En Route to the North West Caribbean
We left Minnesott Beach on Saturday December 5th hoping to exit the Beaufort Inlet late that evening. Unfortunately the winds did not settle down and come from the right direction until Sunday morning. As a result, our passage shortened from Brunswick, Georgia to Hilton Head, SC. We spent two days anchored near Hilton Head at Distant Creek waiting out a very strong cold front. It was very cold the day we left and that night on the water the temperature fell to 33 deg F as we sailed on to Fernandina Beach, Fl.
Judy wraps up warmly at Distant Creek as we prepare Pioneer for the cold trip to Fernandina Beach
We had to stop in Fernandina Beach for two days to wait out the south winds. It was very cold and it hardly felt like we were in Florida. From Fernandina we had hoped to sail to Miami. The sailing was challenging in that it was definitely a motor-sail and we had about 10 hours of fog. Finally the wind picked up but it was from the south again so we had to pull into Ft. Pierce for the night.
Research station at the Ft. Pierce Inlet
The next day we headed off to Miami in very pleasant sailing weather, until we got near Ft. Lauderdale - then the squalls started. We were now sailing in the company of Echo (Judi and Dave) - a boat we had met at the Distant Creek anchorage last year. We met up as we were leaving Ft. Pierce and ended up sailing with them to Marathon. The weather near Miami deteriorated the closer we got.
The skyline of Miami during a squall
Would the squalls ever stop???
Once we arrived in Miami we got a reprieve from the squalls until we anchored, then it proceeded to rain the rest of the day. We were lucky to be able to go right in Government Cut as there was only one cruise ship at dock.
Miami put us in the pre Christmas spirit!
The approach to Miami is awesome because of the amazing skyline. The buildings seem to be coming right out of the water! Unfortunately our arrival day was not the best picture- taking day for us - we were cold, wet and tired. Shortly after we dropped the hook near the boats we would be sailing with to Mexico, Diva arrived by dinghy to welcome us. It was great to see good friends again after being on our own and in not the best of sailing weather.
Carl and Debbie (Diva) give Judy a welcoming hug
That night, in the anchorage, we hosted a happy hour during the middle of a rainstorm. There were eleven of us in Pioneer's cockpit and the rain outside our enclosure was torrential at times. Fourteen inches fell in the Miami area in a twelve hour period!
"Oh the weather outside is frightful but your arms are so delightful"....ta dah, ta dah
The next day we were able to go outside the enclosure and inspect Pioneer's decks for those cute little fishes that seem to like flying aboard. This trip was no exception, we got a pan-full!
Flying fish for breakfast!
We spent two nights in Miami before we had acceptable weather to head off to Rodriguez Key and Marathon. Our early morning departure from Miami was quite spectacular. It is almost like sailing through the centre of the city. We were like ducks in a row as we left Miami - Carl dubbed us "Wagon Train"!
Five cruise ships line up in government Cut as we skirt the west end of the cut on our way into Biscayne Bay
Miami from the water as we wind our way into Biscayne Bay
The trips to Rodriguez Key and the next day to Marathon were by far the best sailing days we have experienced. We saw 15 to 25 knots on the beam and the stern quarter. Maximum speed over water was 7.2 knots. We eventually had to reef the main and the genoa in order to keep the sails balanced so the auto pilot would work properly. On the second day, all of us gave up on our auto pilots as the wind was a little flaky but the steering was easy and the distance only 45 nm.
Diva eats up the water as she zooms up the Hawks Channel
Rachel picks up the pace and the "race is on"!
Diva, Rachel and Pioneer under sail to Marathon
Once we arrived in Marathon, 12/21/09, we lined up on the mooring balls, Diva, Rachel, Pioneer and Eyrie. We looked like a wagon train! Since Pioneer was the only boat to have experienced Marathon in the past, we hoped to introduce all the boats to the Overseas Lounge across the road from the City Marina. Unfortunately it was closed but we did find a new spot next door that was inexpensive and had atmosphere - The Stuffed Pig!
