Hello my friend, hope you are doing well. Sorry I have not written to you sooner, but the last few days have been very hectic for me. Our last communication was on Tuesday of last week before we departed from Cancun, Mexico for Roatan, Honduras. We fired up our engines at about 11:30pm and headed out of the channel at 1:00am on Wednesday morning. Our trip to Roatan was uneventful thank God, however the seas were very sloppy and we had a beam sea to port with winds of 15 knots with occasional gusts of 20 to 25 knots. The ride was a little bumpy and we had to decrease our previous speed from 7 knots to 5 knots for a good portion of the 300 mile trek to Roatan.
About 100 miles from Roatan the wind died down and we were able to increase our speed to 17 knots, allowing us to make up some lost time. We were at sea for approximately 31 hours, and upon reaching Roatan I was presently surprised to find how beautiful the island was. We stayed at a marina called Fantasy Island, which not only offered us with dockage and fuel, but also has a first class hotel and a beautiful beach area. The place resembled very much the TV series with the same name Fantasy Island starring Ricardo Montalban and his side kick, Tattoo. I asked one of the employees at the front desk if in fact this was the same place, and she answered yes. Don’t hold me to that, but in any event the place is beautiful. That night we went to local sports bar and were able to watch the Heat game as they defeated the Thunder in game 5 of the NBA finals.
The next morning on Friday, we headed out to sea at approximately 9:30am for our stop which was the island of San Andres, Columbia. As I mentioned to you in my prior email, this is where we our trip would become somewhat dangerous, due to the long stretches between one island and the next, and due to modern pirates. This leg of the trip was to be 400 miles from Roatan. The weather report we received said we could expect a smooth crossing with winds ranging between 5 and 10 knots.
The first of our mishaps, occurred around 11:00am. The wind starting picking up and changing direction from the east to a head wind directly out of the south. Wind speed increased to 20+ knots and the seas soon followed, increasing from 2 to 4 foot seas to 4 to 6 foot seas with an occasional 8 to 10 foot sea. Once again as I have done throughout the trip, I took out my finger rosary and began praying from calm weather. The captain trying to gain time decided to increase the speed thinking he could out run the bad weather. As he gave it full throttle we hit a large wave that sent me flying into the console on the bridge and back in my chair located next to the captain. Unfortunately, as I landed in the chair, the base of the chair broke and I went backwards towards the boats cockpit. Fortunately, my fall was broken by the rocket launcher (rod holders) located on the fly bridge of the boat. Thankfully the captain realized what had happened and eased off on the throttle and he and the other mate helped me back to my feet. I could have been crippled….
I continued to pray asking for calm seas and to thank God for my many blessings, and guess what, my prayers were answered but not for very long. At about 5:00pm we were still heading south along the coast of Honduras when the other mate unexpectedly got to close to the coast of Honduras. Our captain, which has many years and miles of experience quickly noticed the mishap and started heading us out to sea again to get away from the coast. The reason we stayed of the coast line in this area, is primarily due to modern day pirates. Since we are in the Caribbean, I guess it is only fair to call them Pirates of the Caribbean!
Prior to heading out of Cancun, the captain told us that we needed to be aware of the surroundings since most of the pirates just wanted to rob you of your money, and that they would not hurt us. However, he also mentioned that some would kill us to take our vessel.
We started heading out to sea once again to correct the mishap as the wind and seas were beginning to calm down when out of nowhere a small vessel carrying 10 heavily armed men wearing camouflage clothing came upon our starboard side of the boat from the rear. Jorge, I cannot believe to tell you how scared I was for my life and that of my companions. I honestly thought they were going to kill us or simply throw us overboard to steal our vessel. As they boarded our boat they asked us to come down from the fly bridge and sat us down in the salon of the boat with their rifles pointed at us. One of the men accompanied by 3 of his men started asking us questions as to where we were coming from, where we were heading to as the 2 of his men started searching our boat. The fourth man stayed in the cockpit of our boat, with his finger on the trigger of his rifle. At that point the last man to board our boat began to tell us that they were with the Honduran Marine Patrol and that this was a simple search.
Although I began to breathe a little easier, I still had my doubts of who they really were. Not until the left our boat and boarded theirs and drove off into the distance did I not calm down. My thoughts and fear were that if they killed us at sea, my daughters and my family would never know what happened to me. That thought scared me more than the men actually killing me. During this whole ordeal I pray to God, asking him to protect us from any harm. For once my prayers were answered on the spot! They left us alone and went back to their boat….Geez, This is much more than what I bargained for! Boy do I have an Emmaus testimony or 3 in my bag!
As we went on our way continuing our trip to the island of San Andres, the sun had begun to make its decent for the day and the winds and seas picked up tremendously. The seas went to a constant 6 to 8 foot wave, with the wind out of the southeast at 25+ knots. The sea conditions got rougher as the waves increased to 10 feet with and occasional 12 foot sea. Although I have been an avid boater in the past, I did not like navigating at night, nor had I been in such bad conditions. Now not only am I on 38 foot Ocean Yacht fighting sea conditions that I have never seen before, but at night. I turned to the captain and asked him how long these conditions would last. Silly me was expecting an answer of “no more than 30 minutes”, but the answer I got from him very calmly was 3 to 4 hours. Not the answer I was looking for. At that moment for some reason I kept thinking of how Gilligan felt on his three hour cruise. Finally the seas and the winds died down and we were able to continue safely to the island of San Andres. We finally reached San Andres at about 6:45pm on Sunday evening after navigating approximately 58 hours since Friday morning.
I am thankful to God, my friend Felix who got me this job and to the captain for allowing me to be part of this trip. I have learned many things on this adventure, and I am certain that God has many good things planned for me.
Unfortunately my trip has come to an end after reaching San Andres due to the fact that the captain does not feel that I have the physical ability to continue the trip due to my weight and the fact that I have no ligaments in my right knee due to a snow skiing accident I suffered many years ago. According to the captain, the seas on our way to Panama are expected to be rough and the actual crossing of the canal can be tough. After encountering some rough seas on our way to the island of San Andres, the captain felt that I would not be safe to continue.
Unfortunately I will not be able to complete my dream of crossing the Panama Canal, but that does not mean that I won’t someday. I will be leaving the island of San Andres for a brief layover in Panama on Tuesday morning, then continuing to Miami. I will be arriving at Miami International later that evening at 7:45pm. Thank God!
May God continue to bless you and your family my friend! See you soon, and please continue to pray for my companions as they continue to deliver this boat to its new owner in Manta, Ecuador.