Cruising with Soggy Paws
Soggy Paws is a 44' CSY Sailboat. In 2007, we set sail on a 10 year around the world cruise.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
2008 Presentations
Sherry did a half hour presentation on the San Blas at the East Coast Sailing Association and Melbourne Yacht Club monthly meetings.

Dave did an extensive presentation on Cruising the Western Caribbean at the Seven Seas Cruising Association 2008 Gam.

Both presentations (and some useful cruising links) can now be found on our SSCA 2008 page.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008
Lots and Lots of Pics Posted

OK, all you armchair travelers, I have spent most of the last 3 days uploading all our photos from January to now to our Picasa photo album, including all of the San Blas. We have taken at least a few photos in every place we stopped.

Enjoy! Our Photo Album

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Sunday, February 24, 2008
Float Plan
We expect to leave this morning at 0900 CST from Guanaja, leaving via the Half Moon Cay Channel.

Once clear of Guanaja, we will cut into the coast of Honduras (tracking to a waypoint somewhat arbitrarily picked along the coast), heading initially about 150 degrees, for the first 30-35 miles. Once we get close to the coast, we plan to stay within 5 miles of the Honduran coast until about 0630 on Monday morning, when we should be approximately at Punta Patuka, then we'll head due east to the Vivarillos. We expect to be in the Vivarillos by about 4pm on Monday (Central Standard Time).

There are 4-5 other boats talking about leaving Guanaja today, headed for the Vivorillos. They each motor upwind at different speeds, so we don't expect to be side-by-side with anyone, but we should be within VHF range of other boats, at least for awhile.

We will be checking in on the Northwest Caribbean Net (0800 and 1745 CST on 6209 USB). And we plan to send position updates via Winlink every 6 hours or so. These should show up on our various position websites.

http://www.svsoggypaws.com/positions.htm

We do have an EPIRB aboard and an Iridium phone, plus we have a Honduran cell phone which may operate sporadically along the coast.

Our waypoints and expected ETA:

Santa Rosa 16-01N 85-37W 1500 02/24
Cabo Camarones 16-01N 85-01W 2115 02/24
Punta Patuka 15-53N 84-21W 0630 02/25
Vivorillos Appr 15-49N 83-18W 1600 02/25

We will not have any internet for the next couple of weeks.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008
Weather Window!!
We have been watching a weather window coming up Sun-Mon-Tue and getting ready to leave. We checked out of Guanaja yesterday, and did one last provisioning run.

Today, after nearly a week of 'blowing like stink', the wind calmed down to the 10 knot range and (for a little while) swung northeast. Tonight it's back up (as is normal in the evenings), but only 15-20 knots instead of 20-25.

The Oh-Holy-GRIB forecast for tomorrow is 15 knots and lightening up to the 5-15 knot range for the next couple of days. We need about 36 hours to get where we're going (the Vivarillos Cays, right off the 'knee' of the Honduras/Nicaragua border), and it looks like we'll get it.

Assuming we leave in the morning as planned, we'll be out of internet range for about 3 weeks. I'll still be sending position updates and blog entries via Winlink as we go along.

We'll wake up in the morning and see what it looks like, and pull in some weather, and if it looks good, off we go.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008
Lunar Eclipse in Guanaja
Alexander Cohn - Times Photo

Yahoo! It was a beautiful clear full moon night in Guanaja last night.

The eclipse started around 08:15pm local time and was fully eclipsed right around 9pm. Pretty neat.

Photo credit (the boat was moving too much for us to take a decent picture).

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Back at Josh's Cay, Waiting Weather
On Sunday we moved the ~3 miles back to Josh's Cay.

The no-see-ums are pretty bad in El Bight and they were driving Dave crazy.

Since then we have been working on boat projects and watching the wind blow, waiting for a good weather window. I've been doing some sewing, and Dave's still working on the watermaker (he's moved from 92% done to 98% done). He decided to move the membrane tubes out of the engine room and into the aft head (mounted vertically on the wall). He's been concerned about the effect of the high temps in the engine room on the longevity of the (very expensive) RO membranes.

It has not been all work and no play. We've found time for socializing with the other boats here. The food and the company ashore at Graham's Place are very nice and we've had dinner ashore 3 nights in a row!! (Reggie's Grilled Wahoo is very good!)

Our friends on Infini are leaving tomorrow to head back to Roatan. Their ship's batteries are almost shot, and Mike has ordered a new set of 8D's to be shipped down on the freight boat to French Harbor. The batteries are supposed to arrive this weekend. They also have a cousin flying in soon for a couple of weeks. I'm sure they'll catch up with us somewhere, but we are sad to say goodbye to them.

There are 2 other boats in the anchorage waiting with us to head east. The GRIB files show a promising lull Sun-Mon-Tue, so we will probably check out on Friday and be ready to go on Sunday or Monday.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008
Minor Earthquake Offshore Honduras
Last night we were sitting in the cockpit and Dave says "What was that!?" We felt the boat shudder a little. Dave went up to check the anchor and look around. Everything seemed fine and the wind was relatively quiet, and we know our anchor is well set in a nice sandy bottom.

We paid attention for a few more minutes and felt 1 or 2 more shudders. Our guess at the time was maybe an earthquake somewhere nearby. (We felt a similar one in Guatemala).

This morning I confirmed via the Earthquake Reporting website.

Sure enough, there was a 4.5 earthquake a little north of Guanaja. Hopefully it didn't affect anyone on shore. Here's a screen shot of the report (in case the link is obsoleted later).

