Often we are not sure what exactly awaits us at the next destination. Mostly we choose the next stop based on stories from other sailors and limited information online. In preparation, we at least research the entry requirements of the country, but for us a large part of this trip is to gain impartial impressions. We don’t want to find reviews for everything on TripAdvisor or have too detailed a plan, but rather make our own local experiences and get to know a place through human encounters and random discoveries. Roatan and the other Bay Islands, for example, were completely unknown to us until a few weeks ago. To us it honestly sounded more like a Pokemon than a diving paradise in Honduras. Many sailors seem to skip the Bay Islands (Roatan, Utila and Guanaja) or, if so, only stop for a short while on their way between the Northwest Caribbean and Panama. But we don’t quite understand why not more sailors come here.
After a few days at anchor in French Cay, we already felt very comfortable. The protected bay is surrounded by a great, healthy reef, where you can snorkel and dive. Even with our little dinghy, we had access to several dive spots, including 2 intact shipwrecks and an airplane wreck. The underwater life is diverse and the water is usually very clear, unless a torrential rain shower just passed or the ebb tide washed the sand out of the bay. The dive shops are very welcoming, happy to share information about the different spots and offer affordable tank fills or equipment rentals. All diving buoys are managed by the marine park and can be publicly used by small boats or dinghies.
Several marinas and local shops on the waterfront in the bay are incredibly friendly to cruisers. In general, we were very surprised by the friendliness, openness and the again very East Caribbean and American influence. Contrary to our expectations, we get around very well with English again and don’t have to struggle with our broken Spanish all the time. We were told that most people on Roatan grow up bilingual within their families.
One of the most memorable moments during our first weeks of the island was a visit to Punta Gorda in the North East of the island. Descendants of Afro-Caribbean people from St.Vincent live here and celebrate every Sunday by dancing on the streets to traditional drum music. We were a little early to the party but after a few cold drinks at a local bar the music picked up and more and more people from all generations gathered around the loud playing band and started to shake their hips to the rhythm. We were shown how the local dance goes and joined the party and dance floor to the amusement of many locals.
We especially enjoyed the effort Tony and Robyn on Alleycat Two, who also manage the Fantasy Island Marina and Tiki Palapa Bar, put into creating a welcoming cruising community. Not only do they offer help to anyone, they also share local knowledge, put you in contact with other sailors, run a morning cruiser’s net and organize weekly events like movie nights or BBQs at their small island bar. We enjoyed spending time with them and with their help we even managed to get the broken part for our fridge brought by another boat from Guatemala to Roatan within a week.
Despite several marinas and anchorages, there are only two marine shops on the island that have a limited range of marine products and therefore the Bay Islands are not well suited for boat work. In addition, taking a taxi is very expensive on the island and you cannot really negotiate much due to the increased prices due to cruise ship tourism.
In the coming weeks we will enjoy Christmas and New Years with our father on board and explore the other anchorages, diving and snorkeling spots, nature and villages on the three Bay Islands.