Our New Surroundings

We’re currently anchored in El Bight, on the southeast side of Guanaja. It offers good protection from the winds, and we’ll spend time here until they are more favorable to head around the corner. The anchorage is much more quiet than what we used to in Isla Mujeres, as there is little tourism here..so no party boats! Our “fleet” is smaller, but still makes for a welcoming view at sunrise.

The sun comes up here at 5:29 am, so it is noticeably light just after 5:00. It’s nice to have the light and sun wake us up early, so we can enjoy a bit of time before our daily sweating sets in, which usually starts before 8am.

It’s not joke..it’s hot here, and humid. We’re usually at 85 degrees by 7am, and the humidity runs around 65%. For those of you from my hometown of Baltimore, you know what I speak of…soupy. We move slower, swim and shower more, and generally try to block it out. The sun sets at 6:00pm, and it gets beastly between 2:00 and 4:00. The temperatures hover at 90 before dusk brings a reprieve.

Despite all that, our surroundings are beautiful and remote. The water temperature is between 83 and 84. Scott’s ideal temperature is between 81 and 82, so he’s eager to get in!

There are actually several restaurants in the hills nearby, and we look forward to visiting them.

Howard has quickly settled in.

We love the area so far, and look forward to exploring it more thoroughly! Here are a few more photos.

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

 

Guanaja Trivia

Here’s a little info. on Guanaja….

Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1502, on his fourth and final voyage of discovery. He found excellent water (the island has its own fresh water source from mountain streams) and noted that he had, “never tasted water of better quality.”

Guanaja was so covered in pine trees that Columbus initially named it Isla de Los Pinos, Pine Island.  Sadly, most of the pine trees were destroyed by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Mitch sat over the island for nearly two days, with sustained winds in excess of 200 mph.

Most of the approximately 10,000 people who live in Guanaja reside in the town of Bonacca. The two main settlements on mainland Guanaja are Mangrove Bight and Savannah Bight. There is only one bank on the mainland, and no ATMs.

You are hard pressed to find a place that accepts credit cards in Bonacca or on mainland Guanaja, cash is king. The local currency is the lempira, and the current exchange is 23.5 to 1.00. American currency can be used, but the bills must have no tears, wrinkles, etc. or they will no be accepted. We ran into this problem when buying gas, before we exchanged for local money.

As of 2006, there were only three cars on the island, but now it’s closer to 40 (oh the traffic!). While there is only one road (two miles long) from Mangrove Bight to Savannah Bight, the most common means of transportation are boats. A channel locally known as “The Canal” allows access from the south to the north side of the island, without having to go all the way around. Scott is eager to travel it with the Aluminum Princess.

Guanaja’s waters support an extensive coral reef that is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, second only to the Great Barrier Reef. There are also several waterfalls on the island, and they are also on Scott’s to-do list.

We look forward to exploring Guanaja, by both land and sea!

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

Bonacca, “Venice Of The Caribbean”

Bonacca sits a half mile off of the main island of Guanaja. More than 6,000 people live on this tiny cay, which is less than 100 acres. It was originally two islands, connected by a boardwalk, that was gradually (manually) filled in with rocks and sand to expand the town. I copied an aerial photo from the internet, to give you an idea of how populated it is.

The town has many small canals running through it, earning the name “Venice of the Caribbean.”  I mentioned previously that there are no real roads, only narrow, concrete walkways. As a result, there are no cars, scooters or bicycles in the tiny city, just foot traffic. Many of the homes and businesses are on stilts out over the water, some as high as three stories.

It seems like just about anything you might need can be found here, if you are willing to look or ask: hardware, groceries, fruits & vegetables, meats, fresh bread, cell phones, marine parts and clothing. Signage is almost non existent, usually just something small and hand made.

After waiting a day, we came back to town to see the port captain this morning, in hopes that our papers would be ready. Before we got to the office, he passed us on the street and told us to meet him in ten minutes. We visited some of the grocery stores, more about those later, and then went to see him.

We needn’t have rushed. When we arrived, he was working on paperwork for one of the commercial boats. “Copies” are made by using two forms, with a piece of carbon paper sandwiched between (I have no idea where you can even get carbon paper!).

The sandwich is then loaded into…wait for it…a typewriter. I’m not sure why he didn’t enter the information on his computer,which he has, and then print it out.

