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Bay Islands, Honduras

By Sue Richards last modified Oct 22, 2009 09:15 PM

Published: 2009-10-22 21:15:54
Countries: Honduras

June - August 2008

Roatan

We cruise along the south coast of Roatan stopping at Isla Barbaretta, Old Port Royal, French Harbour and finally West End. There are lots of anchorages along the south coast with varying degrees of protection from the wind. Some are really good hurricane holes. The main problem is the absence of detailed charts for the area and all I have are sketch charts taken from a disc passed on to us by other cruisers. It gives sketch charts of the principal anchorages together with a little information of where things are ashore. A list of waypoints gives entrances through the reefs, which lie offshore, as long as we arrive with good high sunlight identifying where these reefs lie they present no problem and the waypoints all prove to be accurate and provide safe navigation. We print all these chartlets and waypoint lists out and file them in a folder.

Roatan is the largest of the Bay islands and is a popular holiday destination with some good hotels, but also budget accommodation for those backpacking. The main attraction is diving the reefs, which surround the island. At West End we take a compulsory mooring provided by the National Park, it is wise to dive and check these as not all are very secure. Visiting Coxen Hole by bus we finally clear immigration and stock up on some groceries.

Scuba Diving is the main activity and we enquire with a number of PADI schools offering beginner courses and finally settle with Pura Vida, mainly because we liked their attitude best. We both completed our Open Water Diver certificate. West End Roatan has a reef 200 yards off, the reef which gives wonderful diving experiences and only takes a few minutes to access from shore. The water is perfectly clear even at depths of 100ft plus, wet suits are not required as water temperature is 33C even down to 100ft. Lots of fish, lobsters, octopus, turtles and fantastic coral formations all this and reputedly the cheapest place in the world to dive. Our courses only cost $250 each with subsequent fun dives at $25 a time.

It is now mid June and the beginning of the hurricane season.

Cayos Cochinos

We leave Roatan and head south to Cayos Cochinos, a small group of islands which are a national park. We pick up a mooring and are soon visited by the national park guards who collect their fees. It is a beautiful anchorage with reefs offshore which we explore with snorkels. Lots of fish and the biggest Barracuda we have ever seen, he looked very fierce with big teeth and a somewhat aggressive nature, we cautiously gave him a wide berth.

Ashore there were lots of private properties with signs prohibiting landing, strange we thought for a national park area. We did manage a walk through the jungle to the abandoned lighthouse, which emerges just above the surrounding trees to give a fantastic view of the islands. It was possible to climb up inside the metal tower to the top platform, solar panels, wiring, control panels and batteries had been stripped out. There is not a lot here but it is a nice place just to hang out for a while, the one restaurant/bar was not open while we were there.

Utila

Leaving Cayos Cochinos we head to Utila, the last and smallest of the Bay islands, and anchor in East Harbour. Utila is a back packers paradise with lots of hostels and cheap hotels, many tied to dive schools offering packages of diving and accommodation. We sign up for another dive package with Captain Morgans and complete our Advanced Open Water diving certification.

The diving here is good but we feel Roatan is better, because dive sites are further out in Utila all dive trips include 2 dives. We liked being able to just go out for a single dive in Roatan. We found all the instructors to be really good and they all taught the exactly the same syllabus as per the Padi manual leaving us feeling perfectly safe and in control at all times.

Boat spare parts in this area are very hard to come by and we need some materials to take with us to Guatemala for the remainder of the hurricane season. We discover that US Yachts based in La Ceiba shipyard can order items from the USA and import them duty free. We place our order for some catalogue items but also for some special items it turns out they will take 6 weeks to come. We will just have to hang around and wait with La Ceiba as a safe haven just 20 miles south if any bad weather threatens.

Hurricane Dolly comes our way and we are warned of probable wind reversals which if strong would make anchorage in Utila possibly untenable, so we sail to La Ceiba Lagoon Marina for 3 days.

La Ceiba Lagoon Marina

This small marina is really nice very well protected from surge and wind, good swimming pool, showers, Wi-fi and laundry service. We are impressed and discovering the delay in shipment of our spares we decide to maybe leave the boat here for 2-3 weeks and do some travelling in Honduras. We go back to Utila for the carnival and make our travel plans before returning a week later to La Ceiba.

Carnival in Utila is a lively affair with a street parade of decorated floats, golf carts or small utility trucks. The highlight of the parade are some “dancing horses” who perform in the streets, a band, Gombie dancers and carnival queen. A good excuse to drink lots and enjoy loud music but nowhere near as noisy as Trinidad.

Utila and Clearing Out

When we returned from our travels we returned to Utila for a few days, a final 2 fun dives before clearing out and getting our Zarpe (clearance paper). A shock here as immigration demanded $200 to complete the clearance and provide an exit stamp, we had already paid $80 and felt this charge grossly unfair and requested justification for it. It emerged that previous charges were of dubious legality and eventually the charge was waived but we got no exit stamp. The port captain embarrassed by this misunderstanding provided our Zarpe and we departed the next morning for Escondido on our way to the Rio Dulce.

Honduras has been a great experience and we have enjoyed our 3 months here.

Roy and Sue Potter
SY Vindomar

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