Throwback Thursday: Miami Beach & Calle Ocho

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

While we were in Fort Lauderdale we had a great time with Matt’s family, filling up our days at museums and even visiting a race track to see the kind of life our former adopted greyhound used to hold before she came into our home.

Just after they left we had a chance to visit with another kind of family of ours.  The one we formed in our marina in Guatemala where we formed our own little dinner club with a few of our neighbors and friends there.  Somehow it happened that every member of that party, with the exception of Luis (The Most Interesting Man in the World), happened to be in South Florida at the same time.  Such a strange coincidence since we’d all parted ways in Guatemala 6 months earlier.

Staying at the home of our friend Alfredo’s family in Key Biscayne, our group had the chance to come together once more for a reunion of our dinner club. It was supposed to only be a one night affair, but since the boat was anchored in such a safe spot and we left Georgie with more food or water than she could ever go through in 48 hours, we decided to keep the party going and used our next day to explore a few new parts of Miami.

You can find the original post here.

Monday March 31, 2014

Dinner Club

That place that was on the top of Matt’s list of where he never wanted to visit? Yup, we’re back there. Again. Except today had a lot more in store for us than just a stroll down the boardwalk or some good old fashioned people watching. Our day started early and went all night long.

Just as ready as we were getting ready to leave the DeLaro household this morning, those cute little ankle biters that guard the door tore out of the house and led to an early morning Chasing of the Dogs. Luki must be some kind of animal whisperer and he was able to scoop up one of the unsuspecting fluff balls and used it to lure the other one back home, as if it were running with a sausage dangling in front of it’s nose. Once they were secured back in the house we piled all six of us into the family golf cart to bumble down to Alfredo’s sister’s house for breakfast.  Even though my late night of mixing beer, wine, and RumChada had me barely able to get down a muffin in the morning (apparently even just a little bit of each will do that to you), it was great getting to know Alfredo’s sister and brother in law a little better, and we even had the chance to meet his dad who was full of questions for Matt and Luki about what it was like to sail around the world.  More of those questions were aimed toward Luki since I don’t think we’ve covered near as much ground as they have, but we were still able to throw in a few Caribbean crossings here and there.  

On the way back the keys to the golf card were handed to me, and it didn’t even take 5 minutes for me to almost kill all of us while running a red light at a major intersection.  The braking was just a little bit different than I was used to, and trying to pump on them would have put me right at a stop in the middle of the intersection.  I did manage to keep us alive long enough to get to the marina where Kajaya is anchored, and then pass back the keys to someone who knew what they were doing while we toured the rest of Key Biscayne.  All I can say is this place has some money.  If I thought the McMansions on Lake Sylvia were big, I was blown away by what was going up here.  We toured all the ritzy neighborhoods and even saw the house where Scarface was filmed.

running of the dogs

group at marina

scarface house

Back at the house it was a quick energy burst with a fill up of pop (they had Coke, and Pepsi) before splitting into two actual cars to hit up Miami beach.  I’m sure the golf cart would have made it just fine, but only if I was at the helm.  It’s obvious I’m the only one who knows how to handle that thing.

We parked right in front of Ana Bianca & Alfredo’s old apartment which was just a few blocks from the beach.  Even though I live on a boat, I’m always on the water, and always near a beach, I envied the fact that they used to stroll down the street with a coffee in hand to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic, or with a cooler full of beers in the afternoon, ready to take in the scene.  Surf and turf.  That’s the way to do it.

The six of us searched about the same number of bike stands before we finally came across one that had enough for all of us to ride.  With 30 minutes purchased, we hopped on those bad boys and pedaled the boardwalk of Miami Beach, an area that I’m now becoming quite familiar with.  I’m tell you, there’s just something about this place that keeps drawing me back.

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bicycling in south beach

 We found time in the afternoon to do a little strolling of the streets as well.  Apparently there’s a big shopping district that Matt and I missed the first time around and I had no problem this time running in and out of H&M and Forever 21, trying to find new bikinis or outfits at deeply discounted prices.  Matt wasn’t in the shops with me, I had the credit card, and everything was fair game.  Surprisingly I walked out of every store empty handed which is a sign that Matt’s just rubbing off on me too much.  It was slightly satisfying to walk up to him though and proudly say “I bought nothing“.

When everyone had gotten their shopping in and we enjoyed a sweet afternoon treat of custard, we piled back into the cars for a tour of Little Havana, or Calle Ocho as it’s also known.  It’s an area of Miami that’s full of Cuban restaurants, shops, and markets.  They even have a McDonald’s there that serves rice and beans as a side because it’s so popularly requested.

