Dream Away Update 02-17-2011
This adventure begins when DREAM AWAY, in company with SERENITY and BORRACHA, left Fronteras (we, from Monkey Bay Marina, they from being anchored out) on Tuesday, 2/8/11. We proceeded to Gringo Bay (actually, the name is Bahia Vista) where we anchored for two nights. Gringo Bay is at the east end of El Golfete, just before you enter the gorge on the Rio Dulce. We had difficulty anchoring. After three passes with the CQR, we tried the Barnacle. We finally got hooked, and Jim put out 100’ of chain. We had hoped to have a good Internet connection, using our Tigo USB modem, but it was limited and sporadic. We had a quick visit with Jennifer, and then closed up shop for the night.
On Wednesday, 2/9/11, we dinghied over to Texan Bay Marina for lunch. Kitty just loves their crispy tacos. There was no Internet or cell phone service there, due to a power failure. Back at the boat, we discussed the weather report that Doug (CHRISTIANA) brought over to us. It suggested two days of fair weather and then storms. Kitty voted to stay put, but was overruled by SERENITY, so the consensus was to leave early the next morning.
On Thursday, 2/10/11, we cruised down the river, saying goodbye to the beautiful canyon vibrantly alive with birds (pelicans, sea gulls, cranes, frigate birds, and herons) and cayucas, and anchored in Livingston Harbour. The guys went into town to clear us all out of the country. Kitty stayed aboard DREAM AWAY to keep an eye on the boats as safety is an issue in Livingston. We all crossed the bar successfully around 1130. DREAM AWAY made the decision to sail straight through the night to Utila, however, SERENITY and BORRACHA elected to anchor overnight in Omoa. They set anchor around 2130.
On Friday, 2/11/11, DREAM AWAY had a completely uneventful passage with light winds and only one small rain shower. We anchored in Utila's East Harbour at 1001 with the CQR and 175’ of chain down. This anchoring is a significant factor because, as of this writing (2/19/11) DREAM AWAY is the only boat of the “fleet” that did not drag their anchor.
We launched the tender, and went into the main town on Utila, and docked the tender at Bush's grocery store. We then started the Honduras checkin procedure. We first stopped at Immigration, and completed checking into Honduras. We received a 90 day visa. Next we went to the Port Captain's office to get the cruising permit for DREAM AWAY. Before the Port Captain could finish his paperwork we needed a reciept from the Municipal Government for our harbour anchoring fees, $6.00 US a night. The folks at the Municipal office were closed, so we had a lunch at Munchies. After lunch, we went back to the Municipal Office, got our reciept, went to the Port Captains office, and received our cruising permit. Utila is a delightful little island. We stopped at Bush's grocery and picked up a few items then went back to DREAM AWAY. We were very pleased to hook up with Bill Boice on KETCH ME, one of our former fleet members when last we were in the Bay Islands, who is also anchored in East Harbour, Utila.
SERENITY and BORRACHA had departed Omoa at 0300. It was a long, difficult slough for them. We could not hear Paul’s (SERENITY) VHF from any distance more than 3-5 miles, but we could hear Dave (BORRACHA) from about 15 miles out.
Around 1500 we got a radio message from BORRACHA saying that he was about six miles out of East Harbour, Utila, and would be in around 1700. He said that SERENITY was about an hour behind him. About 1600, we overheard SERENITY talking to BORACCHA about SERENITY having lost their engine and steering, and that they were on a reef. They asked BORRACHA to turn around and come help them. We were too far away to be of immediate help, but were standing by on VHF channel 69 and ready to depart if necessary. At this time, dusk was almost upon us.
BORRACHA turned around and headed for SERENITY. In the meantime, more messages were coming through from SERENITY saying that they were in real trouble and were taking on a lot of water. They had come free from the reef, but had only an emergency tiller, and no engine as the fuel was fouled. BORRACHA was able to take SERENITY in tow, and bring her to the mouth of the harbour. During this travel, SERENITY was able to find a bilge pump aboard that worked, and get some of the water out of the boat, then keep up with the intake. At this time, BORRACHA’s cursory viewing from the outside showed damage to SERENITY but no actual hole was seen.
No one in East Harbour, Utila or in town answered our VHF requests for help, so Jim and Bill dinghied into town to see if they could find a boat that might assist in towing SERENITY in, and taking out a big bilge pump to get aboard her while on the way here. Bill had some equipment aboard KETCH ME that would help once they were in the harbour, but we hoped we might get equipment on SERENITY earlier. They also looked for a dock to which SERENITY could be towed, but Bush’s dock was not available. No power boat was available for towing, and no pump was found.
