Bienvenido a Utila

Saturday June 15, 2013

utila 1

After I was able to just keep my eyes open long enough for the end of my shift at midnight, it was time to wake Nate up for his 12-3 watch. The first morning had been pretty difficult waking him up from his sleep, basically having to kick him in the head, but yesterday had been much easier. I made sure to make just enough noise as I was coming down, getting out of my harness and using the bathroom, that it might help rouse him out of his sleep a little. Bending over him I shook his arm while loudly whispering, “Nate, wake up!”. Nothing. I tried again and again with the same result. Ok, maybe a hard shoulder shake would do it. Three attempts at that and he was still out cold. I stood there for a second, laughing to myself, wondering how hard I should try before giving up. There wasn’t much I could do about loud noises since Matt was soundly slumbering two feet away and I didn’t want to take the chance that I’d wake him as well. I shook his shoulder a few more times, and even tickled him with a feather pen we had on the nav station, although I’m sure all that did was make his dreams a little more interesting for the next few minutes. (Just know that I was very sleep deprived and found it incredibly funny at the moment.) Running out of options now, I grabbed the end of his pillow and swiftly yanked it out from under his head. His eyes fluttered open and I just laughed, telling him that he was the hardest person to ever wake up, before throwing the pillow back in his face. Making sure he tethered in, I gave him a run down of his shift now that we were getting closer to land and then made my way down to my bunk where I was able to comfortably pass out for the next six hours.

I knew that if the speeds we predicted held up as planned we should just be pulling up to the harbor at the end of Matt’s 3-6 shift and I could just throw on the engine to bring us in the last couple of miles as my shift began. It worked out so well that even though he was only going on 4 hours of sleep, he decided to keep pushing on when his shift ended and only woke me up when we were about a mile outside of the harbor so that I could bring him the quarantine flag to put up. Reading the chart plotter very carefully, we positioned ourselves to ride between the markers and the narrow channel with coral flanking each side. A couple of other boats were anchored in the harbor and we took a spot pretty far back, knowing that robbery of yachts was an issue in this area, and thinking the further we were from land, the safer we would be. As soon as the hook was dropped we went through the normal routine of putting the boat back in order and dropping the dinghy down from the deck. I could tell that Nate was getting antsy to get on land as soon as possible, so I packed up all our paperwork as well as the handheld VHF, and drove myself to shore to begin the check in process which would then let the guys on shore as well.

Having no idea where to park my dinghy since nothing in the area was clearly marked, I accidentally went to someone’s private home and trampsed through their yard before finding out I was locked in from the road and needed to find an alternative route. Bringing the dinghy to the fuel dock, I locked it up and began wandering the streets in search of customs and immigration. From what I could tell, Utila looked to be one popular main road that housed three things. Restaurants, hostels, and dive shops. Walking from one end of the road to the other I could not find customs or immigration, and finally broke down and asked the heavily armed guy outside of the bank. He pointed down a little side road to the ferry dock, but also mentioned that it would not be open until Monday. Hmmm, here it was, first thing Saturday morning, and I was being told that I wouldn’t be able to check in for another 48 hours. Which legally meant, that no one besides me was allowed off the boat for the next 48 hours. This was not going to make the guys very happy. Making sure to find this out for myself I went to the offices anyway, which as correctly described, were locked shut. It was before 9 am though, so I just pulled out my Nook and holed up on a porch until business hours started. But no one came. Pulling the VHF out of my bad, I hailed Matt to let him know what I’d been told. He suggested I ask every person on the street what they knew about the offices, so I did. I asked the grocery store clerk, the dive shop clerk, and yet another bank guard. All with the same answer. The offices are not going to be open until Monday. Yet…none of these people could wrap their head around the fact that I was a cruiser that came here on my own boat, and I needed to check that boat, along with myself and my crew members, into the country. To them, I was just another backpacker that flew into the mainland and took a ferry here so I could dive the reefs.

Getting back to Serendipity, I relayed all this information to Matt and Nate. Although we’re not normally the kind of people who do this, and I’m in no way recommending it, we decided to say ‘screw it’, and pretend to be those backpackers that everyone thought we already were, until I could legally check all of us in a few days later. Technically, Nate was a backpacker anyway, he just got there by alternative methods. Loading the guys into the dinghy, we all went to shore to get Nate checked in to his hostel and find some food and internet. It’s nice to know that there’s someone else around as desperate to find it as I am. Parking the dingy once more at the fuel dock, Nate didn’t even get two steps on solid ground again before he was on his knees kissing it. No, really. We asked him what he thought of his three and a half days at sea, and he responded that, although he’s glad he did it once, and given the chance to go back in time he’d still make the same decision, but there was no way he’d ever choose this mode of transportation again. We don’t blame him. Half the time we’re asking ourselves why anyone would want to travel this way.  For an interview about our passage that Nate’s wife, Jenn, gave him on their blog, click here.

After finding Nate’s hostel and dropping his bags off, we set off in search of food, although I had already spotted a few places on my many loops of this road, and already knew which ones offered wifi. First stopping at the bank to withdraw some local currency, we settled on a little place called Munchies and slumped our tired bodies into the plastic seats. Nate and I were logged in with our computers and on Facebook like we hadn’t seen internet in years. Our food was eaten in record time, although my egg sandwich was not quite what I was expecting. It was just scrambled eggs on top of a piece of bread that looked like it was just pulled out of the bag, and placed between the two was a room temperature slice of cheese that looked like it had just been pulled out of it’s wrapper seconds before it went on my sandwich. But it was food, and I didn’t have to make it, so I was still happy. Out on the porch, we bid adieu to Nate, making plans to at least meet up again on Monday morning so I could get his passport back to check him in, and then Matt and I were back at the boat to sleep for hours and hours and hours. For the rest of the afternoon we actually did all the same things we had been doing on passage to keep busy, reading books, watching movies, or napping, but somehow, all of these things seem 100% more enjoyable if you’re flat calm while doing them.

 utila 2

See, he couldn’t wait to get off.

utila 3


utila 2

Nate’s dive hostel.

Munchies Restaurant Utila

breakfast 2

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