On the grand tour we walked by a park full of old men playing dominoes, and an area of statues and monuments with tribute to Cuba.  Since we were missing our great Cuban friend Luis, the last and only missing member of the Dinner Club, we thought it would be nice to get a group photo of all of us that we could send to him back in Guatemala.  Asking the first random guy we saw walking down the street, we soon found this was not a wise choice.  Because this man was a Cuban.  That wanted to give us all a lesson on Cuba.  Six people who had all actually been to Cuba, and one that was of Cuba heritage.  We humored him for a little bit and sang along to the songs he was trying to teach us while he simultaneously made a grasshopper from palm fronds.  20 minutes and no photo later, we finally pulled another guy off the street to take our picture, allowing our ‘Cuban Tour Guide’ to be in it with us.

Having lost most of the afternoon now and still needing to get back to Key Biscayne for dinner at Alfredo’s sister’s, we took in just a little bit more of Little Havana, stopping at one of the restaurants for real Cuban coffee, super strong and super delicious, and ham and cheese croquetas.  Mmmm, just like I remembered them.  Since we were in the area we popped into a market to pick up some meat and veggies for dinner and then made our way back to the island for a costume change before dinner since the clouds had come in bringing a huge temperature drop with them.

Calle Ocho memorial

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 Our night was rounded out with another family dinner, although not quite as big or with as many family members as the night before.  It was great though, sitting pool side of the complex where Alfredo’s sister Ivonne and husband Vance live where Luki got the brie (BBQ) ready, and Mimi (his mother) showed up with some freshly made peach daiquiris.  We sampled the mahi that Kajaya caught on their Gulf Stream passage from Isla Mujeres, and talked about the whens on where we’ll see each other next since we know that this can’t be it for our group.  I’m so happy that Matt and I decided to stay another night and can’t even imagine all that we would have missed had we gone home early.

It’s going to be a hard thing to leave tomorrow morning and go back to the boat where it will just be the two of us again for the foreseeable future as we move along to the Bahamas.  I am really, really going to miss these people as they truly have become family to us.  Long live the Guatemalan Dinner Club, you will always have a special place in our hearts.

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Matt & Jessica & Luki

Ana Bianca & Alfredo

 

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Throwback Thursday: Ringing in the New Year

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Still in Isla Mujeres, I couldn’t think of a better place to ring in the New Year.  We love that little island off the coast of Cancun! We also had the benefit that our friends Luki and Elamri were still with us and there were good restaurants with cheap beer not far away. After having spent a few days in the lagoon, which sounds much more magical than it was, we were back out in the main bay of Isla.  With days full of going to the beach or sitting at anchor, watching the overloaded catamarans bring drunken tourists out to the hottest snorkeling spots, it was not taking us long to get back into island time.

Even though most of our days were spent with no more worries than to relax or if we were getting low on beer or cookies, New Years was still a nice occasion to get dressed up and go out.  I wish I could say I partied all night long, but it turns out that spending all your days in the sun and surf can take a lot out of a girl.

You can find the original post here.

Wednesday January 1, 2014

Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

Since we left the Rio so much later than we expected, by about a month, and then had an extra week added to our time in Belize due to bad weather, Mexico was not where we were expecting to ring in the New Year. In fact, I had grand plans in my mind of meeting up with Brian and Stephanie in George Town Bahamas so we could celebrate it all together. With their timely departure for Panama coming up, it looked to be the only place we might ever have to cross paths again. But life, especially a cruisers, never quite goes as planned. I have to admit though, if we couldn’t buddy up Serendipity and Rode Trip in the Bahamas, staying with our other buddy boat Skebenga in Mexico was a very close second. We even threw out one very nice weather window to Florida to stay here and celebrate.

Our plans were not to be grand, just heading out to Marina Paraiso after dinner and enjoying a few beers and cocktails, and seeing if we could make it to the New Year. Luki and Elmari had already mentioned they’d probably be back at their boat long before midnight ever came, but I was hopeful that we’d run into our friend Rum/Ron (seriously, does anyone know how to spell his name) from Rio Dulce, one of the guys that watched Georgie.

It was lucky for me that Matt had been up until 3 or 4 am going into NYE so that he required a nap in the afternoon before going out. Why is this good you might ask? Because I was able to sneak out my flat iron to style my hair. As much as I love the thing, it sucks up about 20 amps while in use, and we’re still not quite at a place yet where we can easily spare it. I haven’t had a fancy cocktail hour in months though, and to me it was worth skipping watching a movie for the next night. By the time 7:00 rolled around and I was all dolled up, getting myself slightly sweaty while trying to prepare a quick dinner though, we were ready to hit the town for the night.

