Lively Downwind Sailing to Move Further West
We knocked off the 30 miles downwind from Roatan to Utila in under 5 hours with just our headsail flying. Rather a rolly trip with plenty of wind but the forecast was promising more of the same with gusts even higher over the following days, so we took the chance to move on while we could. Tackling another reef entrance wasn’t looking too daunting with clear skies overhead, but wouldn’t you know it just as we made our final approaches a cloud formed from nowhere and visibility dropped considerably. We made it safely into the huge bay, found a sandy spot to drop the hook and declared it a suitable home for the next few days.
Wind, Wind and more Wind
For the next 6 days there was little let up from the wind. Accelerated trade winds were reported all over the Caribbean, with the squash zone off the top of Colombia producing gale force and 5 – 6 metre seas. Even tucked away in the farthest western corner of the Gulf of Honduras we could not escape, although we rarely saw gusts over 30 knots, the seas were flat, our anchorage comfortable and our water tanks full to overflowing with a few downpours.
What a Funky Little Place
It was no hardship staying a few days. Ashore was quite a delight, old wooden buildings lined the main street, some had been updated and renovated, others lay in their original condition adding a definite “Take me as I am” flavour to the town. The mainly backpacking diving clientele fitted in well and the town survives by servicing their needs. There were plenty of “cruisy joints” (see the zany gardens above at one of the cafes) to while away a few hours offering inexpensive drinks and food , great sunset bars on stilts over the water, hammocks slung between swaying palms ~ certainly a laid back place.
Interesting Health and Safety Standards
Lunchtime entertainment was provided one day by the local power company (just as well as lunch took nearly an hour to materialize!). There obviously weren’t quite enough wires attached to this power pole, so it was time to install some more. We watched as the van blocked the road for several minutes (it’s only one lane wide) and unloaded tools, electrical connection boxes, rolls of wires, 3 employees ~ but no ladder. Then we noticed one of them walking with considerable difficultly and everything well into place. He had special shoes on with big hooks coming out of the heels (imagine a Captain Hook hand), he made his way slowly to the pole, which luckily was wooden!, and started climbing it, sticking his hooks in as he went. We were pleased to see that he did clip himself on when he got to the right spot, but he sure provided quite some entertainment for all the tourists going by.
A Hike to The Other Side
Cabin fever had us going ashore daily for a walk, we went left as far as we could, right as far as we could and then we decided to do the suggested hike in the Lonely Planet across the island to Pumpkin Hill, a pirates hideaway in another time. There is only one road across the island, and only one hill ~ how could we not find it?? Still, it was a hot sunny morning so maybe climbing a hill wasn’t such a good idea anyway! We kept going north, along the paved road, past dozens of lots for sale, some of the for sale signs were so old and faded, another developers dream gone wrong. A couple of houses were nestled in the trees, we wondered if this was quite what they had bought into originally. Eventually we found the sea on the northern coast, the rocky shoreline certainly didn’t look to be welcoming to pirate ships we definitely weren’t at the correct destination but it was an interesting excursion , great to stretch the legs and see some more of the island.
Our Last Time to Head West
At last the winds eased enough to start thinking about doing our final westward passage for this season. We needed to cover around 80 miles to get us to the bottom entrance of the Belize Reef, second only in size to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. We needed to leave in good light to get through the shallows off the end of Utila and we needed to arrive in good light to enter the reef and anchor in the southern Sapodilla Cays of Belize. In company with Bandit we left early afternoon and sailed as slow as we could in very wobbly seas headed for Belize. It was an uneventful night, the highlight being the most amazing night sky we have seen in a very long time, the stars penetrated the ink black sky for millions of miles, it was stunning canvas to occupy us through the night. Daylight broke as we approached the reef.