Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Mon 12 Dec 2011 18:42
As we motored down the Rio gorge, passed Livingstone & out to sea we found it hard to believe five months had gone by since Ajaya had felt salt water on her hulls.  As we approached the shifting silt bar that guards the entrance to the Rio we saw a fellow yachtsman attempt to "escape".  Being a monohull with a deep draft and single-handed he was trying to find a way out.  He followed us as we read the depths out over the VHF but it was still too shallow & he ground to a halt.  We last saw him turn round raising his sails possibly in the hope of healing the boat far enough over to get across but we didn't see any sails behind us.  (We have seen the boat since so he did get out eventually!)
Sadly the passage to Utila was not the most comfortable for the beginning of the season.  The wind was all over the compass.  We motor sailed all night through the most ghastly washing machine seas.  To add insult to injury we also got rained on.  However, every cloud has a silver lining - the lines went out & Skip caught a nice size fish from the Mackerel family shortly followed by one of its smaller siblings.  Luckily we were on our approach to Utila as it was far too rough to gut, cut & bag them at sea.  Due to the wind direction it wasn't much better in the anchorage either.  The swell entered the large bay causing us to roll for the rest of the day & night.
                         Not going to let this one get away!                                                                     Sorry, cut Skips head off........................
After sorting the fish out (priority) & sharing a large chunk of it with friends, whom we'd followed into the anchorage, we ventured ashore with them.  The clearing in procedure couldn't have been easier, in fact we believe it was the easiest we've ever encountered.  We popped into the Immigration Office on the public dock where we were seen immediately by a courteous young man who prepared the paperwork in no time at all.  Skip had to get two photocopies from a shop over the path (hardly a road).  Then we moved on the Port Captain where we were fascinated by his sit up & beg hand-draulic typewriter, a real museum piece, which was thumped relentlessly to produce our papers. Five minutes later we were cleared in to Honduras, no where else to visit (no Customs, no Health inspection, nothing!).  All this for absolutely no charge whatsoever for up to a 90 day stay.
The public dock - anything with wheels employed to collect deliveries                                  The High Street....................
Free to wander our next quest was to find the man with the engine spares.  All we had was a name, but we were reliably informed that the owner of the supermarket would know who he was.  Not only did he know him, he also phoned him for us.  Unfortunately, he was on the mainland doing some business but gave the owner the number of his helper, Sterling.  The owner called him and said he would be there shortly.  A minute later he arrived & whisked the Skip away on a motor bike leaving the 'Admiral' to pay for the boxed wine she'd found in the shop. 
The motorbike ride wasn't actually terrifying but it came close as Sterling weaved his way through Utila's narrow backstreets overtaking golf carts on blind bends. Actually, yes it was rather terrifying when reflecting back. Out into some countryside and left at the horse stables. Then into a private driveway with iron gate, behind which sat the ubiquitous large Rotweiler. Sterling unlocked the gates and muttered something to the enormous dog (perhaps in Patois) probably informing it that there really wasn't any meat to be had from Skip's bony body. The dog backed off to a safe distance but continued the eye contact.
At the back of the house was a parts store which Sterling unlocked to reveal racks of Yanmar parts. A most unlikely location for such an expensive cache of gaskets, turbochargers, pipes and filters. It must be a lucrative business. Then it was back to the boat this time in a mini Hummer - the motorbike deemed too much of a risk to transport such a precious cargo through town. That's the gasket not Skip!
Sterling was going to come with us to the boat to collect the dollars to pay for it but on seeing how rough the bay was sensibly declined.  The 'Admiral' then asked if she could fold the said item & put it in the rucksack - this was met with a resounding "NO" by both men - it was conveyed back like gold dust held flat!
Sorry, just happened to like this one taken whilst waiting for.................... Skip, Sterling & the gasket....................
Dollars duly delivered to Sterling we settled down to a less than calm night.  The fish was delicious but the rolling proved too much. Immediately after breakfast the next day we left for Roatan the largest Island in the chain.  Had circumstances been different we may have stayed a couple of days especially as we had originally intended to by-pass the island.  There are mixed feelings in the cruising community about Utila, some will not go near the place due to criminal activity others have stayed a week or more with no problems.  We found the locals we encountered to be helpful & friendly.
                                                              An unhappy night sky .................................