Our Next Move

We’ve been here in Isla Mujeres for almost five weeks now, lingering for many reasons. The past month has been fraught with cold fronts, bringing many days of unfavorable winds to travel south.  However, it’s given us more time to explore and enjoy the island, meeting new people along the way (other cruisers, people who spend winters here and those here on vacation). It’s also been nice to relax and be lazy a bit, after our busy month in Key West followed by a stressful stay in the Dry Tortugas and an exhausting passage here. We’re enjoying cheap cervezas and sunsets.

So now we’re discussing our path from here. In the next few days, we should get good wind to travel 6-8 hours south, to the town of Puerto Morelos. We’d planned to leave on Monday, but Scott was dealing with some sickness that he brought back from Chichen Itza. Puerto Morelos is a small fishing village, with restaurants and shops. We’ll also have the opportunity for some easy day trips inland.  After a week or so in Puerto Morelos, we’ll head back here to Isla Mujeres to do some provisioning at the Walmart in Cancun ( yes, Walmart is everywhere) and clear out of the country.

From here, we plan to make our way to Honduras. We’d planned to go to Belize next, but have now decided against it. Friends that we’ve met here were robbed at gun point a month ago, when they were anchored off of Belize. They weren’t anchored alone, or in a bad area. Four men came aboard in the middle of the night, robbed them and assaulted one of their visitors. Scott and I had already heard about incidents of theft against cruisers in the area, and also that customs officials could be difficult. Scott had read about our friends’ experience on a cruiser website, but meeting them and hearing their story first hand drove it home..Belize is out.

We’d also planned to spend hurricane season in Guatemala’s Rio Dulce, but that plan has changed as well. Water in the Rio is muddy and dirty, and Scott is starting to go mad for good snorkeling and fishing. He hasn’t been in the water since the end of November, except to check our bottom and the anchor. We were too busy in Key West for beach time, and January was downright cold. February has been better, but the cooler temps and winds have kept the water a bit chilly. The snorkeling isn’t great here, and Scott can’t fish.

Our current plan, which will stay fluid,  is to head for Honduras at the end of March. We’ll spend April and May in the bay islands of Roatan, Utila and Guanaja. In June, we’ll begin the journey toward Panama, where we plan stay for most of hurricane season. This will give us access to good fishing and snorkeling sites, as well as small towns and villages to explore.

In the meantime, Howard has not been so lazy. He’s chewed fighting holes in his latest box, in preparation for battle with Scott (the battles are epic).

So we prepare to wind down our time here, and move on to explore new places!

Here are a few photos, from our lazy days here the last week.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”



Chichen Itza

The Mayan civilization originated approximately 3,000 years ago in present-day Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Mexico.  The Maya created a very sophisticated written language,  and also developed a social class system. They carried on trade that went as far south as Panama and as far north as Central Mexico.

Their number system included the concept of zero, an idea unknown to the old Greeks, who were expert mathematicians themselves. Using their mathematical knowledge, along with celestial observations, the Maya created a calendar and monuments which were used to observe and keep track of movements of the moon, the sun, and Venus.  The monuments at Chichen Itza are examples of such monuments, and the area existed mainly as a ceremonial center for the Maya civilization.

The main focal point at Chichen Itza is El Castillo (castle, in Spanish). The acoustics at the top, and around the area of El Castillo are amazing. It is estimated that 60-80,000 people lived in the area, and would gather for ceremonies or to hear a high priest speak. Whomever was atop the pyramid need only speak in normal tone, and the sound would easily be heard by the massive crowd. It was amazing how far and clear just a clap from our tour guide was heard.

The phenomenon that El Castillo is famous for occurs twice a year, at both the spring and fall equinox. As the sun sets, light and shadow create the appearance of a snake, that gradually crawls down the stairway of the pyramid. The diamond-backed snake is made up of seven or so triangular shadows, cast by the steps of the pyramid, that the setting sun gives life to. The rolling shadow makes it way down the stairway, eventually uniting with the large snake head sculptures that are carved into the base of the pyramid. We were told that this attracts a crowd of 40,000+ people!

