So most people don't stop in Coxen Hole. It's considered dangerous, not a good anchorage and without any yacht services. Most folks opt for French Harbor, eight miles down the coast, which, truth be told, we tried to do as well. However, by the time we had slogged around the coast of Roatan for 12 hours with the current, the wind and our engine conspiring against us, we succumbed to the lure of just freakin' stopping already.
And I have to say, it was totally fine! We had a great anchorage on the northwest side of Big Cay that kept us protected from every direction except the south. It was calm, without a ton of boat traffic, and the anchors (we put out two) held just fine. The only bad thing I can say about the anchorage was that the sea lions they keep at the animal rehabilitation center on Big Cay kept waking us up. Just joking. But, c'mon, it's weird to hear sea lions barking in the middle of the Caribbean. And the airplanes landing were exceptionally entertaining.
As for the safety issue, we paid this very nice man, Jose, the equivalent of $5 to watch our dinghy. He offered to do it anyway because I'm guessing he works for the dock, but tipping never hurts, right? Plus, he was sweetheart, and he also kept an eye on Bettie, which we thought was pretty rocking.
We never experienced any hairy moments or even a cross look. Everyone was super friendly. We wound up in conversations with store clerks and street venders and bar owners, and 'twas not a pocket picked nor purse purloined. But, of course, we did have a secret weapon. Omar.
Now Omar is the type of hustler that you will often meet in places without a lot of cash. They work every angle to make money - regular jobs, irregular jobs and everything in between. Omar flagged Vlad down as he was going to check in to Immigration and actually helped him through the process. This is an important distinction. Often, a hustler will act as though he's helping you but not really do anything while demanding payment. Not Omar. He worked it like he owned it. He even managed to check us into Customs without anyone having to come out to our boat, allowing us to once again smuggle an undocumented hedgehog into another country. We gave him around $40 dollars, which is about the price you pay to have a marina in French Harbor do your check in for you, and we got an awesome tour of the town out of it, including a walk up this giant hill, an introduction to the next mayor of Coxen Hole (if he gets elected, that is) and a thoroughly entertaining discussion of Roatan politics (and you thought it was bad in the U.S!). To top it all off, Omar said that we were now under his protection and that no one would mess with us, which no one did. See, he really is a secret weapon.
Speaking of weapons, everyone in this place is armed. There are the obligatory guards with semi-automatic shotguns and Mini-14s at the banks, but then everyone else has weaponry too!! Omar and Jose had 9-milimeters tucked into their waistbands, and all of the street venders had machetes strapped to their hips. And for the record, I didn't notice any of this. I wandered through this town staring at adorable children, houses with tin roofs stacked on the sides of hills and fruit venders with stalls overflowing with mangoes, plantains and melons, never once noticing a single weapon. Totally clueless. Vlad, on the other hand, is extremely observant. It's a trait I should really work to emulate.
In summation, Coxen Hole was a totally pleasant place to stop, and we're not sure why all the other cruisers don't like it. It's true that there's no fuel dock or other yacht services, but we found the anchorage to be nice (though not large) and had no problems with any of the locals. Vlad says that the town is exceptionally safe for Central America. I'm not sure if the gun/machete thing carries over to French Harbor, but I will for sure let you know.