Let’s Get this Show on the Road

Tuesday February 11, 2014

2.11.14 (1)

Every single morning, one of the first things we do over a hot cup of coffee, is bring up Passage Weather to see if there are any opportunities coming up for us to make our escape. Usually once or twice a week we’ll get excited by the beginning day or two of a window projected for the next week, but as soon as the full forecast loads, we’ll find out that our window is only 24-36 hours instead of the 72-84 that we need. In a 7 day period, we can never seem to find more than 48 hours, usually not even grouped together, where the wind isn’t blowing from the north or the east, and usually pretty damn hard at some point.

While checking the weather this past Wednesday or Thursday we had seen a window come up for today, Tuesday, but given a few more days that opportunity was gone by the weekend. Strong east winds had filled in for what would be the last day of the trip, right at the point where we would have rounded Cuba and been heading through the Florida Straights toward Key West. We’d actually been hopeful that we’d come across a really good forecast with four days of good wind that would bring us all the way up to Miami, but that was absolutely in no way going to happen. So while I was boiling the water for coffee this morning and letting the week’s forecast upload, I was really surprised to see that our window was back. We had 3-4 days of wind on our side…if we left today.

Seeing this forecast pop back up we had two big questions to ask ourselves. The first and biggest one being: Do we trust this forecast? Normally we’d like to monitor something like this for a few days to make sure it’s stable and that it won’t change on us mid passage. This would now be the third time we’d seen this forecast change, going from favorable, to unfavoarable, and back again. Would it stay this way? Or would we bit hit with a nasty surprise in the Gulf of Mexico. One place you definitely do not want surprises. The other question was: Do we still have enough time to get ourselves out of here, hopefully no later than 3:00 today? Knowing that we might try to jump on a window as soon as it came up, we tried to prepare ourselves in the previous days so that if we did only have a day to get ourselves ready to leave, we could do it. There really isn’t much to do to get ourselves ready for a passage anyway. The normal things of getting everything stowed away so it doesn’t bash about the cabin while underway, run the jacklines so we’re not trying to do it underway, and getting the dinghy safely stowed and tied down on deck. In addition to that, for this passage we also needed to fill up our diesel jugs, make a quick run to the grocery store, and oh yeah, check out of the country.

With it being just past ten in the morning, it would give us five hours (if stretching it) to complete all the things above. For the first question, I turned to Matt. He turned right back to me and said “You’re the captain, you decide”. Well that wasn’t very helpful at all. I asked him what his thoughts on the weather window were. He replied that we could do it, but it would be easier if we had a better window. The one we were looking at had north winds on our fourth day, in case we didn’t make in in the three we were hoping, and there were also possible thunderstorms for some of the areas we were passing through. I decided to start checking more sources to see what they said. Wind finder looked about the same, but I wanted at least one more reputible source. And while wading through the many links and forecasts on NOAA, I found it. Winds were to be fairly low (we never travel with anything forecast over 20), waves were to be low, the only thing we had to watch out for were those possible thunderstorms. Although after sitting here now for almost five weeks while waiting for any kind of window that would carry us to Florida, I figured it was worth the risk. We were more than behind on our original schedule, and I didn’t want to still be sitting in this harbor come March.

Finally deciding on this course of action at 12:30, we really needed to get our butts moving to check everything off our list. First stop would be the port captain to begin check out procedures. Making a few copies of necessary documents, we rode the dinghy into town and walked into the office. Letting the man behind the counter know that we were bound for the States and needed a zarpe, he gave me a few pieces of paper to fill out and then let me know that I needed to get copies of them made. Getting directions to the nearest ‘Kinkos’, we searched through the back streets and found it on our second try. Bringing all these papers back to the Port Captain, he indicated he would need a little time to work on them and we should have a seat. Glancing at the clock that was now reading two, we started to worry that we wouldn’t get out of the harbor before nightfall. Even worse, while sitting there waiting we watched black clouds roll in from the south, threatening some nasty storms and making us second guess our decision to leave. Except, now that we were 90% checked out, we couldn’t really hang around for the next few days, or weeks, while waiting for another window to come up. Before we had time to even think about it more, the Port Captain called us back up and told us to bring the three sets of forms he had been working on to the Immigration office to get stamped, where one would stay there, one would be for us, and the last would need to be brought back to him. We rushed out of there hoping it wouldn’t take very long.