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Friday, February 15, 2008
Veggie Day in Bonacca Town
We picked up this morning at 8:30 and moved to El Bight (also called Sandy Bay by the locals). This is an anchorage in a protected bay next to the 'mainland' (of the island of Guanaja).

Friday mornings, the supply boat comes in from mainland Honduras, and everyone on Guanaja goes to Bonacca Town (also called The Cay by the locals, and Sheen Cay on the charts), to get fresh meat and veggies, and to pick up whatever supplies have been ordered.

The main town on Guanaja is not actually on the main island of Guanaja, but on a little tiny island. Even in the main town, there are no roads here, except what looks like sidewalks to us. Everyone gets everywhere they want to go here by boat.


It is a long, wet dinghy ride from Sandy Bay to Bonacca Town. (Longer and wetter than going across the sound from Georgetown, Bahamas to Hamburger Beach in strong wind conditions).

I'm not quite sure why, but the inhabitants of Guanaja have chosen to cram themselves onto the island at Bonacca Town, rather than spread out on the main island of Guanaja. I suspect it is because the no-see-ums are notoriously bad on the island.



We followed some other cruisers by dinghy to the Zapatos Store dock. Then we followed the foot traffic carrying parcels through the narrow 'streets' of town to where the Town Dock was.



We found 3-4 grocery stores of varying sizes and 3-4 veggie markets. We managed to get all the veggies we could carry, and they were better (fresher) than what we got anywhere in Roatan.

We had a nice lunch in town and then stashed our veggies at the restaurant and wandered the streets for an hour, just to look around some more. The town is really a maze of very narrow passageways of concrete and sometimes wood. We got lost several times. But everyone seemed friendly and were used to gringos wandering around getting lost.

The forecast is for continued brisk tradewinds through at least early next week. So we'll hang out and wait for things to change. Meanwhile, there's always Dave's project list to keep us busy.

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Josh's Cay, Guanaja, Honduras
We are anchored off 'Graham's Place', which is a small resort on Josh's Cay in Guanaja.


Josh's Cay is one of the small islands on the barrier reef that surrounds Guanaja, the easternmost of the Bay Islands of Honduras. This is a good staging point for the big jump to the Vivarios (or Vivarillos as they are also called) 150 miles to the east. We are right behind the reef, so we can easily see waves out there and feel the wind, and get an accurate picture of the weather we'd be getting into if we set out.

We have heard about Graham's Place from other cruisers. The word we got was that they welcomed cruisers and have free water, free wifi, free ice, and free moorings. It just sounded too good to be true, so I didn't really believe it. But it really is true!


This is the first place in a year (other than Catamaran Marina in the Rio Dulce) that we have felt really welcomed. Usually we are tolerated for the dollars we spend. Most of the Guatemalans and Hondurans have no idea why we are here and what our priorities are... we are lumped in with all the other 'Gringos' (which include pretty much anyone from out of the area with white skin).

When we called on VHF Channel 06, on our approach, we were answered immediately by Reggie, who turns out to be Graham's most excellent chef. He directed us to the appropriate vacant moorings and welcomed us to come ashore.

The owner/proprietor, Graham, is originally from Grand Cayman, and he talks with a distinct Caribbean island accent. Over the past 12 years, he has built (and re-built, after Hurricane Mitch) this small resort, and still maintains it to American standards (ie the toilets flush, the lights work, the grounds are well-maintained, and the staff is knowledgeable and eager to please).

When we came ashore in our dinghies, he welcomed us on the dock, and encouraged us to come ashore and go whereever we wanted on his island. He showed us his ice machine and said to help ourselves if we needed some ice. He showed us the hose and said we could jerry-jug water if we needed it. We asked about coming in to eat at the restaurant and Reggie himself told us that he was open 24x7, and we didn't need reservations.

Larry the Bartender

Sherry 'Doing Wifi' at the Bar

(Later we discovered that if we moved a little closer in, we could pick up passable wifi on the boat, with the EUB-362 and the external antenna)

Graham put in 7 moorings for visiting yachts to use when they are here, though only 4 are currently there. The anchoring is actually not too bad here, in good sand, but the shelf is 5' deep and rapidly drops off to 35', so sometimes it is difficult to find a good spot. We picked up a mooring for the first night, but since the wind was supposed to get up to 20 knots last night, we dropped the mooring and set our anchor. (Though Graham's moorings look pretty well tricked out, we have a general policy not to trust our boat in high winds to anyone else's equipment).

Infini on a Mooring

At the dock, Graham keeps a few pets in pens, including turtles, nurse sharks, grouper, conch, and lobster. When you hop out of your dinghy, they all come over looking for a handout.



Yesterday was Valentine's Day, so we went ashore at sunset for a few drinks and dinner. The other two boats here were also ashore. One is Swedish and the other is Danish, and they have 3 pre-teen kids between the two boats.

One of the boats has just come up from Cartagena, so we got some recent information about the marinas there, and some good info about some inland travel within Colombia. Colombia has apparently become safe enough now for foreigners to travel outside of Cartagena. So now Dave has me researching a 6-day hike to see the 'Lost World' in Colombia.

I have finally gotten the correct position showing on our Findu/Shiptrack page. If you looked yesterday you would have seen our position as north of Roatan, 60 miles west of where we actually are. (Operator error in entering the position, one degree off). Now it is showing accurately and the Google satellite picture is amazingly accurate.

