An Easy Start from Providencia
We left our favourite Caribbean island of Providencia and had an easy start just a short motor 10 miles north inside the fringing reef system up to Low Cay. We were in company with our English friends Barry and Lindy on Samarang and American boat Passport with IB and Rebecca who we had just met. Sadly the anchorage didn’t quite live up to our expectations, there was a considerable amount of wave action coming over the reef making the anchorage quite choppy, deploying the dinghy extremely difficult, the water clarity quite disturbed and keeping the snorkel above the waves quite a feat! Oh well, been there ~ done that.
Going North – Destination Unknown
Next morning it was all ears tuned to the weather forecast. Our weather window was shortening as a cold front formed in the Gulf of Mexico. The stronger winds should only just brush us down here but it would set a 3–4 metre swell on the northern Honduran coast by the weekend. That gave us plenty of time to get to the Bay Islands but little time to explore the other cays and reefs along the way, still the weather is always changeable so we left in ideal conditions and with no fixed plans. All day we had light winds just on the beam, almost flat seas, and blue skies, magic. The three of us ran with different sail plans, us with a double reefed main, Samarang just one reef and Passport with full sail. It was a great combination and we sailed closely together all day and throughout the brilliantly starlit night.
Someone Is Watching Us
On my watch in the wee small hours with only our small flotilla both in sight and on radar Balvenie was suddenly “illuminated”. I immediately thought of sci-fi movies where the aliens swoop down and scoop up everything in their path then spirit it away to planets unknown, never to be seen again! But luckily nothing quite so dramatic was happening. I followed the immensely bright beam of a search light miles across to the horizon and then watched as it pinpointed and tracked the other two yachts close by. I can only assume it was a distant Navy or Coastguard vessel and they were checking we were not fishing illegally or drug running boats, sure gave me a fright though.
Early Morning Wakeup Call
The pre dawn sky aroused my attention, the sky was lightening up but from the west and not from the east – and no we hadn’t turned around and were now heading in the wrong direction!! Mark had joined me on watch as the wind had dropped and we were slopping about, the boom was banging and there was talk of shaking the reefs out and running with the full main. As the sky lightened more we could see the cause of the reverse sunrise, an intensely heavy band of cloud had formed to the east and was heading our way. A quick check on the radar showed rain with it so we started zipping in the windows, big mistake we should have furled in the headsail first as within seconds it hit.
From 8 knots of wind to over 30 knots in a second, with just our double reefed main and full headsail we were still way overpowered. For the first time since owning Balvenie we were laid over and rounded up, sails flogging, Mark was struggling with the immense power on the helm as I tried desperately to ease the mainsheet which we had a bungy wrapped round to act as a shock absorber in the rolly seas. We managed to regain control and run with the wind for a few more minutes then it was over as quickly as it arrived. The weather cleared and we had a good run all day in light winds until dusk when we were very weary of approaching squalls. This time we were ready for them but they brought only rain and no wind, typical!
A Brief Pitstop in Vivorillos Cays
Around 8pm we were abeam of the small group of reefs and islands called the Vivorillos. With 160 miles still to run to Guanaja we calculated that we would have a night time arrival there. As Guanaja has outer reefs and surrounding shallows we did not want to arrive in the dark so ourselves and Samarang decided instead to anchor overnight in the protection of the reef at the Vivorillos. Passport carried on. It was a straightforward approach, we had a half moon glowing to light our way in and by 8.3pm it was anchor down, rum poured and passage meal bubbling away.
We listened to the morning weather forecast, hopeful that the low may have dissipated which would allow us to have time to spend and explore, but sadly no, we had 36 hours to get to Guanaja before winds increased and swells built to 3-4 metres. So it was anchor up and off we went following Samarang and new joiner Moonsong from Alaska.
If Cruising were a Box of Chocolates
The 25 hour run from Vivorillos to Guanaja would be one of those yummy strawberry cream centres covered in milk chocolate, absolutely my favourite. We set the sails upon leaving and didn’t need to touch them until a mile out of Guanaja. We had about 15 knots from behind, reasonably flat water, and the huge bonus was catching a beautiful Mahi Mahi. The weather behaved, clear sunny skies all day and a spectacular starry sky, thankfully not a squall in sight. We passed Samarang and shortly after we reigned in Moonsong too. Then we heard Ajaya on the radio, they had left Providencia behind us but had sailed straight through. We plotted their position and skippers goal was to catch them before sunset, once a racer – always a racer. We waved at them at 5pm and on we went.
The Sweet Smell of Land
Dawn broke and I spotted Passport a little to the north of us, they had slowed down to arrive in daylight, we had preferred our option of a good nights sleep. We both headed towards the reef entrance into Guanaja, the furthermost east island in the Bay Islands of Honduras chain, located around 20 miles north of the Honduran mainland. As the sun rose higher in the sky we had good visibility to enter so in we went. Since leaving Shelter Bay Marina in Panama this had been our first real goal for this seasons cruising. There would be no more overnighters for a while, yippee!