Luck was not on our side. What should have been a five minute process at Immigration turned into 45 minutes because it turns out that we didn’t have the receipt for the money paid to Immigration when initially checking in to Cozumel. I always keep all my papers together, and bring more than what’s needed each time I visit officials, so I knew that I hadn’t left it back on the boat. But I also remembered receiving this receipt back when we checked in. Which means one thing. Back when I handed all the papers to the Port Captain back in Cozumel to show him that I had gone through all the steps of checking in, he kept it along with all the other papers. The next forty minutes consisted of us trying to tell the current Immigration officer that we had paid while checking in, and the officer at the Port Captain took it along with everything else. She wasn’t convinced and was ready to have us pay the 560 peso fee all over again. After a little sweet talking on the part of Matt, she agreed to call the Immigration office in Cozumel to see if they had record of us checking in and paying the fee. We watched the clock as the minutes ticked by.

Without even really vocalizing if there was or was not record of us, she called us back to the desk where our papers from the Port Captain were handed back to us. I was about to begin asking questions, but Matt noticed the stamp on them and scopped them up before I could utter a word. Thanking the woman, we ran out the door before they could change their minds. Back at the Port Captain, we handed his copy to him and once again ran out the door. It was now just before 3:00 and we still had errands to do before we go.

Tearing through the aisles of the local market like contestants on Supermarket Sweep, we filled out basket up with junk food, muffins, cookies, and a few bottled yogurts. All things that did not need to be prepared and could quickly be grabbed from the chill box or pantry when we were ready to eat. As far as prepping meals for the passage, that was out the window. We just had to focus on having any kind of food aboard that would see us through the next three to four days. Back in the dinghy we took the long ride across the harbor and part way through the channel that leads to the lagoon to fill up two of our jerrycans with diesel. We had just filled up the tank in the morning with what had been in the jerrycans, so at least we knew we’d be leaving fully loaded.

It was four o’clock when we finally got back to Serendipity, but on the bright side, it literally had gotten brighter. The dark clouds that were hanging over us for a few hours were now gone, only having left a light sprinkle behind. Knowing that our family had no indication that we were leaving I quickly got a few messages out that a window had just come up, and they could expect to hear from us in a few days. It was also a chance to let my mom know that she could finally send that care package containing our new debit card to Key West, and it wouldn’t be shipped back to her because we weren’t there in time to receive it (good thing I didn’t tell her to send it back when we first started looking for a window). When I had completed that and Matt and the jacklines run, we worked together to get the dinghy up, and with engine running, could finally get the anchor up and start the 375 mile journey to Florida. I have a feeling though, as desperate as we were to get out of this place, we’re kind of going to miss it.

2.11.14 (2)

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Jose’s on First

Sunday February 9, 2014

baseball game, Isla Mujeres

The past few days I’ve been trying to find a peaceful balance of relaxing and enjoying our time here in Isla Mujeres, and also not freaking out that we are so far behind schedule. Nevermind that they’re mostly self inflicted schedules, but keep in mind that if we make the jump to the Med this summer, we’d like to position ourselves in St. Martin in early May just to be ready, and that’s a long way to go in three months. And that’s if we left tomorrow! To take my mind off these deadlines and dreaded miles, I’ve been trying to find things to occupy our time, and my mind, here in Isla. It’s occurred to me that we honestly haven’t done much of anything here, and I blame that on an equal balance of having a speedy internet connections at our fingertips on the boat, and almost making a game of keeping the monthly budget at low as possible. I’m not kidding, it gets addictive, trying to beat out the previous month by making statements like “We already have rice, so if we just buy some vegetables and Stir-fry sauce, we can turn that into three meals, and we don’t even have to spend the $2.50 on meat!”. It’s actually getting a little embarrassing.

So now, I’ve made the resolution to let us live it up a little bit. I’ve made a pact with Matt that if we’re still here one week from now, we’ll allow ourselves to rent a scooter for the day to tour the island, and I’m going to try and talk him into going to a restaurant called Mango’s to celebrate our 18 month cruising anniversary coming up on Wednesday, based on a tip from a cruising friend and about 1,000 five star reviews on Trip Advisor. Today though, I was going to force upon him some more wandering on our way to the grocery store, along with a stop for Poc Chuc to eat on the way back. That last part was actually a request of his, with a little nudging on my part to do it today instead of ‘One of these days…’.

Making the mile long walk from where we land our dinghy at Marina Paraiso down the main road mixed with vacant lots, local restaurants, and tiendas (not the whored out restaurants and tourist shops of the north side) we detoured down a side road to satisfy my wanderlust. It wasn’t going to be a huge day of exploring, mind you, just getting to know these streets we wander past every 2-3 days a little more in depth. Even just one block in, the shops reminded us a little more of Fronteras and the day to day life we were used to in Guatemala. The stores may have been just a tad more built up, but it was the same basic feel. A hardware store here, a restaurant there, a pharmacy on the corner. It looked like the Central American living we’ve come to know pretty well, and even though I wasn’t surprised or amazed by finding anything new off the main road, it was still nice to get off it for a few minutes.