Today we plan to move a couple of miles south, closer to town. We heard the supply ship comes in from the mainland today, and it's the best time to get fresh veggies.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Another Weather Window and we Move 30 Miles East
Yesterday the wind was screaming out of the east. Someone said they clocked 30 knots last night. But the GRIB files were showing light winds for today. I wouldn't have bet a dollar on that forecast last night. We were heeling a little at the dock from the wind on our mast.

But about 2am, it got really quiet and by 6:30 this morning it was looking pretty good.

Our original plan was to go 10 miles east to the Pigeon Cays, off Barbaretta on the east end of Roatan, and spend the night there, and move on to Guanaja tomorrow. But the forecast was a little iffy for tomorrow, and the weather today was made for making miles to the east. For awhile we actually had SW winds. So we decided to go right on into to Guanaja.

We Reluctantly Pass the Pigeon Cays


We had an easy motor... even though the wind was blowing our way, it was too light to sail.

Passing Infini, We Take Pics of Each Other


Because of the mild weather we decided to go direcctly to Josh's Cay, on the outer barrier reef. Some friends spent a month here at Josh's Cay waiting for weather to make the next big jump east.

Our next stop is 150 miles to windward, which is about a 36 hour run. So we'll hang out here til the next weather window.

More on Guanaja later...

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Oak Ridge Marina, Roatan, Honduras
On Monday, we moved from Calabash Bight to Oak Ridge Marina (about a mile downwind from Calabash).

We went into the marina for 2 nights to take on water and do laundry. The marina has 5 or 6 total slips and only one is open right now. There is a second one available if your draft isn't too deep. In the one deeper slip, we had about 7ft at the dock.

Oak Ridge Marina

Entry into Oak Ridge is easy... it's actually marked. 2 red floating bouys (small) on the right, one green one on the left. The big concrete tower is to starboard. There is a shoal coming out from the left side, so carry your heading in til you are well past the barrier island.

Dockage is $7/night (regardless of length) and requires a 2 night minimum, if you plan to take on water. They have metered electricity, at 23 cents a kilowatt hour. (We spent $1 for electricity for 2 nights, without any A/C running). They have one washing machine in the house, it is $2.50 per load, and you can hang your wash on their line.

Sherry Doing Laundry

The marina grounds are Sandy (the owner's) front yard. You can hang out in one of the chairs on the front porch. It is very picturesque.

Oak Ridge Marina Grounds

The marina is on the barrier island, so you can easily see what the ocean is doing from the grounds.

View from the Marina (Harman Leaving Oak Ridge for Florida)

Oak Ridge Marina is just across from BJ's Backyard, a cruiser's bar. BJ's features cheap beer and a decent lunch, but no dinner.

We couldn't get any wifi sitting at the dock, and HF was terrible (lots of local noise, couldn't hear anything). But VHF worked much better there than Calabash... we could hear French Harbor well, as well as Calabash and Port Royal. BJ's has a computer and an internet hookup, but I don't think they have wifi.

Oak Ridge Marina is owned by Sandy, you can email ahead to see if there's room at oakridgemarina@yahoo.com, or call 433-2163 (the Honduras country code is 504)

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Saturday, February 09, 2008
Calabash Bight, Roatan, Honduras
We moved to Calabash Bight 2 days ago. It was only 7 miles directly upwind, but the wind had let up, so it wasn't too bad.

Dave's friend Harman came out in the dinghy and led us in through the cut in the reef, but the outer/inner waypoints from the Rhodes Honduras Guide (now out of print, but we have scanned in the waypoints pages from someone else's book), would have lined us up for a perfect entry. Usually there is a bouy on a rock that you keep close on your right side, but Harman said it's not there now. Inside, the bay opens up but there's one more sandbar/cut to navigate. There is a white bouy marking this that you put 10-15' on your right side. The bar and cut were easily visible in good light, and I wouldn't make this entry in other than good light.

At Harman's recommendation we anchored in about 15' right off the tan house with the red roof on the left (west) side of the bay. There is a little plateau here that makes anchoring easy. Right in front of Harman's place it is 40' deep (!!). But careful not to go too close in toward the shore as it quickly shallows to about 6'.

So we are sitting within sight of Harman's place right now. His 'place' is currently only a dock and some ideas in his head. But the dock is a big start and has only been finished this month. He sailed down here in late November from the Keys, and has to head back next week for his next Boy Scout charter season.

Harman's Boat and New Dock

Harman

Still Working on the Dock

We Take a Tour of the Estate

There is 110v power to Harman's dock, but not water. I'm not sure there are pipes to this area, as both Harman and the other family we met building a house here are using watermakers. The Oak Ridge Marina (a 5-boat marina one inlet west of here) has one open slip and water available, so we will probably go there and top off before we head further east.

Harman told us there was wifi here, so as soon as we got the boat settled in, I pulled up the wifi, and had a great signal on an open hotspot named 'TurtleGrass'. But when I pulled up Internet Explorer, I got a logon screen with rates and a cell phone number. Apparently Mark on Aeolus (the blue CSY just north of the tan house) has set up a first-class wifi hotspot, supported by a satellite link. He is selling wifi access to his neighbors and the occasional boater who drops by. We called him on the cell phone (you could also call Aeolus on ch 72, if they are there), and in a few minutes had an account set up for a week's access for $20. You can do less if only staying overnight (metered by the hour) or a monthly rate for $30.