Luki and Elmari were already sitting at the bar when we got there, and we saddled up next to them at a table and enjoyed a couple of cold Pacifico’s (or in Matt’s case, Coke). The bar wasn’t quite as crowded as we thought it would be for NYE, about 10-15 people sitting at the actual bar, and then us and one other couple sitting at the tables just outside of it. Conditions weren’t quite perfect to be outside though, even though the night was warm, there were strong winds whipping through the grounds. The thing we found most strange was that the winds were coming from the east, and that’s where we were sitting protected from. Still, just like the Windy City, they managed to wrap their way around the buildings and find us, taking my perfectly glossy hair and turning it into the beginnings of a rat’s nest.

It was after only two beers and lots of good conversation that most of our group began getting tired and were ready to retreat back to our boats. Since it was a night for celebration, we decided to stay for one more drink, each ordering a fancy cocktail instead of the beers or pops we currently had in hand. Once again in a tribute to Brian and Stephanie, I ordered a gin & tonic, while Matt went with his old classic of Vodka Sour. I had been hoping to finally break out that bottle of champagne we’ve been carrying around in the ‘Dip since we left Michigan, the one that was supposed to celebrate Jackie’s 30th birthday in the Bahamas that we never got to meet up for, but instead the four of us made plans to enjoy a NYE part II the following week, after Skebenga’s company that was coming in the next day, left. It was 10:30 when we all made it back to our boats, and I was quick in bed after stripping off my party dress. Matt tried to wake me at midnight when fireworks began going off in every direction, but unfortunately, three drinks was enough to make me catatonic, and I could only stumble around for a minute to glance at them before falling back in bed.

pool at Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

Matt & Jessica at Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

 The rat’s nest is starting to take shape.

Scuba at Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

Scuba, the resident diving instructor’s dog.

bar at Marina Paraiso, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Today we decided to take it easy, as if our life has been anything else lately, and make another trip up to Playa Norte. Once again we prepared ourselves with a blanket, drinks and snacks. We exchanged our our e-readers for paperbacks, the digital SLR for a point and shoot, and were ready to leave all belongings unattended should the desire for an afternoon stroll or a frolic in the water come up. Once we entered the sandy passageway, we found that once again the area was packed with tourist and locals from the mainland enjoying their time off work. It was quite unintentional since we couldn’t find an open spot leading up to it, but we ended up at the same exact place that we had just a few days earlier. Taking shade under that same palm tree, we spread out our towel and unwound to the sounds of popular artist playing through the speakers of a nearby bar.

It was looking to be the perfect afternoon…until we smelled the poo. Just as my eyes were drifting shut, as this time I actually was planning on taking a nap, my nose went on high alert as it sensed a smell I’ve unfortunately had to clean out of our litter box many times. The strange thing was, one second it was there, the next second it was gone. I asked Matt if it had wafted past his nose as well, but he could smell nothing unusual. I ignored it and continued to relax. Every few minutes it arose though, and then departed just as quickly. At this point Matt had finally caught on to the scent as well, and although it seemed to be more pungent around me, kept asking if I wanted to move to a different area. Since I couldn’t see anything in eyesight that was available and I didn’t want to pack up all our belongings to search for another open area down the beach, I just went with it.

There were a few checks of all of our belongings just to make sure it was not in fact poo from our cat that we had inadvertently dragged to the beach with us, but quick nose to fabric searches of all of our belongings came up with nothing. I began eyeing the Pomeranian a few towels down. It seemed to be smirking at me. Finally when I was literally about to throw in our towel to find another area of open sand or possibly even evacuate back to the boat, a New Years miracle happened to us. A family of four that had rented out as many chairs and an umbrella for the day, decided to pack it in. Probably through the sheer luck that we were the closest people to them that were stuck in the sand, they offered up their lounges and umbrella to us, ‘since it was already paid through the rest of the day’. I greedily snatched up all our belongs before the offer could be replaced to anyone else. Then, while settling in to my new accommodations next to the other couple next to us in the sand that had been offered the other two seats, I heard some of the sweetest words in the English language. “We’re not going to finish the rest of our beer, would you like it? It’s still cold.” 2014, if you keep treating us like this, I think we may do very well together.

laying out at Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

lounge chairs on Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

swimming at Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

Jessica at Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

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Throwback Thursday: Running Away with Strangers

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

When I last left you I was ready to throw the towel in on cruising.  Moving too fast through countries that all looked the same from the waterfront without ever getting the chance to fully experience them.  I’d had enough and needed a change.  Luckily the universe provided it for us in the form of our hurricane hole for the season, Rio Dulce Guatemala.  When we arrived we were able to slow down and settle in, as well as meet back up with our friends Luki and Elmarie of s/v Skebenga, whom were staying in the same marina as us.

For once there was no worry about what kind of weather was on it’s way, dreading an upcoming sleep deprived passage, or even making sure we were provisioned enough to last us until our next supermarket stop.  It was time to sit, take a deep breath, and enjoy.