This section of town didn’t look too large so after two blocks and one turn, we came to a dead end in front of the baseball field that sits across from the supermarket. And joy of joys, there was a game going on today. Rooting around in our pockets to see how many pesos we had, it was deemed that 100 should be at least enough to get us into the game and possibly even buy a beer. Walking up to the ticket taker who was actually just a woman ripping up shreds of what looked like recycled paper, I was told the entry was 20 pesos a person, which we gladly bought in to. Shuffling through the maze of patrons standing in line at the concession stands, we made our way to the concrete levels of seating and grabbed a spot on the lowest level. Realizing that we had situated ourselves on the side of the home team, the Isla Mujeres Pescadores, we decided to align ourselves in cheering for them since, hey, we were basically residents here anyway by now.

Sitting so close to the field we had, literally, a front row view of all that was happening on the sidelines. What really captured my heart was the bat boy, who was not even close to being a boy, but instead an older and slightly weathered man who would spring to life when it was his turn to round up a foul ball or present a player with his selected bat. The man had to be nearing 80, but took so much joy and pride in participating in the communities events. Good thing there was a 12 ft fence in front of me or I probably would have leaped over anything smaller, wrapping this grandfather figure in my arms and gushing, “You are just too cute!”. Matt saw my desired intentions and just rolled his eyes. I can’t help it that my cat isn’t enthusiastic about being scooped up and cuddled and I have to focus my affection elsewhere.

Finding that we should have enough pesos left to buy a couple of beers even if they were charged at ridiculous stadium prices, I was ecstatic to find out they were only half the price that we normally see at restaurants, essentially turning this into a buy one get one special for me. With a grin on my face and cold beers in my hand, I returned to Matt as we tried to beat the hot sun with our cold beers, and make room for all the locals filling in the seats around us. And this is what surprised me: I didn’t mind when there were so many Pescadores fans coming in that we were literally squeezed like sardines onto these concrete slabs. There wasn’t the traditional American personal space issue where, even if you were on a bus or a train with a somewhat spacious seat under your behind, you cross your legs away and lean the other direction as soon as a stranger takes the empty seat next to you. Here I had one arm smooshed against Matt, the other arm smooshed against a sweaty man in a tank top, barely enough room to bring my beer up to my lips, but you couldn’t wipe the silly grin off my face because I was having such a good time.

Though I should have been paying attention to the actual game, I couldn’t take my eyes off the happenings in the stadium. The sights, the sounds, the sense of community; everyone here knew each other and it was as if a big family potluck had been taken on the road with some entertainment thrown in for good measure. Some families had shown up with large coolers stocked full of cold beers and tasty treats, others were bringing back plates of nachos, or my personal favorite, ceviche, from the concession stands by the entrance gate. Although my hunger was beginning to grow, we’d left on empty stomachs so we could later fill them with Poc Chuc, I wanted to make sure we stayed through as much of the game as we could to enjoy the experience and the bit of serendipity we had wandered in to. This game really was the community coming together to unwind on a Sunday afternoon, and for the first time in awhile, I felt a sense of belonging. Matt was enjoying the afternoon just as much as I was and we made yet another pact, that we would come back to the next home game, armed with a cooler and possibly some wide brimmed hats (that sun is a killer!).

When the fifth inning had come to and end and my stomach was starting to talk louder than the Mexican women a few seats down from me, we decided to pack it in. After all, we’d probably be back in 3-4 days for their next game, so no sense in dropping flat from fatigue. Strolling back out to the main road we tucked into our favorite little pink shack for some of the best pork one could ever ask for. Having the confidence of some beer and the recent buzz of local conversation, I did not have to rely on English at any point for my stop here. While sitting at our little corner table and watching the American tourists flock in after parking their golf cards outside and working their hardest to use the little bit of Spanish they knew (Grassy-ass!!), I thought back to ourselves having now been in Isla for almost two months and smiled to myself while realizing, ‘That’s right, we finally belong here’.

Isla Mujeres baseball game

Isla Mujeres baseball game

Isla Mujeres baseball game

2.9.14 (3)

Isla Mujeres baseball game

Isla Mujeres baseball game

Isla Mujeres baseball game

Poc Chuc, Isla Mujeres

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Random Images of Isla Mujeres

Thursday February 6, 2014

2.6.14 (8)

There hasn’t been much change in our routine, so, nothing to write home about.  Unless you’d like to hear more about how I’m devouring the Pretty Little Liars series on my nook, or how we keep going out for some sand and surf since we can’t seem to get enough of it.  So you probably don’t need another post about how we enjoyed the beautiful Playa Norte, with photos like this:

Jessica on beach

 Or, you don’t need to hear the back on the boat, we keep finding Georgie in the cutest positions, like this.