This typewriter wasn’t a “newfangled” electric one, but the good old fashioned kind. He had to stop at one point, to wind the ribbon, which had loosened. As he typed, he’d say the words out loud to himself in Spanish. I guess it was to keep from making mistakes, which must work, because he never reached for the white out.

I also noticed today that there was (again) an old style phone/fax on his desk. He uses the phone, but I’m guessing that the fax part doesn’t work, which must be why he used up all of the data on his cell phone.

After about thirty minutes, the commercial boat papers were finished, and the man was on his way. I guess commercial boats are exempt from this new faxing-the-mainland policy. It took less than ten minutes for him to communicate to us that our papers were good for all of the bay islands, and that they expire in thirty days. At the end of thirty days, we can get an extension, which we plan to do. Here’s hoping that there are no new policies by then!

The town of Bonacca is so unusual, unlike anything we’ve seen. We’ll visit again later in the week, as fresh produce arrives on Thursday mornings, and look forward to enjoying a beer with the locals. Here are some more photos of our day in town.

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

A Challenging Customs Experience

We’re having a much different check in experience here in Honduras than in Mexico….

Yesterday morning, we moved Sea Life to a spot behind town, and out of the swells coming from the southeast. This would make our dinghy ride to town for clearing customs more comfortable, as we hadn’t yet unloaded the Aluminum Princess.

We took our inflatable dinghy to the fuel dock. Friends told us that the guys working there are very friendly, and will let you tie up at the dock while clearing in. The man working was very friendly. He told us that it was no problem to leave our dinghy, Scott got a bit of gas for it and we were able to get rid of some trash as well.

We then made our way into town. The “streets” are narrow, concrete walkways, with houses and stores on either side. The buildings are very close together, and finding our way to the port captain’s office was a bit like maneuvering through a maze at times, but we managed it.

The port captain told us, in very very broken English, that we had to see immigration first. As we came out of the office, a man named Mario offered to take us there. We’d heard that men will approach you, offering help getting to customs, stores. the bank, etc., and will ask for a fee in return. Originally, we’d planned to maneuver the town by ourselves, but it was proving quite a puzzle, so we agreed. When asked his price, Mario responded that we could give “whatever we wanted.”

We weren’t at immigration long, but needed to have a copy made in order to finish with them. Mario took us to a store where we paid for one copy, a water for Scott and a juice for Mario. We returned to immigration,  handed over the required paper and headed back to the port captain.

Mario came in handy here, because as I mentioned before, the port captain spoke very little English. He stopped helping us several times to answer and talk on his personal phone, and had  trouble filling out the form that we needed. It was in both Spanish and English, and you’d think it was something he’d have done many times, but Scott had to help him fill it in, and correct mistakes that he made. All of the information was on the paperwork we gave him, but he entered several things in the wrong place.

Mario decided to interrupt, and tell Scott that he’d need 20.00 US dollars for helping us. Scott replied that it was a deal, if he took us to the rest of the stops we needed and showed us back to the fuel dock.

The port captain finally finished, and we were told to go and pay our “fee.” We asked if we needed to bring back a receipt, and he said no. After we paid the fee, and got that receipt for our own records, we’d be done…great! Mario led us to a lady who took 10.00 US dollars per person, for an environmental fund, and we were through clearing in.

From there, our next stop was a phone store. We’d purchased a smart phone in the Bahamas, planning to have it unlocked and use if for internet data as we traveled. That backfired, so we wanted to start again. We were sold a phone for much more money than expected, or than we’re used to (we usually pay much less for new phones, when upgrading through our cell phone providers). Thankfully, the internet plan was very affordable.

As we waited for the man to set up our phone, the port captain came in. I don’t know how he knew where we were, unless Mario mentioned the phone store stop in Spanish at some point. He told us that we needed  to come back to his office. It was unclear why, but we told him we’d return when our phone was ready.

Before we could finish and go, another gentlemen came in to tell us that the port captain needed us back (I’m thinking he wanted a tip). We told him that we already knew, and he wandered out.

Back at the office, we were told that our papers had to be faxed to mainland Honduras. It was confusing to us, to Mario and, it appeared, to the port captain. He took our copies back, and rattled on about it again, in Spanish. Again, Mario told us that the papers had to be faxed. Ok, but why did our copies have to be faxed?

After much more unclear conversation back and forth via Mario, we were told that we could put our Honduras courtesy flag up, and to come back later in the afternoon for the papers. O..kay…what time this afternoon?? The port captain said to come at 3pm, and asked where our boat was, so that he would be able to look at when we returned (not to board it, just to see it).

