May 14, 2009
Fantasy Island Marina , Roatan, Honduras
16 21.429 N 86 26.351 W
De Plane! De Plane! I’m on Fantasy Island but I can’t find Ricardo Montalban and the only midget on the island is myself.
Jeff left for Florida on Mother’s Day to take care of family business. I stayed behind to look after the boat. It’s a little lonely but I enjoy the time alone to paint and catch up on the blog. The marina is a pretty place with a hotel that caters to divers. Roatan is a lot about diving as beautiful reefs surround the island. We haven’t had time to dive here yet, but we’ve done a lot of snorkeling along our route to Honduras.
Donna and Charlie Schaffer joined us for 2 weeks in April. They flew to San Andres and sailed with us to Providencia. San Andres and Providencia are Colombian islands off the coast of Guatemala. Both Donna and Charlie are avid divers. Charlie takes fantastic underwater photos and has given me permission to use them on the blog. The reefs in Providencia were healthy and beautiful which has been a rare situation in the Caribbean.
After the Schaffers flew back home we left Providencia and sailed pass the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua to the Hobbies Cays. We were sailing with a catamaran called “Mistral” with Fred and Barbara Cusksey aboard. At around 1am during our watch change, Jeff noticed that “Mistral” had altered her course. Jeff called her on the VHF to ask about the course change. We got no response. We tried for nearly 3 hours with several different radios including the SSB and still had no response . About that time Jeff noticed that the radar revealed that there was a vessel within two miles from us with no lights on. Because Nicaragua is “big time” pirate territory our anxiety increased. What if they we boarded? What if pirates killed them? What if one of them fell overboard while the other slept? We could see the navigation lights on “Mistral” and because she’s a faster boat she was getting further and further away from us. Starting to worry ,we decided to call for assistance. On VHF channel 16 we tried in vain to hail Honduran and Nicaraguan coastguards and then used the SSB for stronger reception. We heard nothing, not even the fisherman chatter that is frequently heard out to sea. In a last ditch effort we used our satellite phone and called directory assistance in Miami to get the number of the Miami coastguard. At around 4am we contacted the U.S. coastguard in Miami , told them of the situation and asked them to call the Honduran coastguard for assistance. At the same time we were closely monitoring the mysterious vessel without lights. The coastguard in Miami agreed to our request and told us they would call us back with the results. After hanging up with Miami we decided to call out on the VHF one more time. You guessed it; Barbara’s cheery voice answered our call. She was totally unaware of the situation and when we filled her in with the details she seemed clearly embarrassed. We were relieved but fairly humiliated by having called the coastguard. We immediately called back Miami on our satellite phone and told them of the situation.
According to her crew, when “Mistral’s” AIS is used it disables the VHF radio. I forget what AIS stands for but it is used to track and identify other vessels in the area. When Barbara got up for her watch at 4pm she turned off the AIS and resumed receiving on her VHF. And that’s the happy ending of a dreadfully anxious night. There were no pirates and Fred did not fall overboard. In fact they slept quite well on “Mistral” during that passage. Aboard “Antares” was another story; but we did we manage to sleep soundly when we anchored that afternoon in the Hobbies and when we woke up the local fishermen sold us two large lobsters for $5 and a pack of cigarettes.