Georgie sleeping So instead, I’ll fill you in with random images of our time in Isla Mujeres.

iguana in Isla Mujeres

rubble in Isla Mujeres Matt playing with dog coral pools in Isla Mujeres

fenced in beach Isla Mujeres cabanas on Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Matt walking with dog fishing boats in Isla Mujeres tall ship in Isla Mujeres

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Down by the Beach…Boyyyy!!

Sunday February 2, 2014

North Beach, Isla Mujeres

I’m so glad that I finally listened to my own advice and decided to enjoy however much time we have left here in Isla instead of whining and complaining that we’d never get out. Once I let go of all the frustration that we weren’t on schedule and we weren’t moving on and seeing new things, this place has taken on a whole new life and we’ve really come to start enjoying each day. Plus after seeing how low our spending was in January, we’ve kind of fallen in love with how beautiful, cheap, and relaxing this place is. We were even joking that we could probably double our time cruising by spending half the year here in Isla Mujeres and the other half in Rio Dulce, minus the marina (not that those even cost very much there).

In keeping with the Carpe Diem frame of mind, we’ve spent our past two afternoons at the beach just hanging out. I would say that it’s pretty sad and pathetic that we couldn’t actually move ourselves off Serendipity until after one in the afternoon, but at least yesterday we had a good reason. Due to some begging and pleading on my part and showing how well we did with our spending in January (seriously, have you seen these numbers?) I talked Matt into letting us go to BoBo’s after the beach for their happy hour. Packing up our trusty backpack with a blanket, some beers, and books, we found a spot that was a bit further down the beach than we had normally gone before. All the shady areas had already been snagged and we managed to find one little sliver of space under one of the palm trees that dots the beach. We also managed to find the spot with, I don’t know what else you’d call it, but a hippie drum circle. 50 feet behind us was a group of bohemians with their guitars, tambourines, drums, and oh yeah, ganja.

Since we had gotten out there so late in the afternoon we were easily able to fill just the few hours we were there with random people watching. I barely had a chance to crack open my book. Not only did we have the hippies behind us to keep us entertained for part of the day, but the tourists strolling the beach in front of us were pretty good too. Usually it was the little bits of conversation we caught which we found the most delightful, mostly the disgust of older American women to the partial nudity of the women on this beach. Between that, listening to some music, downing a beer, and a quick dip in the water, it was already time for happy hour to be starting at BoBo’s. While gathering all our things up and trying to dust the sand off my legs I realized this stuff is like glue and you basically need an exfoliant to get it off. I do miss my powdery sand from the shores of Lake Michigan, but you won’t hear me complaining about being stuck here, believe me.

At Bobo’s we must have been some of the first customers there since they don’t even open until their happy hour begins. Snatching a table outside on the street we each ordered ourselves up a pound of wings and a nice cold beer to wash them down with. When the wings came to our table shortly afterward, they.were.heaven. Seriously, is there anything better in this world than a plate of buffalo wings and a nice cold beer? You’d be hard pressed to find it. Back on Serendipity we were lazy and content, pretty sure that we would be becoming permanent residents of Mexico, and not minding it one bit.

Today we brought ourselves back out to the beach, right back to the same spot, with our same hippie friends sitting just behind us. Today they decided to up their game and had taken what looked like ratchet straps and secured them between two palm trees, making an area to tightrope walk. Well there goes my need for a book again today. Pop open a Barrelito, soak up some sun, and enjoy hippie tightrope walkers. Isn’t that what life is all about anyway?

Barrelito beer

laying out on North Beach

sun on North Beach

wiping off sand

Tecate Light

hot wings at Bobo's

sign at Bobo's

Matt on North Beach

hippie tightrope walkers sun on windsurfer

sunset in Isla Mujeres

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Not so Safe at Anchor?

Friday January 31, 2014

boat at anchor

I don’t want to jinx myself by saying this, but it seems like some of our most hair raising experiences so far on this adventure have been at anchor. And of all those hair raising experiences at anchor, they seemed to be focused here in Isla Mujeres. Or, The Anchorage of No Holding, as I’m going to start referring to it. First, there was the time that Skebenga started dragging their big steeled hull toward us shortly after we arrived here, luckily to have Luki and Elmari be on the ball and start fixing the problem as soon as it started. Crisis adverted there. Then during one high winded night, we watched a boat from the other side of the harbor drag it’s way into the channel, finally catching again while it was still far enough away for us to catch our breath and go to bed without too much worry.