It didn’t take us long to meet even more friends a few days after arriving, or for that matter, run away for a weekend with a person we’d just meet.  A circumstance which rekindled our love for this lifestyle and reaffirmed that what we’re doing is the right thing.  We don’t need to turn our tails and run as soon as the going gets hard.  Sometimes you just need to stop…throw away your plans of what you think you have to do..and just go with the flow.

You can find the original post here.

Thursday June 27, 2013

El Estor, Guatemala

A kind of unusual thing happened when the four of us returned from the market the other day. We were all walking down the docks with bags in hand, when Luki was stopped by an older Latin American man along the way. It took only a moment to find out that he had a boat here at the marina as well, and the two dove right into a conversation that they must have been having on and off for the past few weeks that Skebenga had already been there. Then it popped up in conversation that Luki and Elmarie must be going somewhere with this gentleman, and he asked them to come aboard his boat to have a look at what would be their cabin. Then turning to Matt and I to ask if we’d like a tour of the boat as well, we set our belongings on the dock to hop on and take a look. It took only a moment to find out that the gentleman we were talking to was named Luis, that he was originally from Cuba, and that he had been here on his 42ft motor vessel for the past two years. The four of us climbed on to his boat and were astounded at what kind of space a 42 foot motor vessel could afford you. It was a tri-level space, with a salon, galley, and navigation space on the main floor; a small berth, steering wheel, controls, and a large foredeck with a bench on the upper level; and a head plus two cabins on the lower level.

As we wandered from level to level, gasping with ooooohs and aaaaahs at all the livable space, Luis showed Luki and Elmarie their master cabin, and then as we passed to the guest cabin, turned to Matt and I, and with a smooth Cuban accent said, “You two must come as well, this will be your cabin, I insist.”. Who…Where…What?! Go where? For what? How long? And who are you? It turned out that a town called El Estor, situated on Lake Isabelle and about 20 miles west of us, was having a Regatta in a few days, hosting a celebration and inviting all the local yachts in the are to come participate. It would just be two days, leaving on Thursday morning with a dinner and celebration that night, anchoring out in the harbor to sleep, and then maybe spend some time sunning and swimming the next day before making our way back to the marina. Although we already have a list of boat projects the length of our arms piling up, we agreed. Two days was short enough to leave Georgie on the boat alone (with tons of food, water, and ventilation), and we needed a little fun. We we worried about hopping on a boat with a guy we just met? A little. But all we had to do was make sure we could out-run or out-swim one person on Skebenga.

So at 8:00 this morning, with one backpack stuffed full between the two of us, we climbed on m/v Hydromax once more and got ready to push off. We found out it was not just the five of traveling as we had originally assumed, we had picked up two more people. One was a local girl named Janita that was Luis’ twice a week house/boat-keeper, young sweet, about eight months pregnant, and also in need of some rest, relaxation, and fun. The 7th was another young girl, Nicole, who’s also originally from the States, and has been traveling south for the past few months, already hitting Mexico and Belize. The five of us boat-knowledgeable people as well as a few deck hands from the marina, prepared to push off and join the fleet already heading up the river. It didn’t take long for everyone to congregate around the wheel, sitting four across on the berth that lay behind, with a few people taking turns to get some fresh air on the bench on the foredeck. The day was sunny with just a little bit of haze, and the water was flat calm. It didn’t take long for drinks to start being served, and not even the alcoholic kind. Luis went to work making everyone a cup of espresso, deliciously sweet, and then we moved on to the cool refreshing bottles of soda stored in the freezer. Everyone was having a great time, enjoying the slow pace up the river and into the lake.

espresso on Hydromax

Luki at the helm

Lake Isabelle

Elmarie on deck

foredeck of Hydromax

Matt at the helm

A lot of the other boats making their way up the water with us had all of their flair out, flags running up and down all of their spreaders. The ride took about four hours, where the seven of us soaked up sun and fresh air, working our way from coffee, to Pepsi, and finally the cold Gallos (local beer) stocked in the freezer. Arriving at the town of El Estor, we wound our way through the other boats already sitting at anchor and dropped ours. Since the festivities were not starting until that evening, we took advantage of the extra free time to take a dip in the lake. At first it was just little jumps from the transom and the railing surrounding it, but then we got more daring and went to the upper deck, getting a running start and feeling the rush as we fell the fifteen or so feet into the water. Any previous apprehensions we had about getting in the water since we’d heard reports of alligator sightings on the way up, were quickly gone as we dove, swam, and played in the water until we were too tired to keep ourselves afloat anymore. Changing into street clothes, we called a lancha over to take all all in to town so we could do a little wandering before the big banquet dinner that was being held for all the boaters that night.