Each of the four very steep stairways are made up of 91 steps. Combined with the step of the top platform, they make a total of 365, the number of days in a solar year. Ninety-one is also the number of days that separate the winter solstice, spring equinox, summer solstice and fall equinox. It is believed that the Maya tracked the seasons and the annual solar events, using El Castillo as a calendar, to plant, harvest and perform ceremonies.
The game of Ulama is the oldest known team sport in the world, and was played on the Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza. I copied an aerial view:

Courts were the size of a modern day football field, and when seen from above looked like a capital “I”.  A whisper from one end can be heard clearly enough at the other end, 500 feet away, and throughout the court. The game had ritual significance and was often associated with warfare.
Ulama was played by two teams of one to eight players who competed on either side of a central line that was marked one either side by stone rings set into the walls of the field.

Players used a large rubber ball that could weigh from three to eight pounds, and was about the size of a basketball. Each team tried to keep the ball in play by hitting it across the central line. The ball could be shot high in the air, bounced against the walls or rolled along the field. Points were awarded to one team when the other failed to keep the ball in play, like in volleyball. Unlike football, points were not scored if the ball landed in an end zone. Instead, this caused a penalty. The ball could not be hit with hands or feet, players used their hips and forearms. If a player managed to get the ball through one of the rings, the game ended.

As I mentioned in my previous post, you can easily spend a day or more here. Chichen Itza covers four square miles, and there is much to see and learn about. Here is an overview of the area.

Map of Chichen Itza

Even though we’d have liked much more time, Scott was glad to have just seen it. Here are more photos of Chichen Itza.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Day-Long Tour To Chichen Itza

Scott has always been interested in the culture and history of the Mayan civilization, so when we found ourselves in Mexico, a trip to Chichen Itza (chit-chen eats-a) was on our radar. It’s located inland by a few hours, in the state of Yucatan, so a car or bus is involved. (We’ve learned that Mexico is officially, The United States of Mexico. Isla Mujeres is in the state of Quintana Roo). Friends who we’ve met here in the anchorage told us about a day-long tour that they took, so we sought out the company’s booth in town to sign up. We were to visit Chichen Itza, a Mayan village (where lunch would be provided) and a cenote.

We started our day before dawn, taking our dingy to shore and catching an early ferry over to Cancun. From there, we were taken by van to a bus. The bus was awesome! Seriously, the holy grail of buses! Gleaming wood floors, large first class airline-type seats with loads of leg room and sparkling clean bathrooms. We settled in, as more people arrived and were loaded on with us. Then a man came on board and asked for anyone speaking English to follow him off the bus. Well, I guess it made sense that they would have the English speaking guests on a bus with an English speaking guide, but maybe they should have loaded us that way to begin with? Not to worry, we were ready to settle into the holy grail bus for English speaking guests.

As we stepped onto the next bus, the smell of mildew hit us in the face. It was immediately clear that we had gone down a few pegs…like to the cargo hold! Gone were the gleaming wood floors and comfy large seats. The leg room was non existent, and we watched a man try his best to jam his normal-sized backpack into the over head compartment that was the size of a bread box. He may as well have been trying to put a square peg in a round hole. We knew better than to try and put ours up there, as it was stuffed full of snacks, bottled water, change of clothes, etc . Instead, Scott straddled it on the floor, and prayed that whomever sat in the seat in front of him would have mercy and not recline.

Soon, all of the English speaking “sardines” were loaded into our “can,” and we were on our way. It didn’t take long to strike up conversation with the couple in front of us, as we were all commiserating about leg room. Dann and Sarah were visiting Cancun from Oregon, where they spend time fishing and cruising the Columbia River on their boat. We chatted all the way to Piste, a small village where we were given lunch and some time to shop.

In the village, Scott and I purchased this Mayan statue, representing health, prosperity and protection. We’re uncertain of the authenticity of this, as Scott got sick a few days after being on the tour, but we think he’s neat.

