Friday, April 24, 2015

Roatan to Belize with no Pirates

Scott, Jim and Renate stroll on the north side beach

And cool off in a convenient little "swimming hole"
But first let me relate some exciting moments in our trip this year that haven't been covered so far in my blog posts. They are in the category of our midnight reanchoring in the Cayos Cochinos. First, and the scariest, happened our first night in the West End, Roatan after arriving from Utila and before Julie & Peter joined us. A fierce squall hit us in the evening with gusts up to 30+ knots. The boat sails around normally but with these winds we were really being whipped sideways. At 9 pm while we were sitting in the salon we heard a loud crack, almost like a gunshot. I knew what it was immediately - the mooring line had parted. Now we were among 15 boats on moorings inter spaced in the area between the beach and the reef. Behind us, about 100 feet, was Emerald Seas and behind them about 200 feet was the reef. I ran up to the wheel and Scott started the motor. We were drifting back sideways towards Emerald Seas. I called them on the VHF to let them know the situation. I then managed to turn the boat and motor forward towards the beach. Scott ran up to the bow. It was essential that we not catch the floating mooring lines in our prop and frankly we were just lucky we didn't do it! Once ahead of the former mooring we tried to anchor. The first time it didn't work but it caught the second time. This was all in the pitch black with the wind howling. Meanwhile Jim had launched his dinghy and motored in front of us in his bathing suit and a dive light. He dove in and checked out our anchor and pronounced us safely dug in. It allowed us to sleep soundly that night! Thank you Jim!
The next day we let out some more chain and managed to connect directly to the sand screw on the bottom that had held the mooring. Something we should have done the day before! We cut off the broken mooring  line and discarded it. But we kept our anchor down as well! The news was disseminated (by VHF radio, directly and on the SSB Net) to all the other boats and everyone either/and put down safety lines to the bottom or an anchor. Jim put down 2 anchors as well as being connected to the mooring! Now sadly weeks later a French boat that hadn't heard the news (they didn't speak any English) was on one of the moorings in a squall and later in the night their mooring broke and they didn't wake. The huge catamarin went up on the reef and despite the efforts of 3 cruiser dinghies to help them, was holed and sank!
The water dropped off immediately to 4 ft.

This is a Sea Hare on Jim's hand - cool eh?

The beach stretched on for a long time

Another entrance to the beaches along the canal

The view of Emerald Seas behind us at Port Royal

The second rough night happened a few weeks later in Jonesville Bight while anchored with Emerald Seas, Expectations and Eiland. Again a fierce squall hit us around 11pm (the same one that wrecked the catamarin in the West End). I woke up and was keeping an eye on our position (we were all anchored) when I heard Eiland trying to reach Expectations on the VHF radio. Expectations (a big catamarin) was dragging their anchor and moving slowly towards Eiland. The rest of us went on deck and used spotlights and noise makers to alert Dave & Carmen to their danger. They must be heavy sleepers. It took Uli from Eiland in his dinghy to pound on the hull to wake them. Luckily they weren't moving fast and were able with Uli's help to put out a second anchor and stabilize. The last exciting night was our overnight trip to Belize. But first let me fill in some lovely times. After Julie and Peter flew back home we joined the other 3 boats in Jonesville Bight and had the adventure just covered. Besides that we explored the series of bays connected by canals and enjoyed another BBQ at McNab's and socialized among ourselves. We enjoyed Uli & Imke on Eiland, Dave & Carmen on Expectations and Jim & Renate on Emerald Seas a lot this season.
 After the weather settled down the first two boats headed back to French Cay Harbor, and Emerald Seas and ourselves sailed up to Port Royal where we spent an idyllic week. We anchored in the furthest east end of the bay just off of the reef. It was very protected from the strong trade winds that revved every afternoon into the evenings. Scott, Jim and Renate did a number of great dives, we all swam and snorkeled and explored the area by dinghies. The best trip was heading east through connecting canals from our anchorage through Old Port Royal Bay, Mr. Field Bay and then through a long mangrove lined canal over to the north side of the island. The long beach here is protected by an offshore reef and is a lovely spot as you can see from the photos.
 Finally we sailed down to French Cay Harbor and anchored for several nights, doing some shopping and getting the boat ready for company. Our great friend Russ Wolf was flying into Roatan for a few weeks visit. More bad weather was predicted so we joined Emerald Seas at the Fantasy Island Marina. This bad weather kept getting postponed and we became concerned about our coming overnight voyage to the Rio Dulce. Chris Parker has been our weatherman for most of our time on Scott Free. We listen to him every morning on our SSB radio and often talk to him about our weather concerns or trips. Our deadline to enter the river was just over a week away when he became concerned about our getting there. Increasing trade winds with gusts up to 35 knots and the increasingly large waves that went with this forecast stretched out for an indefinite time. His advice was to leave ASAP and wait in Belize or Guatemala for our high tide crossing of the Rio Dulce. So Russ arrived on Friday and we left the next morning for Belize. He did have a chance to enjoy several swims and snorkeling at the beautiful resort before we left. And some time enjoying Jim and Renate's company too!
 It was a rough trip. The winds were on our stern quarter and gusty. The waves were confused and often large. One rouge wave piled up behind us and dumped a load of water in the cockpit. Unfortunately the hatch over our bed was open and the water dumped in. I frantically pulled the sheets and mattress covers off the mattresses. One of the memory foam toppers got wet but the other one and the underlying mattresses didn't. None of us felt much like eating, especially that evening. It was wonderful to have the calm company of Russ and sharing watches with 3 people is a lot nicer than 2! When it got dark we first double reefed both the main and jib and later took in the jib. Even under just a double reefed main we were still going 5 knots! But the motion was a lot easier then.
 After midnight it calmed down some and around 1:30 am we pulled behind Glover's Atoll (an atoll 12 miles off the Belizian reef system) and sailed slowly up and down, waiting for the dawn to continue on through the reef entrance at South Water Cay. Going up north to the middle of Belize was way out of our way but we did so for 2 reasons. First the boat sailed better and the seas were easier pointing that direction but second, we wanted (particularly I wanted) not to worry about PIRATES. Two weeks before there was a second incident of pirates boarding a cruising boat off Honduras. This second one was quite violent and although no one was seriously hurt, the boat was run up on the beach and totaled. Our route took us no closer than 30 miles from Honduras and that was a safe distance. It was easy entering the reef and we motored in calm seas now over to Blue Ground Range Cay, anchored and had a terrific breakfast. More to come in another post!
Heather, Jim, Renate and Scott
Russ, Heather and Scott

No comments: