Alone We Traveled on, With Nothing but a Shadow

Monday June 24, 2013


There was finally a window in the weather that we thought we could make our escape to Guatemala. Boy, did we wrongly predict what the weather was going to be doing in this part of the globe at this time of year. For a little while there, we thought we might be stuck in Utila for hurricane season, while waiting for winds to die down to anything under 30 knots. Yes, that’s all we’ve been getting since we’ve been here. 30 knot winds with thunderstorms on and off. After going to town each day though to check passage weather, we found at least 36 hours to make the 110 mile journey from Utila to Livingston Guatemala.

Oh, by the way, yesterday was Matt’s birthday. He doesn’t care to celebrate them, so I did what I do best, and I hijacked it. We had gone into customs in the morning to check out, so, afterward, we went out for breakfast, since, I wanted to. Then we tired snorkeling, since, I wanted to get in the water at least once while we were there, but we couldn’t find any good places to tie the dinghy where depths weren’t over 80 ft (things drop off fast here), so I never did get in the water after all. I made dinner on the boat, but after the sun had gone down and under the light of this year’s ‘Super moon’, we went into town for strawberry daiquiris. Hate to throw Matt under the bus, but that last one was at his request. However…from what we’d been seeing earlier in the week, the glasses were as big as fishbowls, and who wouldn’t want to drown in one of them on their birthday? (I can now tell you though, they were all mix and no rum.)

daqs at Bucaneers

Utila, Bay Islands

Anyway, back to cruising. There was a little bit of excitement this morning as we weighed anchor, mostly in the ‘This is the last sail we’ll have to take for the next five months’ kind of way. The sun was out, and with only the head sail up, we shot out of Utila on a beam reach, averaging 6.5 knots. Once we were sure that we were south enough of the reefs, course was changed to northwest, and we still sped along, still holding 5.5-6 knots of speed. Being close enough to the mainland now, we still never made out the mountains on shore behind the low lying, hazy clouds, but we did pick up the only English radio station in rage for miles. Chomping on Club crackers, we somewhat enjoyed the ride as we bobbed our head to the 90’s mix playing through the speakers. Tacking back and forth to make our way a bit north again, we finally settled into a nice downwind run in the early afternoon. The waves were growing, but steady, and it was nice to have them pushing us along from behind now instead of rocking us back and forth on our side. Being slightly dirty as it was, and knowing that we wouldn’t get to Livingston until the next morning, and then having to spend the rest of the afternoon fighting the current to get the 20 miles up river necessary, I pulled out all my gear to take my last cockpit shower for months. The waves (approx 6-8 ft) were actually large enough at this point that I had to keep one arm holding on to the bimini rails to keep myself from sliding from end to end, unlike my shampoo and body wash which sloshed around the floor of the cockpit.

waves in Caribbean Sea

As late afternoon turned to early evening, we took a check on distance and speed, and realized we were running to fast, and at this rate would arrive in the dark. Having been keeping a steady 7-7.5 knots the past few hours still under head sail alone, we rolled it in a bit. 6.5-7 knots now, still too fast. We rolled it in and rolled it in until the point that it was almost useless to keep up, yet we were still running at over 6 knots. We were almost tempted to roll the whole thing in, turning on the engine and keeping it just barely in forward, only enough to give us steerage. We decided against that, unless it came to it in the middle of the night, and continued on with barely any sail up, still barreling forward.

head sail alone

6.5 knots under only this much sail.  What the…?!


Just after we settled back into our rhythm, a pod of dolphins came by to entertain us. At first I could see their fins slicing through the water on our side, and I was hoping for a good cockpit show, but they made it apparent they were only interested in jumping in our bow wake, forcing us both forward on the deck. Carefully making our way up, we held on to the standing rigging as we watched them put on a show for the next 20 minutes, swimming away from the boat, only to quickly turn around and come charging back. There were plenty that were also showing off, jumping out of the water in our wake. This is the first time we’ve actually seen this happen, they’ve always been soley underwater before, so it was a big treat to see them doing their jumps. I have to admit, seeing these dolphins ride along with us for awhile, kind of made me appreciate cruising again.  Just enough.  So, thanks guys! I wish I could have brought my camera forward with me to capture it, but I barley trusted myself to be up there, holding tight as we pitched back and forth, so an expensive piece of equipment in my hands with me would not have been a good idea.

Our dinner was a very gourmet meal of heated Progresso soup and some leftover breadsticks I had attempted to make back in Utila. After that was cleared away, we did what we do best on passage. Nothing. Nothing but stare out at the horizon and count down the hours until sleep. In addition to that, though, I’m constantly checking the chart plotter, as usual. Which began the phenomenon of one of the things I hate the most. Every so often, for no apparent reason, our depth will go from showing unreadable (anything over 600 ft) to suddenly showing 16 ft, or 12. Panicked, I’ll look over the side of the boat to see if I can see bottom, if we’ve suddenly popped over a random reef somehow, but it will look the same as it did moments before. The screen will go back to showing and unreadable depth, and my heart rate will begin to slow again. Until….it does it again, and again, and again. Matt keeps telling me it’s nothing to worry about, that obviously we’re still in thousands of feet of water, and in the back of my mind I know that’s true, but every time a small digit pops up on the screen, my heart will start beating double time and I have a mini panic attack until it reads normally again.

shallow depths

 You liar!  Why do you lie to me?!

Georgie on Passage

The night shift couldn’t come soon enough, and even though I was exhausted, I had the normal fitful sleep for my first three hours. Back in the cockpit for my 12-3 watch, we were starting to funnel in to the narrow bay between Honduras and Guatemala, with the Honduran shore a few miles off to one side, and shallow reefs to another. I made sure to stay at least a couple of miles away from the shipping lane, and watched as one after another passed by. During one of my 360 degree scans, I saw what appeared to be a red non-moving light off to my starboard side. It was still a ways off and I assumed it was a buoy marking reefs. In 15 minutes, I’d do my check again and see if I’d passed it yet. Yet, at minute 12, I spotted out of the corner of my eye a green light, attached to a mast, whizzing by me at only a few hundred feet away. Turns out that ‘buoy’ was actually another sailboat, and their mast light is one that changes from red, to green, to white, depending on what angle you’re viewing them from. When I first saw them, we had been on the same course, both heading west, although even then I didn’t know they were another boat. Right after I had initially seen them, they must had turned a 180 and set a course directly for me. When my heart once more that day settled back to a normal rate, I had to wonder if they had anyone on watch themselves. Normally, when you see another boat on the water, you don’t head right at it. Have I mentioned that it will be nice to take a few months off from sailing?

building waves

I don’t know if you can tell the size of the waves here, but they were higher than our solar panels.



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