BORRACHA arrived at the harbour entrance, with SERENTY in tow, around 2000. Jim and Bill then took their respective dinghies to the cut in the reef at the harbour entrance, and guided them through. SERENITY and BORRACHA both got into the harbour safely and anchored. Jim and Bill went to their own boats for the night. Note: Dave, on BORRACHA, had been sailing all day, including when SERENITY was in tow, with no auto pilot, as his had broken. Also, during the towing, he had no GPS, as it too, had broken. Arrival at destination was accomplished by Jim providing a compass heading to SERENTIY, and SERENITY using their GPS to follow it, and calling in directions to BORRACHA.
The weather was beginning to deteriorate, and the expected front of N-NW winds did not pass over. Instead, a steady S-SW wind was starting to build with accompanying seas, and was hanging over the harbour. We had hoped to email friends that evening, but, despite Jim having purchased time on our Honduran Tigo USB modem earlier in the day, we could not get service. We also could not get many cell phone calls out. We were blessed to have the Iridium Satellite phone that our son gave us, so we were able to call home and let loved ones know we were at anchor and okay. Note: It has now come to our attention that a) Guatemalan Tigo cell phones and USB modems no longer work in Honduras, and 2) if one has not used the Honduran units in over three months, the numbers are given away to new owners. This was perplexing to us as Jim had purchased 150 Lempiras (L) of Tigo USB modem minutes, and we thought our remaining Guatemalan cell phone minutes would be good here. However, only two cell phone calls got out, and then no more were possible, and it was later determined that the minutes purchased for the USB modem were an unexpected gift to the new owners of the old number, and we could not recoup that loss. Kitty went to Rivera Mercantile, not to be confused with Rivera Supermarket. They are owned by brothers, both of whom speak English (though the cashiers do not). However, Mayon, proprietor of Rivera Mercantile is the more knowledgeable concerning Tigo matters, and he sells the SIM cards. We had to buy new SIM cards (100 L each) for our cell phone and USB modem, and minutes for each. Total cost was 600 L, not counting the lost 150L. PS … Mayon is the spitting image of Denzil Washington.
Saturday¸ 2/12/11. We still had no connection to the outside world, other than with the Iridium as the foregoing SIM transactions had not yet taken place. The weather was continuing to deteriorate. Seas were tossed, but Jim was able to make a number of tender trips back and forth to SERENTIY to help them with repairs. In the morning, he went to SERENITY to see what was going on. They decided that Jim would don his SCUBA gear and dive on SERENITY to assess the damage to the boat. Jim came back to DREAM AWAY to dig the SCUBA gear out from under our aft cabin bed. During that time, the captain from another boat came by tender to DREAM AWAY to tell us that SERENITY was dragging. Paul and Jim Bates were below deck, working on repairs, and didn’t realize it. Jim got in our tender and dashed over to SERENITY. The other captain was already on board SERENITY helping with steering the boat with the emergency tiller. Jim stood by in our tender to help push SERENITY into the wind, and help her get anchored again. SERENITY was able to re-anchor, but, during this time, BORRACHA started dragging. Jim went aboard BORACCHA to help Dave re-anchor, and it was then that BORRACHA’s engine stopped. Jim stayed on BORRACHA while Dave let out more anchor chain¸ and this seemed to stop the dragging. Jim stayed on board BORRACHA while Dave bled the diesel engine, apparently a known problem. Finally, BORRACHA’s engine was started, and they were able to back down on the anchor. Jim went back to SERENITY to make sure that everything was okay, and then returned to DREAM AWAY to get the SCUBA gear.
Jim picked up all the SCUBA gear and went over to SERENITY. Jim Bates and Paul were working on SERENITY’s steering, so Jim came back to DREAM AWAY to get some parts that would help with those repairs. This ended up being three round trips to DREAM AWAY before getting the dive done. Finally, Jim got in the water and surveyed the damage on SERENITY’s port side, mid-ship. There was a deep indentation, possibly as much as three feet long , two feet wide, and six inches deep. It was amazing that the boat had not been holed. This says something very positive about Gulfstar’s layup schedule. No other major damage was found on the hull, but the prop was damaged beyond repair although it had been usable in that tight situation. Jim also checked SERENITY’s anchor, and reset it into the thin, coral sand. It was hoped it would hold. It didn’t … but that’s the next day’s adventure. Jim went back to DREAM AWAY, leaving Paul and Jim Bates on SERENITY to adjust the steering cables. Jim arrived back on board DREAM AWAY in late afternoon. DREAM AWAY prepared a spaghetti dinner and chocolate cake, and had everyone in the “fleet” over for dinner. (Fleet = Dave on BORRACHA, Bill on KETCH ME, Paul and Jim Bates on SERENITY, and us). Everyone was very tired, and the weather was still nasty¸ and getting worse. It was quite a ride getting Paul and Jim Bates back to SERENITY, and, by the time Jim got back to DREAM AWAY, the seas and winds were way too rough to bring the tender up on the boat. We were very anxious about her, but could do nothing at this point. We cleaned up after supper, and went to bed. Between 2200 and 0600 the next morning, Jim was up nine times due to the anchor alarm going off. However, it was a matter of us swinging around on the anchor with the changing winds, rather than our dragging, thank goodness. We had between 6-7 inches of rain during the night.
