Another Lazy Week

Our week was quiet and lazy. With strong winds predicted, we did a quick grocery run on Monday, and then braved the winds on Tuesday in the Aluminum Princess, to meet our friends Ron and Delores at The Soggy Peso. Ron and Delores have been spending their winters here in Isla Mujeres, and away from Wisconsin, for the last twenty years (before that, they’d escape to Cancun)! They arrive in November, and head home again on the first of May…genius!

They have been an invaluable source of local knowledge, with Delores answering tons of food questions for me (which items are and aren’t sold in Mexico, or which ones I can find in Cancun, etc.). I have had a challenge with Mexican butter. It just doesn’t bake up the same (yes, I bake onboard). Delores travels with Crisco butter flavored baking sticks, and was incredibly generous enough to part with some, giving them to me. Hurray! Edible cookies for Scott!

Our friends are a staple each day at the Soggy Peso, spending 2-3 hours in the afternoon enjoying a few beers. We stopped in to get my Crisco sticks and have a drink with them, before heading off to Taco Night with the cruisers.

After leaving Ron and Delores, we made our way to Oscars, where cruisers meet for happy hour at 5:30; Tuesdays for tacos, Fridays for pizza. From there, we walked about a mile to a local taqueria. Our route took us along one of two inland lakes on Isla Mujeres. It was an area that we hadn’t yet seen, so it was an interesting walk. We enjoyed tacos, conversation and some dancing before heading back to the boat.

We stayed put onboard for the middle of the week, amid stronger winds and eventful nights of near misses. Howard kept us amused, as always. His latest favorite toy is a piece of boat line that Scott tied for him. It’s so fun that he brings it along to dinner.

With warmer temperatures settling in, Howard likes to nap outside of his play box, where it’s cooler. Scott’s beach towel draped over a chair provides a protected nap spot, where Howard can fully relax.

We headed back to Oscars on Friday, for pizza night. They make a really good pizza, and every order comes with garlic knots, which are heavenly! People bring whatever they brought to drink for happy hour on the pier up to the restaurant for dinner, making an affordable meal at Oscars even better. Our bill for a 15″ pizza with the knots, and tip, comes to 11.00…terrific!

Here are a few photos from our lazy week.

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

 

 

More Wind, And Two Close Calls

The winds picked up again last weekend, and we are now on day eight of strong winds, this time from southerly directions. Fortunately, the Hulk continues to keep us put, but there is always worry about another boat  dragging anchor, and hitting you along the way.  We had two close calls this week, with the same boat!

Unfortunately, most of the boats here do not light their anchor lights at night. This is both frustrating and scary for us. It makes it virtually impossible to see the boats at night. During strong winds, you may not see someone who has come loose and is dragging toward you. Or, if you’re the one dragging,  you cannot see that you may be about to hit another boat. It’s just as frustrating for us to come back through the anchorage on the dingy at night. By the time you see a boat, you’ve usually come to close for comfort.

A 38′ steel sailboat from Germany arrived on Sunday, after a passage from Honduras. It anchored ahead of us, just before sunset. The winds were consistently in the low 30 knot range, so Scott spent the night in the pilot house, checking our position (which I think insults the Hulk, but you can never be too safe) and scanning the anchorage through binoculars (which throws a bit more light onto the area).

Just after midnight, the newly anchored boat let loose and started to drift back quickly. She missed us by 15 feet, which was way too close! Scott lost sight of it, as the south winds pushed her toward the north end of the island.

However, she was back the next morning, again anchored ahead of us. With the winds still at their strongest, Scott spent another sleepless night in the pilothouse. Again, the boat broke loose, and at about 3am she missed us by 12 feet! After Scott restarted his heart, he watched the boat drag back and get stuck aground on the snorkel area behind us.

The next morning, five dingys descended on the boat, and made several attempts to free her from the shallow water. There appeared to be way too many chiefs, and few Indians in the group, so Scott stayed put. They managed to free her for a minute, but the anchor wasn’t up in time, and it got stuck hard on something below. We saw someone go into the water to try and free it, but he had no luck. The anchor was cut loose, with a float to mark where it was, for more retrieval efforts later.

Finally,  the poor boat was pushed and pulled free, and the fleet of dingys dispersed back to their boats. As she made her way past us, Scott cringed at the thought of her anchoring anywhere near us again. Thankfully, she made her way back to the lagoon, which is a bit better protected from wind.

We found out later that on night number two, the two girls who arrived on the boat weren’t even aboard. They had spent the night aboard another boat, which made Scott livid. Had they stayed in the anchorage near us, I’m sure that he would have confronted them about being so careless. I was grateful that they’d headed for the lagoon.