The next night, it was us who found ourselves in trouble, our anchor having gotten caught in a bike frame, causing us to drag about 400 feet, narrowly missing the boat anchored behind us. After all this excitement, we decided the lagoon would be a much safer spot to sit out the next storm. And oh boy, it was a nasty one. Sustained winds of 40 knots put all boaters on edge and on a close look out through the dark to make sure nothing seemed out of the ordinary. All of us who had secured a spot during the day, properly setting our 1-2 anchors, were kept on watch all night long as a new boat came into the lagoon while the storm was blasting on high, dragging multiple times and almost running into us twice. From experience here, we’ve learned that it’s not only your anchor you have to watch out for, it’s everyone else’s too.

Back out in the main harbor for a few weeks now, we’d been keeping a very close eye on the weather every day since we’re trying to take the first chance we can get of sustained south or west winds to carry us over to Florida. We also keep an eye out for any strong systems that look like they might pass over us, but I hadn’t seen anything coming through over 20 knots. Nothing was in the forecast, and we felt comfortable staying where we were in the large and open harbor. Then just a little after nine o’clock last night, we noticed the winds shift and begin to pick up a little. Usually we have E or SE breezes blowing through here, and all our bobbing our bouncing is due to boats passing through the channel and throwing off a wake. When we suddenly shifted to the NNW, we were open to the bay that separates us from Cancun, and there was a noticeable fetch starting to come through. Winds had gone up from the 5-10 range to 20 or so knots, and although it wasn’t bad, it was something we said we’d want to keep an eye on.

When the clock struck 10:30, my eyes began to get droopy and I was ready to head off to bed. But just out of curiosity, I wanted to sticky my head out and check conditions since they seemed to be steadily building. While looking around I saw the catamaran that had just anchored next to us that morning seemed a little close for comfort, although it was hard to tell how much they moved since monohulls and multihulls move differently at anchor. Looking at the boat directly upwind of us, their anchor light appeared just a little bit brighter than it had before, and it was enough for me to know that one or both of us should keep an eye on everything until the winds settled down more. It was shaping up to be another long night of anchor watch. Throwing on a jacket and tucking a flashlight in my pocket, I went to start watch in the cockpit while Matt made tea below to keep us warm. At the beginning of these storms, both of us usually have enough piqued curiosity that we want to be out there and see what’s going on.

On this night we didn’t have long to wait before the action started. While the two of us were having a debate on if the little 22 ft boat directly upwind of us looked like it was dragging closer or was just swaying back and forth at anchor, we caught the movement of another light further north in the harbor. Sure enough, there was a boat on the move, and not at the will of the pilot. It wasn’t headed near us or any other boat thankfully, but it’s always a sad thing when you see another boat in impending danger and you can do nothing to stop it. This boat was headed for the shore and the few wrecked and half sunken boats already in that spot did nothing to ease our nerves or our empathy for this boat on the move. Once or twice it appeared to catch and we breathed in a sigh of relief, only to watch it pick up and start moving backwards again moments later, finally coming to a halt against the shore but without any perceptible danger of it flipping on it’s side.

Just as we thought that was going to be the whole excitement for the evening, the catamaran just to the side of us began to move as well. It was strange since it appeared moments before that we had seen movement in the cockpit by one of the owners, but once this hunk of fiberglass began taking flight through the anchorage, not a soul was to be seen. Having been smart enough to put on the radio this time, we heard calls to the catamaran, warnings that they were dragging. There was no response, and no light on board. Another boat from the far side of the anchorage began flashing a light in their direction, trying to get their attention. This also did nothing to stir any person on board. Watching and hearing this all happen from our own cockpit where we were still safe from this wrecking ball, we tried to to our part, bringing out the air horn and giving it five short blasts. Nothing. Then all three of us started in at once. Calls on the radio, blinding flashes of light, blasts on the air horn. Still, no one was to be seen on the catamaran.

We all watched as it slid back to the same shore already holding the first boat that dragged. Thinking that if anything, they’d just end up on the shore and be their own problem, we were wrong. Just as it looked like they were about to make contact with the mangroves that lined the shore, lights lit up in the cockpit and there was an illusion of forward movement. We quickly breathed out a sigh, knowing they appeared to be safe, only to suck in our breath again and wonder where they would try to go from this point. For us, we didn’t need to worry. For the poor fellow on a mooring at the back of our group, well, he had a new permanent neighbor for the night. After wondering why this catamaran wasn’t moving out into the anchorage, I pulled out the binoculars and saw through the lights on deck that they appeared to be tangled up with the boat in the back.

Everyone in the anchorage seeming to sense this at the same time, jumped on the radio to see what the issue was and offer their help. Unfortunately, winds were still blowing so high and the chop in the water was so rough, that sending a dinghy to get anywhere near or possibly between the two boats seemed like more danger than do-gooding. All the while on the radio, there were also messages of spare anchors if needed, or if any boats felt they had poor holding, they should move to the lagoon before another situation arose. This message was relayed many times to the initial boat that dragged into the mangroves, whom did not have their radio on, but eventually did get themselves off.