Scott was miffed about the whole situation. We’d planned to re-anchor in a new location once we were cleared in, because it offered more protection from the east winds that were predicted to blow for the next week. So not only did we now have to come back to town, we also had to wait to re-anchor.

Scott has been battling a bad cold since we arrived. He felt better as we made our way to town, but was now wiped from walking through town in the heat, and what little patience he has was spent.

Having no choice but to come back later, Mario took us to an ATM machine, showed us some stores in town that we may need and also a few restaurants. We then went to buy ice. After asking for four bags, the woman returned with four half gallon-size bags of frozen water….ha!

Scott asked if it was purified to drink. The woman responded yes, but when we cut the bags open to dump the frozen blocks into our cooler, they each had a dirty, brown center. We were concerned about drinking it, but our cruising friend Elizabeth has since told us not to worry. I think Scott’s want for ice in his drink will win out over his concern for some brown color!

Finally, Mario led us through many left and right turns, eventually leading us back to the dinghy. We thanked him for his help and headed back to Sea Life, so Scott could rest and we could get some lunch.

Scott headed back into town at 2:30. A French boat had anchored right near us, took their dinghy to town, and came back shortly thereafter. We assumed that they were told to come back after lunch as well, so Scott wanted to get ahead of them.

When he arrived, Mario was there to take his dinghy line. He thanked Scott for the money we’d paid him. He’d bought rice, beans and meat for his mother with it, but ran out of gas as he was cooking the meat, so he wanted more money to buy some. He told Scott that he’d help him later for it. Scott replied that he’d paid Mario for helping us, that we didn’t need anything more and that he was sorry, but wasn’t just going to give him anymore money.

Then, the man who’d come to the phone store to tell us that we had to return to the port captain’s office (even though we’d already been told) asked Scott for money for a juice. He wanted money because he’d spoken to us…???  Scott offered him 10 lempira, and was told that it wasn’t enough for a juice. It was only about .45 cents, but we had no reason to pay him anything.

When Scott got to the office, there were already four people waiting, which quickly grew to nine, including Scott. Apparently, they were all told to come back at 3:00. Luckily, one person in the group spoke Spanish well. She relayed to Scott and the rest that faxing the papers to the mainland seems to be a new procedure, so they can keep track of boats coming through the area.

The group waited, as the port captain took photos of papers with his phone. It seemed crazy that there was no other way to get copies of this stuff to mainland Honduras. No fax machine or scanner? The port captain then got up to leave, mumbling something in Spanish. The designated translator told the group that he was leaving to go add data to his phone….good grief.  I cannot believe that Scott didn’t have to be flown off the island with a brain aneurysm at this point.

During this customs circus, Scott learned from a British couple also waiting that this was day three of them of trying to get papers. The port captain returned, and after some more time told everyone to come back tomorrow…or the next day (again, shocked at no aneurysm). Some stayed, but Scott returned to the boat so we could get re-anchored before the winds were stronger, and get a good spot before others arrived.

So that’s where we stand. We have no papers, but are told that “we’re good.” There’s no telling how long it will take to get said papers, and that’s incredibly frustrating. Our biggest gripe is that we had papers in hand, and they were taken away. To quote the band Genesis, “It’s no fun, being an illegal alien!”

However, once settled back at the boat, we remembered that some of our cruising friends have taken days to clear into countries. They’ve also had to travel back to customs offices much farther away, involving taxis and ferries, for missed items or details, so it could be worse.

We are a short dinghy ride from town, and the port captain. The winds won’t be favorable to head to another anchorage for almost a week, so we’ll take the time to explore the area, as there is much to see and do on this side of the island. Not such a terrible situation after all, I guess!

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

Our Passage To Honduras

As the sun rose on Thursday, we left the anchorage in Isla Mujeres to begin our passage to Honduras. We were headed to the bay islands, and Guanaja (gwa na ha) would be our first stop. As we rounded the corner out of the harbor, we said a quiet, and somewhat sad goodbye to our friends in the fleet.

We estimated the trip to take between 60 and 70 hours, allowing for slower speeds in the current off of Mexico’s coast. The current did not disappoint. Even though the winds were light and variable, we rolled through large swells and confused seas.