Carl, Debbie and Judy outside the Stuffed Pig
Our Christmas and New Year probably would be spent in Marathon waiting for a weather window to Mexico. Eventually accepting the fact that we were here for up to two weeks, we opted into Christmas dinner in the early afternoon at the city marina and another dinner in the late afternoon at another local marina. Christmas Eve was spent on Pioneer where we enjoyed happy hour with our friends. We not only celebrated Christmas Eve with our friends but we also celebrated Julie and Mark's wedding anniversary.
Judy, Debbie, Carl and Doug share some laughs with the other happy hour participants
The happy couple, Julie and Mark (s/v Rachel) celebrate eight years of marriage
Carl, Judy and Mark relax before Christmas dinner at the city marina in Marathon
Our Christmas dinner table......love that sun!
Having enjoyed a delicious Christmas buffet/pot luck at the city marina, we headed over to "Dockside" on the other side of the harbour for our second meal. We had been frugal in our eating at the first meal so there was still some room left over to enjoy our second one. At dockside our group of six was joined by Echo and a hoard of their Canadian friends. There was entertainment, great food (once again) and a whole lot of new/old friends to keep us going well past our bedtime.
Julie (Rachel) and Judi (Echo) relax with a Christmas beer at Dockside
One of Marathon's colourful inhabitants making woven treasures for the Christmas revelers at Dockside
Having spotted a good bargain at the local American Legion, we decided to take part in their Sunday morning breakfast. There were two prices: $6 for pancakes, eggs, potatoes, meat, juice, coffee, grits and toast; $7 for steak as your meat instead of the traditional ham/bacon/sausage. We outdid ourselves once again. The meal lasted us until supper time and then we still weren't very hungry. Legion halls can be quite interesting. It was at this one that we were reacquainted with the name Jane Fonda, "Hanoi Jane" to the Vietnam vets. Her actions put her in disfavour with the troops and hence the sign in this Legion urinal!
The caption reads "Hanoi Jane - Urinal Target"
After our hearty breakfast we gathered outside the Legion to plan our shopping strategies and admire the bumper stickers on the vets cars.
Wagon Train gathers outside the Legion to discuss weather, bumper stickers, shopping, urinals, etc.
We also planned a trip by bus to Key West. We had to pick up our US exit papers at the Customs and Immigration in Key West and the rest of the day was spent enjoying the ambiance of this unique town. The bus from Marathon to Key West took about 75 minutes and allowed us to experience the Lower Keys from a "land" perspective. Once we arrived in Key West we picked up our exit papers and then headed off for coffee, a walk along the boardwalk and then an early lunch.
Rachel and Diva enjoy a coffee at "Two friends'
Wagon Train at Mallory Square
Mr. Pelican thinks we are strange creatures!
Lunch was a unique experience at B.O.'s Fish Wagon. The decor was early beachcombing and license plates. Old trucks and such were featured attractions at the front door. The meal was excellent, and reasonable by Key West standards.
The Wagon Train arrives at B.O.'s Fish Wagon
Ron skulks around the entrance to Fish Wagon
In order to work off our meal, we started our walking tour of Key West docks and old town. Key West calls itself the "Conch Republic", a goal strived for in the 70's, but not quite achieved. However, you still see the flags hanging proudly from the lovely and very expensive homes. One home we passed was a "fixer upper" and for sale for over $3 million dollars!
Welcome to Conch Republic!
Just a little fixer upper for first time home owners!
After our tour of the backstreets, we headed down the infamous Duval Street. We walked it from one end to the other and saw some very interesting and entertaining sights.
Now, that's a motorcycle - a whole new look for the "fins"
Then there was the seedier side of Key West.......
Adult entertainment - Key Weird style
The "menu" for the Adult Entertainment Club
What's a few bubbles between friends?
Unfortunately, we could not stay for the sunset antics at Mallory Square. By the time we completed our bus and dinghy ride back to Pioneer it was almost 9:00 pm.
The next day was warm and almost windless; hence the perfect day to go up the mast! Debbie got hoisted up Diva's mast and Judy did the same on Pioneer's.
Debbie meditates on her problem atop Divas mast
The goal for Judy was to run the staysail topping lift through its top pulley and replace one bulb of our spreader lights.
