Archive for: ‘April 2013’

Drones, Dinghy Watchers, Derelicts, Dead Computers, and Dead Engines

April 23, 2013 Posted by Deb

The ex-military guys we sail with from time to time informed us that we were overflown three times by drones while underway at night in Columbian and Nicaraguan waters. We knew there were some very weird aircraft over our heads but have never heard a drone before. We have a feeling it was U.S. taxpayers’ money at work fighting the drug war.

Kite Surfer in the Anchorage

Kite Surfer in the Anchorage

Rasta news. A very rasta looking Honduran started talking to us at a little local food joint near the bridge in Providencia. He told us about the Boston Marathon bombings. We had been without internet for so long, major events slipped by. Deb went to three different internet cafes the next day and still did not get a page to load (bandwidth is challenging) regarding the bombs but we had better luck on day two. What really worked was a satellite call to the relatives.

Richards_Providencia

Three Degrees Left and Fire

Three Degrees Left and Fire

Neytiri in Providencia from the Hike to the Fort

Neytiri in Providencia from the Hike to the Fort

Henry Morgan made Providencia Famous

Henry Morgan Made Providencia Famous

Lumping Pirates and Protestants

Lumping Pirates and Protestants?

That’s a Tonka Front End Loader He’s Playing With

That’s a Tonka Front End Loader He’s Playing With

We pulled up the hook and sailed out of Providencia on Thursday morning, April 18, for our second longest passage on Neytiri — something in the neighborhood of 375 miles to Guanaja, Honduras. Most cruisers stop at the Vivorillos but we elected to keep on trucking due to a significant drop in the wind forecast for our third day. That trip turned into a perfect catamaran sail with 70 miles in the first 8 hours and 190 for the first 24 hours. We pulled into Guanaja 50 hours later with only one incident … having a light wind sail up in the middle of the night when a squall hit. A sail that was meant for 17 knots maximum wind got hit with 22 knots before we could wrestle it down at around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. The seas were impressive for the entire trip and did not drop to 5 feet as forecast. Neytiri surfed repeatedly on the downwind leg, a first for us and spectacular at times on the knot meter.

El_Cayo_Guanaja

Guanaja was pretty and virtually empty of cruisers. We got directions and a feel for the area from Gar, an ex pat who came to Guanaja 9 years ago and never left. We were in a hurry to clear into the Honduras and forgot the camera. We should have taken it because the main town (which was on stilts 18 years) was pretty cool. Leon jumped up when we arrived and signed on as our tour guide and dinghy watcher. He was actually very helpful and we planned to give him a nice tip but the head “Guido” showed up and ran Leon off. Meanwhile our dinghy got used for a trampoline by the local teenagers and had saltwater and dirt on the inside and probably aged a few years from the beating. On the upside, immigration and the port captain were both open and we were charged exactly zero for clearing into Honduras.

We celebrated at the Manati restaurant, owned an operated by Germans that met in Guanaja but lived about 20k from each other in Germany. The food and German beer was great but the real entertainment came from Gar and John, a couple of guys who had been coming to Manatis almost daily for nine years and violently arguing a broad spectrum of subjects (the night we were there it was gun manufacturers and the migration of humans to the North American continent with a sidebar on the origins of blue-eyed humans). At the conclusion of each evening’s angry debate they would hug and part friends. Deb said it was like Norm and Cliff from Cheers; and come to think of it, they sat at exactly the same position at the bar. We dinked home in the dark, slightly impaired.

That evening my laptop died and the following morning the starboard engine failed to start again. We made contact with our friends that we were trying to catch by renting a dongle for Deb’s laptop and configuring it without a teenager to help. We got it to work just long enough to send “we arrived” email and send out a few queries about where the fleet was. The next morning, we could only get Facebook so Deb chatted with her sister and asked her to check Deb’s Google mail account and we got the travel plans for the fleet that way. We took off for Roatan at about 10:30 with zero wind and one engine. Rather than jack the rpm’s, we altered course for Old Port Royal Bay so that we could get in with enough light to see the reefs.

Somebody’s Bad Day Made a Fair Channel Marker

Somebody’s Bad Day Made a Fair Channel Marker

Our destination changed as we passed a nice little town with a mast or two anchored off. As we pulled in, we got swarmed by boat boys (men) paddling like crazy to get in front of us. We cut throttle to keep from running them over. As we neared town, we could see the one mast was a derelict and the other was a large local fishing boat. Deb said “I don’t like this” and we spun the boat and headed out to Old Port Royal. We had to bust through the boat boys again and tossed them each a Coke but they wanted lots more. We told them we had no local currency and they were scratching their heads on that line while we throttled up and got away. We damn near went aground in the Coke exchange and it would have been tough getting off a reef with only one engine. Our chosen anchorage was gorgeous with a narrow entry and a wreck to mark one edge. We were anchored off a nice beach with some kind of plantation to port but at night, there was not a single light from the huge building. The next morning, we ghosted the coast in light wind and eventually dropped the hook in French Harbour, Roatan, Honduras, after an absence of over 18 years.