We had a nice chat with Mark and his wife, who are also building here, a few lots down from Harman. As is typical, they built a dock and a small building first to use as a storage unit and a base of operations, while they build the larger house further up the hill. But Mark has already installed a big battery bank, a big bank of solar panels, and a big watermaker in his 'storage unit', as well as a ham shack and a WISP (wifi Internet Service Provider) center.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008
Squandered Weather Windows
Well, apparently we squandered the very nice weather window we had last week, hanging around diving and socializing.

It has been blowing like stink for 3 days now.

Soggy Paws and new Riding Sail

We did get a chance to try out our new Riding Sail. It is supposed to minimize the yawing (swinging back and forth) that most monohulls do while at anchor. It seemed to work pretty well, but we took it down at dusk because it 'tacked' pretty loudly. We had this made up from an old staysail that Dave had. Mac at South Sails in the Melbourne area did a nice job on it.

There is a forecast 1 day lull today, and if it pans out, we'll move 7 miles further east to Calabash Bight, where Dave used to own property. His friend Harmon and a couple of associates bought 3 lots together (including Dave's) and are trying to make it into a small resort. Dave wants to see the place and give Harmon a 'boat tour' to show him all the neat stuff he's done aboard. It is forecast to blow for at least another few days before it opens up so we can go further east. So we'll probably hang out there a couple of days. Harman say's there's wifi there, so maybe I can add some pictures.

Mike and Sue on Infini are going to stay here for a few more days. But they are going to ride up with us on Soggy Paws today and see Calabash Bight, and then take the bus back to French Harbor.

Dave and I scoped the bus trip out a couple of days ago. It's about a dollar to ride from French Harbor to Oak Ridge (the bay next to Calabash), and then you can dinghy from there to either Jonesville, Bodden Bight, or Calabash Bight.

Nice Looking Roatan Buses


And it's a very scenic ride. The north side of the island has some fantastic looking reef. I'm really sorry we don't have time to stay and explore more.

The Road from French Harbor to...

View of the North Side Reef from Bus

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008
French Harbor, Roatan, Honduras
We had a relatively easy passage upwind about 10 miles today from West End to French Harbor Roatan. We motored the whole way in about 12 knots of wind, with the mainsail up just as a steadying sail.

We had good light coming in to French Harbor and worked our way in among the boats anchored here to a nice spot behind the reef. The 'Windswept 42' waypoints were very nice to have to help us in.

View of Inner Harbor and Anchorage from FHYC

We went ashore to what used to be French Harbor Yacht Club, and is now Roatan Yacht Club. It has just changed hands again and is barely functioning, but mostly intact. There is water available here.

French Harbor Yacht Club


We walked a short block east to the supermarket and found a REALLY FANTASTIC supermarket--lots of name brand U.S. goods we haven't seen in awhile. We went sightseeing among the aisles and found all kinds of stuff we didn't know we needed, among the aisles. It was really like Christmas. It's hard to describe what it's like after a year of third-world 'tiendas', to see all the American goods on the shelves. Dave got another large thing of Cheerios, I got some good cereal of my own, some whole grain brown rice, a new package of Amoxycillen (for the next time I need antibotics on short notice), a package of Pretzels, etc.


We saw so much stuff there that we are staying over a day tomorrow to do a good shopping before we move on.

We couldn't pick up any free wifi in the anchorage in French Harbor. You can take the dink into Fantasy Island Resort (at the east end of the anchorage) and use the wifi in the bar there. The word around the anchorage is 'blend in with the divers'. The resort is big enough that unless you announce (verbally or otherwise) that you are using their free wifi, they don't care. There is also wifi up at French Harbor Yacht Club. But we can't get it on the boat from the outer anchorage.

The wind was mostly mild all day, but just at sunset started to pick up. Now it is blowing 20-25. Some boats came in while we were shopping and one anchored quite close in front of us. That's bad enough but he also doesn't feel the need for an anchor light. We have taken our 'weed burner' (big spotlight) up on the bow and flashed him a few times, in hopes that he will get the message and turn some lights on. He's French. Probably won't get the message. It's really rude, no matter how amp-deprived you are, to not show any anchor lights on a really draggy night.

So far everyone in the anchorage is holding OK (including us). We have our Garmin zoomed in to 80' view, and the anchor alarm on. It would really suck to drag tonight. It took us a half an hour to find a decent spot to drop the anchor (not too deep, not too shallow, sand spot, swinging room, right distance from other boats) in broad daylight and good light. I can't imaging trying to re-anchor tonight with the wind blowing 20-25. Fortunately we have an 80lb Delta anchor. Its pretty unlikely we'll drag.

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Superbowl Sunday, Cruising Style
We made sure we had scoped out a place in West End to watch the Superbowl. By Sunday, we knew of several bars in West End that were promising to televise it.

We ended up going to the Buccaneer, a nice open-air (but covered) bar along the waterfront, with a big Ohio State flag hanging in the rafters. Bob and Annette on Tempest had originally set up reservations for 8, and then told everyone. By Sunday afternoon we took a head count among the cruisers and counted 20 people planning to go. Bob called in and upped his reservation a little.

We did our headcount in person, by dinghy, rather than over the air on the VHF. It's a good way to invite theives out to the boat... announce to the world that all the boats in the anchorage are going to be vacant for 3 hours. The boats that had been there a long time didn't think it would be an issue, but Dave and Mike were worried anyway. We left a number of lights on on Soggy Paws (to look lived-in), and Mike and Dave ran out in the dinghy at halftime to check on things. There were no problems reported. There is enough money flowing through West End that petty theft on the boats doesn't seem to be an issue there.

