Can't stop scratching in Guanaja - revised edition

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Sun 29 Jan 2012 16:18
This blog was somehow hijacked by the spellchecker on the original sending so has been amended with the correct names of places visited
We now sit in an anchorage in Guanaja (j pronounced as h), the most easterly of the Bay Islands, waiting for a weather window to achieve a 150 mile passage in a direction of just south of east along the Honduras coast before we can turn the corner to head southwards towards Panama. We've been here for a few days now with easterly quadrant winds blowing between 15-25 knots depending on whether its day or night. The wind is strongest at night and blowing from the south-east means that we also get walloped by the fetch bending into the anchorage. The corner we need to head to can be quite windy, and just to add more spice to the voyage there is a vast area of shallow banks most of the way down the Nicaragua coastline. Stop-offs along the way are few. The Vivarios and the Hobbies reefs lie north east of the corner and provide a lee from the weather - a remote Caribbean atoll. They are used by fisherman to rest up during the day before heading out onto the banks again for their night fishing activities. Further south, the islands of Providencia and San Andreas, both Columbian holiday retreats, also provide some shelter from what can be a tricky passage down to Panama.
Guanaja ahoy! Approaching from the south-west                                                                     Passing Bonacca - 200 acres 8000 inhabitants
So we wait. Our anchorage here is aptly named El Bight, as, since our arrival, we have been continually attacked by No-see-ums or sand flies to give them their other name. These little thugs of bugs, barely register on human retinas and have a thirst for blood that makes the humble mosquito seem like your best friend. Unlike mosquitoes these tiny insects feast all day and all night long. Our bodies are now a mass of small welts that continuously itch to such a degree that we could use some of those glove mitts we used to wear as babies (well Skip did anyway) to avoid opening up the infected areas. We are like two mutts with fleas, continually scratching ourselves. We were warned about El Bight but the warning was to not anchor close to shore especially in light winds. Well, we are a quarter mile offshore which is why we are getting walloped by the south-easterly fetch and it doesn't seem to have made any difference. We must have the long distance version hitting on us, doodle-bugs! What's more, we are on our last few squirts of insect spray and we think they know that. When that's gone we'll just throw the empty can at them.
The notoriety of the bug population over many years has meant that most of the islands native residents are crammed cheek by jowl onto a 200 acre off-lying cay named Bonacca. This is one of the most unique communities anywhere in the Caribbean, predominantly Garifuna with albino derivatives in evidence.  They exist in 2-3 story shacks with no roads, just footpaths that average a few feet wide. There is no traffic. However, in typical Honduras security style the only bank in the middle of the island has three armed security guards permanently stationed outside as any robbers would be extremely hard to chase in the maze of alleyways criss-crossing the town. As well as the alleyways there are a couple of narrow canals just wide enough to take a small launcha. With a convenient tidal flow launchas are not the only objects that navigate the narrow waterway as could be all too readily seen.
We encountered a local Garifuna man who was very helpful, mentioning that our dinghy had been in imminent peril from 1) the arrival of the fast ferry which was disgorging passengers on the dock we were attached to and 2) from some of the local youths. He then offered to take us on a tour of Bonacca which to be honest we had just walked around in twenty minutes, but we dutifully trouped along whilst he spoke of his memories of the island community and his days as a merchant seaman visiting London. We asked what they were delivering to the UK - rum of course - silly question. We asked his name. People call me Stone he said. We wondered if on another day they called him Scissors or perhaps Paper? Anyway, we made our excuses and embarked on the long wet dinghy ride back to the boat whilst we still had a dinghy and engine to get us there.
Spill over from Bonacca to the main island                                                                                                Some scenes from Bonacca...........
The prettiest spot on the island  - the flowers are nice too                                                              Like much of Bonacca - its over water built on concrete or wooden piles
A delivery of Coca Cola in the narrow canal                                                                                This is all that remains of a nightclub
The 'posh' end of Bonacca!                                                                                                                          The fast ferry - our dinghy just ahead of it!
Relief is possibly in sight as there appears to be a strongish cold front coming off the USA this weekend which seems to be forecast as being stronger than originally predicted. That will re-shape the winds to blow for a time from the north which may work for us to get those 150 miles eastwards. But, if the forecast is wrong we could find ourselves facing strong northeast winds before we get to the corner which for us will make things difficult to keep going without well and truly shaking the boat (and us) up. That would mean returning to the Bay Islands to check back in having only just checked out. So we watch the situation carefully. Should this opportunity fall by the wayside we will up sticks and head back to Roatan for another proper re-stock, catch up with friends and wait for another window.
Meantime we enjoyed a fascinating evening ashore at the Manati Restaurant last Sunday evening. It is owned by a German (Hans) and run by Claus and Annette (Germans of the Bavarian variety). Claus had motorcycled all through Central America many years back and had an article printed in a motorcycling magazine which he proudly showed us a well-thumbed copy of. Every time someone else walked into the bar they were German too!! We were surrounded by Germans. We could have been in Munich! Well, the beer flowed and it turned into a very unforgettable evening. The food wasn't bad either, cooked by Claus. He just loves old British 60's and 70's rock music and played some long forgotten tracks from Deep Purple in Rock. Such memories.  Another Hans joined us at the table - whom we called Hans '2'. He had arrived by motorcycle on Guanaja many years back which had caused great mirth amongst the locals seeing as Bonacca and the main island itself did not have an inch of road to ride it on. Hans '2' hadn't realised that but he sold the bike and stayed. How he copes with the bugs we can only imagine!
The pretty dock area of the Manati Restaurant                                                    Claus working the music selection behind the bar and Annette the hosty
                                                                        Finally we called this off lying rock Alcatraz although its a small resort and yours for $1.7M
We have now returned to French Harbour, Roatan as the expected weather window never materialised. The cold front never became a feature that could be exploited and the trades were to resume after a brief lull.