Our first day was rough in other ways as well. I was getting over a cough, and battling allergy symptoms from something that found it’s way up my nose at dinner the night before. As I was trying to squash my itchy, watery nose and eyes, Scott was fighting some stomach discomfort. On Friday, Howard joined the fun, and threw up several times, before finally using his litter box for the first time in two days. We were a sad bunch.

Late Thursday afternoon, a Mexican navy ship appeared on the horizon, and proceeded to make a distant, but complete circle around us. Scott was sure that they were going to come closer, or make radio contact (God forbid, want to board us). I guess they deemed us uninteresting, because eventually they headed away from us and to the north.

Scott threw his fishing lines in, hoping to catch something. He didn’t have to wait long before something LARGE pulled on his line. The pole bowed from the weight, and the line flew out like it wasn’t attached at all. Whatever it was grabbed the lure, began to dive aggressively, and then let go.

After getting over the surprise of how large the mystery catch was, Scott wondered  what it could have caused it to come off the lure. He worried that his hooks aren’t as sharp as they should be; one is beginning to rust.

As he went on about how large and  heavy the mystery catch must have been, I realized that we had nowhere to put it! With our compressor issue, we are working with less freezer and refrigerator space. So sadly, fishing was shut down.

Things calmed a bit by Friday afternoon, with both the sea state and the crew. As we neared the south end of Mexico, and the Belize border, the current weakened and we were finally into more settled waters.

As I came on for my evening watch, we were still traveling slower than we’d have liked, but our ride was great. It was a quiet night for me. We were traveling approximately 80 miles off of the coast, so something showing up on radar was extremely rare. I only saw two large boats in 8  hours, both passing us at a great distance away.

When the sun came up, I went down to catch some sleep, and left Scott on watch. Of course, that’s when a large pod of dolphins decided to visit! There were many more than in this photo, but Scott couldn’t get them all in one shot.

They are “blurry” looking due to the fact that they were ten feet under the surface (some deeper)….clear water!

Because things had gotten so much calmer, I actually slept in our bed. During a passage, I have gotten in the habit of sleeping on the couch in the saloon, where things are usually more stable than up toward the bow. When I woke up, I couldn’t hear the motor from up in our stateroom (ear plugs also a factor). Things were so smooth and quiet that I thought Scott had anchored while I was asleep.

I came up to find that the seas were now glassy-calm. So much so that we could see the birds hanging down from our paravanes. They were clearly visible, fifteen feet down.

By this time, Howard was done with traveling, and just wanted food. I’m guessing he thought that lying in the galley would get his point across.

When lunch wasn’t served in a timely fashion he gave up and retreated to the guest stateroom for a nap, nestled among beer and laundry detergent.

The glassy waters made a beautiful setting, as Guanaja appeared on the horizon. It’s the first mountainous island that we’ve visited on this adventure, and the views were exciting to see.

We anchored between mainland Guanaja and the town of Bonacca, where we’ll go to clear into the country. Bonacca is built entirely over water. More on this later, as we explore the town.

We’ll head to a more protected anchorage, but that isn’t allowed until we after we clear in (not really sure why).

For now, we’re happy that our journey took less time than expected…only 52 hours! We’re also very grateful that most of it was smooth, which meant less stress and more rest! It was certainly a welcome change from our trip to Isla Mujeres from the Dry Tortugas. Maybe passages can be enjoyable!

Here are some more photos from our passage….we’re in Honduras!

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

 

Memories of Isla Mujeres

I snapped this photo of a postcard that gives a good bird’s eye view of the island. The black X marks our anchorage in the harbor area. Just below it is the lagoon, and to the right are the inland lakes. The busy, tourist -filled downtown area is at the very top of the photo, just above the air strip, which looks like a solid line.

This island really grew on us, as we sought out quiet spots among the touristy north end, and discovered local places along both the east and west sides of the south.

People we met here are now cherished friends. Our first cruisers friends here were so welcoming to us. They’ve been at this for many years, and shared knowledge of Isla Mujeres and a wealth of information about future places that we will be visiting.

As they left, we felt a bit lonely, but quickly realized how wonderful the cruising community is. We met more great people at pizza and taco nights, as well as those who were now anchored near us in the spots where our first friends had been. Hours were spent fishing, shopping, learning the official cruisers’ game of Mexican train dominoes and talking over food and drink. We gained more useful cruising knowledge with each new friend.

Our time on land revealed new friends as well. We connected with people visiting on vacation and those who have called the island their winter home for more than twenty years! And, we cannot forget our favorite bartender…Louis (lou eese) who’s friendly manner and terrific margaritas has us at Hola! Everyone who served us was so pleasant, adding to our love of the island.

