“This is life in its most eloquent and elemental form—a life worth pursuing,” I wrote at the end of my last Sea Saga post about our bareboat charter in the Virgin Islands.
By the end of that trip we had decided that our dream of sailing around the world was something worth pursuing as soon as possible.
But it was another trip later that year to a more remote location that made the dream seem palpable. Our bareboat charter in the Bay Islands of Honduras with Dale’s father felt less like a vacation, and more like a shakedown cruise, where we dipped our toes into what a life sailing around the world might really feel like.
The Bay Islands lie in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Honduras, but in many ways they seem like distinct countries.
While Honduras mainland has a Spanish heritage and language, the Islands were settled by British buccaneers, Dutch merchants, and slaves brought in from other Caribbean islands.
English is the main language here, spoken with a lilting, calypso-style accent.
We arrived on a converted DC-3 airplane used widely during WWII. The walls and floor of the plane were panelled in what looked like kitchen linoleum, and school bus style benches served as seating. Two portable fans were mounted on the wall near the front of the plane. Six manned machine guns stood guard as we took off.
We landed on Roatan Island, the largest in the group. A van takes us down a dirt road through jungle terrain laced in swamps to our lonely outpost at Maya Cove, where the bareboat charter is located–we were their only guests that night.
As the sun goes down, I can hear what sounds like the chattering of monkeys, although they may have been bird calls. Later that night we are treated with a lightning storm flashing across the dark sky and backlighting the hills and forest.
We take off the next morning on a well-provisioned 44-foot center-cockpit cutter, and spend seven days exploring the islands.
Here small colorful towns are set on stilts built out over the water, canoes serve as taxis, and the “roads” between “bights” are canals overgrown with mangroves.
On the main island of Roatan we visited Old Port Royal, French Harbor, Coxen Hole, Brick Bay, Oak Ridge Harbor, Carib Point Bight, Jonesville, Calabash Bight.
At Calabash Bight we meet Rocky Cooper, a young blond boy who rowed his canoe out to our boat and sold us jade beads from a Mayan site up in the hills.
Later, his mother came out to sell us more things, and on another night we met Nathan, his father, who came aboard and spent the evening entertaining us tales of the islands. The Coopers apparently are one of the oldest and most prolific families in the islands, descended from English buccaneers who had settled in the islands in the 1800s.
From Roatan we sailed south to Los Cochinos, the Hog Islands, small tropical islands with a string of coral reefs and tiny cays, some uninhabited, others owned by families.
These are the closest to South Pacific style sailing you can find in the Caribbean.
Lamb (Lam-bay) Cay was so post card perfect with its perfectly spaced palms, soft white sand, and black volcanic rock center, we felt we were Hollywood movie stars on location for the filming of Michener’s South Pacific.
The snorkeling there was the prettiest we had seen yet–crystal clear water with every color of coral imaginable, and scads of tropical fish, some I’d seen nowhere else in the Caribbean.
One of our favorite stops, however, was on Cochino Grande to visit with the Hansen family, an American couple with two young children.
They ran a supply boat between the mainland and the islands and often entertained sailors visiting the islands.
Their children loved living on the island and told us they never wanted to leave. They seemed older than their years, independent and self-reliant.
They were home schooled in the Calvert School system, a popular k-12 grade correspondence course that we eventually enrolled our own children in when we set sail.
By the time we left Honduras, we felt we had travelled back in time to the mid 1800s when buccaneers built shanty towns and travelled by canoes, as well as having traveled halfway across the world to a South Pacific paradise.
We saw our own children like the Hansen’s being home-schooled and living adventurous, independent lives close to nature in the great outdoors. And we knew it was only a matter of time before we set sail on our own lifetime adventure.