Joe and I got back to the Rio Dulce just in time to see the weather window we were looking for starting to close and not leaving us enough time to get around the corner of Nicaragua to head for Panama, the price you pay for running off and having fun I guess. Not wanting to spend an indefinite amount of time siting around the Rio Dulce and with the possibility that we may have to sail straight to Panama and not be able to stop there, we decided to make another small side trip to the island of Utila. We worked for a few days and got Kuhela stocked and ready for the trip and had her set up so that we could come back and get going in a couple days if we had to. We would be watching the weather, and at the first sign of a break we would head back to get Kuhela back out to sea where she belongs. She’s been very patiently waiting for us while we went gallivanting around Central America but I could feel that she was ready to go and didn’t want to push my luck, you know how girls are.
The bus ride there took most of a day, and then spent the night in a little town called La Ceiba, before getting the ferry out the next morning to the island. Utila is known for being a cheap place to do your SCUBA certification and for this reason attracts mostly backpackers from all over the world wanting to come and dive. We met up with some other Australian lads that we had met in El Salvador on the ferry over and upon arrival found an awesome little spot to stay, right on the water, with a little jetty that over looked the bay. Its easy to see why people are known to get stuck here, the island is small, beautiful and the people friendly. What more could you want really. Didn’t take long to get our bearings and find a dive shop that offered a spot to us for free if they were heading out diving as we didn’t need any gear and without the bulky SCUBA set up didn’t take up much room. We did a quick dive off the shore that afternoon and found ourselves in clear water with a nice reef dropping off to around the 20M mark. So good to be diving again, after getting out fix of surf this was a great way to round it all out. Basically I think both Joe and myself are just happier when were in the ocean.
We had been told about a wreck just off shore in about 30M of water that was a good dive and the next day we rented a kayak to paddle out there and check it out. It was a slow start to the day and by the time we headed out a strong breeze from the east was hitting the outside of the bay, no worries though we had our gear, we are comfortable in the water and had our trusty kayak, or so we thought. After battling it out to the marker, we were just about to get geared up to dive and assessing the wind situation when we started to get the feeling that the kayak was sitting a bit lower in the water than before. Turns out our kayak was just as keen to dive as we were and was heading down, fast. We untied and started paddling for shore, which wasn’t too bad as it was downwind. We could feel the water in the kayak moving around more and more and with about 300M to go it was clear we weren’t going to make the beach. We ended up getting our gear on and having to tow the kayak back to the beach and explained to the person that we had rented it from that I considered one of the values of a rental kayak to be that it floated for the entire time I rented it for and with this understanding we got our money back.
We were back out at the wreck soon enough though, we had heard that there was a free diving instructor on the island and soon enough we met up with ding dong Dave, who’s been running courses on the island for a few months. We ended up diving the wreck and training with him over the time we spent out there, he’s a good guy and was great to train with. The wreck was probably one of the better dive sites out there and both Joe and I were diving well doing drops to 30M, with Joe even making some good dives into the wreck itself. It’s a great feeling free falling and seeing a wreck appear below you as you drift down and past the wheel house, with its resident large dog snapper, and continue on down to the main deck to sit and look around at this very surreal setting. A definite highlight is sitting there on the the deck at about 25M and seeing scuba divers come around the corner to find you there, sitting casually looking and them with all their gear and noisy bubbles, part of the reason I love free diving so much is the silence and the freedom that you feel, its just you and the ocean.
One of the places I had been told to check out on the island was a little spot called the jade seahorse, built by an ex art professor from the states that has been here for many years. Walking into the place is like entering a little wonderland. Hours could be spent exploring and taking in all the amazing little features and hidden gems in the walls, doors, windows, steps and everywhere else you look. I first went there in the night and was such a cool experience looking around, climbing over bridges and through caves that were all lit up with different color lights that reflected and refracted off the thousands of glass beads and pieces everywhere. One of the coolest places I have been to and well worth the second visit a few days later in the daylight. It always amazes me the time, effort and talent that people put into things that they love. If you ever find yourself on Utila go check it out.
