31st May 2023
French Cay, Roatan, Honduras – Utila Town, Utila, Honduras via West End, Roatan, Honduras
Wandering into any tourist information centre you’ll be presented with marketing material showing experiences of every kind. There will be yoga on the beach, beer fuelled music festivals, welcoming local communities and aquatic excursions to name but a few. This material would be apt for West Bay in Roatan which offered all this and more.
We prepared to wave goodbye to French Cay and hoped that we’d also be leaving all our rigging, engine and fridge problems behind. Turning on all the electronics the instruments sparked into life, plotters showed our position and like magic AIS targets appeared, just as they always did. Then, even before the engine was fired up alarms started! How was the engine overheat alarm shrieking when the engine wasn’t even running?
With the engine remaining silent the the alarm sounded again and again and we moved our ears to try and find exactly where it was emanating from. The high shrill pitch made it impossible to track down until Fiona happened to be holding a tablet and it vibrated. It was not the overheat alarm at all, it was Noddy Navionics*. The Garmin developers**, in all their wisdom, had forced an update, enabled AIS alarms (which we’d previously turned off) and decided that the alarm sound should be so shrill and so short lived that it would be near impossible to identify. Thanks Garmin, but at least we know the engine is happy!!!
Entering West End the marketing material was in full effect. The reef looked like it teemed with life and as we passed through the narrow entrance the water was so clear we could see fishies and corals pass under our keel. Then as we tied up, fun activities filled the agenda and new friends surrounded us.
As the sun rose over a calm Caribbean sea a flurry of dinghies made its way ashore for a morning Yoga session on on the beach. Fiona is somewhat of a Yogi, knowing that downward dogs and cobra are not just alcoholic drinks, whereas Iain’s primary experience of Yoga was watching his cycling buddies practice it in their pants***, but always up for a new experience he rolled out his mat.
Supple bodies surrounded him and he feared that all these bodies would also have better flatulence control as he prepared to bend joints into new poses. After an hour of bending crunching twisting and flexing (with no prayers to Yoda) Iain was sold on the Yoga experience and to cap it all, plans were made for everything else in the marketing material.
West End was alive with music, in the way only a palm fringed tourist destination can be alive. The bands, throwing health and safety aside, were all set to play on a floating stage that bobbed serenely not far from shore. To power this entertainment electricity cables ran out of buildings across the beach and through the water, before being plugged into non waterproof high power amplifiers, speakers and instruments. Thinking there maybe more of a show than everyone was expecting we took a seat and waited. The cheap beer flowed (as you’d expect with cheapskate Ruffians) and the volume increased. Dancing on in the sand started and, amazingly, all the musicians escaped a fiery electrical death.
While all this shoreside fun was happening the reef and all its wonders sat waiting for us. Everywhere we went we found coral that rose from the depths and supported a variety of life of every shape and colour. In the deep large groupers gently powered their way along and the shallows were ruled by inquisitive Sargent Major fish.
The one subject the marketing collateral didn’t mention were the everpresent maintenance and checks on Ruffian and it was here that we realised that we’d not left all our troubles behind in French Cay. While Iain was up the mast checking that all was OK he discovered yet more damage and everything was far from OK.
Running his hands around the stb side lower he felt a tiny nick and on closer inspection found that 1 of the 19 strands of wire had broken. Still with 200 miles to go until we find a rigger and the safety of the Rio Dulce this will be an ever present worry that will niggle at the back of our minds and threaten to come to the forefront if the worst happens. What we need now are 100’s of miles of no wind, settled weather and calm seas.
The Caribbean marketing always has thumping trade winds that make for great sailing, but it appears that the weather gods have not seen this and between us and Guatamala there is an complete lack of wind. This would normally be a no go for us, but as Ruffian is now nearly a motorboat we’ll take this break in the marketing to get as far west as we can all ready to enter the Rio Dulce.
* Navionics, although a good navigation application is Noddy in all respects and particularly so when compared to OpenCPN (Iain’ll get off his soapbox now).
** If any one from Garmin happens to read this, please do not make the AIS alarm default to on when doing an update, and please make the alarm noise configurable so we can distinguish between different alarms.
*** Iain used to do lots of long distance cycling and always shared a room with an amazing inspirational individual (who’ll remain nameless) who entertained him by doing post biking yoga in his pants! Some things can never be unseen.
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