Thankfully, the strongest winds have passed, and Scott is back to getting a full night’s sleep.

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

 

Back To Isla

The forecast calls for winds to be stronger out of the south this weekend. We didn’t have protection from that direction, and Scott’s faith in the mooring ball in any wind was slim. There is a marina nearby, but it’s a bit out of town, and we’d rather save the dollars. So…we headed back to Isla Mujeres.

It was disappoing not to have more time in this cute town. We arrived on Monday afternoon, and didn’t get into town until Tuesday afternoon (i am battling the last part of a cold, and couldn’t muster the energy until then). With Scott wanting to get some snorkeling in, we had little time time in town on Wednesday and Thursday.

We’d just gotten the lay of the land, and now it was time to head back north. Even though our first few meals weren’t the greatest, we would have liked more time to explore the local haunts, and enjoy some beach time. However, as I’ve said before, the weather rules us now..so off we went.

With winds building in the next few days, we chose to leave this morning. The forecast called for light and variable winds, and things had been calm during our past few days in Puerto Morelos. We started out for a smooth trip north. However, once we rounded the reef, things got bumpy and stayed that way…unnervingly so. I haven’t met a cruiser yet who enjoys a head sea, and we were in a fairly unruly one. It was so frustrating! The winds were blowing at only five knots, but we were in large swells, with the bow up…and then down. Howard was very irritated by it, and I started to worry he’d throw up. I too was irritated….Scott, was out in the cockpit fishing.

The first two hours were pretty crappy, then it finally settled a bit. We went in and out of two more rough patches, before smoothing out for good. I kept getting comments from the “peanut gallery,” aka, the cockpit: “I think it’s starting to calm down.” It wasn’t:…”Seems like it’s getting better out here.” It wasn’t, at least not from where Howard and I sat in the pilot house!

We’re finally learning that when you come into and out of a current in this area, the seas change for the worst. At one point, we came into a washing machine of waves and white caps. Ahead, you could see where it ended and smoother water began, so we just waited it out. Scott thinks that we’d gone into an eddy current, a smaller current that spins off of a larger one. I like the “smaller” part of that thought.

On the fishing front, we traveled out to water over 900 feet, but came up short. Scott had his bait out for mahi and larger type fish, but the season is just about over for mahi. He was hesitant to change bait, worried he’d reeling in God knows what. I think he was just enjoying time in the cockpit.

The resorts that cram Cancun’s coast came into sight, as we approached the area leading to Isla Mujeres.

As we got closer to Isla, Howard sat up and began to sniff the air. I think it was familiar to him. We’ve spent five weeks here so far, so I’m guessing it smelled like “home”..perhaps we’re growing roots!

We traveled past the crowded beaches, ferry terminal and a tour boat or two as we approached the anchorage. There were three or four new boats, but Scott was thrilled that the spot we’d previously been anchored in was still available.

As soon as the anchor chain released, Howard made it known that he was hungry. After that, he spent hours outside, and realized  that our inflatable dingy that was stored on the side deck  made a good jungle gym.

Scott was not amused…cat..claws..inflatable. However, play concluded without incident.

We are now back in the company of the fleet.

We’ll spend some more time here before clearing out of the country and heading toward Honduras. Here are a few more photos of our trip back to Isla.

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

 

Snorkeling in Puerto Morelos

I thought I’d share some photos of Scott’s snorkeling in Puerto Morelos. Once he managed to fend off the tour boats, he enjoyed some time underwater, and was very impressed by the coral. The amount and size of it was like nothing he’s seen in either the Bahamas or Florida. Unfortunately, the day was mostly overcast, so the lighting isn’t terrific, but I thought you’d find them interesting just the same.

The stuff coming off at the top of the coral head in the photo below is elkhorn coral, one of the most important reef-building corals in the Caribbean. Scott says that he rarely sees it. It was one of the most abundant species of coral, but since 1980, almost 90% of it has been lost, due to disease, climate change and storm damage.

Below is a black grouper. They usually hide from view, so Scott was anxious to snap a photo. Notice how he camouflages himself, to blend with the surrounding grass.

At times, there was so much coral that it was hard for Scott to make his way through, while avoiding contact with it.

He expects to see far more fish and such in future locations, but wonders if the coral will be as abundant. Here are a few more of his photos.

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

 

A Brief Stay In Puerto Morelos

We enjoyed the quiet atmosphere in Puerto Morelos. It was a nice break from the parade of booze cruise catamarans and fishing boats of all sizes, in the Isla Mujeres anchorage. The shoreline of Puerto Morelos is recognized by it’s leaning lighthouse. A new, third version is currently under construction. I wonder if they’ll leave the second one standing forever as well!