We only planned to stay a month, but this crazy La Nina weather, with it’s constant cold fronts and winds, had other plans. The good friends made, information learned and fun times had were well worth the extra weeks! As we pull up roots and leave Isla Mujeres, there are many cherished memories that will go with us.

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

Adios Mexico!!!!

After ten weeks and two days, we are saying goodbye to Isla Mujeres. The wind forecast looks really good for us to make a run for Honduras, so the last few days have been frenzied.

We hopped the ferry to Cancun, and loaded up on things at Walmart that we may not get as easily as we travel south. We’ve learned to take our luggage with us, for easy transport back to the boat. As we prepared to go, Howard decided to try and stow away to Walmart.

We filled both bags and our backpack, and headed back to the island.

The next day, we shared a golf cart with Kevin and Marina, our friends on Lucky Seven. They were taking advantage of the weather window to make a run for Cuba, so we all headed to Chedraui for a big grocery run. We each stuffed our carts full of food and beer. I didn’t think that everything would fit on the golf cart, but we made it work.

Next, it was time to load everything into Kevin’s dinghy. I was sure that we’d have to make two trips, but the guys were determined to make it all fit. There was even room left for the four of us, around the tower of beer. With all that weight, it was a wet ride back to the boat!

After unloading our things, and a quick trip to the dentist for Marina, we stopped for lunch and then rode around the island a bit, before returning the cart. Kevin convinced Scott to take the cart “off road.” As you may imagine, it didn’t take much convincing. I was sure that we’d break an axle on the poor thing.

We also enjoyed one more look at the beautiful eastern coast of the island.

Then it was on to Villa Bella, for margaritas and mojitos. Marina turned 50 on Wednesday, so we took time to celebrate.

On our way back to town, we stopped in at the Soggy Peso, for a quick goodbye to our friends Ron and Delores, who have been so welcoming to us. Their help and advice on all things Isla Mujeres and Cancun were invaluable!

After returning the golf cart, we decided to stop in at the Drunken Mermaid, for 2 for 1 mojitos. Marina spotted a bottle filled with clear liquid and insects. We were told that it was tequila…with scorpions. With the 50th celebration underway, two shots were ordered, complete with icky insects. Before being served up, the stingers are cut off.

An intimidating presentation..

Needless to say, they weren’t the most tasty things. Marina put hers in her mouth, and promptly spit it out. Kevin managed to chew a few times, before doing the same.

On a recommendation from our Drunken Mermaid bartenders, we then went to Olivia’s, and had a great dinner. Dessert came with a sparkler, in honor of Marina’s celebration. Afterward, we stopped to pick up their laundry. There are no self serve laundromats here. You drop off one day, and pick up the next. For a few extra pesos, you can get same day service.

With a big bag of laundry in tow, we headed back to the Drunken Mermaid for one more cocktail, before calling it a night. We were glad to have a chance to celebrate with Marina and Kevin, who we’ve grown quickly attached to.

The next morning, the four of us went back to town to clear out of the country. It took three hours, and went as follows:

We started with some paperwork at the port captain’s office, and then a trip to the local stationary store for a copy of said paperwork. Back to the port captain’s office, and then to the bank, where we paid roughly 24.00. We needed two copies of the receipt for the port captain, so it was back to the stationary store. That receipt goes back to the port captain, then we waited for our paperwork to be filled out. From there, we went to immigration. Thankfully, they made their required copies on site for us..whew. After a few stamps, we were officially cleared out, and ready to leave what has become our temporary home.

We went out for a final dinner nearby, at the Sunset Grill, enjoying time with fellow cruisers who we have come to know and love!

As I type this, we are preparing to raise anchor, head out of the anchorage and break away from the fleet. I am torn, as we have come to love it here. It’s hard to leave friends that we’ve made, especially ones who are continuing north, and away from our path. There are several that we will cross paths with again, in both Honduras and later in Panama. The thought of familiar faces along the way is comforting.

Our passage to Guanaja (gwa na ha), Honduras will take between 60 and 70 hours, our longest yet. We’re both a bit nervous about the journey. After sitting still for so long, it’s going to be an adjustment as we hit the open ocean again. We’re hoping that the forecast treats us well, and that most of it will be somewhat smooth.

Look for my next post from Honduras, and remember that you can always see where we are through the link on our Where Are We Now page. Adios Mexico, you’ve been good to us! Here are some more photos.

