As expected, our exit from Guatemala was more dramatic than our entry……this time we got stuck on the bar at Livingstone for two hours! This was due to the delay in repairs to our turbo charger (a three day job stretched to nine), meaning we missed the spring tide of December 9. Luckily we were in a nice place – Tortugal Marina.
The next really good tide was mid January but there was no way we were staying that long…our visas were due to expire and the Caribbean was calling. We decided to run the risk of crossing the bar on a slightly lower tide and arrived in Livingston on December 14.
Our agent Raoul assured us that our 2.1m draft would easily clear the bar – “no problemo”. We weren’t convinced given that the Rio Dulce was running about 10cms lower than normal, but he’s a local and knows – right? Hmmm. The high tide was at 8pm and as the channel is unlit, unmarked and littered with fishing nets, we booked a pilot.
The pilot, Hector, insisted we leave at 5pm and so we (doubtfully) set off following him, anxiously watching the depth gauge as it went from 5m to 4m to 3m to 2m……which is when we came to a crunching halt. Now exactly where is this deep water Raoul and Hector promised??
Hector heeled us over using a halyard from the top of the mast and tried to drag us but there simply wasn’t enough water. We told him to leave us and come back at high tide…8pm…as per our original plans. We decided we may as well have dinner so sat in the cockpit trying to explain to the many fishermen who approached us that we were “esta bien” – fine…and were simply waiting for the high tide. It was not a particularly memorable few hours!
Hector duly returned and with the extra few inches of water he managed to drag us over the 200m bar. Phew. Next day we motored up to the southernmost of the Belize Cays where we’d spent a few days at the end of last season. It was sheer bliss to anchor in the crystal clear water, swim and just enjoy being back in the Caribbean.
That joy didn’t last long. Strange spots began to appear on David’s back and as we crossed off mosquito bites, jellyfish stings, allergic reactions we deduced they must be shingles. A couple of emails/calls to medical friends back home confirmed our diagnosis. Shingles is an incredibly painful condition that affects the nerves. It can last weeks and there is no treatment. Great! Just what we need.
We’d previously arranged to meet Kiwi sailing buddies Balvenie in Roatan but that was a 24 hour sail away. It was far more tempting to head for the Belize mainland…just a few hours away but we figured we might get better medical supplies in Roatan so the next day we headed off. It was a mistake as the trip really tired David out.
Roatan is a long skinny island with good anchorages. We headed to French Cay, about halfway along, a stunning sheltered spot behind the reef. It’s all marine reserve here and believe it or not, you can touch the crayfish – they are so unafraid. There are hundreds of them in shallow water on the reef and they come out from their hidey holes when they hear/see snorkellers approach….wanting food.
The island is known for its fantastic diving and snorkelling but we’ve only managed a few short snorkels in the marine reserve.
On our second night a squall went through and we went on deck to see our neighbours dragging past us at an alarming rate. We managed to wake them by sounding the horn and they re-anchored…..but several days later while ashore their boat dragged again. This time we had to board their boat but they hadn’t left the key in the ignition and their anchor windlass was off so all we could do was put out a second anchor from the tender.
The cruisers in the anchorage organise a heap of activities including yoga, trips ashore and numerous social gatherings including a pot luck Christmas cruisers’ dinner. We celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve (well, it was Christmas Day NZ time) and feasted on garlic prawns. On Christmas morning we started the day with French toast, bacon, bananas and maple syrup and polished off the bubbles we’d opened the night before.
We went to the cruisers’ potluck dinner which was fun and the food was delicious – ham and turkey supplied by the generous hosts at Brooksy Point marina and salads and vegetables brought by cruisers.
There are about 20 cruisers in the anchorage, mostly American, and if you thought Christmas decorations were only done on shore think again. Bandit is about the only boat in the bay without flashing lights. Boring, we know but that’s the way it will stay!
We haven’t done a huge amount on Roatan due to David just not being up to it. I took a taxi into Coxen’s Hole to clear in with authorities and, true to its name, it’s a hole. What I saw of the island was pretty enough – it’s very green and lush. On the slopes are some amazing properties with fantastic sea views and there are wonderful resorts as well. But the majority of locals live a pretty basic existence.
Despite living in such a fantastic growing climate the locals don’t seem to grow much – unlike Guatemala where you can buy fruit and vegetables dirt cheap. Here most of the produce is imported from the States or Canada and therefore pretty expensive.
Many of the locals live in houses built on stilts over the water – to stay cooler and escape bugs. Rubbish doesn’t seem to bother them – it piles up in front of their houses and they ignore it.
Not sure how long we will stay on Roatan – we’ve both got severe cabin fever but need to wait until David gets better before moving.