Judy tackles the bulb replacement on Pioneer's spreaders
Mission accomplished: It was now time to start ringing in the new year. As we are not late night people, our New Year celebration was an extended happy hour on Pioneer. Wagon Train and Echo came aboard to help us celebrate. The full moon made it a perfect night.
Rachel basks in the full moon in Boot Key Harbor
New Year's Eve happy hour on Pioneer
Our weather window is going to happen on January 3rd. Unless Chris Parker changes his forecast, we will be leaving Marathon on Sunday morning, arriving in Isla Mujeres, Mexico on Wednesday afternoon.
ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO
Our trip from Marathon to Isla Mujeres was very pleasant, with the exception of the leg from Key West to the Dry Tortugas. The seas could best be described as "elevator seas" - the result for Judy was serious seasickness. When we turned southwest to cross the gulf stream, everything settled down, including Judy. We got great winds off the coast of Cuba and the Yucatan crossing was very mild. All in all it was a good passage. When we arrived in Isla Mujeres, 1/8/10, we docked at Marina Paraiso, where we went through the check-in process with the help of the marina staff.
Pioneer at Marina Paraiso
The marina was adequate, nothing great but it was a gathering spot for many cruisers from the anchorage as well as other marinas - that was a plus! Our second day there was blustery and raining. Being adventurous, however, the "wagon Train" (Diva, Rachel and Pioneer) walked into Isla Mujeres to spec out the town.
Hearty sailors brave the streets of Isla Mujeres!
Cold and wet was the order of the day in Isla Mujeres
As the weather improved, we ventured out again to carry out more exploration.
Fishing boats at anchor in the harbour at Isla Mujeres
High rent district of Isla Mujeres
Beautiful markers for those who have passed away....
Our week there was spent socializing at happy hours and walking into the town to buy fresh fruit and vegetables and our first Mexican souvenir - a beautiful Mayan blanket.
We quickly found a "favourite restaurant on the beach "Picus". Mel and Cathy on "Starsinger" introduced us to shrimp ceviche - absolutely outstanding!
The crowd at Picus
Before we left Isla Mujeres, haircuts were in order. Debbie was the first and Julie was the second to experience the "mad" hairstylist!
Julie gets her locks shorn!
Our absolutely cheapest restaurant was right near the vegetable/fruit market where we could get beer for $1.00 and good ceviche. It was very basic but colourful!
Best beer buy in town!
Ron tries to read the backwards sign for a car/scooter car wash
The 'Wagon Train" says goodbye to Pioneer as we head to Roatan with Sam the Skull
FRENCH CAY HARBOUR, BAY ISLANDS, ROATAN, HONDURAS
John and Barbara on "Sam the Skull", were looking for a weather window to Roatan, in the Bay Islands of Honduras, as were we. So, we decided to make the trip together - which turned out quite well. It was another three day passage with only the last day giving us challenging weather.
Sam the Skull accompanies us on our way to Roatan
Judy reads while the seas are calm
When we arrived in French Cay Harbour on Roatan, 1/17/10, there were only about 10 boats in the harbour (a week later there were almost triple that!)
Rounding the reef at French Cay
Ron celebrates our arrival by sampling a deck- caught flying fish
We were fortunate that one boat was leaving their mooring ball at the same time we dropped our anchor. As a result, we pulled up the anchor and snagged the pennant. We have been on that mooring ball for almost three weeks now and very glad for it as we have had some very strong winds from the southeast that result in the roughest ride in the harbour. The harbour is protected on three sides by land. The fourth side is protected only by a shallow reef, otherwise it is open to the wind. Although the waves don't get big, the 35 knot winds have been enough to cause several boats at anchor to drag. Unfortunately, there are only six mooring balls in the anchorage so at least 20 boats are at anchor with potential to drag during a blow.
Port Captain's Office in Coxen Hole
On the same day that we arrived in French Harbour, Wayne and Nancy on "Dances With Dragons" arrived from Belize. We had arranged to meet them here - the last time we saw them was December of 2005 - so it was time to get reacquainted!