We shared a table for lunch with Dann and Sarah. The buffet that was offered was delicious, and we helped ourselves to seconds of our favorites. As we ate, some dancers came out to entertain us. Their balancing skills while dancing were pretty impressive, and the man was one heck of a whistler!

Once lunch was over, we headed to Chichen Itza, where we were given a brief, one hour tour and then an hour to walk the area ourselves.

This was no where near enough time, as you can easily spend an entire day here, but we made the most of it. I’ll post more on Chichen Itza separately.

We loaded back into the “can”, and made a stop in the village of Valladolid, for homemade coconut ice cream. It’s a beautiful town, and boasts the lowest crime rate in the country. There is a quaint square in the middle of town, and colonial architecture surrounds it. The many surrounding Hacienda plantations in the area are now colleges, so the shops and restaurants in Valladolid are priced for students…bonus!

Although Scott loves his ice cream, we decided to join Dann and Sarah for a cerveza instead, and crossed the square to stop in at Mexico Magico!

It was just a five minute drive from Valladolid to our final stop at the cenote. Cenotes are sinkholes that are the result of collapsed limestone bedrock which exposes the groundwater underneath, creating a natural swimming hole; there are many all over the Yucatan peninsula. Most cave cenotes are made up of fresh water that has been filtered by the earth, making them clear and pure.  Cenotes were revered, because they were a water source in dry times. The name cenote means “sacred well,” and the Maya settled villages around these spiritual wells, believing that they were a portal to speak with the gods.

We climbed down 94 steep, dimly lit stone steps. At the bottom, a huge area opened up, revealing a large pool of water, and stalactites coming down from above. A small opening overhead allowed daylight to shine down onto the clear water.

Scott brought his suit, but chose to skip the swim. He felt strange swimming in sacred water, and feared that the water would be too cold for him. I didn’t even bring my suit. Wading into deep water in a dimly lit cave did not appeal to me. We both made good choices. As we waded with our bare feet, the water was pretty darned chilly…and there were both catfish and tiny foot-nibbling fish in the water as well! I know there are people who pay good money for pedicures that include tiny fish eating the dead skin from you feet, but it is not my thing..ick!  Scott snapped photos, while I played hopscotch around the foot-nibblers,  trying not to land on the catfish. I’m sure that I entertained the rest of the group.

After our time underground we enjoyed some sun and cervezas on the grounds of the cenote, before boarding the “can” back to Cancun.

Once the rest of the “English-speakers” had been dropped at their hotels, Scott and I were let off at the ferry terminal where we just made the 8:30pm ferry. After grabbing some tacos and homemade churros in town, we launched the dingy and made our way back to Sea Life, collapsing for the night.

It was a long day, but a great way to see some sights of inland Mexico. Here are some more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Pizza, Pedaling and Relaxing

Our last week here in Isla Mujeres has been relatively uneventful. We enjoyed some relaxed time onboard, without going ashore. The weather still isn’t quite “tropical,” with continued cold fronts and winds, but it has been far better than our dealings with fronts at anchor in the Exumas and at Fort Jefferson! Here we’ve had more and more sun and less intense winds, and the shore is easily accessible with much to do, so things are definitely improving!

We ventured out to Pizza Friday. Each week, cruisers gather at Oscar’s, a local marina and restaurant, for a byob happy hour on the dock, followed by pizza at the restaurant.  Scott and I took a quick and affordable cab ride there, not wanting to ride our bikes back in the dark. It was nice to meet and chat with some of the other cruisers, and put faces with the boat names that we hear daily over our vhf radio. We also met Tim, and got to put a face to the voice of the daily cruiser’s net here!

Our dinner was great! The pizza and garlic knots at Oscar’s are terrific, and I now know where to head for a pizza craving in Isa Mujeres!

Afterward, the cruisers aboard Dayz Off, John, Becca and their daughter Zoe, offered us a dingy ride to their boat (John is flying to Houston for a visit, and offered to carry some mail with him. A huge favor, as getting things in and out of Mexico can take weeks!). We spent some time visiting with them, and then made the quick walk back to Marina Paraiso where we’d left our dingy.