view of El Estor

dropping anchor

boat coming in to El Estor

The shores were lined with hundreds of locals, and just on the water front a band had been set up, playing Latin music as children ran around and vendors sold hot food. Making our way through the masses, we eventually fell out on one of the side streets. It was a little larger than Fronteras, but most of the shops looked the same, large street shacks with all of their goods stacked or hanging on display. We’d heard this was a large mining town run by Russians, and they were the ones putting the regatta on for the boaters. It turns out that although this town is beautifully situated on a large lake, no one uses the water other than for fishing. I guess they wanted more people to take advantage of it for recreational purposes (locals or cruisers, or both? I’m not sure) and they put on this big festival complete with a banquet including free food and drinks for anyone that came on their boat. I’m glad we found someone to come with, because after trying to back her in one time, I don’t think Matt wants to take Serendipity out of her slip until we leave for good. As we got further back into the streets of El Estor we found out that there was also a carnival set up. Along each side of the streets were games where you could win prizes, mostly cheap plastic Disney toys and coloring books that would be found in most dollar stores back in the states. We took a pass on those, and just slowly meandered through the streets, taking the whole scene in.

We were having so much fun getting to know a new culture that we almost forgot about the time and missed the parade of boats. Practically running back to the water, we watched as about 2/3rds of the boats that came, sail or motor around the bay.  Having come in a motor vessel, there wasn’t a big need to have participated ourselves, we had no flags or sails to show off, but we were more than happy to watch the show from shore. When it ended we slowly strolled up the dirt road to the boardwalk and sat down for some good people watching. This must have been a very big event for the residents of El Estor, and the cruisers were outnumbered by the locals at a rate of about 10 to 1. Long before we ever got to Guatemala, we kept hearing about how the women will wear very bright and colorful outfits, and even though it wasn’t every woman, many girls in the younger generation wore jeans and t-shirts, there was still a fair share of women in their traditional clothing.  There was a little boy that was coming around selling fried plantains, and each of us bought a bag for 1Q each, or $0.13.  I’m never leaving here.

streets of El Estor

fabric/clothing store in El Estor

fresh coconut water

carnival in El Estor

parade of boats on Lake Isabelle

Lake Isabelle

our group of misfits

fried plantains for sale

Dinner that night was in a large hall that was filled with about 80 cruisers.  True to their word, they wanted to keep us full with food and drinks.  I’m even guessing they over-purchased on the Stella Artois, since as soon as dinner was brought out to us, someone was right behind giving each person two bottles of beer, regardless of what they were drinking.  While we ate we enjoyed live music from a group of men playing instruments ranging from drums to cellos to xylophones.  Some of the songs they played were very traditional, but they even tried to appease their fellow visitors by playing things like ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson.  After the plates were cleared a few people got up and began to dance, but we were ready to head outside and see what the town had to offer after dark.  On the waterfront there was a large stage set up with another band playing more American instruments, but no one was out dancing.  Nicole, Luis, and I decided to change that and, after about 3 Stellas, had no problem shaking our money makers all by ourselves.  It was enough to bring just a couple other people out to dance, but mostly only other cruisers.  The locals seemed content just to sit to the side and tap their feet to the beat.  There was one local guy though, that took me hostage, and after three dances in a row, Luis had to come rescue me from his grasp.  The guy wasn’t being vulgar in any kind of way, he was just very excited to dance and didn’t get the hints (or Spanglish) I was throwing his way that I was tired and needed a break.

Our whole group was exhausted from the fun filled day though, and at the late hour of 8:30 pm, we hopped a launcha to go back to Hydromax for the night.  It wasn’t quite bedtime yet, so the five of us boaters brought a bottle of wine to the top deck to enjoy some conversation and a lightning storm off in the distance.  We were all taken by surprise when a fireworks show began at 9:00, and we sat there in awe as the bright colors exploded before our eyes.  It was a special thing for us cruisers, yet I could help but feel grateful that everyone in El Estor was able to enjoy the show as well.  I’m guessing this is the first fireworks display the town has ever had, and even though it was meant to be a treat for us gringos that came for the regatta, that people who had made their way down from their mountain villages were able to experience it too.  It was such a perfect day and I feel so lucky that we were invited.  We’ve only been in this country for a few days, and it has been so good to us.  I can’t believe that just a few days ago I wanted out of this lifestyle  What was I thinking?

banquet for regatta

dancing in El Estor

 

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Ringing in the New Year

Wednesday January 1, 2014

Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

Since we left the Rio so much later than we expected, by about a month, and then had an extra week added to our time in Belize due to bad weather, Mexico was not where we were expecting to ring in the New Year. In fact, I had grand plans in my mind of meeting up with Brian and Stephanie in George Town Bahamas so we could celebrate it all together. With their timely departure for Panama coming up, it looked to be the only place we might ever have to cross paths again. But life, especially a cruisers, never quite goes as planned. I have to admit though, if we couldn’t buddy up Serendipity and Rode Trip in the Bahamas, staying with our other buddy boat Skebenga in Mexico was a very close second. We even threw out one very nice weather window to Florida to stay here and celebrate.