Judy, with Nancy and Wayne (Dances With Dragons) in Coxen Hole
Coat of arms for Roatan
Window shopping with Sam the Skull and Dances With Dragons in Coxen Hole
Our second day in French Harbour was a little more exciting than we planned on. We arrived in our dinghy at the shrimp dock (where the shrimp boats unload their catch), along with Sam the Skull and Dances with Dragons.
The shrimp dock where we land the dinghies
Ron stepped onto the dock to give Nancy (D with D) a big hug and went right through a hole in the boards. Luckily nothing was broken, just a big gash on his shin and a bruised foot. Now Ron will have matching scars on each leg - the last shin injury was at Vero Beach in 2008.
The dock bite up close - it was much worse than it looks!
Judy, Nancy and Barbara enjoy happy hour on Sam The Skull
The sun sets on our second day in Roatan
An attraction very close to our mooring buoy was the "Iguana Farm" .
Ron gets "close and personal" with the iguanas
The farm boasts four different types and over 2000 in numbers. Several liked to gather on the main walkway through the farm - it felt very strange wading through the hoards.
Mama iguana and her "chicks"
Visitors could feed them leaves and watch them swarm for the delicacy.
The trees were also filled with iguanas!
Also at the farm were chickens, monkeys, parrots and many different varieties of fish and turtles. All of the animals at the farm were native to Honduras.
Not to be outdone by Ron's hairdressing talents, Judy found a guinea pig in John from Sam the Skull. He said he wanted it short and that is what he got!
Judy reassures John that she is not shaving him bald!
Our clothes are finally starting to fall apart after five years of cruising and living aboard. They make great rags but it is sad to see some of them go, as they bring back fond memories of past adventures.
Judy's St. Martin shirt bites the dust!
The two resorts close by the anchorage, Fantasy Island and Coco View Resort are dive resorts and daily the dive boats take guests out to the reef to scuba dive and snorkel. In the evenings the resorts often have happy hour for the cruisers where drinks are half price. Nothing brings cruisers in faster than beer for $1.25! Coco View has the best/fastest internet connections, but Fantasy Island has the most interesting animals. Several monkeys hang out in the trees and love to tease any of the dogs that the cruisers bring onto the island.
One of many monkeys on Fantasy Island
Fantasy Island also hosts the occasional boaters' potluck. So far we have attended all of them and have enjoyed meeting new cruisers each time.
Peter from "Rendezvous" passes around a lobster treat that he created. Steve (Zydeco) & Bob (Sanderling) look on.
On one of our days in town, we took a taxi from French Harbour to Oak Ridge, a small town on the water in one of the many deep coves along the south shore. On the fifteen mile trip we were treated to beautiful scenery so high we could see both sides of the island. We spent most of our time walking around the village and exploring the houses built on the reefs.
Oak Ridge in a deep cove
One of many canals joining shoreline communities
Ron explores old foundations of a house once on the reef
Big scary sign, very small dog !
About two weeks later, Diva and Rachel arrived from Isla Mujeres. Finally the "Wagon Train", as we called ourselves for our Marathon-Mexico passage, was back together.
Diva, Rachel and Pioneer, the "Wagon Train" reunited
John and Barbara from Sam the Skull arrive at the dock ready to head off to the house party.
A very special treat that we experienced was a visit to a home, very high on the island for a pot luck lunch with all the cruisers in French Harbour. There were over sixty of us. The food was great and it was another opportunity to meet several cruisers new to us. The house was quite spectacular, as was the view.
A view of the reefs on the north shore of Roatan
Family photo at the potluck!
Group shot at the potluck
Our time here in French Harbour is spent in part exploring land sights, visiting with cruising friends, snorkeling along the reef wall and playing train dominoes. Since Ron's leg injury has still not healed, he is forbidden to go in the water. Carl and Mark are not really into snorkeling so that leaves Judy, Judi (Janus), Debbie and Julie to brave the elements. The scariest thing Judy saw was an eel, to which she gave a wide berth!
Julie and Debbie watch the sharks circling the boat!