We had a low key Valentine’s Day and spent the afternoon  on the Aluminum Princess, taking her out for an extended ride versus the usual back and forth to various local docks. There is a cut that leads to the western shore of the island, facing Cancun. The shoreline is dotted with homes, hotels and villas. Some are pretty impressive.

From there, we came back through the cut and headed to the north end of the island, passing by the crowded beaches of playa centro (central beach).

As we rounded the end of the island, passing by playa norte (north beach), the water turned a beautiful blue, from the more shallow depths and sandy bottom.

Monday’s adventure was by bike, circumnavigating the southern end of the island. We stopped at The Joint, which had been recommended to us more than once. As we approached I noticed this sign…with this sticker, which you Baltimore people will appreciate!

The Joint has a neat atmosphere, and the food was really good. Unfortunately, the prices were much higher than at other restaurants in the area, so with our budget this would be a one time visit.

Having had a rest, and renewed energy from food and drink, we continued on, rounding the southern end of the island and pedaling along the more rough and rocky eastern coast.

We stopped again at Villa Bella, for some cervezas at the swing bar. The couple next to us  were visiting from Texas (apologies for not remembering their names…I knew I should have written them down!).

We had a great time talking with them, before continuing on to the grocery store and then back to the boat. It was nice to go ashore for the day and move our legs a bit!

This morning  we had extensive rain…like rainy season rain, which was of course not in the forecast! We took full advantage, filling the water tanks. It rained a bit yesterday, which helped to wash a lot of the salt and such off of the boat, so today we could collect free rainwater. Scott sets up filters at the tank openings, and we just wait for them to fill…quickly in this case. Once the tanks were full, he pumped water up to the flybridge through our hose and filled the jerry jugs as well. We’re now full to the brim, saving us both generator and water maker run time…woohoo!

So that’s the last week in a nutshell. We plan to attend a craft fair today, and will do a bus trip to Chichen Itza on Friday…road trip!

Here are a few more photos from this past week.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”



Our Mexican Boat Gato

So Howard has cleared customs, and is now a Mexican boat gato! Unfortunately, this isn’t his favorite anchorage, and life here has been an adjustment.

Howard hates the sound of boats passing us, and there are almost no birds here to look at here. As a result, his time outside is short. As soon as he gets settled somewhere, or starts to explore a new smell, a boat flies by. If he manages to get past the fear of the noise and stay outside, the roll of the wake and the sound of the water smacking the boat and the Aluminum Princess tied behind us is enough to send him back inside, searching for a bit of sun to nap in.

He’s taught himself how to climb the ladder that leads up to the flybridge, and likes to sit on the top step these days. From there, he can survey all, have a bit of protection (in his mind) and be able to make a quick jump back down to get inside, if things get too terrifying.

We are having unusually cool temperatures here, so I’ve added warmth to Howard’s “taco,” that he loves to nap in.

He’s also chosen to sleep with us at night lately. This is a big sign that he’s chilly, since he’s usually uber independent, and spends his nights on “anchor watch,” in the pilot house.

Scott deflated our rubber dingy yesterday, as we use the Aluminum Princess all the time here. We store the floor to that dingy under our bed. It was in the saloon awaiting storage, when Howard eyeballed a piece of duct tape sticking up from it, that looked appealing.

I caught him with it on the floor, trying to eat it. After it was taken from him, Howard went back for more. He’s persistent, I’ll give him that.

Cool temperatures and boats have not slowed down Howard’s crazy play time. He and Scott have their regular games of chase. Howard will hop at Scott sideways, hunched up like a Halloween cat. Scott will shrink down past the steps and out of sight, and it’s on…Howard will race down into the hallway. Seconds later, after seeing Scott, he’ll come flying back up into the saloon and sail into his “play box” that Scott made him. It has several self-chewed holes, to better strike at your enemy from inside.

Howard gets so wound up, that he frequently pants. We’re not sure if it’s from being out of breath or from just being wound up, but are really glad that he didn’t do it when the Department of Agriculture was on board..can you say rabies??