2 hours before the Superbowl, we stopped in at the Buccaneer to check on things and found the TV out. They said that the power was out in Sandy Bay where the TV Station was. A couple of the cruisers then ran down to Rick's to get a table there (they had Satellite). But 30 minutes before gametime, the situation was resolved, and we had a nice time at the Buccaneer.

The Cruisers Table at the Superbowl

Tom and Chrissie from s/v Rock n Roll

The people at the Bucanneer did an amazing job keeping up with food and drinks during the Superbowl. For a bar that might do dinner for 10-15 people in a night, they kept us supplied with pizzas and whatever else was ordered. And we weren't the only table there.

They even arranged for our own little halftime show... they had a local 'flame dancer' come do a short show for us. But we missed all the commercials at halftime :(

Halftime at the Buccaneer

I started out cheering for the Patriots (just wanted to see them complete their perfect season). By the end of the game, the Giants were playing with such heart (and success) that I switched to cheering for them. So my team won!

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Saturday, February 02, 2008
Ground Hog Day, Cruising Style
The local weatherman for the Northwest Caribbean Net, Bob on s/v Tempest, has been announcing for a couple of weeks now that 'Paco the Weather Dog' was going to be our Ground Hog Day forecaster. We happen to be sharing the West End anchorage with them, so they invited everyone over at dawn today to watch Paco poke his head out the forehatch to see if he could see his shadow. But knowing that cruisers don't often get up at dawn for anything but an early departure, they invited us all over for a 'Ground Hog Day Reception' at 9am, complete with coffee and cinnamon bread.

Paco (a chihuahua) was appropriately dressed in a fancy Mexican sombrero and cape. He greeted all the visitors with a sharp little "arf!"

Paco the Ground Hog

We had a nice time visiting with the other boaters in the anchorage, including Mike and Sue from Infini, Karen and Mike from Beau Soleil, Mike and Robin from Sea Biscuit, and Tom and Crissie from Rock n Roll.

I somehow came down with Strep Throat a couple of days ago, so we haven't been diving for the last couple of days. Yesterday I was mostly 'out of it'... feeling really yucky, taking Tylenol for pain, and sleeping it off. Fortunately, Mike on Infini is a doctor and he confirmed (sort of) my self-diagnosis, and we had the appropriate meds on board.

So I started self-medicating yesterday about noon (when it became obvious that the throat issue was getting pretty severe, and wasn't just a normal cold-cycle sore throat). I could have taken a bus into 'the big city' on Roatan, Coxen Hole, and *maybe* found someone at the clinic, and then gotten the diagnosis that it's probably Strep and I should probably take antibiotics. But I've had Strep before and I was pretty certain that's what it was. When my friend the doc said "I can't tell by looking, without taking a throat culture." It seemed a good bet to go ahead and take the antibiotics. I felt much better this morning, and tonight I feel almost 100%. We've already planned a morning dive for tomorrow.

While I was sick yesterday, Dave spent the day doing lots of small projects, and crossed about 4 of them off his list. He was a happy camper last night, and even made dinner for us, so I didn't have to cook.

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Friday, February 01, 2008
Relaxing and Enjoying Fine Weather
We are still hanging out and diving in West End. More pics to make you drool...

Fabulous Sunset
This picture doesn't do the sunsets we have been seeing justice

Soggy Paws at Anchor West End

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Thursday, January 31, 2008
West End, Roatan, Honduras, Day 2
We spent Tuesday afternoon ashore in West End, poking around and looking for dive shops, grocery stores, bars that will carry the Super Bowl, and the Marine Park Office.

West End's 'main drag' is a sandy 'dirt road' that is very bumpy, so auto traffic moves very slowly here. (Good for us pedestrians).

Mike, Sue & Dave on Main Street, West End

Like Utila, in West End there is a dive shop about every other business. Plus lots of bars and eateries. The composition here is 44% dive shops, 44% restaurant/bars, 10% real estate offices, and 2% everything else. There are several internet cafe's and several grocery stores with basic stuff. (Anyone who wants anything fancy takes a bus to the main city of Coxen Hole).

We stopped in the first 6 or so dive shops, asking about tank fills and dive trips. Prices are just about double here, compared to Utila. The standard price for a single 1-tank dive here is $35 (PLUS your gear rental, if necessary). You can get that down to $25 if you buy a package of 8 dives or more. Most dive shops tend to do 3 1-tank dives a day rather than 2 2-tank dives, so the quoted price is PER DIVE vs per trip. Fills universally seemed to be $5. We never did ask if we could reduce that by buying a package of fills. Dave has decided to break out our compressor and make sure it is working, while we're in a place to get spare parts.

Mike and Dave Working on Dive Equipment

Mike from Infini had bought some used dive equipment in Utila and was also trying to find a place to get his new (used) dive tank hydro'd. As well as buy a few more bits and pieces of dive gear to complete a one full set of dive equipment. There are more places here with dive equipment for sale, and also parts for compressors. We did finally find a shop (Sueno del Mar) that seemed to know what they are doing, and agreed to do some PM on Mike's regulator, and hydro the tank.

Fresh Fish for this Restaurant on the Water!

