Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cayos Cochinos, Honduras

Julie and Peter Gowan, our Kiwi/Aussy friends
 We met Peter and Julie years ago in Marathon, FL and buddy boated with them and their catamaran "Anything Goes" in the Bahamas for some glorious months. Since then they've visited us in Vermont and Maine and sailed from Guatemala to Mexico for 2 weeks several years ago. Last January we visited them at their condo in Punta Gorda, FL. This time they flew to Roatan and vacationed with us there and in the Cayos Cochinos.
We rented a car for 2 day,s when they first arrived, and drove down to Jonesville Bight to meet our friends on Expectations and Eiland. They took us through a series of canals joining a number of bays along that coast. We stopped in BJs Bar, the Hole in the Wall Bar and McNab's for their Sunday BBQ. After a few nights in West End enjoying the wonderful beaches and water, we sailed down to the Cayos Cochinos for several days. These consist of 2 small islands and 13 other small coral cays located 20 miles off the Honduran coast. They are part of a Marine Park and have only 108 inhabitants.
Julie & I at the lighthouse on Roatan
Uli, Julie, Imke and Carmen as we cruise the canals
Sometimes they are wide and lined by homes
BBQ Sunday at McNab's Restaurant, Jonesville
Shrimp boats lined up (love the little guy in the center)
Scott, Heather, Julie and Peter
And sometimes they are narrow and lined with mangroves
Uli center, then Julie, Peter, Scott, Carmen, Imke, Dave and I
Our Bus Berkley routine!

Scott chats with the Marine Reserve officials

Resting at the lighthouse, now unfortunately closed
The steep descent to the east side of the island
Sunset from our anchorage at Cochinos Grande

The front terrace at Turtle Bay Eco Resort

The traditional double ended launchas at the east end

Most of the houses are built of scrap wood
We anchored off Cochinos Grande in the bay at the west end of the island. It was very hard to get a good spot for the anchor and we had to try several times before seemingly being set for the night. Not long after that the Marine Park officials showed up to collect their fees - $20 each person for up to one month (It's $10 per person for one night).
That night I woke up to the sound of coral bumping under neath our hull. I bolted up and discovered from our depth sounder that we were in shallow water. The wind had shifted 180 degrees moving our boat onto the reef. Our weather man Chris Parker had forecast steady east winds all night. Oops!
We put on the engine and Scott used the anchor winch to pull us off and towards the deep water where our anchor was set. Now it was a pitch black night and only 2 lights on shore to steer by. After 2 tries we anchored in deep water in the channel into the bay. Scott set the anchor alarm and we all managed to get back to sleep. Julie and Peter were very helpful during the crisis and everyone was pretty calm. There was hardly any wind so no real danger - just tiring in the middle of the night!
The next morning we were into the Turtle Bay Eco Resort and our problems were solved in one swoop. Their terrific Manager Clement pointed out the safe mooring off their dock and we moved there immediately.  When we asked about hiking he volunteered to lead us that very afternoon and arranged a tour of the Garifuna community on a nearby cay for the next day.
Two couples from the resort joined us on the hike up to the lighthouse and then across the island to the east end (down a very steep hill). A small village of Honduran/Garifuna fishermen and their families perch on the beach behind a nearby reef. They have a one room schoolhouse for primary school children. We met the charming teacher who showed us around. The walk back around the perimeter of the island was really beautiful with some lovely beaches separated by rocky steep sections. It was a challenging walk at times but lots of fun.
We became good friends with one of the couples, Yunus and Nan from Toronto, and had dinner with them at the resort the next night. We joined them on the resort launcha over to the Garifuna village, built on a tiny sand island nearby. The island had no vegetation and seemed totally exposed. One storm and the whole thing would be swept bare - and has been. They just rebuild.
The Garifuna people are descendents of African, Island Carib and Arawak people that refused to bow down to the European invasion. The French expelled them from their islands to St. Vincent and Dominica where they lived until the English invaded. After an unsuccessful rebellion those more noticeably African in descendent were deported to Roatan. The 2500 who survived the
This little girl was fascinated by strangers in the village

The one room elementary school
journey were too many for the small island and later successfully petitioned the Spanish to immigrate to the mainland. Today there are around 600,000, many in the U.S. The Garifuna language is a member of the Arawakan language family but atypical due to it's being spoken outside the Arawak area and it's unusually high number of loan words. Half is Arawakan, one quarter Carib and the rest a mixture of French, English and Spanish.
It doesn't take long to walk around this tiny island and in fact visit every hut. People are very friendly and we met a young European couple that were staying there for several days - sleeping in a hammock and sharing the local food. A number of the young children had necklaces and other things made of polished wood and shells for sale.
Our good friends David and Carmen on "Expectations" joined us for one night. On the way there Dave caught a huge wahoo which he proudly showed off when they arrived (see photo).
The next day we left mid morning for a lovely sail up to French Harbor on Roatan where we tied up for a night at the French Harbor Yacht Club. Luckily we have air conditioning so it was a pleasant last night for Julie and Peter. It was sad to say good-bye the next morning but we look forward to our next adventure together!
This mural was painted by a man with no arms

Clement joins the sea scape

Our group on the main "street"

Julie checks to see I'm still behind on the trail

Which follows the coast line.

We had some steep climbs over cliffs
It's hard to show how steep it was here
Beautiful beaches one after another
Dave's Really Big Fish - a wahoo
The tiny island home of a Garifuna village
Crowded with small huts
Where about fifty people live
Most of them are built of palm fronds
The kids are great salespeople!
The boats are mostly wood
The "cafe" is getting a thorough cleaning with sea water
This charmer made several sales
The main and only "street"
Unorthodox clothes drying system
The sunset at the West End - pretty dramatic
Dinner at Turtle Bay Eco Resort
Adam, Christine, India and Clement - terrific folks!
Scott Free at anchor at Cochinos Grande at sunset

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