September 13, 2000
What an extraordinary night! We are at anchor in the bay of New Haven,
Belize. The night did not promise to be anything exceptional. We did
not even know that there was a full moon scheduled for this night. We
have just left the Rio Dulce after five months of captivity. It truly
has not felt like that, but it is (after all) a small community with
Tonight I feel sorry for those minds because they are not here.
When the sun set in the west it was truly beautiful enough to have
sufficed ; at least special enough to have lasted a long time. Sander
and I sat aft enjoying the breeze and the lack of bugs. Then the full
moon rose in the opposite quadrant - just a small orange glow. The
breeze continued, the bugs stayed away, and we put Chopin’s piano
concertoes on the CD. I started to think of all my family and friends
who would be held in awe at this beauty and tranquility. I still sit
here and marvel at the power of the moon. It is like watching the most
expertly choreographed dance.
There are low hanging dark clouds…the moon dances in and out from
behind the clouds. The sounds are absolutely silent except for Chopin.
How I wish that my brother could see, that my grandmother could feel.
How exquisite! It’s times like these when one misses the most those who
have left us. Sander mentioned that we might take out the camera and the tripod to try to capture the beauty…impossible, I’m afraid.
Monday, September 18, 2000
Porte Este, Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras We arrived here very early in
the dark on the 17th.
The trip here…
When we departed New Haven on Friday morning, we were not sure where we
would end up for the rest of our trip. The weather seemed good to be
heading out to the far islands of Belize, The Sapodillas. The
motor-sailing took us several hours, but we arrived early in the
afternoon with no mishaps along the way.
There are five Sapodilla Cayes stretching from north to south with
reefs on the east side. We anchored close to Lyme Caye in 12’ of water
and were lucky to drop the plow anchor on the edge of a sand patch. It
dragged back into the turtle grass and dug one of its flukes in solid.
The surf here can be significant so we added our Bruce anchor to the
same line of chain about 50’ back from the plow. Then we let out
another 100’ of chain. We felt quite secure for the night and spent
another peaceful evening watching the full moon again before turning in
early. When we went to bed we still had not decided what to do the next day.
At 2 AM our sleep was rudely interrupted by a drastic change in the
The prevailing easterly winds changed 180 degrees to the west and
turned us around completely. Now the anchors were still holding us off
the reef but we were progressively inching our way towards them. If you
can picture what happened with the anchors and the chain, it will give
you a visual image of the problem. The Bruce had been pulled back to
the location of the plow anchor. Our 100’ of chain from the Bruce to
the boat was holding us, but we were very worried about the mess down
on the bottom with two anchors and the 50’ of chain between the two.
We watched the situation for a while…Why haul up the anchor as long as
it was holding? The GPS told us differently. We could see from the
readings that we were creeping toward the Caye. There was nothing else
to do but start the engine and attempt to retrieve the anchors. Jane
had to stay at the wheel and this left the whole job up front to
Sander. Sure enough! As the anchor came up Sander could see that both
anchors were entwined. That is a bad situation, because it means that
there is a 50’ loop of chain below the two entangled anchors. If that
loop of chain should catch on a coral head below, we would be in a lot
of trouble. We truly did not worry too much about that situation,
because our path in to the Caye had not crossed any coral head grounds
until about a half mile out.
Jane was attempting to gain distance from the Caye to deeper water as
slowly as possible to lighten the hobby horsing that was happening up
front. Could we drop the anchors again with the hope that the two would
become untangled? Once that was accomplished, how would Sander get the
Bruce on board by himself?
That has always been a two-person effort with calm waters in the past!
There were many thoughts to worry Jane back there in the cockpit.
As in the past, we were lucky to get the anchors separated. Sander got
the two of them up as close to the bow as possible. Lying on his
stomach and with adrenalin running high, he managed to muscle the two
apart. He also discovered that it is possible for him to get that Bruce
aboard by himself. Strangely enough, Sander discovered that once the
plow dropped back down it seemed to have set again at our new location.
Again, luck was with us! We let out some more scope, watched the
situation for a while, set the anchor alarm on the GPS and were able to
get a few more hours sleep.
Decision to Leave
In the morning the wind was still strongly out of the west. We checked
the morning weather and learned that Tropical Depression #11 was over
Cancun and not a factor to us any longer. Now we were in a good
situation to head for the Bay Islands of Honduras as we had hoped to do
in the beginning. The winds were in our favor so we set off to the east
- a distance of 82 nautical miles. We knew that our arrival would be in
the middle of the night. We could make a decision about what to do when
we arrived there.
