Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras

Posted by Scot

Other than the visit to the Sea Shepherd Brigitte Bardot, Utila has not been particularly successful at arresting the downward slide of our Honduras experience.  This is probably at least partly due to the weather.  In a bay that is best suited to provide protection from the prevailing eastern trade winds of the Carribbean, we have had a couple of days of west winds, which allow big waves to build across the bay, and make for an uncomfortable anchorage.  This is compounded by dive boats roaring in and out of the bay at full tilt, creating a lot of wake and generally rocking our boat.  I know they have to make a living, and our comfort is probably not high on their priority list, but it certainly doesn’t make it a place that cruisers will want to hang out.

I think you could call this "damning with faint praise".  Or at least "vague praise".
In fact, all these things together have conspired to produce a bit of minor drama for us.  Yesterday, as the west wind built and our boat bounced around, we saw that the forecast was for increasing westerlies overnight as a front came through.  So we decided to raise our anchor and check out the west side of the bay, reasoning that if we could anchor there, we would have better protection from the building waves.

Utila street scene.

We went over and explored the west side, but it was really rocky, and we couldn’t find a place to drop our anchor.  So we came back and anchored a bit to the north of our original position.  The wind was pretty strong when we anchored, so we let out tons of chain (140 feet in about 12 feet of water), and I set the anchor harder than I normally do.  I revved the engines in reverse up to 2000, when I usually just pull at 1500 rpms.  The anchor held well with the pull of the engines and the wind, so we figured we were good for the night.

There is a rumor that Utila is where Robinson Crusoe was stranded.  I'm not sure how true that is, but it probably brings in some tourists.
As night came on, the wind came up a bit, but was still in the low 20 knots, so we weren’t worried.  I decided to sleep in the salon anyway, in case the wind picked up more.  I stayed up until about midnight reading, which is pretty late for us, but everything seemed OK, so I went to sleep.

Waterfront hotel, Utila.
This morning, to our shock, we are still anchored, but about 500 metres from where we started last night!  Neither Sara or I noticed a thing during the night, and we seem to be solidly fixed here now.  Luckily for us, there are only a couple of other boats in the bay, and we are not close to either one of them.  We have never dragged this anchor before, and we have had much windier nights than last night.  I’m not sure exactly what we could have done differently, other than maybe set an anchor alarm.  That is something I will be doing from now on, whenever there are any wind or waves to speak of in an anchorage.  We are pretty lucky that we didn’t continue to drag right into the shore, or hit another boat in the night.  Scary in retrospect, but not much we can do about it now.  Ironically, I had just sent an email yesterday to another cruiser, saying how much we love our Rocna anchor, and were happy that it had never budged on us.

Bar choices in Utila.
Other than that Utila doesn’t seem to have a lot to recommend it over any of the other Bay Islands.  It is basically another budget dive destination, peopled by locals and 20 something year old dive tourists.  This means lots of loud music pumped out over the bay at night.  The main street is kind of cool.  It is just two paving stones wide, and there are not really any cars here.  The locals get around on motor bikes or golf carts.

Downtown Utila.  Not a lot of room for pedestrians, but the motorbikes and golf carts just seemed to swerve around us.
The place has a bad reputation for theft historically.  It used to be called “Burglary Bay” by cruisers.  I’m not sure if this is still valid, but we have been cautious, leaving someone on the boat at all times when we send people ashore to check things out.

Utila waterfront.  More of the Honduran penchant for stilt buildings.
We are hoping to get off tonight for the overnight passage to Guatemala.  It will depend a bit on the weather.  The west winds are supposed to ease off, and eventually swing back around to the east, which is what we would really like for our passage.  Fingers crossed! 

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