Sunday, 2/13/11, saw worsening weather, but all boats held. It was just too nasty to do much of anything, although we were able to have Paul and Jim Bates over to a hot breakfast. Jim was continuing to ferry them around in our tender as it was very difficult for them to get their tender and motor down, and they had way too many repairs on their hands, anyway. It was awfully rough, and no in-the-water work could proceed. It became too rough even to get the tender back and forth between the two boats. It was a rainy, miserable day with things crashing about when the boat took violent heels. Mostly we just sat, or lay down, and hoped it would all pass by soon. It didn’t. Note: Early this morning, Jim nearly had a heart attack when he got up to check our position against two other boats, KETCH ME and JOHAN SMIDT. We were way out of position relative to them. Then Jim realized that JOHAN SMIDT was re-anchoring, and was, in fact still under way, and our GPS location had not changed. So, it was a matter of them having moved (KETCH ME had dragged and re-anchored), rather than our having dragged. We spent the day hunkered down, and were relieved to hear that SERENITY had gotten her steering repaired.
Monday, 2/14/11. Happy Valentine’s Day for us, but not for SERENITY. The adventures started around noon. They started dragging, and their engine died again because of bad fuel. They were loose in the harbour in high winds and rough seas. They floated near a dock and were able to tie up there. Unfortunately, not only would the owner not let them stay there, but they were also perilously close to concrete pilings and in relatively shallow water. It was six feet, but the bouncing of the rough seas caused grave concern. They had to get out of there. It was too rough to even get into our dingy, and there wasn’t anything we could do with a 15 HP engine against 30 knot winds and the rough seas. They got SERENITY’s engine running, and left the dock, and were going to re-anchor, but the engine died again. BTW, all this time, the leaks on SERENITY had not stopped¸ and water was still coming in, but was under control as Jim had taken over a float switch to help get the bilge pump working. This time, SERENITY hit BORRACHA, though very lightly, then headed towards a second dock, and they were able to tie up there. The dock owner didn’t want them there, but he was a great deal more helpful than the owner of the first dock. Tito, this dock owner, went off to find a dive boat that could tow SERENITY out into the harbour and help them get the anchor settled. This did happen, and SERENITY, is safely anchored in the harbour with his 110 LB Bruce anchor. The dive boat owner had tried to put Paul in the lagoon west of the harbour, but that did not work out as the lagoon was way too shallow. So much for local knowledge. However, it is nice to note that the dive boat operator did not charge them a fee, but did gratefully accept a tip. The rest of the day continued windy, rainy, and miserable, but we all held, and kept in constant communication via VHF 69. We all got a pretty good night’s sleep … until around 0500 the next morning.
Tuesday, 2/15/11, around 0500, Jim looked out our back window to check the weather and tender. To his horror, our tender was half-submerged in water because of waves and at least 10 inches of overnight rain. We spent the next 2.5 hours rescuing the tender. Jim wanted to get into the frantically tossing tender to attach a line. Kitty insisted that he put on an inflatable life vest first. We tried to get hold of the stern pad eye with the boat hook, but the boat hook slipped out of Jim’s hands and started floating away. This had been a Valentine’s gift to Kitty, years ago, and we were reluctant to lose it. Ever valiant, Jim leapt into the sea, and … the life vest burst into action. Boy, was that a shock! He had forgotten he had it on. For a moment, he was sprawled atop the water, paralyzed with surprise. Then he grabbed the boat hook and handed it back up to me. He climbed into the tender and attached a stern (port to starboard) line with which we could level the tender … not easy to do as it had already turned over once, and was full of water. We got the tender righted and bailed. Then Jim took the tender around to the stern of DREAM AWAY and we got the motor on board and the tender up in the davits. We then had a hot breakfast with lots of coffee, which revived him a bit. He cleaned up the lines and gear while Kitty made the meal. We ate, and then he went to work on cleaning the outboard. He took the carburetor and fuel filters off, spark plugs out, and washed out the crank case. He cleaned everything, then sprayed it with corrosion block, and put it back together. It ran! And, the weather was clearing. So we hopped in the tender and went into town where we met everyone for lunch at Bundu’s. Then Kitty tracked down the new SIM cards and minutes for the Tigo cell phone and USB modem. The rest of the day was much calmer, but there was more rain. We had just had a big lunch, so passed on dinner, and Jim was in bed by 7:00 PM. He had twelve hours of sleep … much needed and well deserved, and we awoke to a beautiful morning in Utila's East Harbour. This is the way cruising is supposed to be.
