Sailing to Guanaja took some planning. There have been incidents of pirates off the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. People are so poor there; they resort to boarding passing boats to steal stuff. We have heard theft reports of many items, even toilet paper. While we would love to help some of these struggling fellow humans, we don’t feel safe having them come aboard Alembic while we are sailing. Precautions we took were to sail at least twenty miles off the coast, sail in the company of others, and limit our communications on the VHF.
Claudio, on Makani, showed us how to plot the exact locations of the other boats using MMSI numbers on our VHF. If you don’t transmit an AIS signal (we don’t), or you turn this function off to be invisible to pirates, you can still see where your buddy boats are without voicing your latitude and longitude positions on VHF. We kept pinging them in the night to see where they were. Luckily, this pinging was inaudible to them.
Most of the 370 miles was blissfully calm, too calm, as we drifted at about 3 knots for two days. Two of the boats were purists and rarely use their motors, and the wind could barely move us. Our Swiss friends’ position was always exactly on our course line, while our British friends were all over the place. We called them our wayward children, as they let Humphrey, their wind vane, steer the boat. When the wind shifted, so did Ocean Rainbow. Funniest of all, our friends from Belgium sailed in circles because they had trouble slowing down to stay with the rest of us!
Finally, the winds picked up about seventy miles from our destination. Be careful what you wish for: we were wishing for more wind and we were given a gale. Luckily, the winds were from astern. We had sustained 35 knots, 40 in gusts, with huge seas that sometimes crested and broke right over our heads, into the cockpit. Sleeping in the night was not very successful, but we were happy to be moving along quickly. Alembic arrived at Guanaja before daylight, so we had to heave to (a maneuver to slow the boat down) and await the sunrise in order to make it through the reefs. The Caribbean has almost zero navigation buoys, so you rely on your eyes to weave through shallow spots.
Glorious arrival! Perhaps it was the relief to get out of the seas; perhaps it was the scenery; perhaps it was the anticipation of exploring a new spot. We were energized. Dropping anchor right off the tiny island which was home to 85 percent of all inhabitants of Guanaja, Bill went ashore to clear customs while I stayed aboard and tidied up Alembic.
Guanaja, Honduras, was one of our favorite places so far. Snorkeling was excellent right beside the anchorage, hiking was spectacular, and the people were delightful. Locals spoke so many languages. Creole, a mixture of Spanish, English, and Jamaican Patois, was the most common. We met many expats here. A German couple ran Manati, an excellent restaurant at the shore of the anchorage, and another German, Hans, ran another restaurant which specialized in pizza from his outdoor wood fire and his homemade wine. An American owned a huge island with a luxury home. Several more restaurants were sprinkled around the hills surrounding the harbor. There are no cars anywhere in Guanaja, so foot paths led us to many special spots.
Our anchorage was mercifully sheltered from the huge seas and winds that piped up every night. We slept beautifully every night, and enjoyed the mild weather days. Even the day of rain was welcomed; we finally washed the salt from the boat and filled our water tanks with its bounty. We could have stayed here for a month and called it home, but we had to move on. Guests are arriving in Belize soon. So off we go to Roatan, another island of Honduras.