Catching a different wave

I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to talk to, but I knew his name started with J. Emma had told me about a person–named…something or other…starting with a J–who she’d met at Rio Coco. She said he has been sailing around the Caribbean, and he’d given her some advice about how to find a crew to possibly hitch a ride up to New Orleans from Mexico via the open ocean. I wanted to find this fella and pick his brain about sailing. Just before I left for Honduras, with the help of a very amazing family member, I purchased a sailboat on Cape Cod, a Cape Dory 25.

But the thing is, I don’t know a thing about sailing. So this “J” character was someone I wanted to find.

I went to Rio Coco for my daily Mocha Express, and saw Emma chatting away on Skype. She broke away from her conversation for a second to say “they’re over there!” with a vague wave of the hand. I knew she was talking about the sailors, but as I looked “over there” I saw a number of people I didn’t know; among them were two tan, rugged-looking blokes. I made my approach.

“Hey you, does your name start with J?” I asked, one or maybe both of them.

“Um, yes,” they both replied.

“Both of you?”

They nodded.

“Both of your names start with J, huh? What are they?”

They introduce themselves as Josh and Joe.

“Are you brothers, then?” I immediately regretted asking such a stupid question.

I made myself comfortable in the seat across from them and started chatting. I had so many questions for them, and I jumped right into my inquiry: could my little boat make a trip from Cape Cod to the Caribbean? How do I learn to sail on my own? How do you prepare a boat for a long-term trip? Does a boat really just suck money out of your pockets with no mercy?

Josh and Joe were happy to answer my questions, and they turned out to be lovely people. I learned that Josh is the happy owner of a 38-footer named Khuela, and Joe has been sailing with him for a couple months. We spent the morning talking about all sorts of things, and I took a liking to them, instantly. The wheels in my mind started turning.

I have a boat.

I should learn to sail.

I should sail it somewhere lovely.

I should really learn how to do this.

I should get another coffee.

As the ladies of Rio Coco began closing up the place, I realized it was already 2 o’clock, and time to do something. Perhaps dive? Living on an island with no responsibilities does quite a strange thing to one’s mentality. You never really look at the time or feel the pressure of having anything to do, but when you do start becoming aware of time passing, the idea that perhaps there is something I could do right now starts to creep in. But it is certainly acceptable to do nothing at all too, because on an island like Utila, I think that constitutes as having done something, even if that something was nothing.  So I rode my bike to the airport, to take a cruise along the runway.


Before I had left the coffee shop, I let Josh know that if he ever needed a mate on his boat I’d be happy to hop on as crew. After our talk that morning, I realized this is the only way I would ever be able to learn how to sail on a real long-term trip, and perhaps plan for a trip of my own one day.  Riding my bike in the sun that afternoon, all I could think about was the mysterious open ocean.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to hop on a boat and go somewhere–anywhere?

A couple of days passed, and I didn’t see them. I had started my internship as a diving instructor, shadowing other instructors to see how courses flow with real live students. I was spending my free time in the equipment room, working as an apprentice to the equipment Guru, fixing regulators and the like. I was basking in the Utila dream.

One day I spent dehydrating every cell in my body by trekking up the highest point on Utila, Pumpkin Hill, in the midday sun with only a half-litre of water. Well, honestly, I didn’t trek up there per se, see a bit of local hospitality came into play and my mates and I got a ride on…this thing:


The photo doesn’t depict accurately the terribly turbulent trailer in which I rode with my friend Joe, laughing all the while at how the lack of shocks on the thing was capable of causing a concussion.  But getting to the top of Utila was a lovely sight.

That night, as I lay in bed completely knackered from the irresponsible beating I had put my body through on the top of the little world I had come to know, Emma came home with some interesting news. She said she’d run into Josh and Joe and she asked if I’d seen them. I said I hadn’t. A girlish smile crept across her face.

“I shouldn’t tell you this, but what the hell,” she said in her Scottish accent that I’ve grown to adore, “Josh is going to ask you to come on board with him for his trip down to Panama!  Joe has to hop off, and Josh wants to help you learn!”

I couldn’t believe it.  A flood of excitement, and disbelief washed over me.  I couldn’t quite wait to talk to Josh.  I needed to hear it from him before I let myself get too excited; gossip is rampant on Utila, so you never really know.

And so it goes, the plans were made the next day at none other than yours truly, Rio Coco. Having no real reason to stay on Utila, and every reason to go on this adventure, I looked at the two paths ahead of me and made the obvious choice. Feeling proud of myself for being able to flex my plans and “ride the wave” as I like to call it, I spent my last couple of days on Utila exploring the island with new friends and saying goodbye to old ones.


I made the most of my last days, riding my bike past where the pavement ends, to parts of the island where I’ve never been while letting my mind wander to a place unknown. The nostalgia of leaving a place like Utila weighed on my conscience for the last couple of days, but really the prospect of heading off on a sailboat into the open ocean–the truly unknown, for me–kept my mind content with my choice.  The sea was waiting for me. With no idea what to expect or plan for, I packed my bags like a good traveler does and said one final goodbye to Craig McDuff.



He, amazingly, didn’t seem upset at all about my departure.  In fact, I think he’s quite happy about it :/

2 Responses to Catching a different wave

  1. Bruce Luna

    Dear L, FB, MS, A…. I enjoy following your life in the blog and continue to be amazed by how different we are. I’m contemplating a PCT hike next year and in prep, am reading “Wild”, a female PCT version of Bryson’s “Walk in the Woods”. I’m about 1/2 way thru and she reminds me a lot you. Enjoy life; All who wander are not lost.

  2. dexter

    Hello! I just would like to give you a huge thumbs upwards for the great info you might have here about this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon.

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