Our plans were not to be grand, just heading out to Marina Paraiso after dinner and enjoying a few beers and cocktails, and seeing if we could make it to the New Year. Luki and Elmari had already mentioned they’d probably be back at their boat long before midnight ever came, but I was hopeful that we’d run into our friend Rum/Ron (seriously, does anyone know how to spell his name) from Rio Dulce, one of the guys that watched Georgie.

It was lucky for me that Matt had been up until 3 or 4 am going into NYE so that he required a nap in the afternoon before going out. Why is this good you might ask? Because I was able to sneak out my flat iron to style my hair. As much as I love the thing, it sucks up about 20 amps while in use, and we’re still not quite at a place yet where we can easily spare it. I haven’t had a fancy cocktail hour in months though, and to me it was worth skipping watching a movie for the next night. By the time 7:00 rolled around and I was all dolled up, getting myself slightly sweaty while trying to prepare a quick dinner though, we were ready to hit the town for the night.

Luki and Elmari were already sitting at the bar when we got there, and we saddled up next to them at a table and enjoyed a couple of cold Pacifico’s (or in Matt’s case, Coke). The bar wasn’t quite as crowded as we thought it would be for NYE, about 10-15 people sitting at the actual bar, and then us and one other couple sitting at the tables just outside of it. Conditions weren’t quite perfect to be outside though, even though the night was warm, there were strong winds whipping through the grounds. The thing we found most strange was that the winds were coming from the east, and that’s where we were sitting protected from. Still, just like the Windy City, they managed to wrap their way around the buildings and find us, taking my perfectly glossy hair and turning it into the beginnings of a rat’s nest.

It was after only two beers and lots of good conversation that most of our group began getting tired and were ready to retreat back to our boats. Since it was a night for celebration, we decided to stay for one more drink, each ordering a fancy cocktail instead of the beers or pops we currently had in hand. Once again in a tribute to Brian and Stephanie, I ordered a gin & tonic, while Matt went with his old classic of Vodka Sour. I had been hoping to finally break out that bottle of champagne we’ve been carrying around in the ‘Dip since we left Michigan, the one that was supposed to celebrate Jackie’s 30th birthday in the Bahamas that we never got to meet up for, but instead the four of us made plans to enjoy a NYE part II the following week, after Skebenga’s company that was coming in the next day, left. It was 10:30 when we all made it back to our boats, and I was quick in bed after stripping off my party dress. Matt tried to wake me at midnight when fireworks began going off in every direction, but unfortunately, three drinks was enough to make me catatonic, and I could only stumble around for a minute to glance at them before falling back in bed.

pool at Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

Matt & Jessica at Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

 The rat’s nest is starting to take shape.

Scuba at Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

Scuba, the resident diving instructor’s dog.

bar at Marina Paraiso, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Today we decided to take it easy, as if our life has been anything else lately, and make another trip up to Playa Norte. Once again we prepared ourselves with a blanket, drinks and snacks. We exchanged our our e-readers for paperbacks, the digital SLR for a point and shoot, and were ready to leave all belongings unattended should the desire for an afternoon stroll or a frolic in the water come up. Once we entered the sandy passageway, we found that once again the area was packed with tourist and locals from the mainland enjoying their time off work. It was quite unintentional since we couldn’t find an open spot leading up to it, but we ended up at the same exact place that we had just a few days earlier. Taking shade under that same palm tree, we spread out our towel and unwound to the sounds of popular artist playing through the speakers of a nearby bar.

It was looking to be the perfect afternoon…until we smelled the poo. Just as my eyes were drifting shut, as this time I actually was planning on taking a nap, my nose went on high alert as it sensed a smell I’ve unfortunately had to clean out of our litter box many times. The strange thing was, one second it was there, the next second it was gone. I asked Matt if it had wafted past his nose as well, but he could smell nothing unusual. I ignored it and continued to relax. Every few minutes it arose though, and then departed just as quickly. At this point Matt had finally caught on to the scent as well, and although it seemed to be more pungent around me, kept asking if I wanted to move to a different area. Since I couldn’t see anything in eyesight that was available and I didn’t want to pack up all our belongings to search for another open area down the beach, I just went with it.