Through the next hour we waited for winds to subside and kept a keen eye for anything else on the move. There was one large steel hulled boat on the other side of the channel that, in my eye, had clearly moved much closer, but caught once again before even making it to the channel. The initial boat to drag, once their anchor was down again, dragged at least twice more that we saw, but each time was able to get moving before getting too close to the jagged rocks they had now decided to put themselves in front of. We finally went to bed weary and hopeful that no more storms ever come through while we’re here. Maybe we’ll just take our chances out on the open water instead of waiting for a window?* At least it’s not likely that anything is going to hit us out there.

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 The boat that spent a few hours in the mangroves.

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 The red boat on the far right was the one making it’s way toward us, luckily catching before it got too close.

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 And…the big wreck of the evening.

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*Of course we’re actually going to wait for a good weather window. We may be anxious to get out of here, but not that much.

 

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Sometimes Nothing is All You Need

Monday January 27, 2013

reflection in hatch

If you’ve been following our Facebook page, you may have noticed me spending a little of my time complaining that we can not seem to find a weather window to get to Florida and we’ll be forever stuck in Mexico.

Today, I decided to let that go. I can’t control the weather. I can’t control the universe. I can’t control much of anything, really. But what I can control is my outlook. Yes, we are stuck in Mexico. No, there is nothing in the forecast that shows we’ll be leaving anytime soon. So instead of sitting here whining about the one thing I my life that I can even complain about, I decided to sit back and get a little perspective.

All of my friends back home are suffering through one of the worst winters we’ve had in years. Not only are they shutting down schools, but they even closing down places of business and sections of road altogether. People are only leaving their house unless it is absolutely necessary.

Where am I during all of this? Sitting on a sailboat in Mexico. For the past few days I’d been bummed that we’ve been here so long and I wanted to get a move on to something new, something interesting. We’ve already done town, the beach, the restaurants. What most of our days are filled with now are sitting on the boat, only getting off every few days when groceries run low, or maybe once a week, just to force ourselves back into civilization. I was bored with it and I wanted a change. Then while checking the weather again this morning and realizing that we very well might be stuck here until the middle or end of February, I finally accepted it. And then I realized, this is not a bad place to be.

It was like a curtain lifting over my eyes. I started to take pleasure in doing the same nothing that we’ve been doing for weeks now. I made a cup of coffee this morning and savored it. I sat in the cockpit and got work done on my computer, taking in the beautiful sights around me. I let the sun warm my skin and then jumped in the teal waters surrounding me to cool off (and sneak in a bath). I spent my afternoon swaying to music playing through the speakers and making fresh salsa. I mixed up a fruity little cocktail and watched a beautiful sunset from my back porch.

There really hasn’t been much of a variance in my schedule from what I’ve been doing the past few days, but what did change was my outlook. Did I do anything extreme or out of my ordinary today? No. Basically, I did nothing. But just sometimes, nothing is all you need.

sunset in Isla Harbor

sunset in Isla harbor

 

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Pizza and a Sunset

Thursday January 23, 2014

Elmilagro Marina Isla Mujeres

There still isn’t much to update here in Isla Mujeres.  We keep looking for a weather window to get ourselves to Florida, and they keep disappearing as soon as we get hope that there’s something on the horizon.  We’ve actually been spending a lot of time on the boat, really enjoying ourselves here now that we have a fast internet connection.  Couple that with the sun keeping our batteries pretty full lately, and we’ve been electronic maniacs for the past few days.  Tool around on the internet in the morning, read a book and catch some rays on deck in the afternoon, prepare a tasty meal and enjoy in while watching a movie at night, and then maybe a little more internet time before hitting the sack at night.

Tonight I decided that we needed to get off the boat to finally do something more than grocery shopping.  Matt suggested we try one of the pizzas over at Marina Paraiso.  Luki and Elmari had told us the portions are very big, along with the pizza itself being really good.  Plus, since we land our dinghy there every 2-3 days and haven’t actually given them any business since having lunch with Lee and Amanda about 10 days ago, we figured they were due some of our cash.

The nights here have been getting a little bit cooler, enough for me to start nagging Matt that I need to pull out the down comforter that had just been stored away when we were leaving Guatemala.  Donning long pants and t-shirts, we went to the open air bar/restaurant, and put our orders in for pizza and beer.  While glancing back and forth at the many tv screens playing various sporting events, the wind was still kicking up and making it a very chilly evening.  As soon as the pizza was set in front of us we quickly picked up the piping hot pieces to keep our hands warm, but couldn’t seem to stick around any longer than when we’d had our fill.  As Matt was paying the tab and getting the remaining, truly generous portions, boxed up, I snuck away to the docks to get in some photos of that night’s sunset.