Reef Watching

Reef Watching

 

Providencia

April 16, 2013 Posted by Deb

The run from Bocas to Providencia took 46 hours, and we motor sailed (a first for us on this boat) for 28 hours. It got rough for about 20 hours and Deb asked if we were having fun yet in the middle of the first night. We weren’t. Things improved dramatically later and we sailed in with 20-24 knots of wind. The boat went 253 miles on a 249-mile straight line trip, not bad.

The pirate Henry Morgan staged out of here, and he had good taste. We took a bit of a short cut getting into the front anchorage and settled in with the stern of the boat off a little mini reef with about 3 feet of water so we hit the undo on a perfectly nice anchoring job and moved the boat. It’s a laid back little island and if you want to rent a small Kawasaki dune buggy, you just hand over you money and grab the keys. One lap with side trips took about five hours and we didn’t hurry. We joined up with the folks on China Doll for the island lap and our vote was for Roland’s bar, a bunch of nice rasta shacks and a great beach. Most of the shots below were from there.

 

CartRental

DeboCoconutRolandsProvidenciaMusiciansChuckBeerRolands

ProvDock

Bocas Farewell and Barricades

April 12, 2013 Posted by Deb

IndianProtest

Barricade

The morning of departure we woke up to a local Ngobe Indian protest. They had barricaded the entrance to the marina and were serious about stopping traffic. Mariah, a teenage girl who had spent most of her life on a boat, had to get to school in town and Felo, our favorite water taxi driver, negotiated getting her through the protest line. They handed her from one water taxi to another across the barrier. The purpose of the protests vary depending on who you talk to but the official version that came over the net was that they were promised transportation services to get their kids to school. Bastimento Dev. Co. was apparently not forthcoming and when pressed, came up with a contract that ceded a hectare land from the Indians in exchange for transportation services. We were sympathetic but we were also stuck and the clock was ticking. The ticking clock included our weather window which would start to close in two days, our paperwork (we were checked out of the country), and our route and trip plan which called for a particular time of day to leave to get into Providencia in daylight.  The rest of the story at the end of the blog.

Farewells

The Circle of Knowledge, the term coined for the happy hour group that met every day on the Red Frog Marina dock, was once standing room only with experts on every subject. Wildest Dream, Cynergy, Casa del Mar, the Texas contingent on Diversion and Dances with Dragons, and many more were gone. Some slipped away and others threw a big party. Our last two or three Circle of Knowledge sessions (marina happy hours) had a body count of only five to seven. Sad, especially for the rum and beer distributors on Bocas. 

 DebLookingUpinJungle

4PlayaLarga

 

JungleHikeChuckMikeHill

ChuckDebSwimming

We hiked our last hikes, said our goodbyes, made our last trips to town, and did the three-stop checkout with the Port Captain, Customs, and Immigration for $12, $30, and $30 , numbers that seem to vary depending on what they think they can get. The boat projects got fast and furious as we finally gave up ordering a masthead sheave and had one made, did oil and fuel filters times two, cleaned the bottom again, and basically tried to turn the boat from a condo back into a boat again.

Diesel waterfall under control in the engine room -- a trick learned from Sherpa 19 years ago

Diesel waterfall under control in the engine room — a trick learned from Sherpa 19 years ago.

Jib sheet car sheave gone flat? A little plaster of paris for a mold and some epoxy. We’ll see how it holds up.

Jib sheet car sheave gone flat? A little plaster of paris for a mold and some epoxy. We’ll see how it holds up.

Escape from Bocas

Yes, we left. The police arrived and some representatives from the Indian community and the Bastiamento Dev. Co. met, and the barricade was down by 10:00 a.m. Neytiri and China Doll left on time along with Uhani from the anchorage off Bocas town. We never saw each other on the trip but were in radio contact. It is a two-day, 250-mile trip to Providencia; and it was challenging mostly because we had been in calm water for months and there was some thrashing going on out in the ocean that we weren’t used to. We also had a heavy motor sailing component and Neytiri logged 28 hours, which is about half a normal years worth of use for us so far. We have a feeling the engine usage will be going up dramatically as we round the corner at the Bahamas and begin our return to complete lap number one of the Caribbean.