through the shallows when she came face to face with a 5 ft barracuda that just hung there eyeing her up (lunch!) and didn’t swim away. as Gill swam off it followed her, she looked around for me as I had the camera but I was too far away. We found out later that divers feed this fish which is a stupid thing to do as they then expect to be fed, apparently one diver lost a finger doing this! The lobsters also get fed to keep them on the reef in large numbers, this makes for a protected nursery and a good breeding ground. It’s still alarming when a 2 ft lobster comes straight at you expecting grub. They’re very tame and you can touch them without them swimming off.
On Boxing Day some of us went off to play volleyball and disaster struck, I snapped my Achilles’ tendon and had to be carried back to the boat. We had no ice so I defrosted that nights mince to reduce swelling. Everyone was amazing and rallied round, an appointment was made for me by friends John and Suzie, to see an orthopaedic surgeon friend who happened to have a clinic on the island. Unfortunately the clinic could not carry out surgery and he referred me to a top surgeon in San Pedro Sula, about 70 miles away on the mainland. He also organised flights and transport from the airport to the hospital and refused any payment for his normally expensive services, I was overwhelmed that he should go to such lengths to provide the help as he did. John then spent some time driving round the island looking for crutches for me which we eventually found in a junk shop of all places.
The next day John and Suzie kindly took me to the airport on Roatan for the flight to San Pedro Sula while Gill stayed to look after the boat, it would be a massive understatement to say that she was not pleased with me and delivered several lectures on the subject. This was entirely understandable however, as this had wrecked our plans to leave for Panama the next day.
I was admitted to the Cemesa Hospital on the 28th December and the operation was carried out the next day after extensive tests, an MRI scan and chest X-ray. During the operation I was awake having had a spinal anaesthetic and bizarrely the anaesthetist took photos of the operation on his mobile phone to provide a running progress report for me while I lay on my stomach. I ended up with a knee length cast on my left leg.
It was the hospitals intention to release me on the 31st after a few days of observation – yippee back for new year and Gill’s 70th birthday. Only, fate took a hand and I slipped off the Zimmer frame on my way to the loo and broke my other ankle, words cannot describe how frustrated I was!
The next day I had the second operation, by now I was an old hand at this and am now the proud owner of a titanium plate and a bunch of screws in my right ankle which should play havoc with airport scanners and of course, another cast. Unfortunately, I had my money stolen while I was in hospital which apart from the loss of cash really upset the hospital staff, all of whom were fantastic, I could not have received better care anywhere. The NHS could learn much about patient care and genuine concern for the patient, here you’re a person not a statistic!
This also meant that I missed Gill’s birthday and as I forgot it last year I was truly in the doghouse yet again. I had remembered this year and was fully prepared, I just wasn’t there! Fortunately, she had some good friends at Fantasy island who organised a cake and a party.
Birthday girl with her cake and champagne
The second injury meant, however, instead of being able to shuffle on crutches and return to the boat. I was going to be wheel chair bound for at least a month and would have to stay in San Pedro Sula for after care and physiotherapy – not funny! It also meant I needed someone to look after me and Gill bravely volunteered to fly in for the month.
San Pedro Sula by the way is the most dangerous city in the world outside of a war zone with an annual murder rate of 187 people per 100,000 of population. So this is not a sight seeing place and there is absolutely nothing to do.
The lovely grounds around the apartment.
I was discharged on the 6th January and arrangements were made for me to rent a very nice apartment. Thank goodness we have Internet in the apartment and we can keep in touch with friends and family and plan the next stage of our travels. The most difficult aspect of all this is washing, in hospital I had lots of nurses to scrub me up and just change the bedding. This was not an option in the apartment with Gill on her own so she devised a novel way for me to shower – push the wheel chair onto the balcony, tie big plastic bags around the leg casts and pour pans of water over me, hilarious but it works.
Showertime in the apartment. Physio with Estella every day at the apartment.
We decided that a Pacific crossing was out of the question this year and we would spend the year resting in the San Blas archipelago in Panama for a couple of months more, explore Colombia, and take a trip to Canada where neither of us has been and; East coast USA. In December we will take the boat through the canal to explore the Pacific coasts of Panama and Columbia before setting off to the Galápagos Islands and beyond in March 2016. We have advertised on crew finder sites for extra crew to help us through my recuperative period. So a new member will be joining the boat in February.
Gill will also take the opportunity to go back to see her family in UK and Thailand in the summer holidays. I will stay with the boat and our new crew member until her return in September.
It’s also our intention to explore the islands off Honduras when we return to the boat to keep our hand in and give our new crew member some experience before setting off.