On the southwest corner of the island of Utila there is deep water
running nearly up to the island itself right along the 87th parallel.
At 2 AM with a full moon and calm seas, it was fairly easy and straight
forward to work our way directly north staying in depths of over 100’.
When close enough to the island we worked our way slowly over to a
depth of 20’ and crossed our fingers that the anchor would make good on
a bottom that we could not see. Again luck was with us…we could get a
few hours of sleep.
The anchor held well during the rest of the night, but by morning the
winds from the west had built strongly and we were riding some 6-8’
swells. This time the anchor came up with no problem and by 9AM we
were entering the harbor at Porte Este.
The Island of Utila
Monday, September 18th
There are only three settlements on this low lying island which is
covered with mangrove swamps and ringed with fantastic reefs. The
largest is at the head of a horseshoe shaped harbor open to the
southwest. We have stayed two nights here now and plan to stay for
several more. The ride is not that comfortable as there are always
swells from that southwest exposure, but the anchor holds fine and
there are lots of things to do before we travel on.
The Bay Islands are peopled by a combination of English-speaking
fair-skinned people and Spanish speaking natives from the mainland of
Honduras. The Caucasians have been here for a long time and have come
from several sources. Their speech is not British at all but sounds
more like that of New England i.e.
chopping off the R’s at the ends of words etc. The blacks (Garifuna in
origin) came mostly from Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Their language
is an island English-based which is totally impossible to understand.
The town is spaced out along the waterfront running from east to west.
Through the town runs a narrow concrete road supporting ATV’s, motor
bikes and bicycles. We have seen less than ten vehicles during our few
days here. The living is inexpensive as it is in Guatemala. A meal of
fresh-grilled fish, salad and French fries cost about $3 and is very
good. It is difficult to think about eating on the boat when a cooked
meal is so inexpensive.
Great snorkeling is available within a dinghy ride from our anchorage.
Yesterday we sought out a narrow canal (often just the width of the
dinghy) that runs all the way through the mangrove about 1.5 miles to
the north end of the island. Today we will check in with immigration
and then try out our dive equipment around the boat to do some bottom
cleaning. The visibility here is fantastic! We can see the anchor
through 26’ of water with our swim goggles.
Wednesday, September 20, 2000
Weather and Snorkeling
On Monday we visited several dive sites where we just snorkeled. Along
the entire southern coast of the island is a reef that extends out to
about 50 yards from shore. There are huge coral islands with white sand
paths running between. Some of the coral heads come up to within a foot
of the surface. Gives us the chills thinking of Satori being pushed up
onto a shore such as this.
Back at the boat in the afternoon we hauled out the dive gear and tried
it out. There were several problems that we have since worked out. We
were able to get the bottom of the boat nice and clean, scraping off
all of the green slime from the Rio Dulce. It will lessen the work that
we have to do when we return to the river.
Monday and Tuesday night brought very uncomfortable rides with high
winds and rolling seas. Last night the winds reached between 20 and 25
knots. Our anchor dragged a little but then reset itself. The GPS is a
great tool for monitoring that situation.
Today Sander is on the mainland working with a mechanic to try to get
our outboard engine fixed. It has been misbehaving. Since it totally
gave out yesterday, we were lucky to finally locate a local who works
on engines. He is not as picturesque as our Belizean mechanic from last
winter, but we will keep our fingers crossed that he knows what he is
doing. The outboard engine has been a constant headache since we left, but we
are not alone in this predicament. It is a common problem for most
I have done the dishes, prepared a lunch, connected to the ham radio
system for messages and done a load of wash. Time to relax a little and
wait for Sander’s return.
Cayos Cochinos, Bay Islands of Honduras September 25, 2000
Obviously, several days have passed since my last writing. The outcome
of the problems in Utila was the purchase of a new outboard engine for
our dinghy. Sander worked with the mechanic for two full days and it just refused
to work. Could have had the cylinder head rebuilt, but that would be
50% of the cost of a new one. We are, therefore, the owners of a brand new Yamaha 15hp 2 stroke outboard engine. It was definitely not in our budget for right now, but we knew that it was inevitable at some point in time. The comforting aspect is its reliability. We were both a little wary about going any
distance in the dinghy with the old engine. The first photo that is
attached is one from Cochino Grande, our next stop, and it shows our
new outboard engine on the back of the dinghy.