Matt kind of likes to mock me each time I run out with my camera to do this, but really, do amazing sunsets ever get old?

Sol

sunset at Marina Paraiso

Sunset at Maraina Paraiso

Sunset Marina Paraiso

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The Wanderers

Saturday January 18, 2014

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

We finally moved ourselves out of the small depressing hole that is the lagoon, and back into the main harbor. The weather was good enough for us to do this days ago, but the fact that we were getting internet on the boat there made it very hard to leave. It’s so nice being back out in the harbor though, the sun shines a little brighter, the water is much cleaner, and now thanks to Lee, we can get internet out here as well. Life is pretty perfect. I do feel a little bad though that we’ve now spent over three weeks on this island and haven’t fully explored it yet. I’m sure we’ll get there in stages, so today we decided just to take a leisurely stroll before hitting the grocery store in the afternoon. Instead of doing the large 1-2 week stocks like we used to, we found out in Guatemala that it’s much easier just to buy for the next 3-4 days. Something that forces us to get off the boat, and keeps our waterline just a little bit higher.

On our way in we decided that instead of filling up on carbs through the various muffins, cookies, and rolls that we’ve been buying dirt cheap at the store, we would try and hit this taco stand right next to where we land our boat, one that has always sold out of food by the time we walk by it in the late afternoon.  After looking through the many varieties of ways she could make up our food, we put in our orders and enjoyed them under the shade of a palm tree nearby.

Matt said my Spanish is getting much better, but I’ve just realized that’s because instead of trying to put together elaborate sentences that I don’t know how to conjugate I’m going for very simple fragmented sentences instead. “Two chicken and two of those (point at one of many pork dishes). With everything. One Coke and one Pepsi. How much for everything? Thank you.” To the woman working the stand I must have sounded like a struggling preschool student, but to Matt I sounded like a Spanish speaking goddess. All he saw was that I was actually able to get my point across, and was understood. Which I guess in the end is all that matters. Until I finally have enough battery charge to keep my computer going for more than 4 hours a day (these blog posts are really time consuming! (ok, and Facebook)), and I can get back to my Spanish lessons.

taco stand, Isla Mujeres

 When we finished with our food we didn’t really have a certain area in mind that we wanted to check out, so we fell through the back streets until we eventually ended up at the Melecon that lines the east side of the island.  I was hoping that some of the large 3 meter waves that were supposedly rolling through during the last storm would still be there, crashing up against the rocks, but we were just left with the easterly trades throwing up a little bit of spray here and there.

Taking a left we starting making our way to a small sandy beach ahead, one much less crowded than north beach, but with a few people still taking in the afternoon sun.  There were a few wading pools to go in and cool off, although the red flags were flying which meant it probably wasn’t a good day to try.  The area reminded me a little bit of the Bahamas, all the jagged coral edges we’d tiptoe around while exploring uninhabited islands there.  On our way down to the beach, Matt even found a little dog that wanted to be his best friend, and if it wasn’t for the collar on his neck, we probably would have tried to take him with us.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Matt with stray dog

Jessica on rocks in Isla

Walking all the way until the beach ended, we found a little trail through the sand and rocks until it dropped us off at the beginning of North Beach on the east side of the island, right next to the Avalon Hotel, a landmark that many sailors coming from the north use to first spot the island.  It looked like a beautiful place that had perfect turquoise waters with sandy bottoms for families and little kids to safely swim in.

As we wandered further up, we came across parts of the beach that we had never seen before, never having ventured that far down.  Today there was one area set aside for a wedding, dozens of chairs set up and a canopy perfectly framing the white sand and clear waters behind it.  Each seat a a maraca lain down on it, a little present for each guest attending.  Not that I didn’t love my ‘destination’ wedding in Vegas, but had we been a little bit older and willing to part with a little more money for the even, this would have totally been the way to go.  It was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l.  Whomever you are, Matt and Emily, you made a great choice by planning your wedding here.  I was almost tempted to force Matt to run me back to the ‘Dip so I could throw on a dress and crash the thing.  Guess I’ll just have to come more prepared next time.

Ten minutes later we had made our way across the whole North Beach and were back to the main street with all the vendors and tourists just getting off the ferry.  Our whole wandering experience had taken less than an hour.  I looked at Matt and pathetically muttered, “We are the worst wanderers ever, we couldn’t even make it two hours”.  Then he corrected me.  ”No, that just makes us good wanderers.  We don’t get distracted”.  I guess that’s one way of looking at the glass half full.