We pay a visit to Renaud on Cattamie - a fellow cruiser that we met in Cuba in 2007
Judy, Jan (Jocks Lodge), Julie (Rachel), Glenda (Island Girl II) and Nora (Knots Gypsy) enjoy a challenging game of train dominoes
One day we took a dinghy ride around Old French Harbour and into the canal system that weaves in and out of the town. It was depressing to say the least.
The French Harbour Yacht Club - on its last legs....
The back canals of Old French Harbour
The canals were very polluted with sewage and garbage. The houses were built on stilts over the water and without running water the toilet facilities were merely outhouses on stilts with direct dumping of sewage into the water. Fortunately, in the anchorage, the water is constantly flushing out as the water pours in across the reef. The yacht club in Old French Harbour is still there but has long been abandoned and is badly in need of repair.
Stilt house with adjoining outhouse
Luxury three-seater outhouse!
Cabo I and II, fishing boats, part of the Roatan fleet
Pioneer on a mooring ball in French Cay Harbour
Life in French Cay Harbour is always interesting. Just when you think you have seen it all, something new happens. One morning we woke up and there was a small fifty passenger cruise ship at the Fantasy Island dock. It remained there for four days while the passengers took advantage of the beach and the diving opportunities. On the day that it left we managed a few pictures as it wound its way through the anchorage.
Mini cruise ship negotiates our anchorage
Then there are the ever present days that are the "perfect drying days" for our laundry. In order to prepare for those days, we have to set the clothes and linens to soak for twelve hours in oxyclean, then twelve hours in a little detergent and water. Finally they are ready to wring out, rinse, wring again and hang out to dry.
Ron does his part in the laundry cycle
This is no easy task, so both of us have to assume our roles. Ron fills the water pails and puts the clothes through the wringer. Judy prepares the solutions, loads the clothes and hangs them up. Both of us do the hand wringing of sheets and towels. It is definitely a team effort!
Just to keep us on our toes, there is a tiny, homemade sea plane that takes passengers up for a scenic view of Roatan from the air The plane makes about six trips on days when the weather is good.
Mini float plane gives visitors a thrill
Each trip involves a takeoff and landing from our crowded anchorage. It's a good thing that the plane is small and requires little water space for the beginning and end of its trips.
Our second trip into Coxen Hole gave us an opportunity to get a cruising permit from the port captain, pick up some fruit and vegetables from the roadside stands, ride on the island bus system and visit the far west end of the island.
Banana delivery comes with some of the roadside vendors in Coxen Hole
One of several open air shops displaying local crafts in West End
Our favourite spot near the anchorage is a small beach on Fantasy Island. Cruisers are allowed to use the beaches on Fantasy Island. We also spend a lot of time snorkeling in the waters over the reefs.
Ron and Scout at our favourite beach
There are three beaches on Fantasy island and the snorkeling areas are close by. On the occasional HOT days when there is no wind, you pretty well have to get in the water to cool off. so the beach and the reefs are very popular.
On the beach looking out over the anchorage
Main beach on Fantasy Island
At least once a week, the girls get together to play train dominoes, either on the beach or in the lounge at Fantasy Island. Ian (Jocks Lodge) acts as the taxi service for some of the girls to and from the "games".
Ian escorts the ladies (Julie from Rachel, Jan from Jocks Lodge and Judy) to their dominoes games
With our trip to La Cieba quickly approaching, it was time to move on to explore some new anchorages.
A familiar sight in the Bay Islands
Our first stop was El Bight on Gaunaja, the most easterly of the Bay Islands.
The "lost" fleet
El Bight is aptly named as Ron was attacked by mosquitoes and tiny black flies leaving welts all over his legs and back.
The anchorage at El Bight, Guanaja
Pioneer at anchor in El Bight
Around the anchorage there are many derelict fishing boats, active fishing boats at anchor, interesting scenery and homes built on stilts over the water. Some of the stilt homes appear lived in while others appear quite empty.
Homes on stilts seem to be a way of life in these shallow waters
At the narrow entrance to the El Bight anchorage, there is a very large rock blossoming out of the water. One of the foreign residents has built a large home on it. There seem to be many ex-pats in the Bay Islands. Germans are by for the most common here in Guanaja.