If you haven’t already, check out Howard’s photo page. There are many new and entertaining photos of Howard’s early life onboard, and when he was still a land dweller!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Days In Isla Mujeres

Catching you up on the last week at anchor here in Isla…

We started our week with, what else, A COLD FRONT! These are getting SO old! This particular one was going to come from the northwest. We were facing southeast with zero wind, and then like a light switch the winds shifted 180 degrees and came from the northwest at 30+ knots. Of course, it happened at night, when it’s more challenging to keep an eye on your location, and that of others around you.

Scott had been nervous about this front for two reasons. First, we’d heard that the anchor holding here was bad, and that boats regularly drag. Second, strong wind swinging you 180 degrees tends to dislodge an anchor. As the front slammed  into the anchorage, our iPad app that we use to track the anchor showed that it was skipping a bit. My stomach sunk at the thought of having to pull up and re-anchor in the dark with 30 knot winds. Scott decided to wait, and see if it continued. The Hulk skipped about 50 feet and then had enough, and dug in hard.

We stayed up until 1am, making sure that the Hulk was happy, and that others in the anchorage were safe and secured. Scott got some brief sleep in the pilot house until daylight. After listening to the cruiser’s net (no way I could sleep through that!), we crawled back into bed to catch up a bit. Since then, the week has been full of fronts coming through, bringing moderate winds and chop to the anchorage. Life as usual this winter!

Speaking of chop, as I mentioned before, we are anchored alongside the I-95 for tour, fishing and charter boats. All sizes pass by us, usually at higher speeds than they should. For the most part, it’s tolerable, but some of them really give us a roll.

What is amazing and entertaining is the amount of catamaran party boats that pass us, and how full they are! They are stuffed with people, so full that they are sitting on the roof and hanging over the sides.

It’s fun to watch the passengers as the catamarans go by, to see who’s already feeling the effects of the rum punch…we’ve seem some entertaining dancers! The music is also interesting. Loud, dance club-type music..all the time. We can hear them coming way before they pass by. Scott likes to say that it’s always 3am  here!

So the last week has been spent exploring the island, visiting  local restaurants and meeting some new people. We’ve found that that things are pretty darned cheap when you use pesos, while using the US dollar doesn’t get you the best price (up to 20% more than using pesos!), so we quickly made a stop at the money exchange store in town, and are now spending like locals!

We have left our bikes at Marina Paraiso, and when we dingy to the southern end of the island, they are there for us to go to the big grocery store, or to just ride the island. When heading to the downtown area, there is a dock next to one of the commercial fishing piers that cruisers can tie to. We have become pretty familiar with the downtown area, and are taking more time to explore the southern part of the island lately.

The town celebrated carnival, in the days leading up to lent. Scott and I went to shore on Sunday afternoon, to watch one of the parades. The costumes and dancing were pretty neat.

But what was more entertaining was the overall organized chaos of the whole thing. Beer was an integral part, with participants drinking it before, during and after the parade, usually while catching a ride to or from their place with a group. (Notice the beer in her hand)

Support beer cart..

We watched an entire fleet of dressed dancers on scooters ride up into the parade, get dropped off to dance and then picked back up and whisked away. Strange.

There was never an official “start” to the parade, with huge gaps between floats and dancers (luckily, that gave us plenty of time to run across the street for 2.00 beers, or next door to the ferry terminal for their restrooms). Outnumbering the parade’s numerous performers and participants, where the many, many “support” vehicles and people walking alongside on the sidewalk. We guessed that the people walking alongside must be parents…all of the parents, by their numbers. The support vehicles carried giant speakers blaring music at deafening levels and much, much beer. After awhile, the parade was randomly diverted by police onto a different street. I guess they’d used up the allotted time??

We decided it was a good time to head back to the dingy, as we’d been invited to meet other cruisers to watch some of the Superbowl at a nearby bar. The winds kicked up quite a bit while we were there, dropping the temperatures. Scott got downright cold, wishing he’d worn his foul weather coat to block the winds rushing into the open bar. As his shivering got worse, we called it a night and headed back to the boat, timing our climb back on board in between waves.