We found a couple of small grocery stores. In front of the main grocery store, there was also a guy selling veggies out of the back of his truck, and another guy selling frozen seafood (shrimp, lobster, crab). We didn't buy much, because we are still well stocked from Guatemala. But we are always on the lookout for the small 'specialty' stuff. "Oooh, look, they have Extra Crunchy Jif Peanut Butter!" (We did finally find Dave some Cheerios in Utila, which we've been looking for for 6 months!)

We also checked in at the Roatan Marine Park Office (roatanmarinepark.com) and bought dive tags for $10 each. We could probably slide by without this expense, but we feel that preservation of the marine environment is a very important cause, and we want to be 'good cruisers'. We also bought a nice color guide to the Roatan dive sites, complete with a description and color sketch of the dive profile for each dive, and GPS waypoints. Sherry spent some time yesterday entering the waypoints into her handheld GPS.


We really needed to do a few small maintenance projects yesterday, but opted to go diving instead. It was absolutely flat calm yesterday and the water was fantastically clear. Dave and I did 2 dives from the dinghy to 60-70'. It's only a 5 minute dinghy ride to the closest mooring bouys, and there are bouys that stretch from a couple miles south of us to a couple miles north of us.

Dave Hanging Out in the Dinghy Between Dives

I think we'll be staying here until the Super Bowl. Dave and Mike already scoped out a bar that will be televising the game.

Dive Compressor Comes Out of the Closet

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008
West End, Roatan, Honduras
We picked up anchor from Utila this morning about 8am. The wind was forecast to be light SE, and maybe sail-able. But it was too light and too close ahead to sail.

But we had an easy motorsail and arrived in West End about 12:30.

There is not much guidebook coverage of West End. It is pretty much a 'fair weather' anchorage and a very small town. You have to come in through a narrow cut in the reef (marked by PVC bouys) and then find a sandy spot to anchor in off the beach. Most of the bottom is heavy grass, and not good holding. Someone told us 'don't be here in a strong cold front'.

But we had a perfect day, and a set of waypoints from the Windswept 42 list. It was an easy entry and easy to find a good spot. There are some moorings here, but right now they are all taken. So we found a nice sand spot and we are well stuck to the bottom.

The West End Reef Out Our Back Door

After we got the boat secured, Dave urged me to check to see if we had wifi... and we do. Someone with a 'linksys' wifi. It's pretty tenuous, I'm barely getting it with my external antenna. But it's enough to do email and get weather.

West End looks like even more of a diver's paradise than Utila. More later...

Infini Anchored West End

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Monday, January 28, 2008
More Utila Diving with Paradise Divers
Well, after 2 more days of diving with Paradise Divers in Utila, I am happy to report that they are 'a good operation at a budget price'. They are so convenient to us at anchor... 2 minutes in the dinghy and we can unload all our gear directly into the dive boat.


Though we did do one afternoon of diving from our dinghy, we opted to take 3 2-tank trips with Paradise, to go to places further away. 2 trips to 'The North Side'... walls that drop to 500 feet, and one to the 'Sea Mount' on the east end of the island.

Paradise's boat and the equipment IS a little worn, but it all operated properly. The instructors are good, and really care about the students. And everything went smoothly on our dives.

We still didn't see a Whale Shark (but didn't really expect to, this time of year). Our divemasters (DM's), Joaquin and Daniel, were good knowlegable guys and safety conscious. And all were 'characters'.

Oli, Joaquin, and Daniel

It was interesting diving on a boat with such a diversity of people. We had students from Germany, Israel, Spain, the U.S. and Ireland. Language is an issue with the divemasters and instructors! One Divemaster told me a story about having to coach a student from Israel through the written test via pantomime, because they didn't have any tests in Hebrew, and the kid didn't understand enough English.

And of course us 'cruisers' add to the exotic mix. I'm sure they think we are as old as God. (I remember at that age thinking that my 30-year-old teacher was OLD). Dave talked about first getting certified to dive in 1970--that's about 15 years before any of these 20-something students were born!!! And they just couldn't believe we were sailing around the world for 10 years.

A couple of the DM's were interested in seeing how we live, so we brought them out to Soggy Paws for Dave's 'engineer's tour'. They were both ready to go buy a boat and sail around the world. But Dave showed them all the 'systems' he has to maintain...they understood after hanging out with us for a few days, that it isn't all 'margaritas in the sunset'.

We did a total of 8 dives... 6 with Paradise Divers and 2 out of the dinghy. We took the camera on the last dive and got a few good pics.

A Tasty-Looking Crab (6" across)

Beautiful Soft Corals

Two Banded Coral Shrimp

Tomorrow we leave for West End, Roatan, 25 miles away... the 'front' we've been expecting passed through today. We got some rain and a little wind shift, but nothing more than a 5 knots from any direction.

The forecast for tomorrow is for light SE winds, so it should be a nice motorsail further East (to windward, but only 25 mi).

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Saturday, January 26, 2008
Diving in Utila
Utila is widely known to be the cheapest place in this part of the world for Dive certifications. There is literally a dive school about every third building all through the town. The island is now ringed with very nice dive moorings, which are regularly maintained. We can see 5-6 dive bouys just outside the harbor within easy dinghy reach.

View of Utila Harbor and Closest Dive Bouy

Dive Bouys Along "Black Coral Wall"

It is also well known as a great place to see (and dive with) Whale Sharks. Whale Sharks are the world's largest fish. Try this link for more info

I was really excited about seeing some whale sharks. However, the main 'season' for seeing them is not til March and we will likely be long gone by then. Though the websites say they can be seen any time of the year, the dive shops didn't seem so encouraging.