In order to avoid the hordes of biting insects, we anchored as far away from shore as we could. So, our nearest neighbours were a fleet of four fishing boats all anchored snuggly together. One of the boats caught our eye and deserved a closer look as it was named "Capt. Rony!
The small fleet anchored off our stern at El Bight
Ron was so impressed!!!!!
The main town of Bonacca, was quite amazing. This community of 8000 is housed on two small cays in the centre with homes built out into the water on stilts.
The community of Bonacca, capital of Guanaja
A close-up of the shoreline of Bonacca - fishing boats and houses on stilts.
When we realized that at least half of the town of Bonacca was built over the water, we could well imagine the devastation that hurricane Mitch caused when the Bay Islands took a direct hit. The residents are very resourceful, however, and have totally rebuilt their town. The hurricane was a major hic-cup, but a hic-up none the less!
Main street, Bonacca
There are no roads in Bonacca, just walkways. As a result, everyone is out walking all the time. They greet each other and foreigners, like us, with equal enthusiasm. We found the residents to be helpful, friendly and very proud of their small, unique community.
Canals throughout the town serve many purposes. The elimination of waste and garbage are high on the the priority scale!
The sidewalks are raised cement walks over the water. There are canals meandering throughout the town that provide channels for sewage and garbage to be swept out to sea.
One of the wider canals, permits access to a hotel within the centre of town
It really is an eye opener to see the refuse and fuel floating around the harbours and the canals in Honduras. Back in the US and Canada, these conditions would bring about an uproar from the environmentalists, and justly so. We didn't even see this amount of garbage in Cuba.......little is thrown away in Cuba! Our walking tour of the town revealed an active and friendly population.
Ron maneuvers Scout through the canal system leading to the north side of Guanaja
We took our dinghy, Scout, through a canal that lead from the south side of the island to the north side. There was a beach on the north side that looked promising for beach combing so we spent an hour searching for sea beans. We only managed to find a few purse and hamburger beans but the big haul was five Mary's beans! The first three beans we picked up were Mary's beans, - quite unusual findings for this rather hard to find sea bean.
Judy practicing her "beachcombing eyes" - alas, in this pile, only a child's sandal was to be found
After two days exploring the island of Guanaja, we headed back to Old Port Royal - an anchorage on Roatan. We were the only boat in this pristine bay and there were no biting bugs - quite a relief! The next day we sailed for West End at the western tip of Roatan. We were joined there by Sanderling, Rachel, Zydeco and many other boats that we recognized from French Cay Harbour. That evening we invited Vicki and Steve (Zydeco), Mark and Julie (Rachel) and Diane and Bob (Sanderling) over to Pioneer for a relaxing happy hour.
Pioneer hosts happy hour with Zydeco, Sanderling and Rachel at the West End anchorage just before we head off to the mainland
The next day it was off to La Ceiba.
Pioneer approaches mountainous mainland Honduras
Those sure are big mountains, very close to the shoreline!!!
The boatyard where we docked Pioneer is just slightly up a river near the main town. The facilities are OK - it is, after all, a boatyard not really a marina - but we have electricity and questionable water- all at a great price!
Large steel trawlers docked near Pioneer at the La Ceiba shipyards
Capt. Floyd sports a new paint job on the hard in the shipyard
Surrounding the shipyard were many, many steel fishing trawlers some of which would periodically squeeze past Pioneer in the narrow river and head out to sea. It was almost the end of fishing season so most of the boats were undergoing minor and major repairs. The noise of hammers and welding replaced the howling dogs and wildlife noises (monkeys and parrots) that we were used to in the islands. Whereas the water in the islands was quite clean (except near towns), the water near shore and up river on the mainland was awful. It was not unusual to see garbage of all sorts floating down the brown river and floating on top, the ever-present oil and diesel fuel leaking from the bilges of the fishing fleet. Our waterline was caked in oil by the time we left and required a thorough cleaning when we got back out to the islands.
Brown river water surrounds the shipyards at La Ceiba
This gentle creek became a raging river the next time we crossed it!