There were many panga boats lining the shore, but the few who passed by on their way out to fish  did so gently. Several snorkel boat tours also passed us each day, on their way to anchor at the reef, but they were hardly noticeable. Our mooring was right near the reef, and the colors of the water near it were beautiful. We enjoyed the sound of the waves breaking on it, especially at night.

The village was full of quirky shops and neat looking restaurants, but our food wasn’t nearly as good as we’d had in Isla Mujeres, and things were actually a bit more expensive here. This surprised us, as we expected prices to be cheaper in the smaller village. However, we did find terrific margaritas at Cafe Habenero! We also discovered some delicious hot sauce at Tacos@.com (weird name, I know). They even gave us a bag of it to take with us!

We had a chance to meet Ed and Elizabeth, who have been cruising for the last five years on their sailboat, Skylark. A mutual cruiser friend put us in touch with each other via email, and it was nice to finally meet face to face. They have recently traveled to Colombia, Panama and Honduras, so we picked their brains. We’re trying to gather as much local information as we can, in preparation for visiting these countries ourselves soon.

We enjoyed drinks, dinner and lots of conversation. Elizabeth and I broke off for a bit, to shop a local craft fair that was being held in the square. I found a great handmade basket, at a very nice price. It’ll be perfect for serving chips, to go with guacamole or salsa!

Our biggest, well Scott’s biggest, challenge came when he attempted to snorkel on the reef. He tied off his dingy to one of the many mooring balls meant for snorkel boats. After snorkeling for a bit, he came back to find that the dingy had been moved, and tied behind one of the tour boats. This was odd, as there were still balls available for them to use.

They gave Scott a hard time, and told him that he had to have a bracelet to snorkel (I think that they were upset to not be getting his money). The park ranger got involved, and told Scott that he could purchase a bracelet at the town dock. He also told Scott that he had to wear a life jacket while in the water. Scott came back to the boat in a huff, determined to win the battle.

The next day in town, we headed away from the town dock and the main square, knowing that anyone there would only want to sell Scott a trip, not just a bracelet. We came upon a woman selling dive trips, working away from the main square. She walked us to one of the booths, and helped Scott purchase just a bracelet. Success!

The next day, Scott headed back out to snorkel…..with his bracelet!

Again, the tour boats arrived and began to hassle him. He threw his arm in the air, and pointed out his bracelet. They tried to continue hassling him, but Scott loudly proclaimed, in his best fragmented Spanish: “I have bracelet, ranger says ok!” He turned, flapped his fins and continued to snorkel. Battle won!Unfortunately, the day was cloudy, so visibility wasn’t great. Scott did say that the coral there was healthier than any he’d seen in the Bahamas or Florida.

The weather forecast calls for stronger south winds to blow this weekend. We aren’t protected from the south on our mooring, and Scott doesn’t trust the strength of the ball in any wind. There is a marina nearby, but it’s a 20 minute walk from town, and is not in the budget unless needed. So, we’ve decided to head back for Isla Mujeres. We’d hoped to have more time here, to explore the town further, but weather now rules us.

Here are some photos of our brief stay in Puerto Morelos.

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

Traveling To Puerto Morelos

We left Isla Mujeres on Monday, to travel a day south for a stay in Puerto Morelos. It’s a much smaller, quiet fishing town. We’d waited for good winds, choosing a day with light winds from the northeast, and waves predicted for 3-4 feet. Our trip down went smoothly, except for a slight hiccup at the point off of Cancun, where we encountered 12 foot swells.

We’re learning that there are always decent sized swells in the open ocean, aside from whatever waves are predicted. When a point of land juts out, it seems to create a “pinch point”of sorts. The swells, waves and current here can make for a confused mess (which is what happened to us as we approached Mexico).

We’d been fighting the current that was traveling north, causing our speed to slow to 4.5 knots (we like to travel at 6). I convinced Scott to put the paravanes down, even though that slows our speed even more. He’d been fighting it, worried that an even slower speed meant we wouldn’t arrive before dark. Once around the point, we moved closer to shore. This took us out of the current and brought our speed up…back on schedule again!

There is a reef that sits off of Puerot Morelos, so we had to go south and then come back up on the other side to get to where we planned to anchor. When we arrived, there was a sizable group of buoys, marking a swim area, and several closely placed mooring balls. Scott chose a spot between the mooring balls and the swim area to drop anchor. We had no sooner finished anchoring and turning off the motor, when a boat came over to inform us that the we were in a national park. We weren’t allowed to anchor, due to the baby coral that they were encouraging to grow on the sea floor.

We were directed to take a mooring ball..”but not that one, it’s weak.” Ok, check, not that one, so we headed to the next ball. They came along side, waving and saying, “go to that one, this one might be weak.” Really? There were only five balls, and one was designated for catamarans that bring snorkelers daily, so that left two possible choices. We headed to the next ball that they pointed us to.