Avalon Hotel Isla Mujeres Mexico

wedding reception

wedding on beach Isla Mujeres Mexico

wedding on beach Isla Mujeres Mexico

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Run Ins and Waterspouts

Wednesday January 15, 2014

waterspout

Isla Mujeres has not stopped providing it’s excitement at anchor.  I just happened to be looking out one of the deadlights today at just the right time and saw this waterspout.  At first I was worried about where it might be going, but then I realized that it was still in the Caribbean Sea and would have to cross over land before making it to either the lagoon where we were anchored, or the main harbor.  We kept our eye on it as it swept closer to us from the sea, but as soon as it did come up on land the whole thing dissipated within moments.

There was also one more act of excitement since we’ve been sitting in the lagoon here.  A few days ago, before we removed our second anchor, another sailboat passing through the channel caught it.  I had just laid down for an afternoon nap up in the v-berth, when all of a sudden I heard a loud noise and a tugging motion.  Tossing over, I tore out of bed and ran up the companionway just after Matt to see the other boat which now had our pulpit in their lifelines.  Luckily we didn’t get tangled and they were able to push themselves off right away.  However, they still had our anchor line attached to them in one way or another, and the two of us were sure it was around their prop.  The other boat owner stated he thought it was on his keel and he wanted to reverse.

With our high test 5/16ths G4 anchor line possibly about to get shredded if it was not in fact just around his keel, we’d be out one really nice set of line.  Eventually he let the current push him back a little where we found out that it was thankfully only wrapped up in his keel.  Soon they were off and yelled their apologies back to us, stating that they’d come back with beer to make up for the trouble.  So far we have not seen them again.

I’m starting to think that Isla is rejecting us and giving us hints to leave as soon as possible.  With all of our friends also leaving now, there really isn’t a reason to stay.  As soon as a window of three to four days of south and/or west winds come up, we.are.outta.here.

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Our Last Dinner with Skebenga

Tuesday January 14, 2013

dinner on Skebenga

Tonight we had our last dinner with Luki and Elmari for what could be the last time ever.  After one more front passes through tomorrow, they’ll be on their way to Cuba, and up to Cape Canaveral to sell Skebenga and move back to South Africa.  Their adventure is soon to be over.

In true Skebenga style, they invited us over to their boat where one last extraordinary meal would be prepared and we’d all act like this was just a short term separation, because there is no way the fates could keep us away forever.  We’ve become family now, a bond formed by the sea, and it won’t be an easy one to break, even when each of us is once again stranded on land.

For our last night together I had Luki share with me his absolute to die for recipe for spaghetti and meatballs.  I remember eating this meal for the first time on the roof top deck of Luis’ boat back in Guatemala, and ever since I have been desperate to find out how to make it myself.  Armed with my camera and a notebook, I followed Luki around the galley, scribbling on my paper each time he made a movement.  When the balls of meat had been placed in the pan to simmer, and the tomato sauce was added shortly later, there was nothing left to do but sit and wait for it to cook, enjoying a glass of wine in the process.  Now there’s something I know how to do very well.

Matt, still trying to knock 80% off the price of Skebenga so we could buy it ourselves, kept remarking on how well built it is, even having me take photos of the floor because ‘Our next boat needs to have them’.  Putting on our sweetest faces, we tried to get Luki and Elmari to give it up for charity (us), but they’re pretty keen on actually collecting the money so they can start their new life on land.

When the food was ready we all moved up to the cockpit and enjoyed great food and conversation under the stars.  Since Luki and Elmari were no longer going to the Med to leave their boat stored for six months of the year (their original plan), they loaded us up with all their guide books and recommendations of places to go.  We found that we can take the boat up a river in Italy to get just outside of Rome, and Mallorca is such a beautiful place that it’s hard to get there and not set down roots.  We were also entranced with stories about Morocco and camel rides through the desert.  Once again, the desire to keep moving and see new things was bubbling up, and a three to four week trip across the Atlantic seems well worth the spoils.

After dinner we savored a few sips of wine that Elmari only brought out on Special occasions.  Once that was gone we knew we needed to follow suit, although I was ready to cuddle up in Skebenga and stay there forever.  We said partial goodbyes, but knew we’d get the final one just before Luki and Elmari leave for good on Thursday.  I’m already beginning to formulate a plan to see them in Florida since I know I won’t even be able to make it a month without seeing them.  Besides, it would be completely rude of us not to take them out to dinner to repay them for the fifteen guidebooks that were just handed over to us.

meatballs on Skebenga

 They’re not even cooked and they look delicious!

Matt on Skebenga

 Matt and his Nalgene bottle of Coke.  He can’t go anywhere without it.

 

 

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