We spent a day in La Ceiba, exploring and enjoying the atmosphere of a mainland Honduran town. Unfortunately our second trip into town occurred during what seemed to be the "monsoon" season. Creeks became rivers, some roads were impassable and in town we had to to wade through ankle deep water on the some streets.
We were very pleased to see the large quantity of fruits and vegetables that could be found at roadsides and in town at open stalls. The grapefruit and oranges could be bought for five cents each (1 Lempira) and you could pick your choice off the mountainous pile!
Piles of sweet grapefruit and juice oranges on a local street near La Ceiba
Art was also easily found on street corners leading into town
Art and furniture were for sale on street corners outside La Ceiba. Ron thought these paintings were terrific, but not as outstanding as his past favourites - the velvet Elvis's!
A typical shopping mall in La Ceiba
Four days after we arrived in La Ceiba, Ron's eldest son, David, flew in on business/pleasure. Ron accompanied him to Trujillo where they were looking at some investment property. Judy stayed on Pioneer to get some R&R!
David's investment property near Trujillo
A spectacular view from the house near Trujillo
After the trip to Trujillo, David and his son, Jack, joined us for a very brief attempted sail outside the protection of the river. It was not a good day to sail and so in order to avoid the bashing waves, we returned to port after only 30 minutes on the water.
Jack holds on tight just before we leave the calm river and head into the wind and waves off the coast
Sunrise over mainland Honduras as we head back to the islands
The day after David and Jack left Honduras, we got a break in the windy, rainy weather and were able to head back to French Cay Harbour on Roatan. It was a pleasant trip but with little wind up until the end when the wind picked up on our nose just before we reached our destination.
Judy relaxes at the helm as our third mate, Otto-pilot, steers the boat
On arriving at French Harbour, we were glad to see familiar faces and some new ones. This time we set an anchor, as the mooring balls were all full. We ended up anchoring very close to the reef but managed to hold our position well as our anchor was nicely dug in and we had lots of chain out! For happy hour one evening a group of us gathered on "Homeward Bound" a big, roomy, home crafted, well appointed sailing yacht. A great time was had by all.
Good friends aboard Homeward Bound
It would be the last time we would be socializing with this group of people as they were all staying in Guatemala on the Rio Dulce for the summer months. Our plans were to head back to North Carolina and our American friends for the summer and Fall.
Within a few days, our weather guru, Chris Parker, gave us the go ahead to leave Roatan and head for Miami. We expected this to be about a six day passage. After the first 24 hours of 25 plus knot winds and high seas, the trip was predicted to be very favourable. As expected the first night was boisterous, but sailing close hauled is one of Pioneer's favourite wind angles, so we cut an efficient path between the cresting waves.
As our first night on passage approaches, we can see the storm clouds off in the distance off the coast of Guatemala and Belize
The second 24 hours was very gentle to the point of no wind to speak of. Off the north coast of Cuba the winds began to pick up but instead of from the south east they were from the east north east, and that made for a very close to the wind sailing angle. A few times we had to tack to better our angle and ensure a landing in at least Marathon. Just before passing Key West, we took on a stowaway. Initially our stowaway chose to rest on the solar panels.
Our stowaway makes friends with Judy
Unfortunately they proved too slippery in the choppy sea conditions, so our stowaway got a little bolder and hoped down to our poop deck. We were able to identify him/her as a banded carrier/homing pigeon. This was the second carrier pigeon that we have saved from the ocean waves - the first was coming home from the Bahamas in year three of our travels. "Poopee", as we called him was very tame and would sit on our fingers and hands. We fed him water and crushed peanuts.
Poopee sucks back the water we put out for him
The crushed nuts were not as popular as the water. We put a small piece of carpet on the poop deck in a sheltered spot and placed Poopee there.
Poopee and Ron make friends
Wisely, Poopee stayed hunkered down on the carpet until we arrived at our mooring ball in Marathon.
Poopee very justly earned his name. We learned from our last stowaway to put down something on the deck before there was pigeon poop over everything.
