adventure, bareboat chatering, Bay Isands, Honduras, Roatán, sailing, travel
“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.
Valorie Grace Hallinan said:
This is a wonderful post!
Thank you! I appreciate your stopping by.
So beautiful! Somehow your photos make me feel as though I’m there.
Thanks for following my blog.
I’m glad you like them.. It’s nice to be able to share them with others.
M. Ziegler said:
I have a friend from Honduras and because I know so little of the country I love to learn more about it so I can understand him and his culture. I am too faint of heart to travel anywhere that uses “puddle jumper” planes. I get sea sick too so I guess I am stuck in the mainstream and away from the ocean 😦 I will just live through you.
I’m glad you enjoyed this. My mother-in-law got seasick so easily she could never visit us on our boat, let alone travel to see us. So I totally understand.
Beautiful! I loved the Garifuna culture when I was backpacking through the area a few years ago.
I bet backbacking through the area was quite an adventure! I’d love to see your photos of the trip.
I love these pictures, especially the one with trees forming a tunnel over the sea/river. Rather reminds me of a ‘Lord of the Rings’ scene.
Yes, it did feel I was in a different world. Loved the Lord of the Rings series!
Wonderful post, I felt i could feel the sea, smell the sand, touch the sunshine, hear the wind in the palms. This post captured the glory of dreams, of living a life of freedom and space and close to Gaia…
Thank you, Valerie. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post.
Hi, I just came across you blog in a Google search. We’re headed to Roatan and interested in bareboat charters but haven’t been able to find much. Who did you charter with?
Our trip to Hoduras was a long time ago, so not sure what the chartering situation is like there now. We chartered a boat with CSY (Caribbean Sailing Yacht Charters) at Maya Cove on Roatan Island. I don’t think CSY does chartering anymore but their yachts are still around. Hope you find something. The islands are fantactic (or were, back in the day, although I can’t imagine they could have changed much since we were there.) Good luck, and happy sailing!
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I am Honduran American and was studying my history when I ran across you. Thank you soo much for this.Grandma and grandad are from the bay islands.(rotan,utilla) and always told me of our pirate background. I couldn’t believe it till after they passed and I went into deep history of them. Plenty great stories from them and my great aunts who are still alive in their 90’s.
Dear Marc, I am sorry I missed your comment when you first wrote and that I’m responding at such a late date. I do hope you get this. I really appreciate your writing and would love to hear the stories of your great aunts about your pirate heritage. I do hope you write them down and share them with others.
All the best,
ibu menyusui said:
imagine if i could go there …
Terry D said:
Great article Deborah! The boy you mentioned Rocky Cooper, happens to be my cousin. This article brings back many memories I even remember a few CSY’s coming into Calabash Bight such as the ones shown in the pictures you displayed, even one that got on shore and spent hours trying to get off the sandbar! If you have any more pictures I’d be very interested in seeing them. I thought I should let you know that sadly Rocky passed away just a few years later as a young teenager.
The island remains beautiful to this day, luckily though you happened to experience the best days on the island when it was still undeveloped
Terry, how wonderful to hear from someone who knew the Cooper family! We were so charmed by Rocky. Seeing him row around the harbor, living on the water, was an inspiration to us and fueled our desire to live a life at sea. I could picture my own young children out there living an adventurous, independent life like he was, and eventually we saw just that. I thought of Rocky often on our travels, and I am so saddened to find out he died as a young teenager. I’m glad we got to meet him and that we were able to visit the islands before everything became so developed. It truly was a magical time for us. Thank you so much for writing.
Kathleen M Cornwell said:
We first visited Roatan in 1967-68. Went back in late 1968 and bought waterfront property. We built an A-frame house and lived there off and on for 10 years. Our son loved it there. He was a little boy then, but I believed it made him a better man. We home schooled him with Calvert also! Thanks for the memory!!
I would have loved to have been able to do that! What an adventure for your son. We met an American family while we were there living on one of the islands. I always envied them. Thank you for writing and sharing your story.
Larry Jeffries said:
Wornderfull post, im from Calabash Bight lived there all my life , im so happy to see many people like Miss Deborah share our life style.
So much has changed since those days, we that are from Calabash are more than hapy to see our place share by such great lady.
Thank you for sharing with the world.