On Monday, Scott and I biked some of the southern end of the island. We had lunch at Oscar’s, where  cruisers in the area meet for Pizza Friday. Since we plan to do that this week, I enjoyed shrimp for lunch.

Afterward, we made our way to the eastern side of the island. While enjoying views of the coastline, I noticed Villa Bella. It appeared that there was a bar, and it was public, so of course we went to investigate.

our village

The small property is beautiful and relaxing (no one under 18, and no groups of people over four in number), with many “island” details.

They have a Cadillac margarita, that contains two shots of aged tequila, a shot of Cointreau, fresh squeezed lime and a shot of Grand Marnier on the side; there is a limit of two per person. Although Scott was very tempted, we opted for the regular margaritas, going easy on both the wallet and our livers. The drinks came in neat coconut glasses, and Scott soaked up some warmth from the full sun, as we’re still waiting for it to act like winter here in Mexico!

Oh, on a happy, happy note, we have solved our washer problem! Scott finally heard back from technical support. Based on the email, he was able to figure out that our washer doesn’t like Mexican electricity(??). If we run the washer on our inverter it works like a charm, go figure! So no more bucket washing for me, and we save many dollars not having to order a control panel! We just have to time washing on sunnier days, to take advantage of power from the solar panels…fair enough!

So life here at anchor is rolling…literally. Here are some photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

The Cruiser’s Net

While anchored here in Isla Mujeres, we have finally had a chance to listen to a cruiser’s net. After hearing about them from friends who have cruised, it was interesting to finally listen in on one. I thought I’d share how it goes:

A cruiser’s net is broadcast across the vhf radio, providing various information to cruisers in the area, both at anchor and in marinas. In Isla Mujeres, Tim runs the cruiser’s net, which begins at 8:30am sharp, seven days a week. He begins by asking if anyone has a medial emergency, or any information that is urgent.

“Roll call” is first on the agenda, starting with Tim himself..”Good Morning, this is Tim and Reba, aboard Tropical Fun.” The rest of the “fleet” follow in turn…”Good Morning from Freya”….”Kokopelli, Good Morning”….“Good Morning from Sea Life.” Tim responds to each with a good morning.

After our roll call, we get a weather forecast from one of the cruisers, sunrise/set, barometer reading, wind and wave forecast, etc.

Then there is a shout out for anyone new to the area, asking you to share your names, boat name, where you  arrived from, some information about you, etc. This is followed by anyone who is leaving, and wants to say goodbye to the “fleet.”

Tim asks if anyone needs crew for their boat, or if anyone is interested in being crew for someone.

Then there is a request to anyone flying out to the U.S., Canada or Europe, willing to take any “flat mail” with them. It can take up to six weeks to get mail delivered from Mexico, so people will take regular mail with them as they travel home to visit, and drop it in a box when they are back “in country.”

Treasures of the Bilge is next..anyone with something to sell (spare parts, things in good shape that have been upgraded, stuff you no longer need or use, etc.) or anyone looking for a boat part, etc. Today, someone called in looking for a Sirius radio antenna, had an instrument to sell and wanted any copy of a book by a certain author.

Tim will then go over some basic information..such as which channels to use when talking on the vhf, reminding all to put anchor lights on at night and also use lights on your dingy when out after dark. He also touches on the fact that the anchorage can be tricky to anchor in, resulting in your boat dragging in bad weather. Basic things to be aware of.

Then he’ll ask for any information needed or information to be shared. There are calls in to ask about things like where to get a part, who does welding or sail repair or how to get to the Walmart in Cancun. People will reply with details, information and suggestions (which ferry service is best, where to get marine parts on the island, or over in Cancun, how much a cab should cost from the ferry terminal in Cancun to Walmart, etc.) There was a lot of back and forth this week, with someone wanting to get a new iPad. The consensus was to go to the IPad Shop, in the Plaza de America (or the mall). The iPads here have settings in Spanish, and they can change the settings to English. Useful information!