The trip from Key West to Marathon was another test for Pioneer. This time in the Gulf Stream in 25 knots with wind against current it was no fun at all. We were glad to cross the reef into Marathon at first light on our fifth day at sea. That morning we straightened up the boat and encouraged Poopee to fly off, as we didn't want him to think that Pioneer was a great place to live!
Refreshed and ready to tackle the world, Poopee reluctantly prepares to leave his adopted home
Once safely on our mooring ball in Boot Key Harbour, we called in to Homeland Security to let them know of our arrival. The next morning we were off early to catch the bus to Key West where we were required to check into the country in person. We had water in our outboard carburetor so we took up an offer of a dinghy ride into the marina from Darius on Breeze Hunter. We met another Canadian couple on the bus who had just arrived from Cuba - Sue and Doug on Acme Cat. They had met many of the friends that we had made in Cuba so it was great to get a first hand update on what was happening there. Judy and Doug did the main part of the check-in while Ron and Sue stayed outside with our cell phone (can't take cell phones into the Federal building). While waiting, Ron and Sue made friends with some locals who were waiting to get their welfare cheques - quite a sight it was!
Ron and Sue enjoy the company of one of Key Weird's locals
Sue and Doug gave us a ride back to Pioneer once we arrived back in Marathon. We invited them plus Kathy and Darius from Breeze Hunter to happy hour on Pioneer that evening. It was fun to trade US escapades with other Canadians.
Judy and Ron with Doug and Sue in Key West
Darius and Kathy at happy hour on Pioneer
The next day we enjoyed our last taste (for a while) of Chinese food from the Panda House.
We ended up spending about five days in Marathon before we got the chance to leave for our next destination, Beaufort, NC. This passage was to also last five to six days. The first day would be our most challenging with headwinds requiring that we do some tacking in the Hawke's Channel. Luckily we had only to tack a few times as we slowly sailed more northerly on our trip to Miami. The wind, however, decided that it would also move to the east north east and then to the north east, and then to the north north east. That made our northern passage up the centre of the Gulf Stream more difficult than we had expected. By the time we got to Cape Canaveral, we were well into mid stream and sailing along at 8 to 9 knots with only enough wind to barely fill the sails. In that position, just before sunrise, Judy saw this amazingly bright light on the western horizon. Sleepy after having been at the helm for several hours, Judy thought it was an especially bright sunrise (even though it was on the WESTERN horizon!). Then it started to rise VERY QUICKLY and developed a fiery tail. AHAH, thought Judy, that is a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral! Judy then woke up Ron and both of us watched the launch as the spacecraft ejected its booster rockets and then sent the spacecraft over the horizon. It was our first ever view of a rocket launch and we saw it unimpeded from horizon to horizon. It was absolutely amazing!
Our last night and day of the five day passage to Beaufort was exciting as the wind and waves built up on our stern quarter. We barreled into Beaufort just before sunset and dropped the hook near the coast guard station. The next day we set off for Minnesott - normally a three hour motor trip down the waterway. The south west wind had picked up overnight and was so strong that we sailed down the waterway under genoa only - never have we been able to do that in the past. The price we had to pay came at the other end. The south west wind had taken a lot of the water out of Wayfarers Cove, so the channel was not deep enough to get in. As a result, we had to anchor at the end of Adam's Creek (1 hour sail to Wayfarers) for two days while we waited for the Neuse River to settle down and the wind to switch around to the north. Once the wind moved into the northern quadrants, the water would come back up in the marina. Eventually we arrived back at Wayfarers, with no bumps on the way in. Our slip was waiting for us and it took no time at all to get back into the NC groove.
The winter season in Honduras has taken a toll on Judy's clothes - time to buy some new t-shirts!!
Familiar sights greet us as we enter the Beaufort inlet
A tug passes us as we wait at anchor near the mouth to Adam's Creek
After three and a half weeks at Wayfarers, applying clear coat to Pioneer's teak, installing a new water pressure system, installing a new three burner stove, cleaning up the stainless on the rub and toe rails and, of course, socializing with good friends there, we were ready to drive back to Canada. We will return to Wayfarers in July to get Pioneer ready for her next season of cruising.
This site was last updated 05/16/10