Daydreaming about picture perfect cruising anchorages? SAIL Magazine featured a Cruising Grounds article I wrote in their January 2009 issue…
We left Port Royal, Roatan, sailing southwest under full spinnaker through sparkling inky blue waters accompanied by a multitude of flying fish, to the Cayos Cochinos — a national park featuring 13 gems of islands — mountaintops emerging from the clear blue depths. A short while later, Cochinos Grande becomes visible just over the horizon and before we negotiate the reef cut, we spot the mountains of mainland Honduras majestically towering less than twelve miles away.
Despite the unappealing name (the large island is Cochinos Grande, or Big Pig Island), the Cayos Cochinos is a stunning, picture perfect group of islands, some only a patch of sand with a couple of swaying palm trees. While we were there, two different film companies, one Italian and one Columbian, were on separate islands making TV show “Survivor” knockoffs.
Before we could settle on the required National Park mooring, Fausto, a fisherman from the Garifuna fishing village of Chachahuate, was hanging over our rail, balancing his wooden cayuco, offering everything from shell jewelry to fresh fish. Fausto is the local seafood market … place your order for dinner, he goes fishing and later that day brings grouper or snapper, fresher than anything ever bought in any seafood market.
Cayos Cochinos is the only place in the world the endangered PINK BOA CONSTRICTOR calls home. Hiking up the mountain to explore the candy striped lighthouse, we kept an eagle eye on the sunny crooks of giant gumbo limbo trees for pink boas napping, to no avail. After the steep incline, we were glad to arrive at the lighthouse. Unfortunately you can’t see the view from under the dense jungle canopy. Climbing 70 ladder rungs straight up inside a totally enclosed dark airless claustrophobic steel lighthouse was a challenge. My eyes just level with the top hatch, the views were awe-inspiring. However to take a photo, I had to hoist myself through the hatch onto the swaying ten feet diameter platform. Finally, I was rewarded by the incredible views of the mountains of mainland Honduras, Roatan to the north, Guanaja to the northeast & even Utila to the west.
As anticipated, snorkeling in the Cayos Cochinos was memorable! One afternoon, David was swimming just behind me as I was trailing two giant Ocean Triggerfish. Unknown to me, a Sharksucker attached himself to the bottom of my fin! The Sharksucker was about a foot long and is just what it sounds like, a fish that attaches itself to sharks as a cleaner fish. Luckily I didn’t notice and he cleaned my fin and detached, or maybe it was too clean for his taste, who knows!
When in Honduras, do not miss the Cayos Cochinos!
Jan’s Note: The Cayos Grande anchorage is the only authorized anchorage in the national park. Unfortunately it is open to the west, so do not go or stay there with westerly component winds.To protect the reef, you have to take a mooring. Be sure to check your mooring before you go exploring! There is a National Park fee, is reasonable – ask about paying for an entire month – more cost effective – you can come & go as many times as you want.