There were a few checks of all of our belongings just to make sure it was not in fact poo from our cat that we had inadvertently dragged to the beach with us, but quick nose to fabric searches of all of our belongings came up with nothing. I began eyeing the Pomeranian a few towels down. It seemed to be smirking at me. Finally when I was literally about to throw in our towel to find another area of open sand or possibly even evacuate back to the boat, a New Years miracle happened to us. A family of four that had rented out as many chairs and an umbrella for the day, decided to pack it in. Probably through the sheer luck that we were the closest people to them that were stuck in the sand, they offered up their lounges and umbrella to us, ‘since it was already paid through the rest of the day’. I greedily snatched up all our belongs before the offer could be replaced to anyone else. Then, while settling in to my new accommodations next to the other couple next to us in the sand that had been offered the other two seats, I heard some of the sweetest words in the English language. “We’re not going to finish the rest of our beer, would you like it? It’s still cold.” 2014, if you keep treating us like this, I think we may do very well together.

laying out at Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

lounge chairs on Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

swimming at Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

Jessica at Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

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A Snorkeler’s Christmas Eve

Tuesday December 24, 2013

dinghying outside of Isla

I would like to say that we had gotten around to seeing all that Isla had to offer yesterday, but unfortunately we were still much too exhausted after our ride over from Cozumel to do much.  After a small visit with Luki and Elmari when we anchored, I tried to catch an hour of sleep before waking up once more so we could find out where the Port Captain’s office was.  Luki and Elmari were headed there anyway, they’re still trying to check in after having arrived on Saturday morning (and it turns out they were Almost Skebenga that we passed after exiting the San Pedro cut).  We were told from the office in Cozumel that we needed to check in here with the Port Captain upon our arrival, and Mexican Customs and Immigration was not something we wanted to mess with.  This makes me extremely thankful that we stopped in at Cozumel to check in though, it sounds like Skebenga is having a hell of a time at it.

So yesterday we got back to the boat after about two hours in town, with 2-3 hours of sleep under our belt from the past 30 hours, and enjoyed the sun that’s shinning up here, hoping it will finally start to raise our battery bank over 13 volts, since we haven’t been there since mid November.  I’m just happy that now we’re finally in a place again with sun-kissed weather, and we have good friends at our disposal.  It did not take us very long to take advantage of that part.

This morning we moved both boats over to the lagoon I mentioned earlier.  There’s supposed to be some high winds coming in tonight and we’ve heard that things can get a little rough in the main anchorage of the harbor.  I was just happy to be in a place where we had wifi at our fingertips.  I know, I know, I should focus on other things besides having a constant connection to the world wide web, but it’s hard to let go of after having it everyday at the marina for five months.  And then going three weeks without it (for the most part) until getting here.  I have an addiction, I can fully admit it.

Then it was time for snorkeling!!  Matt and I loaded ourselves up in our dinghy along with our gear and a cooler with a few bottles of water and a couple of beers.  Luki and Elmari did the same in their own dingy, adding two crew members I haven’t mentioned yet, Luki’s brother Jan and nephew Stephan (Stefan?).  Together the six of us tore out of a little cut that leads into the open waters between Isla and Cancun, resting at a little beach to relax and have a lunch of one of the best submarine sandwiches I’ve ever had, courtesy of Luki, prepared with prosciutto and fresh toppings.  And even though I brought my own beer, I had cold Dos Equis passed to me from their cooler.  I still can’t get over how nice and generous these two people are, how lucky we were to find them back in Jamaica, and even luckier that they still like hanging out with us after all these months.

While the four of us original cruisers hung out at the beach for a little longer after lunch, Jan and Stephan/Stefan took out t/t Skebenga to try and find some good snorkeling spots along the coast.  With their 15 hp outboard, they were definitely the better scouts than us.  They came back after 30 minutes saying they couldn’t find much along the coast without going to the very south tip, so we decided it would be better for us to check out the spot next to the little cut we had used to come from the harbor.  Just to the north side was a whole area sectioned off for divers, so we brought the dinghies to just outside of that area to swim over.

I had the job of tying the anchor to the dinghy while Matt outfitted himself in snorkel gear, and a few minutes later I was right behind him.  It was when I crossed under the barrier rope to the designated snorkeling area that I realized the two of us seem to be plagued by a bad snorkeling course.  He were are in some of the world’s finest reef and snorkeling areas, but we can not seem to stumble upon the good stuff.  Belize, Mexico..we’re just left with murky water and eel grass.  I’m sure we could pay to have a tour boat take us out to the really good stuff, and we might have to, because we’re not finding it on our own.  In the hour we spent in the water I think I saw maybe five fish.

We would have loved to hunt more down, but there seemed to be another crisis at hand.  Even though I swore I finally got my bowlines down, and I even waited two minutes before jumping into the water to make sure my knot was secure, t/t ‘Dip came undone from her anchor and began floating away.  Thankfully the good folks on t/t Skebenga noticed this and chased her down for us, towing her back to the spot we were snorkeling.  Now all that was left was finding the anchor, still sitting somewhere on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea.  The hunt was on between Matt and I to find the anchor, and the rest of Skebenga was keeping t/t ‘Dip secure while simultaneously getting yelled at by the Guarda for having divers in the water in an unmarked swimming area, and also not having life vests on.  We think  It was all in Spanish.