We stopped in several dive shops in the center of town and asked about dive trips and dive tank refills. The standard price for a 2-tank dive seems to be $50 US. (The going rate in Florida is about $65-$75 now).

But Dave found a place on the water that he dealt with 5 years ago, owned and operated by native Utilians, that offered us 2-tank dives for $30 with our own equipment, and $35 for our friends without their own equipment. And tank refills at $2.50 apiece!!

Dave and Sue Getting Ready to Dive

So we did a 2-tank dive yesterday with Paradise Divers to the north side of the island (too far for us to dinghy). Mike and Sue on Infini hadn't been diving in 4 years, so this was a nice easy refresher dive for them. It was kind of an overcast day so it wasn't as pretty as it could have been. But visibility was good, and there was lots of live coral and a few interesting fish and wiggly things.

The dive operation was a bit low-rent... the boat slow and not well maintained. The rental equipment kind of ragged. The captain, divemasters, and young students all seemed well hungover from a night of partying. But we circumnavigated the whole island in the course of the trip, and the crew were real characters and gave us lots of information about places we could go diving on our own. We had our own equipment and so were just looking for a cheap ride, so we didn't care too much.

Dave and I plan to try to do at least one or two dives on the dive bouys off the harbor in the next day or so, and maybe another dive on the north side with Paradise.

It has been squally in the mornings here. While we were in the dive boat, we saw a cloud with 2 waterspouts. Fortunately they were not heading for the harbor!

The WaterSpout

Mike and Sue from Infini, headed ashore between showers

Lickety Split left here today for Roatan. They are trying to hook up with some other friends waiting for them there. We'll probably catch up with them in a few days. I think we are targeting a weather window on Tuesday to head east to Roatan. We have a few more dives to make before we leave here.

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Friday, January 25, 2008
Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras
We actually had a low opinion of this place when we arrived. The 'Coconut Telegraph' tells us that there is an ongoing problem with thefts on boats in the harbor. Usually at night while people are gone. It seems the typical unsolvable Central American problem. Everyone knows about it. Everyone agrees it is bad and something should be done. But no one seems to have the power to do anything about it. The Mayor says it is because the Police are Federales, and he can't get THEM to do anything about it.

Anyway, we had planned to just stop in here and clear in. It is supposedly easy to clear in here, because all the people you have to clear in with are in the same building. In Roatan you have to take a bus or taxi to the big town which isn't a nice boating place.

But the other problem is that the Immigration guy hasn't been seen in Utila for a couple of weeks. Most boaters who were here when we got here, only stayed overnight, and just didn't clear in. They told us 'nobody here cares, we'll just clear in in Roatan'.

But Dave, being the upstanding guy that he is, felt he should at least attempt to do the right thing. It turned out well. Dave and Don from Lickety Split went in and had a nice chat with the Port Captain, and got their paperwork done. The Port Captain told us that the Immigration guy would be there tomorrow for sure. So we finished off with him the next day. We got our passports stamped and a 90-day cruising permit. It was free and very painless.

The Port Captain's Office on the Town Pier

The little town on the the little island of Utila is very charming in a Bahamian sort of way (sorta reminds me of New Plymouth at Green Turtle). Most of the people here still speak a Bahamian kind of English, but most also speak Spanish. (The Bay Islands used to be part of British Honduras).

The town has some pretty good grocery stores. We were able to find some brand name things here that we couldn't find in Guatemala (like Cheerios). We bought some Honduran rum, and more granola bars. The fresh veggies weren't quite as fresh as in Guatemala, but not bad (when the supply boat comes in). Still haven't found any whole wheat flour, but I still have a pretty good supply aboard from the States.

We have sampled a couple of the local restaurants. With the theft situation, we feel more comfortable being aboard after dark, but we've done lunch in 2 places. Several people told us that the Jade Seahorse was 'not to be missed'. An artist lives there and has made an Alice in Wonderland garden out of glass bits. We had some nice burritos and some cold cervezas in the garden. Muchies is on the main drag in the middle of things and looked like a popular place. So we ate there after our dive yesterday. (we liked Jade Seahorse better).

Part of the Art at Jade Seahorse

Our friends on Lickety Split read about RJ's BBQ in their Lonely Planet. They are only open after 5:30 on Wed-Fri-Sun. So yesterday they went there and got T-bone Steaks for take-out and were back aboard just before dark. ('BBQ' in Central/South America often just means 'grilled', not BBQ with gooey sauce). They said it was a great meal, and we may do the same thing on Sunday evening.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Underway for Utila
Yesterday turned out nice... the sun came out and the wind went down.

We took advantage of the nicer weather to go ashore and do a short hike around the bay. This area is some kind of nature reserve, so there are howler monkeys and lots of tropical vegetation. We heard but didn't see the howler monkeys, and some of the tropical birds.

Soggy Paws in the Sun in Escondido

We climbed to the top of the highest hill for an overlook of the bays, but the vegetation was so thick we could only glimpse water occasionally.

Exploring Ashore

Dave on the Beach

We picked our stern anchors up yesterday in anticipation of leaving early today. Good thing we did it yesterday! They were dug in so far that Dave had to break out the Scuba gear and help get everyone's anchor up. He spent 10 minutes underwater, just getting our anchor unstuck. And then went and helped Infini and Lickety Split with their anchors.

Dave and Don Pulling Stern Anchors

We left the anchorage at 0700 this morning, and anticipate arrival in Utila this afternoon around 1500 (3pm).