Finally, there are any announcements for the fleet. Maybe you liked the restaurant you went to last night, know about an event, “or just want to share a joke,” as Tim likes to add. A woman called in last week to let us know some of the events going on during the carnival celebration here. Tim also gives time and place for cruiser gatherings, such as Taco Tuesday and Pizza Friday (we’re hoping to do pizza this Friday).

To end, Tim will ask if anyone has anything else to share, or needs more information. When all is quiet, he ends the net for the day.

So, that’s how it goes. I think it’s a great idea, and am now a cruiser’s net addict! Most mornings we’re still in bed, or just getting going at 8:15. We keep our vhf on all the time, even overnight, in case of an emergency or if someone is in need. Tim gives a five minute warning before starting. When I hear his voice, I go scrambling to get to our vhf in the saloon, or to grab our hand held, so I can get my “Good Morning” in, and get all the day’s “scoop!”

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Back At Anchor

After a week of treating ourselves to a slip, we left Marina Paraiso on Tuesday, and moved to the nearby anchorage. Aside from Key West, which was a huge splurge, our budget doesn’t allow for long stays at a slip. Once we’d cleared customs and did some chores, it was time to go. We’ll miss our neighbors..

Ok, maybe not all of our neighbors..

We did a quick spin down through the lagoon, just south of the marina. There are several more cold fronts due to come through in the next week (yay, more wind!), and Scott wanted to check out the lagoon for a possible anchorage with better protection. We spied this crazy island, which made up of floating plastic bottles…quite a spread!

This little “cable car?” moves along a rope, to transport people back and forth.

Overall, the lagoon felt quite removed, and the marinas were filled with big sport fish boats.

It wasn’t our first choice for a place to spend a week or more, so we headed back out toward the harbor, to scope out a spot there.

We passed back by our slip at Marina Paraiso on the way..

It took a bit of time to find a spot to drop anchor. Several of the boats have two anchors out, which makes them swing differently. Being single anchor people, we searched the anchorage to find others doing the same. There are a few shallow spots, and an area where we watched a boat snag their anchor line on something on the bottom. They were tangled for hours before getting free, so those areas were also out. We finally decided on a spot at the edge of the anchorage, along side the I-95 path for tour and fishing boats. Not our favorite location, but we decided getting waked from them was better than swinging into someone or floating into shallow water.

All in all, it’s really nice out here. The wakes don’t jostle us very much, and we have nice views of the shoreline and town on one side, and the skyline of Cancun beyond the harbor on the other.

We’ll spend a week or so here, while we ride out the cold fronts and explore the southern end of the island. We have some good looking neighbors…a tall ship from Germany came in yesterday.

The Aluminum Princess has finally been lowered into Mexican waters! She has a new look, in her ongoing metamorphosis. Scott decided to take the black  foam collar off. It was causing a rougher ride in a head sea, and he was losing overall speed. So she now has gone back to a regular rub rail, made of vinyl, to soften impact with us and other boats when docking. She still looks sharp!

So we’re afloat again. Here are some photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”


Isla Mujeres

Our marina is located outside of downtown Isla Mujeres. Once customs, laundry, grocery shopping and boat washing were done, we unloaded our bikes and made the easy ride to town, which takes less than ten minutes.

The most popular modes of transportation here are golf carts and scooters. Most all of the cars are cabs, personal cars and trucks are few and far between. There is only one road to and from town, and it’s pretty much a free-for-all. People cross whenever and wherever they want to, and carts, scooters and cabs turn off and onto the road at will. They will also stop to park alongside the road without warning. This all puts any driver’s education simulator to shame! Our first trip to town was a bit nerve wracking, but since then, we just go with it.

Downtown is much more congested than the area where our marina/hotel is located. The main street is jammed with shops and convenience stores, banks, hotels and restaurants. One side of the main street is along the water and beach front. A large ferry terminal, which takes both people and cars to Cancun and Puerto Juarez is constantly swarming with people coming in and out. Stands also line the sidewalk, for people to sign up for various tours, or to rent a golf cart or scooter. For such a small island, it’s quite the sensory overload.