Just as we were about to give up, Matt spotted something shiny on the sea bed (that should tell you about the water clarity in this area, we knew exactly where we dropped anchor), and was able to retrieve our anchor before bringing it back aboard.  Even though we didn’t find the amazing snorkeling we had set out for, we did still manage to find an amazing day with our friends.  I’m telling you, it can make all the difference in your happiness when you have friends with you to share your day with.  So it’s a good thing they’re not looking to get rid of us so easily, and have invited us to spend Christmas with them, enjoying lunch and lounging at one of the marinas for lunch before enjoying dinner aboard Skebenga.

Lagoon at Isla Mujeres

Leaving the boats behind in the lagoon.  Not as pretty as the harbor, but much more secure.

t/t Skebenga

The crew of Skebenga, showing off with their fifteen horses.

dinghy cut in Isla Mujeres

The little cut next to our snorkeling spot, and probably where our dinghy was floating after it came undone.

swim with dolphins Isla Mujeres

 Christmas Eve was a busy day to swim with the dolphins.

rain showers off Isla Mujeres

 Rain showers in the distance, but they didn’t come our way.

family on beach in Isla Mujeres

 There’s lot of private power yachts in this area, Mexico’s elite, living it up for the holidays.

spinnaker jumps

 Hoards of tourists piled on to catamarans for tours, some of them performing spinnaker jumps out in the water.

private beach in Isla Mujeres

 One of the power yacht families, setting up a posh spot on the beach to relax.

Isla

water jet pack, Isla Mujeres

 Water jet packs for those tourists that are feeling brave.

 

 

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Stories From Other Cruisers: Lost in Translation

Tuesday October 22, 2013

s/v Skebenga

 s/v Skebenga

 

Yes, I’m going to try and start yet another new segment here on the website. I hope that you’re not getting sick of or distracted by new things constatnly popping up, but I really think this one is worth a try and hope it will take off. The idea for it came to me during one of our many meals with the dinner club where we were sitting around with Luis and Luki and Elmari, once more going over stories of cruising experiences past. There’s a certain story that Luki and Elmari had told us looong before, but it was just so hilarious that I had them repeating it for me again.

As the story was being told for my enjoyment once more, an idea struck me. I thought to myself, ‘This story is just too funny, it needs to be shared! ‘. So in my mind was born ‘Stories From Other Cruisers’. As the name implies, it would be a segment where I gather stories from other cruisers on funny mishaps, troubles, or comical occurrences, and impart them here with you. Because honestly, there’s just too much hilarity in the cruising world for these stories not to be shared with as many people as possible. The very first volume comes courtesy of Luki and Elmari on s/v Skebenga, as told by me as a narrator.

 

Luki and Elmari found themselves in the country of Uruguay on the northeast coast of South America after having crossed the Atlantic Ocean from South Africa. As happens with most boats after any kind of travel, some replacement parts were needed to keep everything in working order and tip top shape. What they were in search of on this particular day was a 30 amp plug. Setting out on the streets of this Spanish speaking country, a language they were not very familiar with, they were given a tip that there were aprroximately four hardware stores along the main road of the town Periopolis they were visiting, and they should start with the furthest one out and work their way back in.

Trudging out through the dust and the heat they made their way out to the furthest shop and stepped inside. Luki, with his little speech prepared in Spanish, walked up to the man behind the counter and ready to ask for his 30 amp plug, stated, “Por favor, neccesito le chona de treinta amperios”. The man behind the counter cocked his head to the side a little, but without much thought, replied to Luki that he did not carry it and that he should try the next shop. Down the road they continued, where upon walking in the second hardware shop and asking the same question, were given the same answer. ‘I’m sorry, we don’t carry that. Try the next guy’.

By the time they walked into the fourth and final hardware store, the shopkeepers must have been conspiring between each other because the man here already had a grin on his face, as if he knew what this gringo was coming to ask for, when Luki walked through the door to ask for the fourth time, “Por favor, tiene le chona de treinta amperios”. Once again Luki was told that no, he did not have a ‘le chona de treinta amperios’, but this time Luki was finally able to figure out why. What he should have been asking for, a 30 amp plug, translated into Spanish as un enchufe de treinta amperios. What Luki had been going to every store and asking for so far, le chona de treinta amperios, was a 30 amp suckling pig. The real kicker of the story is that, not only did every shop keeper act as if it was an every day occurrence for someone to step inside and ask for a 30 amp suckling pig, but each and every one of them carried the 30 amp plug that he had been needing all along.

 

 

*If you would like to submit a story to be published in ‘Stories From Other Cruisers’, please email us at admin@mjsailing.com, or message us on Facebook at MJ Sailing, with the subject titles ‘Stories From Other Cruisers’. Please include your name, boat name, story, and a photo of your boat and/or the crew. Please do not send any lewd or profane stories as they will not be published.

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