On Monday morning we set out southeast to a group of islands just 10 NM
off the mainland coast of Honduras. There are no settlements here, just a few vacation homes. The harbor here is gorgeous, very quiet and a real treat. It is very small - less than a mile in length - with hills of 450’ and dark gray slate ledges
all round. It reminds us of the beauty of the North Channel of Lake
Huron with water warm enough for swimming and the added attractions of
the reefs for fun.
When we arrived about 2 PM on Monday, we dropped the anchor but had
trouble getting it to set. The bottom is covered with coral - most of
it dead but some coming back to life. There was one other large boat in
the harbor at the time with Honduran flag. Sander and I talked about
our wishes to find moorings here so that we did not need to worry about
damaging the coral.
The next morning we went to talk with the Honduran boat. It is actually
owned by a transplanted Canadian.
He has a business in the capital city of Honduras and enjoys his
time-off on his boat. What a life! Luckily we learned from this fellow
that there is a law in Honduras that prohibits anchoring anywhere. The
possibility exists for a fine of up to $500 for such an action. The
Honduran boat was moored to a very heavy line at the time. The captain
said that the mooring was maintained for the dive boat, Aggressor, but
could be used by anyone. They pulled out yesterday. As you can imagine,
we did not waste any time at all snatching up that mooring.
We have used our diving equipment for fun. There is a reef surrounding
all of the islands and Cayes here.
The coral is exceptional and the visibility much better than anywhere
else we have yet been. So far we are a little disappointed there is not
more fish life, but cannot complain. To the south of us is the other
small island of the group - Cochino Pequeno which small island in
Spanish. In the background are the slate blue mountains of the mainland
of Honduras. The nights have been calm with none of the rolling that we
had in Utila.
The second photo sent to you was taken from a beach was our view when
on one of our snorkeling runs. It is taken on one of the small
out-islands in the Cochinos. Most of these islands are owned privately and are surrounded by the reefs. This one had a family living on it with clean clothes drying on a line.
Monday morning, October 2, 2000
Brick Bay Harbor, South Coast of Roatan Island
We left the Cochinos Cayes last Tuesday morning and headed for the
largest island of the group, Roatan. We decided that we might as well
see some more of the area since we had two whole weeks left. Arrived in
French Harbor early in the afternoon and were quite disappointed with
the poverty and filth that we found.
As I write this one week later, however, it turns out that it was a
fortunate decision. One mile to the south of French Harbor is a
delightful little bay that is totally protected from all points on the
compass. There is a small marina and very good holding for our anchor.
After two nights of French Harbor, we were happy to move Satori over to
Brick Bay. The third photo sent is one of our anchorage in Brick Bay
with the roof of the hotel at the bottom. The marina is in front of the
Our second day on Roatan brought word of a depression just to the south
of us on the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. That depression developed
to tropical storm level in one day and then quickly to hurricane level.
We decided that it would not be a good idea to leave a safe harbor
until we were sure of the track of what became Hurricane Keith. Was it
a wise decision? Who can second guess? The worse that we have seen of
the storm was 24 hours of rain and winds of 18 knots maximum. The
protection is so good here that Satori rode smoothly the whole time.
The small villages of Belize did not fare as well. We have been hearing
the news on the ham radio that is coming from Belize. All those lovely
little villages and Cayes that we visited last winter have withstood
7-8 hours of 120 knots wind and 4 foot surge from the sea. The damage
is bound to be very bad.
We will wait one more day and then move back to the Rio. We are hoping
that the winds will have come around to the east and died down. It
looks as though Keith will work his way across the Yucatan Peninsula
and out into the Gulf of Mexico to continue its havoc.
Now we must watch the track of Joyce. It appears that she will head
straight north and develop into hurricane status again. She is due to
hit the north coast of the Yucatan. We are hoping that Belize will be
spared this one.
Friday, October 6th
We took three days to motor sail back to the Rio in company with a 32’
Chris Craft sloop which is single-handed by Shirley, a retired PE
teacher from Alameda, CA. Our heading was essentially directly west and
winds were supposed to be out of the east - prevailing Easterlies. Of
course winds were out of the west, but most of the time graced us with
quartering SW or NW. It was a good three days with stops each night and
no mishaps. We are glad to be back, glad to be safe and now looking
forward to our visit to the states in November. It will probably be
several months before we compose another group message. Hope that you
enjoyed this one and that we will hear from you soon!
Jane & Sander
Remember to write to us at our ham radio address not the Yahoo address!
Jane & Sander
aboard SV Satori