We decided to get off of the main street, seeking a quieter route. The side streets are overall quieter, with many being pedestrian only. They are jammed with stall selling various goods, and all types of restaurants and take away food stands. What is unnerving here, is the constant berating of the stall owners, trying to get you to come and see their wares. We were on an automated loop of “No, gracias,” or no thank you. Many don’t get the message, or don’t care, and continue to bother you. Scott wants to change his mantra for them to “No deniro.” or no money ! We’d probably have more luck at getting left alone!

Aside from that, which we eventually just got used to and blocked out, we have enjoyed walking the streets and having lunch in a few places for dirt cheap tacos and icy, cold beer. We’re not sure how much more time we’ll spend in town, thinking that we’d rather explore the quieter end, near our current home base.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Marina Paraiso

We spent a week at Marina Paraiso. In addition to having Chepo help us with the lengthy customs procedure, it was nice to stay here while we got our bearings. We also took time to wash the crust of salt off of the boat, from our passage here from the Dry Tortugas. There is a small hotel ashore, with a pool, bar and restaurant. We had trouble picking up the internet signal at the pier, so time was spent at the bar, where the signal was stronger. Luis took good care of us, as we surfed the net and caught up on emails and blog posts.

Lizards are everywhere here…ick! They come out en mass, to sun themselves. Creepy.

Just after we arrived, a cold front came through, bringing high winds (go figure). Several boats in the anchorage off of the marina had their anchors drag. One poor sailboat from Germany let loose, while it’s owner was ashore (we think taking care of customs). You can tell in the photo below that the boat is dragging anchor, because it is perpendicular to the boat that it’s passing.

Some good Samaritans from neighboring boats took their dingys over to the drifting boat and climbed aboard. They tried setting the anchor and secure the flapping sail. They were finally able to get the boat anchored, before it landed in the mangroves, but had no luck with the sails, which ripped at the seams.

There is a constant flow of catamarans and charter boats of all sizes past our marina. They’re stuffed full with tourists on their way to snorkel, watch the sunset or just drink. The music is so loud that it must be ear shattering if you’re actually on board. It’s like I-95 for party boats. Other than that, which is mostly amusing, despite the constant wakes that it throws our way, our slip and the marina are great. Oh, except for having to do an acrobatic performance past this oddly placed pole on our finger pier, when getting on and off the boat!

And, we are proudly flying our Maryland flag!!

Sadly, just after we arrived, my washer/dryer stopped working. We spent two years refitting the entire boat, replacing and refinishing practically every inch, and the year old washer breaks!! Scott was hoping that it was something he could fix, but it seems to need a computer panel. Computer driven things drive Scott crazy…neither he, nor Howard, can fix them.

Getting anything sent here and through customs, from mail to packages to parts, is very challenging. We’ll most likely have to wait at least a month, until we’re out of Mexico, to get the part.

SOOO, until that day arrives, I’m now hand-washing the laundry! We can have it sent out, which many do here, as there doesn’t appear to be any self serve laundromats here. However, a load of clothes will pay for two margaritas, or four beers…so hand wash it is! Scott set me up to wash in our empty cooler and rinse in several five gallon buckets.

It all takes much less time than I expected, and my happy hour kitty is untouched!

We have ventured to the big grocery store on the island, Chedraui.

It’s more like a Walmart Supercenter, selling groceries; fresh baked bread and pastries; liquor, wine and beer; linens and dishes; clothing; pet food and supplies; appliances, tvs and computers; toiletries and pharmaceuticals…and, scooters and motorcycles! At 600.00, Scott was very tempted to buy this one, before the computer panel on the washer went up.

We stocked up on fresh food and some baked goods, and also grabbed some beer and rum. I was thrilled that they sold a little piece of home for me…Miller High Life, in the little bottles!

Our total came to 1,500 or so pesos, or about 90.00.

We look forward to exploring more of downtown Isla Mujeres, as well as the area near our marina.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”