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March 30 - April 10, 2009

The Hobbies, Honduras

We could have easily spent another week or two in Providencia, but the weather forecast looked good for the 200-mile trip to our next, much-anticipated destination: The Hobbies archipelago (also called Cayos Cajones). The Hobbies are a reef system with a few small islands located east of the Honduras/Nicaragua border. It's out in the middle of nowhere, just the kind of place we love, with pristine water and no city lights to obscure the stars.

Arriving around 9:00 A.M., we found not a single boat in the anchorage. We navigated carefully to the "north" anchorage waypoint and set the hook in a shimmering turquoise pool behind a wide area of reefs and shoals. Now that we'd reached Honduras, we were in the Central Time zone, the same as Texas except no Daylight Savings. Listening to the Northwest Caribbean Net on the SSB radio, we laughed at the familiar twangy, southern accents coming across the ionosphere. Yep, we were getting closer to home.

After a big breakfast, we were ready for a nap. Just as we were dozing off, we heard an outboard motor and voices calling out. Wearily we left our comfy bed and went outside to find two fishermen in a skiff who wanted cigarettes. Before we left Venezuela, we bought small packs of cheap cigarettes for trading. A year later we still had them since all the fishermen we'd encountered wanted nothing less than cold, hard cash. Our visitors said they had nothing to trade, and Nick told them we would trade cigarettes for fish and lobster. So they sped off empty-handed, and we returned to our bunk.

Once again, we were about to doze off when the buzz of an outboard interrupted our slumber. The nicotine-craving fishermen were back with a big plastic bag containing two mackerel, a dozen lobster tails, and several pounds of conch meat. In exchange, Nick handed over a half dozen packs of the small Venezuelan cigarettes (depicting disgusting images of black lungs and rotten teeth, not just a bland surgeon general's warning). We looked at our purchase with wonder. It was all frozen. Where on earth was the freezer? We pondered the mystery and the incredible deal we had just made: all of that seafood for about $6 US! With the seafood in the freezer (minus two tails set aside for dinner), we returned to our naps and dreamed of lobster dripping in garlic butter.

After our first night we decided to relocate to the "south" anchorage and tuck behind a small island for better protection for the strong southeast wind. Here we found less fetch but more swell that rolled the boat from side to side. When a cup flew out of the cabinet, Nick promptly attached a swell bridle and peace returned to our home.

From a distance, the tiny island appeared to be the site of Mayan ruins, but it was considerably less impressive up close when the ruins turned out to be tall stacks of lobster traps. Two fellows lived on the island as caretakers. One morning, Nick noticed one of them walking out on the point and sitting on a lobster trap. What was he doing? Was that a magazine he was reading? Hmmm.... Guess the tide provided the flush.

A fishing trawler soon arrived and anchored near us. This made us a bit nervous, but they caused us no trouble other than pumping noxious diesel fumes into our boat when they charged their batteries. A few days later, Livin' the Dream arrived, and Nick now had a spearfishing buddy besides his hypothermic wife. Every day Nick caught fish and lobster until we were starting to get tired of it. What a spoiled, rotten thing to say: "Gee, I've been eating lobster every day and it's just so same-old, same-old. What I wouldn't give for a burger." Yes, we do get spoiled out here.

While in the Hobbies, we had our first cold front in two years, another sign that we were getting closer to home. We moved back to the north anchorage and found it surprisingly well-protected. During the night, the wind screamed through the rigging at 25-30 knots, and, just beyond the reef, the seas raged at 10-12 feet.

After a week and half, we were ready to move on to Guanaja in the Bay Islands of Honduras. In the company of S/V Damiana, we relocated 14 miles west to Caya Caratasca on the northern end of the Vivirillos archipelago. Someone had told Damiana that this island had a bird sanctuary, so we thought it would make a nice staging point before the overnight run to Guanaja.

As we approached the anchorage we said to each other, "we are so screwed!" A howling 20-25 knot southeast wind and rolling swell was whipping, unabated around the small island. Shallow water made it impossible to tuck in and find protection. We dropped the hook in a 2-3 foot chop with the boat pitching and rolling. Nick immediately put on a swell bridle to give us some tolerable level of comfort during the night. This certainly wasn't the kind of conditions conducive to a good night's rest before a passage, but the boat stayed put and we got a few hours of sleep. Later, Damiana, who had gone south, sent us an e-mail and explained that Caratasca was not the bird island after all. They had found the birds on another island farther south. Oh well. No harm, no fowl.

 

A small island provided some protection from east/southeast winds.

A beautiful view from our stern.

A long sand spit gives Dakota a place to run.

Offshore waves crash on the reef and then become a calm pool on this grassy shoal.

A Spanish hogfish and a fistful of lobster. Yum!

Sun setting in the Hobbies. One night we saw a green flash.

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