Shakedown cruise to Roatan

Monday (Boxing Day) we paid our electricity bill, topped up our water tanks, and disconnected everything electrical we had charged as we were leaving shore power behind, and slipped away around noon from NanaJuana for the trip down the Rio Dulce to Cayo Quemodo.   We thoroughly enjoyed the moody jungle and mountain scenery before we pulled into the bay and anchored.   Boy it felt good to be back on the hook, even in the rain!

We went to drop off our sails at Toms and took a few photos of Morphie on the way back.  Our next destination was Utila, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras, and they require boat identification photographs for the check in process.  So while Richard busied himself pulling all our ropes through the new blocks in preparation for the return of the sail, I turned the photos into an A5 sheet complete with boat stamp.   Hopefully the Port Captain will be suitably impressed with my handiwork LOL.   Oh yes…and I ended up buying a new bracelet…from the visiting local women who paddled over to Morphie.    And ended up giving the kids some biscuits too – who could resist those little faces?!?

Later on we dinked over to Mike’s new restaurant called – not sure why – Minnie Mike’s Juke Joint.   We had an early dinner and a few beers while we caught up with Texan Mike and his Guatemalan family.   We had visited them on our arrival in the Rio and were surprised by how much the smallest child had grown.  He loved proudly showing us his new shoes.   Was a fun evening.

Tuesday morning we were up early and headed over to Mikes as he had offered to give us a lift to Livingston to get our clearance documents sorted.   We headed off in his lancha with the family and we were in awe of the beautiful scenery through the gorge.  

We arrived at Livingston and docked at the Fishermen’s Jetty.   We climbed out and loved watching the huge numbers of pelicans hanging out waiting for fish handouts.  

We then headed to Servimar – which is Raul’s place – the ‘fixer’.   He had pre-prepared our exit papers for us and, within five minutes of handing over our passports, we had exit stamps and everything was sorted for us to leave….   Great service!   We have 24 hours to depart which is fine by us as we planned a dawn departure on Wednesday.

We did a bit of shopping enjoying the empty streets after the chaos of Fronteras – and stopped to watch the women doing their laundry in the communal washing area – before catching up with the internet over a coffee.   

We headed back to the pier and found Mike.  He was there drinking beer so we joined in…and waited for the women to return from their shopping spree.   Eventually we were all reunited and we headed back up the river again.

It was about two when we got back so we headed straight to Toms for a sit rep on our sails.   He had almost finished the staysail but had had to do more work than envisaged as the original sacrificial strip had not covered the luff tape so there was quite a bit of UV damage.    We returned to Morphie to wait   Come four we are getting slight anxious….so Richard went off in dink to see what was happening.    He returned with the staysail and said Tom was hopeful that he would finish the genoa later today.  So we hanked on the sail and just chilled out….but by six it was pitch black so Richard went off again only to report that Tom had had to give up due to lack of light.  Fair enough…will be done by eight in the morning….  

So we headed over to Mikes and gave the boys our present – an old-fashioned wooden spinning top.   Well….the adults loved it….although this might be something to do with the fact that they were pretty stoned.    Pure marijuana joints are constantly being passed around – and no one minded when we declined to participate.  Eventually the kids got to play with the top and they were fascinated by it with the baby dancing around it as it spun on the floor. 

Before we turned in for the night we did some passage scenarios and plotted our route.  Basically we have to go across the bar at Livingston by 8.30 latest to stand a chance of getting through the Belizean reef and out into open water before dark.    Hmmmm…that’s not possible even if the sails are ready for eight in the morning….so we decided to stay another day. 

Wednesday morning Richard went round to tell Tom the news….   Later on he came by with the finished sails and we waited for a break in the rain before hanking it on.   And, of course, the furler jammed at this point so we had to re-feed all the line through the drum…while we sailed around our anchor in the bay.   Finally it was all sorted and at last Morphie was fully dressed and ready to return to the sea.   Later on we downloaded the weather again and saw that the wind forecast had strengthened to 20 knots so it might be a bit lumpy out there…never mind….Utila here we come!

Later that evening we went to say our goodbyes to Mike, Suli and Tom.   We had really enjoyed our stay in Cayo Quemodo.

At six on Thursday morning we upped anchor and headed off down to Livingston through the gorge in the rain showers.   We actually made our first GoPro video whilst underway but we need to learn how to edit it before we share it….but hopefully we’ll have something for you soon.     

By 7.30 we arrived at Livingston just as the fishermen arrived back from their night at sea….there were birds everywhere following them, including some taking a break on the sea buoy.

We safely crossed the shallow sand bar and headed up towards Belize.   We were thoroughly enjoying being back on the water although the AIS decided to play up and the high wind and torrential rain squalls were a little tiresome.    Before sunset, as planned, we were through the Ranguana Pass and out into open ocean heading to Utila.   Then the radar gave us an error message….great…..    We managed to sort out both the AIS and radar before we had dinner and started our night shift patterns.

