Saturday, July 23, 2011


The short 34 mile hop to Roatan probably will take us all day with light winds and following seas. The motor sail in fact takes us ten hours. There are numerous potential anchorages along Roatans’ South coast.  With all the positive comments we make Old French Harbour our first stop.

The entrance should have been straight forward. Lynn (me) does bow detail, photo in hand. The depth should be 30-40 feet at the entrance, make a starboard turn between two stakes, then work our way around the shallow banks on the port side and voila we will be in the anchorage. As we approach the two stakes the water shallows quickly. I can see coral heads and tell Rand to stop, give us reverse….(does this not sound familiar from our Guanaja anchorage?) 

As luck would have it two young local men in a Cayuko motion for us to go around both stakes not between them. As you can imagine our adrenaline is flying.
With apprehension we follow their recommendation hugging the south side of the reef to miss the shallow banks and anchor off Big French Cay with 11.6feet under the keel. The area to our East is a Marine Park. It is absolutely beautiful.
We are anchored off this beautiful private island

which has bronze statues everywhere.

Roatan runs approximately 30 miles NW to SE and is 3 miles wide at its widest.  The second largest barrier reef in the world protects and fringes the coastline.  The Trade winds can howl here, especially in the winter and then of course hurricanes pose a potential threat from June to October. It’s been recommended to travel between anchorages in the mornings before the strong winds pick up each afternoon.

The English speaking descendants from the English, French & Dutch pirates of the 1600’s still inhabit the Bay Islands. Roatan’s population is approximately 30,000. Its main industries are Fishing and Tourism with regular stops by the Cruise ship lines.
Next morning we dinghy over to the Roatan Yacht Club. General information shared by cruisers states we can probably leave our dinghy here for $1.00 US and walk a block to the grocery store. Unfortunately it’s totally closed. No boats and the gate is locked. To the left is a small dock where Rand first drops me off then he goes back to a small landing area where he has to climb over a cement wall.

Walking up over the hill we find the main road and walk into French Harbour, home to one of the largest fishing/shrimp fleets in the Western Caribbean. There are a number of small Tiendas (stores). We find a sign saying TIGO. Now TIGO is one of Honduras’ phone systems and has been highly recommended to us not only for a SIM card for our phone but for a wifi system. We need to purchase a special USB stick and a separate SIM card.  As long as we can get a good phone signal we will be able to get wifi.  Well, unfortunately the Tienda has none available at this time. However, the store owner invites us to share a taxi with her daughter that would drop us off at a mall where there is a large TIGO retail outlet. After a side trip to a local school we arrive at the mall only to find everything closed except a grocery store and a couple of restaurants. Thinking it is 10 am we can’t understand why everything is closed.  It turns out it is in fact 9am and somewhere along our travels we have gained an hour??
Next day we introduce ourselves to Roy (S/V Avion) asking him questions on this area. He confirms Fantasy Island Resort appreciates cruisers coming ashore; that there is in fact a small marina attached to the Resort with Jim and Norma (S/V Mi-Lady)  the Dock masters and they facilitate a morning net on Channel 72.  We go ashore to meet Jim and Norma.  They explain there is a $6.00 a load laundry service available and that each Saturday morning there is a complimentary van service to the main grocery store. We take advantage of both services. We can also take jerry cans in the van to stock up on diesel and gasoline. The price here for diesel is $4.00 a gallon compared to the $6.00 a gallon in Providencia…so anyone that can wait for fuel…Roatan is much more reasonable.

The SUN Supermarket is FANTASTIC!!! They had excellent quality fruits and vegetables. Many we have not seen in years…A great cracker assortment and we can’t forget wine: Almaden 5 litre boxes for 257.75 Lempira which is equivalent to $12.88 US. Not bad, not bad. A bank machine is conveniently around the corner as is the gas station.

Jim and Norma also explain with the Roatan Yacht Club closed we can leave our dinghy at the fishing fleet dock which is to the right of the Yacht Club. We did this for additional provisioning trips.
We did go to the Fantasy Island Resort a number of times. The food was not great but the people were very friendly always welcoming us. At the resort we saw the endangered Agouti. Cute for a rodent. In 1996 it became endangered due to on going habitat loss.

The resort was almost empty the 10 days we were in the anchorage. It was easy to find quiet secluded spots for our daily baths.  We found the snorkelling best between the Fantasy Island Resort and Coco View.

One day we heard the Yacht Club Restaurant was in
fact open.  High States in background.

 I hiked my way up from the fishing fleet dock and explained to the Restaurant that we wanted to leave the dinghy at their dock, go shop and come back for lunch.  They said no problem and sent one of the guards down to unlock the gate for Rand. They explained they had just revamped the restaurant and hotel. It’ll be awhile before the marina is re-opened. We explained how they were loosing business as cruisers would come for meals and suggested possibly installing a bell system down at the dock gate. They thought it was a good idea.

We decide it is time to head around to Sandy Bay, West End Marine Park and wait for a weather window that will take us to the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.
Entering the marine park between two white markers, we had 2.4feet under the keel. We stopped and backed up once as we could see coral heads everywhere. 

High States on a mooring ball.  There are seven boats in the anchorage which has 20 mooring balls.

We were pleasantly surprised when Terry and Jonesy (S/V Niki Wiki) greet us. They are the park host boat and share the parks rules and regulations.

We really enjoyed this west end area. What a funky town.

This is definitely a tourist stop with many people brought in by bus from cruise ships.

We shop on the quiet days and enjoy a number of restaurants. Unfortunately the only negative aspect is we are both being eaten alive by sand flies and mosquitoes.
 The west end is known best for its snorkelling and diving. We saw at least 12 lobster.

Our new friends on Niki Wiki along with our new Canadian friends Karen and Cheryl  S/V Interlude IX have invited us to buddy boat with them to Rio Dulce. Tentative date as long as the weather holds will be June 2nd.

Karen and Cheryl (Interlude IX) forward us a web-site in Livingston so that we can pre- check in with an agent in Livingston before leaving Roatan.