Passage from Providencia to Guanaja, Honduras

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Sat 22 Dec 2012 21:02
Beach 'Happy Hour'  before all setting off for Guanaja
Providencia was just revving up for Christmas as we prepared to depart and it was a shame we weren't staying to see just how much fun they have on this small island. Judging by the music going through into the early hours the night before we left, they have a lot.
The Island's festive Christmas Tree and street lights which were lit up with a colourful sequence of flashing lights at night. The attractive Boardwalk led out of town
Never mind blowing that darn conch shell Dad there's a reef to starboard!............... and an 'Admiral' to the right
This was certainly better than the previous passage! The weather window was just perfect and if we may dare say so, could have done with just a few more knots of breeze to keep the boat speed up, especially as we had a nagging counter current for some of the way - definitely not a helpful one which is what we had hoped for.
Having sat in Providencia for two weeks we pulled and cleaned the speed log minutes before hauling anchor to make sure it would function for the voyage. It seemed OK, scraped a little growth off the paddle wheel, replaced it into the fitting and got underway. Annoyingly, sixty two feet later as our readings showed it stopped working. Despite undertaking a few manoeuvres like heaving to, to stop the paddlewheel and let whatever had become caught on it to drop off, we just couldn't get it to work. It was another seventy miles before whatever was lodged in the wheel finally fell off and we could read how fast (or slowly) we were moving through the water. In reality we tend to take more notice of our 'speed over the ground'  (SOG) when underway which is created from the GPS system. Where the log is useful is in calculating how much current is present in the waters we are sailing through which helps with choosing a course to steer.
Anyway, enough technical stuff, we left at 1315 hours Monday and arrived Guanaja 1315 hours Thursday. The Agent (Mr Bush) in Providencia kindly agreed to clear us out quickly and indeed he did, meaning that we could get underway almost immediately. He also warned us to stay clear of Nicaragua's newly assigned territorial waters for fishing. This was hard to comply with as Providencia is pretty much in the middle of those waters now. We are well aware that these waters are not highly regarded as a place to dally for too long. We kept as far east as possible all the way up to 15 degrees north which is where Honduran waters begin.
Given that we were something like 120 miles offshore we were amazed when the 'Admiral' spotted what looked like a small canoe with two persons onboard paddling along in the five foot seas, appearing on top of a wave one second and then disappearing into the trough the next. This was our only slight moment of concern in the passage. We were relieved to see they were not trying to wave us down to help them. In the distance was a fishing boat going round in circles which was re-assuring as it seemed to be doing what fishing boats tend to do. Then it steamed off in the general direction of the canoe. Maybe they were fish spotting or had been naughty and been cast adrift for their punishment for a few hours. About five miles to port was a frigate, presumably Nicaraguan, it was hard to tell without a copy of Janes Fighting Ships onboard! We sailed onward - as a military reconnaissance plane flew overhead....................
We had hoped to catch some good fish on the way and in some way we did. But it was the 'wrong' fish! There were some strikes on the lures resulting in a straightened hook on one of them but when the electric reel screamed out and the line remained taut we had hopefully hooked dinner. Leaving the hooked fish to tire for ten minutes or so Phil prepared the boat, rigging the flying gaff, getting the gloves ready, a bucket and alcohol spray. We then proceeded to reel the blighter in. What a disappointment when we spotted the dark spots on the silvery body indicating that we had spoiled a barracuda's day out and it was not going to be terribly happy about it! So we left it out for another 10 minutes hoping that it would spit the hook. It didn't and there was nothing for it but to continue reeling it in to retrieve our trolling hardware. Or what was left of it! It was a biggy as the pics will show, looking like one of those Pike you see stuffed and mounted in a glass cabinet at the local fishing club. It had an attendant remora/sucker fish attached to it's back which remained steadfast until it realised that things were going badly for its host. It dropped off onto our transom step wriggling around until it was pushed back into the sea. It's host followed ten minutes later. Just hope the remora found a new mate to attach to.
Just off to see Mr O'Reilly dear! (Apologies to 'Fawlty Towers')...(Oh! those shorts Skip) ....and our humble lure which suffered fatal wounds in the attack
The corner at the eastern end of Honduras is fairly shallow and contains a number of cays and reefs - namely the Vivarillo and the Hobbies Cays where transiting craft can safely anchor up to rest or stay for a number of days. It's well protected from the prevailing winds but apart from the fishermen that use the banks there's nothing there. This is where we caught up and overtook the three other boats that had left Providencia before us. They had stopped overnight in the Vivarillos to rest. We had kept on going due to a deteriorating weather window caused by a strong cold front exiting the USA. These fronts can influence the weather throughout the whole Caribbean depending on their strength so there was no time to spare if we weren't to be caught out in strong winds and big seas (again!). In all, from heading due north until you have turned towards the Bay Islands and are heading west there is about one hundred miles or so of 'curve' to the course. It seems to take forever to turn the corner. A day in fact. Finally heading westwards, with another hundred and seventy miles to run to Guanaja, it was just perfect. A beautiful starry night and sunny day made for idyllic passage-making. It was somewhat alarming however to sail past an empty fifty gallon oil drum drifting along in the current one hundred yards to starboard. We warned the following yachts about the drum over the VHF.  Surprisingly they all saw it too. To have hit it in the night would not have been good. And that's putting it mildly.
We arrived in Guanaja in company with four other boats almost three days to the hour that we left Providencia. We were amazed to see seven other cruising boats including the yacht Amandela with Fabio onboard whom we'd last seen in the Bahamas before his dice with Cancer over the past year. Well done Fabio, it's great to see you out cruising again!
So Christmas looms large and it looks like we will have a truly international flavour to the proceedings, Scandinavian, French, USA, Kiwi, British, German and Italian boats count amongst the anchored fleet. So Happy Christmas to all our readers, especially family back in 'Blighty' and friends through the world.
                                                                                        Sunrise over a calm Caribbean sea