After about a week we started to see some signs of the weather possibly dying off again and giving us a shot to get south and started to make plans to head back. With the time frame that Joe had available before going to the Bahamas it really didn’t look like he was going to have time to make it and I was trying to decide whether to make the passage alone or to look for crew. One of the things I have been trying to work on for this trip is to be open to what the universe brings your way and to not stress out as I have in the past when I struggle to control everything. I knew I could do the trip solo if I had to and just kind of put it out there that if crew came along then fine, if not that ill do it solo, simple as that. This had been mulling around in my head for a few days and then I happened to meet a girl who was on the island one morning and had a yacht herself and turned out to be the cousin of one a fiend of mine. She wanted to get some more experience sailing and was trying to figure out if to stay on Utila or head off. So as easy as that, I now had crew, and only a couple days after that I got a message from another mate of mine that was just on his way back to Central America and I mentioned the trip down, and so then there were three. This is the most people I would have had on board for a trip so far and this will also be the longest non stop trip for Kuhela and I, but it all fell into place and I've got a good feeling about it. So in the spirit of learning and being open to the experiences that life sends your way the trip was set to go.
Joe and I headed back on the early morning ferry to the mainland so we could try to make it back in one day and get ready to sail. All went well with getting the bus to the main town of San Pedro de Sula and we got off one bus to try to find the other one to Rio Dulce at the main bus terminal, how hard could it be really? We asked around and got told where the bus we needed was and headed there to find the bus just about to leave, we asked if it was going to Fronteras, Rio Dulce and got told yes and no, depending on who you asked. Things didn’t look right from the start, but with the bus about to leave and wanting to get back in one day we ignored our gut instinct and got on board (so much for learning to trust yourself) and before you knew it were heading out of town and on to…somewhere. Turns out that the Frontera that they meant was not our Fronteras but by the time we figured things out we were well on our way to the closest point of the border between Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, only seven hours in the wrong direction. This was only fully confirmed to us when an Australian girl happened to get on board and we asked her if she by any chance knew where we were headed. It all worked out though as she had been to the little town that we were headed to before and knew a good hotel where we could crash for the night. So the next day was spent making our way across the border into Guatemala and back in the opposite direction to Rio Dulce. I can tell you we were both pretty happy when we arrived and very happy to be finished with busses for a while.
We got the final things ready to head to sea and before we left had a big dinner with all the people I had met on the way down. This trip has been about people, just as much as about sailing, and having a big dinner with good friends and kids running around and music, for me that was the highlight of my time in Rio Dulce. Joe cooked up a great curry and we had an amazing night with this being the parting point for the journeys of Kuhela, Suricat (the French family), Blizzard (the Czech family), Ayisha (South African, Victor) and Captain Jack (Alan and Sandy). Its amazing that we all met so long ago now and have had a chance to share in each others adventures. The world is a small place and I do sincerely hope, or actually believe, that we will cross paths again, hopefully sometime soon.
Jason flew in the morning of departure and with the three of us on board we pulled out of the marina and headed down to Texas bay to spend the night. I don’t have words to describe how great it is to be out of the marina and out at anchor again, knowing that mother ocean was waiting for us just down stream. First thing the next morning we headed for our meeting with her, checked out of Guatemala and made our start to Utila. The sail across was a bit more interesting than I thought it was going to be, with enough wind to sail when the forecast called for no wind at all though had to tack a few times to get there in the end. Also was a lot more moisture and cloud around than expected with a total of five water spouts in the end all dancing off in different directions in the end and one pretty good squall that drenched Kuhela for a while. We made out arrival at around 1300 and dropped anchor and took care of a few jobs that needed to be done before the longer leg of the trip. Felt good to be back again and had a few friends come out to the boat to say hi and finally meet Kuhela. Another great night with good friends. We all slept soundly that night after the passage and with the expectation of sailing the following morning. I really cant believe that Joe is getting off here, having him on board and sailing and traveling with your best mate, its been amazing. He and Kuhela really got to know each other and having someone on board that knows the boat and you can trust made the trip even more enjoyable. Joe stayed on board till the last minute and helped get everything ready before I threw him overboard so he could swim to the beach. He’s got some really great opportunities coming up and though I am sad that he is no longer sailing with I am also stoked for him and look forward to catching up with him for the course in the Bahamas in a few weeks. So with new crew and new adventures ahead we head out of the bay at Utila and pointed the bow eastward and along the coast of Honduras. Next stop the little island of providecia.