Sunday, April 11, 2010

Providencia and the Bay Islands

We arrived at the island of Providencia on January 22nd after a 42 hour passage from Colon, Panama. It was at times our most uncomfortable sailing yet as the seas were very steep and confused, 8-10' on our beam.  We were sailing close hauled in 20-25 knots of wind.  Made for a noisy, wet and bumpy ride, but the boat felt solid and we managed to sleep well enough. The picture above is of our chartplotter screen showing our boat (the black symbol), on top of a significant reef at the entrance to the harbour at Providencia. Not to worry, because we were actually in the clear channel to our port.  This is just an illustration of the intermittent  inaccuracy of electronic charts. A reminder to watch where we're going!

We did some nice walks on Providencia and the adjoining island of Santa Catalina which is connected by a foot bridge.  This is the view over the main harbour.  Idyll Island is anchored just below us.

We didn't walk everywhere.  Rented a scooter (Derek wants a real motorcycle!), and spent a day touring around the island. You could do it in under an hour without breaking any speed limits, but we took our time and stopped along the way.  Everyone on this island rides scooter or small motorcycles. There are only a few cars and the odd small pick-up truck.  You frequently see families of 4 on one scooter.  The craziest we saw was a couple of guys on a small motorcycle dragging a big bundle of 15' long rebar down the road behind them - sparks flying everywhere!

One of the places we stopped was Roland's - you have to stop at Roland's when you're on Provo.  Here is de mon hisself preparing our fish for lunch.  In spite of being a territory of Colombia, most Provo Islanders speak English with a West Indian dialect.  Many proudly trace their roots back to the pirate captain, Henry Morgan and his crew, who used this island as a base from which to intercept the treasure ships returning to Spain.

Waitin' for our fish to cook - may as well have a fancy drink.

And have a swing on the beach.

Ah, here's de fish.  And it was delicious.

On the waterfront at Providencia.  Its a very clean and tidy island. The inhabitants take obvious pride in the beauty of this place and work to keep it that way.

Morgan's Head.  From the seaward side the rock on this point looks like a human head - sort of.  There are caves honeycombing the island and just below us legend has it that there was a stash of treasure.  We didn't find any - not that we would say if we did...  By now all the easy pickins are gone, but there are probably wrecks still to be found out on the reefs, because the waters around here are pretty tricky to navigate even with modern navigation systems (see first picture in this post!).  There are lots of cannons around though, attesting to the pirate's presence.

One evening we invited all the other boats in the bay to join us for sundowner drinks and appies. As usual, these events tend to extend well beyond sundown.  Lots of fun and some very interesting people. In this group was a retired Hollywood camera man, his ex-actress wife and a profesional extreme snowboarder. You just never know who's out here!

Much as we enjoyed Providencia, we got a forecast from Chris Parker for perfect weather to make the 400 mile passage to the Bay Islands of Honduras. So it was time to leave.  We have to say that the people of Providencia were some of the friendliest and helpful we have met yet.  We had one fellow offer to drive us to a restaurant at the other end of the island and then to call him anytime of the night and he would come and pick us up. This was after he had filled our SCUBA tanks - for free!

After a much more enjoyable, faster and smoother passage than the last one (30 hours with the spinnaker up), we arrived in the Bay Islands of Honduras at the island of Guanaja.  The main town is on a small off lying island (used to be three but they sorta got built over into one).  The houses are densely packed, extending out over the water and there are no motorized vehicles - everyone gets around by boat of some kind.  Again, while part of Honduras, many people here speak English as their first language, their ancestors having come here from Jamaica for work.

The beautiful little island of Josh's Cay (recently renamed Graham's Cay by the new owner - Graham), just off Guanaja.  We anchored off - far enough off to avoid the sand flies! Had a couple of days here all by ourselves.  Snorkeled and Derek tried to catch a bonefish on his fly rod. Graham's Cay is actually a world renowned bonefish and permit fly fishing spot. Graham told us how one of his customers cast a fly from his seat at the dinner table and caught a bonefish.  Well sure enough there are lots of bonefish but after hours of stalking them and casting endlessly, Derek had not hooked even one.  They were practically bumping into his legs as he waded in the shallows.  And they were big!

In the background are the rocky remains of the old Roatan Dive Lodge where we visited, along with friends Jim, Jeannie, Dave and Ron on our first vacation together back in 1983.  The lodge burned down about 10 years ago and the jungle has quickly reclaimed it.  Brought back many memories...

That's a lot of iguanas!  The Roatan iguana refuge. Ones in the wild are sought after as an alternative to chicken. Having tried iguana soup back in Bonaire, Derek can attest to its tastiness.  

We don't have many pictures of Guanaja and Roatan as the weather was pretty wet and gloomy much of the time due to a series of cold fronts. And when it wasn;t we went diving.  Diving was great at Roatan, possibly the best we have  seen in the Caribbean. Relatively healthy corals with good diversity, fabulous, steep walls dropping into the deep blue, 100' visibilty, and lots of interesting fish.  We also hung out with some great people in the Bay Islands.  We'll never forget watching the Olympic gold medal hockey game with a bunch of other Canucks under the palm trees on the dock at Fantasy Island marina!