During my first watch – six to nine pm – the squalls worsened and the seas picked up.   We were reefed down….and then the wind shifted 120 degrees and hit us right on the nose.   I had to get Richard back up into the cockpit to help me deal with the genoa.   We decided to take it in and deploy the staysail instead as I’m able to tack without assistance so I started the ‘where is the wind coming from game’ responding to constant significant wind shifts by working my way above or below the rhumb line towards our destination.   It was slow going as the seas continued to build with some green water over the bow.

Richard’s shift – nine to twelve – brought more of the same except that he had cargo ships to play with and the AIS went on the blink again.  But in the pitch black he was easily able to spot them so he left me to sleep.   When I came back on watch at twelve I restarted the systems and got the AIS working again…all was good.     Within ten minutes of being back on watch I got hit by a 35 knot squall which didn’t cause any difficulties sailing Morphie but I did manage to get soaked by being in the wrong place in the cockpit at the wrong time!

Then bang…something broke…and bits flew into the cockpit.   I realised that the main sheet block had parted from the traveller so had to call Richard back up urgently to help lash the boom down.    Luckily I was able to find all the bits!    With the boom secured and the main now furled away we continued motoring towards our destination.   Richard went back to bed while I radioed the large container ship behind us to thank him for giving us safe passage…he had clearly slowed down and changed his course.

We swapped shifts again at three and Richard woke me early with shouts of ‘dollies’!   We were being welcomed to Utila by a couple of dolphins who had come to play…   Absolutely magical.   And, of course, don’t forget the beautiful stormy sunrise at sea…

Finally we worked our way around Utila, through the reef, and anchored in the bay by eight on Friday morning.   Our first passage of the season was 143 miles which we completed in 26 hours, not too bad considering the conditions and problems that we had faced.  We were able to fix the traveller block quite quickly – obviously this had just shaken loose over time – and definitely something to add to the pre-passage checks in future!

By ten we were cleaned up and ashore trying to check in.   But the immigration office and the port captain’s office were closed.   So we went shopping and returned about half an hour later.  

The Port Captain was surprised I had the photos ready and accepted them without question – phew!    First part done so we went to see the immigration lady who was struggling with non-working computers, power cuts and lack of internet, so was manually – and tediously – hand completing forms for the French family ahead of us.  Finally by the time she was ready to process us the power came back so we were done quite quickly.  We returned to the Port Captain who asked us to return at two pm.   Really?!?    We are both feeling tired from the passage and know that if we return to Morphie we won’t make it back….so decided to stay in town.   We had breakfast at Mango Tango and then headed off to Buccaneers for more coffee and internet.

By 1.30 pm both of us were completely jaded and feeling slightly unwell….so we returned to the Port Captain in hopeful mood.   Our papers had still not been processed by the mainland but he just created new ones for us and gave us our cruising permit.   Great – thanks!    Finally legal, and in the rain, we headed back to Morphie and went to bed.  And that is where we stayed only surfacing to turn on the anchor light LOL.

Saturday morning we were up early and picked up the anchor before seven…and the fan belt started slipping…so we dropped it again.    Richard was frustrated as he’d done an engine check the night before and all was well.    Nevertheless he quickly swapped it out and so we took off again leaving Utila behind in the pouring rain.   The wind was lighter than forecast so we motored….hopeful that it would fill in later…but, of course, it didn’t.  

Thankfully the clouds and rain went away and we motored across to Roatan enjoying the sun and the sights of the two huge cruise ships in town.  

By mid-afternoon we were tied into our slip in Fantasy Island and I wandered to the marina office to pay – and had a lovely reunion with Cheeky the monkey along the way.   I thoroughly enjoyed my kisses and cuddles to the amazement of the hotel guests who he had been swearing at from the trees LOL.

We went to the lobby to get online before we met up with Charlie and Saundra when they returned from a day out.   They invited us to join them for dinner on a friends’ boat for the evening.   We declined though as we had already eaten but hoped to see them on the beach for the fireworks later.

We cleaned ourselves up and headed over to the Cruisers tiki hit and caught up with Steve, Debbie and Libby the boat dog.   Libby seemed pretty pleased to see Richard again…  We spent a few hours there before heading off to the beach where we watched the dancing entertainment;  enjoyed the fire being lit;  before the fireworks went over the beach at midnight while quaffing complimentary champagne.   It was a lovely evening.   Happy New Year to you all.

This morning, Sunday, and Richard installed an anchor wash down pump and re-secured the traveller block with a special product we found in Utila.   We’re both now in the hotel reception getting internet….I think the rest of the day might be for rest!  

Bye for now