Wednesday, 2/16/11 … and the saga continues, though with far less excitement. This was a beautiful day. There was lots of visiting aboard DREAM AWAY, which limited our project production, but was a nice respite from the frantic activity of the last few days. Paul hired a diver with a puller to change the propeller on his boat, and that repair was accomplished. By late afternoon, we all decided to go into town for an evening meal. Rather than get all the dinghies down, Bill on KETCH ME kindly provided transportation over. First he dropped Jim and Kitty off in town, and then he went out to SERENITY to get Paul and Jim Bates. Dave from BORRACHA joined us, and we all went upstairs to El Picante to have a delicious meal. A friend from the Rio¸ L.H. from the CONNIE MARIE, joined us for the meal as did Moira and Dick from EXPECTATIONS. When it came time to depart, L.H. volunteered to take Jim and Kitty back to DREAM AWAY so that Bill would only have the one trip out to the harbour to drop Paul and Jim Bates off at SERENITY and go on to his boat, KETCH ME. We got aboard L.H.’s dinghy ... and sat there. The engine wouldn’t start, then it flooded and it really wouldn’t start. We were stranded there so long that the charter catamaran docked there offered to tow us out to our boats. Jim went aboard the VENTURE to guide the captain, Vern, and L.H. and I stayed in the dinghy, now tethered to the big boat. However, L.H. kept trying to get his motor started, and finally it caught. When the big boat was about 12 feet from the dock, we got their attention and let them know we were under way, too. Jim got back in L.H.’s dinghy, and we finally got out in the harbour and back to DREAM AWAY. It was an early night. I think the events of the last few days have worn us down a bit. We wanted to get some good sleep. We plan to up anchors tomorrow morning at 0730 and all four boats head for La Ceiba where Paul will get his boat hauled and repaired. It’s only about 18 miles away, so hopefully will be a short, sweet trip. But, there is real anxiety about whether or not Paul’s boat will make it … to the point that he asked if Rascal, his cat, could be aboard DREAM AWAY in case he had to abandon ship. The final decision was to think positively, and Rascal will remain aboard SERENITY, but in a cage, for easy transport in case of emergency. We are all keeping our fingers crossed.
Thursday, 2/17/11, found us leaving East Harbour, Utila, on schedule after a small pause when Paul had trouble getting his engine started. But, they got it going, and we were all on our way. It was motoring all the way, as the wind was not in our favor, and it was rocking and rolling as the seas were basically on our beam. Also, we didn't want to put sails up in case SERENITY needed us in a hurry. The trip to La Ceiba was uneventful, and relatively pleasant except for that rocking and rolling mentioned earlier. Arrival at La Ceiba was lovely, both to be heading to a dock and some stability, and also to see the welcoming sight of a large town behind which there were lovely mountains and a majestic waterfall. The trek into the shipyard and marina was interesting, with a dredge to consider, and several dog leg turns. Certainly both are well hidden, and one would be unlikely to stumble over them by accident. Paul got into the shipyard well for the Travelift, and Bill tied up at a shipyard dock. He is an old hand over here, so was welcomed by the marina personnel. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room for either BORRACHA or DREAM AWAY at their docks, so we went on to Lagoon Marina, and were able to side-tie there near old friends Tom and Yvonne aboard SCRAMMIN'.
Paul finally got hauled out of the water and set up on blocks, towards the back of the ship yard. Jim and Bill took a lot of pictures of the damage to SERENITY, and we were all pleased to see that the hull damage was not quite as bad as we had thought. However, there was more rudder damage than originally perceived, and that would need repair. We all got together and went to dinner at the La Palapa, in town. The music was excruciatingly loud, but the food was excellent with a Captain's Platter that cost 1,200 L (~$58.00) but fed us all … stuffed to the gills. Replete with food and drink , and knowing that there would be no dragging, anchor alarms, etc., we all headed off to our respective beds and a much need night of peaceful sleep.
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