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

 

 

A Week In Review

Just catching up on the last week….

Scott went to the port captain’s office with Igor, our neighbor who’s boat was hit during the strong front a few weeks ago. Igor is trying to get some kind of restitution, but I’m not sure if it will pan out. The owners of the boat in question have flown to Cuba, and have yet to return.

Scott went to help tell the story, and relay what the port captain said. He speaks little Spanish and no Russian, but everything seemed to get conveyed in the end. Igor has been very grateful for Scott’s help, and has invited him come and visit in Russia…”in summer,” adding…”my country cheap!” I’m not sure if that’s enough to make us buy a ticket, but it was a nice gesture. Igor is a good guy, and I hope the issue works out for him.

After helping Igor, Scott and I wandered to the north end of town, and had lunch outside the Mercado, where locals sell their fresh produce and goods. The four small stalls are crammed with people during the lunchtime hours, where the food is good and cheap!

We played more Mexican train dominoes, and are honing our skills. Everyone’s rules are just a bit different, which keeps it interesting. We are looking forward to getting a set for ourselves, although I’ll never play one on one with Scott!

Before the latest front arrived, we re-anchored the boat. Each time the wind shifts 180 degrees, the anchor changes direction, caving out a ball of gunk. If we don’t re-anchor, it eventually scoops such a big clump that it no longer holds. Here is what came up on our anchor as we raised it.

The stuff is soft, but thick and tenacious. Scott has to shove it off of the anchor.

Friday night meant a trip down to Oscars, for pizza. We squeezed the Aluminum Princess between two boats, and then did an acrobatic act getting up to one of them and onto the pier.

Keeping with the food theme, we visited El Varadero again, this time with our friends on Lucky Seven. The food was just a great, and this time I remembered to snap a photo of our dinner platter, before it was ravenged.

We finally enjoyed some calmer winds and water. I haven’t seen an anchorage this glassy since we were in the Bahamas last November.

Rain soon followed, and Scott decided to take advantage of the free water. After setting up our rain catchment, to fill the water tanks, he decided to wash the boat. Every inch of it was covered in salt, and it was good to rinse it off.

When the rain ended, the boat was rinsed and our tanks were full. We collected 250 gallons in just an hour of rain! Scott then went over to Lucky Seven, to help hoist Kevin up his mast and change out a part.

That’s the last week in a nutshell. Here are some more photos.

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

 

 

 

Groceries In Mexico

In keeping with the grocery theme, and starting with Mexico..

Isla Mujeres provided several grocery options for us. Chedraui was a large store, with many food options. It was the furthest from a dock, but the selection was worth the walk.

There are have nifty escalators inside that firmly hold your cart, both coming in empty and leaving fully loaded. It amused me every time!

They have an “American/import” aisle, where we can get things like curry paste, pickles, olive oil and imported meats and cheeses. The selection of beer, wine and liquor is also decent. You can also buy clothes, dishes, a stroller, souvenirs and a stove if you like.

When purchasing baked goods, you take a tray and choose your own items (everything is out on open shelves). An attendant then weighs, bags and tags it. Much like the baggers at check out, they like to try an fit as many items as they can into one bag.

Some of our favorites items:

I love this “Mexican Chex Mix.” Scott, not so much, but that means less sharing for me!

Scott has found a favorite ham, for sandwiches, and I did a taste test for the best bacon (FUD, pronounced “food,” but I still say fud).

The Super Express, located in town, is just a few blocks from a dock where cruisers can leave their dinghies, making it a quick and easy go-to for food.

Although much smaller, it still offers an ample selection of our day-to-day needs.

We also made several trips to the Walmart in Cancun, which obviously offers a much greater selection. The seafood department is large, and operates like the bakery in Isa. You choose your fish (gloves are provided), and then it’s weighed, bagged and tagged.

Near the end of our stay, we finally ran out of paper towels that were purchased in Florida. What we bought in Mexico are “crappity-crap-crap.” They practically dissolve when any amount of liquid hits them…maybe a stand-in for toilet paper!

Once we’d stocked up in preparation for Honduras, I emptied out the storage area under our couch, to clean the floor and do a fresh inventory. After purchasing a sleeper sofa, Scott removed the sleeper part, and installed wooden braces so we have support for the cushions. We can now pack a ton of food and toiletries in this space!

