Nervous Locals

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September 9, 2019

After arriving to Guanaja on July 10, uncertain as to whether we should even stop here to clear in or continue onward to Roatan, we now find ourselves finally departing only after spending two months here.

True, we did spend longer in the Bahamas.  But that’s a lot of islands and cays covering a lot of space.  While we may have spent a month in one area, in general, our movement was in a forward direction with little backtracking.

Now, for the past sixty days, we have rotated between three anchorages no less than ten times… El Bight – providing not only accessibility to Bonacca, but also maximum wind protection when things kicked up; Graham’s Cay – providing maximum breeze and ventilation relief when things really got hot; and Michael’s Rock – providing absolute solitude and incredible views both above and below the water when the weather cooperated.

Still, in the back of our minds, we were always aware of the fact that we were, to a certain degree, tempting fate.  Hurricane season in the Caribbean lasts roughly from the middle of July to the middle of November.

When we returned to Grand Cayman towards the end of June, after our visit to the States, our strategy was to make for the Rio Dulce in Guatemala.   A renowned haven for boaters to sit out the hurricane season, it has the benefit of never having been struck by a hurricane for as long as hurricanes have been recorded.

Unfortunately, our insurance company does not distinguish any location south of the Georgia border as being “hurricane safe” during that time frame.  The increase in our most recent premiums certainly reflected that perspective.

Nevertheless, even if we stopped along the way at either Belize or Honduras, the Rio Dulce was still attainable by mid-July.

And yet, here we are.

Stalled in Guanaja, enjoying the location… and then it’s three weeks after mid-July.

We still pay heed to the notion that, until we get to the Rio Dulce, it behooves us to pay particular attention to the SSB forecasts of weather guru Chris Parker, and not try to second guess any threatening weather that begins to develop in our direction.

Any potential hurricane that could threaten this location would almost certainly originate from Africa, giving plenty of forewarning for those ready to make the twenty-four hour jump to the Rio Dulce.

August 10, our twenty eighth wedding anniversary, comes and goes.

Still enjoying the location…

Kris heads to the mainland for a five day outback excursion while I remain aboard Exit diligently taking care of our baby at anchor.

Still enjoying the location…

August 15, marking the two year anniversary of Exit’s launch and our move onto the water, comes and goes.

That’s alright.  We’re only a month behind the tentative schedule we softly agreed to aspire towards.

Still enjoying the location…

I find myself suddenly bedridden, experiencing my own five day outback excursion in the form of three solid days of no food and anything-but-solid outback activity, while Kris  diligently takes care of her two babies at anchor.

Not enjoying the location so much right then…

But the darkness slowly passes.  It’s unicorns and rainbows and marshmallows again.  More diving.  More relaxing.  More snorkelling.  More drinking.

And then it’s September.

Holy shit… seriously?

As the haze begins to clear, a darkness returns, and one thing becomes certain.  Though we are not statistically in the safest place to be, we have just dodged a bullet.  During the first week of September, Hurricane Dorian, packing Category 5 winds of 185 miles per hour, has pummelled the Bahamas and U.S. east coast, largely in a reverse mirror of the path we took from Maine to Jamaica.

It was even less likely to directly affect us than it would Alabama (I probably just made someone’s list somewhere).

Nonetheless, two questions continued to remain at the forefront of our thoughts.

Was our dear friend Benjamin safe?  We had seen a photo posted a short time ago taken by Benjamin atop the mast of his sailboat Cracker Tale which sat spiderwebbed into the mangroves near Marsh Harbor, Abacos just twenty four hours before Dorian levelled the Bahamian town.  We had heard nothing from him since the storm hit.

Were we beginning to confuse comfortable with complacent?  Though the two are nearly opposites of one another (acceptance of one’s environment vs. ignoring one’s environment), at times they can be very hard to distinguish between.

In this case, the finger snap that awoke us from the hypnosis of comfort transitioning towards the paralysis of complacency came from the local population.

When people who have lived in an area for their entire lives observe that the current  season has been particularly dry, and that drought conditions historically signal a high danger for storms and hurricanes, one would be foolhardy not to take heed.

Whether a local insight, or an understandable reaction to the devastation witnessed with Dorian, the locals have begun to grow nervous.

Regardless, we are pushing our luck.  Hurricane season is reaching its zenith, and we need to be in the Rio Dulce.

Again and again we hear, you guys are kind of behind everybody else… which makes us laugh.  We’re generally okay with that.  However, as tempting as it may seem, rolling into the Rio Dulce in mid-November, just as the boats are starting to head out in the opposite direction would be rather ridiculous.

The real question is… can we get there before October?

As we raise anchor inside the reef of Guanaja for the final time during this visit, we have to say a huge thank you to Don and Annette for all the hospitality, kindness, and generosity offered to us during our stay.  Sure Feels Good knowing we have friends in Honduras we can always return to.

We also receive a long awaited update from our friends James and Dena aboard S/V Cetacea.  The text reads:  Benjamin is ok.  But his boat is, in his words, toast.

We have to smile.

In the big picture, some things are simply more important than others.

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