We are motorsailing right now in very light southerly winds (coastal wind effect) and a knot of current behind us. Our strategy is to stay along the coast for a couple of hours to take advantage of the early morning offshore breeze and the countercurrent, and then turn and head for Utila.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Better Weather Today, I Hope
The cold front that wasn't supposed to get here is still lingering around our area. But the weather looks much better this morning.

The forecasters are still saying the winds should be N-NE, but all day yesterday we had W-NW winds, sometimes as high as 25 kts. We hung in our little exposed anchorage by our fingernails, because it was too dangerous to try to leave. It rained on and off all morning. And it was too dicey on board to leave the boat and go ashore.

The Grib File (Wind Forecast)

We amused ourselves by watching the waves breaking on the rock that looks like Gibraltar, in the channel next to us. "Whoa, did you see that one!?"

We did a few 'projects'... tracking down leaks and stowing more stuff--continuing the process of transforming our boat from the floating condo that it has been for the last 6 months to a truly seaworthy vessel.

Dave amused the rest of the boats in the anchorage by playing with his anchor setup every hour or so. We broke one snubber during the night, so he rigged a backup snubber and was playing with variations of snubber arrangements. (For the landlubbers... a snubber is a 10-20' piece of heavy stretchy rope that is connected to the anchor chain to provide a little 'give' to the anchor chain as the boat strains on it). He rigged a second line to our stern anchor, to try to distribute the load a little.

The 12v adaptor for my laptop that we had bought in November didn't have the right end plug on it, so Dave cut off the wrong one and put the right one on. Now I can run my laptop directly off the 12v without going through an 'inverter' (transforms power from 12vDC to 110vAC) and the 'brick' that comes with the computer (transforms the 110vAC to 19vDC). The adaptor boosts the 12vDC to 19vDC directly and is more efficient. priorityelectronics.com for $35 for a high amp one and $25 for a lower one. Or EBay, $15 for an any-volt any-plug adaptor. The EBay one 'smoked' on my big laptop (not high enough amperage when we ran the DVD).

Looking out the porthole of my bunk this morning, I got pretty excited because it looked like the skies had cleared. But now that it has gotten lighter out, I can see we still have a fairly thick layer of low stratus. In the anchorage, surrounded by high hills, it is hard to tell what the wind is doing out there. The winds are light and variable in the anchorage, and the trees don't look like they are getting strong winds either, so maybe today will be a better day. The seas are still running very high--they are still breaking clear over the top of 'Gibraltar'.

I think we'll hang out here another day and let the weather settle a little more, and leave for Utila early tomorrow.

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Monday, January 21, 2008
Crappy Forecast!
This morning's GRIB file still is forecasting 10 knots from the north, but we had 20-25 from the WNW for awhile, in this small enclosed anchorage that is open to the west.

Fortunately it didn't really kick up until about dawn. Things got kinda hairy for awhile. Infini, a Westsail 42, was anchored on a lee shore with 5' waves under their bow, and only about 2' of water under their keel.

We've finally gotten all repositioned, and fortunately the wind has swung around to the north, so we are out of the wind. But it's blowing like stink out there and the waves are still huge outside.

There's such a high hill on the north side of the anchorage, that once we got in the lee we were getting backwinded, and there's also a funky circular current going on in this bay.

So for awhile we were drifting around on our anchor, back to the wind, and sideways to the considerable swell and rolling like a, like a... well, rolling a lot!

With stuff flying all over down below. (Even though we were mostly stowed from the previous day)

We finally (with some difficulty under the conditions) put a stern anchor out to put the bow into the swell. We also dropped our dinghy, and got Infini and Lickety Split repositioned in a better spot and also with stern anchors out.

We didn't get breakfast or the first cup of coffee until 11am! We will probably keep an anchor watch tonight unless the conditions get considerably better. It does seem to be improving some.

The longer term forecast has the wind clocking around to NE-E and blowing 15-20 for a couple of days. So we'll probably be here for a couple of days. There are howler monkeys here, and a hiking trail, so once the conditions stabilize, we'll get off the boat and explore a little.

Sherry & Dave

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Sunday, January 20, 2008
Puerto Escondido, Punta Sal, Central Honduras Coast
Anchored safe, but crappy weather...

We arrived here at 2:45 pm yesterday. This is an 270 degree enclosed anchorage and open only to the west. You can look it up on Google Earth at 15-54.6N 87-37.9W.

The weather was gorgeous last night. Nice sunset, nice moonrise, clear skies.

The forecast up north where the cold front is supposed to STALL is 25-30 kts. But here along the coast, they are *still* only forecasting 10 kts out of the north. Well, we have westerly winds right now at 20 kts and its raining a cold rain. It's kind of uncomfortable, but our anchor is well set and we are hoping the winds will soon move around to the north, where we will have good protection.

Anyway, we are sitting tight here today.

Escondido, Exposed to the West

Infini, Almost in the Surf

Another Boat Coming In

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Saturday, January 19, 2008
Motoring East Along Honduras Coast
We left the anchorage at 0530 this morning. Our friends on Infini left at 0230 and Lickety Split at 0415, but Dave insisted we wait for daylight. And we motor faster than they do.

The offshore forecast is for 15-20 kts and there is a front up north by the Yucatan. But we expect light and variable for most of the day close-in along the Honduran coast. We currently have about a 1kt counter-current, so our ETA at Punta Sal is about 3pm local time (but I expect we'll slow down later when the afternoon winds pick up).

All is well aboard.

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