Now, mooring balls usually consist of a large floating buoy on top of the water, that is firmly (hopefully, firmly) anchored to something on the ground below. Coming off of the buoy is a line with a metal loop, or pendant. You grab the line with your boat hook, bringing the pendant up toward your bow so that you can thread your line through it, and tie off to your bow. Like this:

The two mooring balls that were left had no line, jut a metal loop on top. Like this:

Our bow sits nine feet off of the waterline, so there was no way we could grab and thread the thing from that distance. Scott gave it a shot, grabbing the pendant with a boat hook, but the ball started to move away. Both the boat hook and Scott’s arm were fully extended, so when the ball moved away, he had to let go. Unfortunately, the boat hook stayed hooked to the stupid pendant….before slipping off and bobbing along in the water.

Plan B was for Scott to use the boat hook we had left (thank goodness we travel with two of practically everything) to grab the ball from our swim platform, thread it from there and then walk it up toward our bow.

While we were at whits end with this ball, the park ranger boat was fiddling with the remaining ball. They waved us to that ball, where they had tied a line with a loop at the end so that we could grab and thread it. Mercifully, they brought the loop end over to our bow, so we could just lean down and get it. They also retrieved our boat hook! As we were tying off, they told Scott that if the winds picked up he could put his anchor out in the sand, to help hold us. Really?? Because that sounds like anchoring, which you’ve told us is not allowed! These balls are obviously not used much, and must be really iffy.

So we’re here in Puerto Morelos, tied to our trusty mooring ball!  Just a few photos.

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

Maintenance And Repairs

We have been without internet this week, so I’m now catching up on posting:

Scott is a stickler for routine maintenance, believing that it extends the longevity of systems. Afterward, he makes a point to check what’s been done, testing a new part that has been replaced or looking for leaks if hoses have been disconnected during maintenance, etc. He also does a thorough visual check of the area. This can expose small, affordable problems before they become big, expensive ones, usually rearing their head at an inopportune time.

So as we waited for good winds to travel south to Puerto Morelos, Scott planned to spend a few hours cleaning out our sea strainers (which get clogged every few days with sea grass here) and topping off the water in our battery bank. The anodes in the motor were to be changed, and the heat exchangers on the raw water circuit cleaned.

Cleaning the heat exchangers required taking hoses off, and while off, Scott checked to see that they were clear of any debris (bits of the old anode, etc.). When finished, he ran the motor to test everything and check for any leaks, from having the hoses off. Running the motor revealed a leak in the raw water pump, which he hadn’t worked on at all. Then, when he tried to shut the motor off it wouldn’t stop, so it had to be shut off manually at the motor.

Scott addressed a leaking shaft seal on the raw water pump first. We didn’t have a spare seal kit onboard (shocking, as I feel we have two to three of everything part and tool related), but did have two back up pumps (one, brand new and the other a used one that came with the boat). Scott started by installing the used pump, but it leaked at the seal even worse, so it came out and the new one went in. So we went from having two spares to zero, but the pump is now back to working leak-free.

Now to the motor shut off. Scott smelled some electrical burn at the exact time the motor wouldn’t shut down, and then the start circuit breaker would trip. Our solenoid, (An electrically powered magnetic switch that pushes a lever to snuff off the fuel, stopping the motor) was original to the boat, which is 32 years old. As a side note, Scott loves that our motor needs no electric power to run. When it wouldn’t shut down, he could manually power it off. We can have a complete power failure, and still have the motor chug along.

Scott had purchased a new solenoid to have on hand, knowing ours was old, but it didn’t come with a bracket that holds it in place. So he set about removing the old solenoid from it’s bracket. It proved challenging, and it finally had to be cut out with an angle grinder (complete with sparks). The solenoid was replaced, and the motor would now stop when called for, but there was still the electrical burning smell.

The initial thought was a short circuit in the wiring harness of the motor. Upon further investigation, this proved not to be the source of the problem. Scott continued to performed multiple tests, and determined that the exciter circuit for the starboard alternator was drawing too many amps. He changed out the alternator with a spare that we had, which was again on the boat when we bought it. By the way, all of these things were at the far depths of the storage under our bed. Not fun to get to! We’re not sure how long this one will go, due to it’s age and wear, so we plan to have the old one rebuilt.

So, an easy day of regular maintenance turned into two full days of repairs. But, because the issues were found during regular maintenance and visual inspection, they were easy fixes while at anchor. Had Scott not done his maintenance and found this, we would have had salt water in the bilge and could have eventually overheated the motor.

We’re now ready to make our way to Puerto Morelos, jobs and fixes complete!

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