Local rumor had it that there had been some pirate and Nicaraguan Navy activity lately between Providencia and Guanaja. We asked for more details about the Nicaraguan Navy because the cruisers all seemed pretty concerned about this part but it turns out they just board you and check your documents. “And then what?” “That’s all,” they say, but oh my such a terrible imposition when underway and blahblahblah. Safety in numbers and all that good logic and so we planned to sail the passage with Velella and keep at least in radio contact since our boats were not very equal speed-wise (we can sail fast but not motor and would be tacking; they can sail slower but motor fast and in a more beneficial direction). Honestly I don’t know what we would do aside from make a lot of radio chatter, perhaps conjure up our friends ‘Summer Wind’ and ‘Toucan Tri’ to appear a larger group. This is evidently what others have done and it seems to have scared off the random pirate of opportunity now and again. We both ran dark and called each other every few hours to check positions.
Obviously we didn’t get attacked by pirates and only saw one suspicious boat which altered its course, followed us for an hour or so, then turned and went on its way. As it was a fairly large, we figured it was probably the Nicaraguan Navy. Our second day was rougher than the first and the wind kept shifting so that it was always a beat on the nose even after we turned more west. Joshua mentioned already how one of the inspection port lids broke off somehow allowing water to gush into the ama. We bailed a shitload of water out of the ama and moved much better after that. The night was long and filled with squalls, one after another, where the wind would drop, blast with force, drop, build, etc. We spent the entire time pretty much soaked either by salt spray, which was abundant, or rain, which was torrential. Adding to the fun was a delicate shoal situation where we had to maintain a fairly exact course to pass between reefs, pitch-black darkness, and a freshly burned-out compass light. So we had to keep flipping on the GPS to tell what direction we were moving. We made good time with all the wind and arrived at the Vivorillos at around 3am; Joshua hove to and the wind was howling. For my watch I had only to babysit the boat, watch for ships, make sure it didn’t get going too fast when a squall passed (we made sometimes five knots but usually kept it around two), and hold on because it was bouncy. By the time it was light enough to see where we were, we had passed Vivorillos by five miles and had to beat back up to it; Joshua was totally appalled and he complained bitterly the whole way to the anchorage.
Snorkeling was good at the Vivorillos. At the eastern edge of the barrier reef, we wound our way around in looming mazelike forests of live and dead staghorn coral. Joshua promptly spotted a “harmless nurse shark” (Joshua has taken to prefixing the word ‘harmless’ to anything that might alarm me otherwise: harmless nurse shark, harmless pit viper, harmless nuclear bomb, etc.) who slunk out of sight with a flutter of fins when we followed him. Surrounded by three other people, thus reducing my chances of being devoured to a meager 25%, the shark sighting inspired excitement and curiosity far more than nervousness or outright terror. They—that is the small harmless variety—are really very pretty fish and move with an amazing grace. I followed a black and yellow serving platter-sized angelfish who, tiring of being pursued by awkward goggle-eyed mammalian blunderers, turned sideways and disappeared into a narrow horizontal crack. We also saw swarms of tiny parrotfish, babies perhaps and zillions of them, who moved over more delicious sections of coral in a seething darting mass leaving clouds of fine Caribbean sand in their wake.
The anchorage was clear white sand evenly dotted with immense fat starfish, some with six legs that were red and orange and yellow. They stayed always about ten feet from each other. At night it was silent and with the half-moon, we could see the shadow of the boat underneath reflecting off the sand.
The islet at the western edge of the reef was covered in nesting frigate birds and boobies, many of whom had fuzzy white chicks. We’ve never seen this type of booby before and once again, we felt it our duty to take twelve billion photos and video as if we thought we had discovered a new species (we hadn’t; Velella’s bird book said they were Masked Boobies).
We awoke the morning we were to head out for Guanaja at around 3am when the incoming fleet of sailboats came into radio range and we were forced to listen to idiotic chatter over the hailing channel. They had “buddy-boated” and maintained a distance of only a mile the entire way from Guanaja, chatting on 16 the whole way. We got the hell out of there as the boats arrived and began anchoring, all to a radio chorus of “Hey are you going to the left? Where you anchoring?” “Think we can both fit between ‘Miss Moondream Dancer’ and that reef?” “What waypoint you got for the anchorage?” It was hours before their voices finally faded into static.