All in all, we can’t complain about our shopping experiences in Mexico. Selection, a choice of stores…and cheap! Here are some more Mexican grocery photos.

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

Our Cruising Life – Grocery Shopping

I thought that I’d start including posts about our cruising life, and how we live and do things here aboard Sea Life. I use the term “our” cruising life, because I’m sure that all boaters do things differently. These random posts are about our life, and the routines that we’ve developed.

First up…groceries. At typical trip to the store in the U.S:

Get into (air conditioned) car, drive to (air conditioned) store, buy groceries on list, buy groceries not on list (that you either forgot or just want), check out and bag groceries, load everything into car, drive home (with air conditioning on), unload groceries (in air conditioned house) and put them away.

Now, a typical trip to get groceries for us while cruising:

Gather backpacks and various bags to hold groceries;

perform circus balancing act while loading bags, trash and selves into Aluminum Princess, usually resulting in wet feet, bumped head and spray from Scott’s flinging of wet lines; choose place to tie up, and perform another circus act, combining balancing with acrobatics to climb onto pier (higher piers usually result in the act ending with a “finale shove” by Scott, to get me onto solid ground); walk to store-of-the-day (if lucky, ride bike, resulting in less time of copious sweating); arrive at store, where the only cooling is provided by fans hanging from the ceiling; stand under one of said fans, to try and dry off sweat-soaked body; perform Sherlock Holmes investigation to find items on list (if lucky, mystery search will also result in finding familiar items from home!); check out, pay and watch elderly bagger put a riduculous amount of myriad items into each small, plastic bag (seriously, boxed milk, tomatoes, two packages of chicken, bag of snacks, bakery items, cans of coke and eggs in one bag); tip elderly bagger for this “service”; walk outside and repack bags (freeing poor fragile items), then place into backpacks and additional bags; sweat like a prize-winning pig on walk back to Aluminum Princess; perform circus aerial act getting back down into boat with groceries, while trying not to crush or break fragile items; slog back through chop to Sea Life (because it always seems to be choppy); perform final circus act in climbing back onto boat with groceries; find available nooks and crannies in cabinets, fridge and freezer for said stuff; cross fingers that food lasts as long as possible, to delay next grocery outing.

Food specifics: Some things are packaged differently than we’re used to, and we have also found new items that we like. Some examples:

Boxed Milk: This seemed weird to me at first, and I wasn’t keen to try it. However, the taste is just like the refrigerated milk we get at home and there are just as many varieties, if not more.

Since the wording is in Spanish, here is how Scott has interpreted the different types..The woman feeds  her growing child whole milk. The young man, who Scott feels is most like him, drinks reduced fat, and active women choose skim. The couples are lactose intolerant (he’s recognized lactose in Spanish), with more active couples drinking the low fat lactose intolerant kind. We go with Scott’s Spanish version of himself, and what we think is the reduced fat.

Eggs: Found on the shelf as well. It’s always surprising to find far less cracked and broken ones in the packaging than I do at home.

I can buy them in packages of 12, 18, 24 and also in bags of 6.

They range in size, and mix up more easily (both whites and yolks not as thick). We  have been told to turn them every few days, and that they’ll keep for a few weeks. Friends of ours who circumnavigated for 15 years have told us if you coat eggs in Vaseline, sealing the porous shell,  they’ll keep for much longer.

Tomatoes: The only type we’ve seen so far are ones similar to plum tomatoes in the U.S.

This guy didn’t appear rotten on the outside, but when I slice through, it seemed to be sprouting..maybe I should have thrown it in some dirt!

We’ve found that vegetables and fruit in general have a much shorter shelf life. If I wait more than a few days, things rot. Fresh produce and fruit are delivered once a week. I’ve been in the store on days just before a delivery, and the rotting tomatoes could be smelled twenty feet away..ick.

So far, the varieties of fresh stuff that we have to choose from is good. Lettuce and herbs sell very quickly, and are hard to get, but most other items are plentiful (I was chastised harshly for buying packaged spinach when I saw it recently..pricey, at 6.00 a container!) It definitely calls for a bit more menu planning day to day than we’re used to.

Snacks: The selection is limited (we are definitely bagged snack-crazy in the U.S.!) Once in awhile, I’ll find something familiar from home (Cheetoes, and surprisingly Snyders of Hanover pretzels!). Scott likes potato chips with his sandwiches, but we’ve learned to buy them in a can. The stuff in bags are even more crushed than in the states!

Drinks: Things like diet soda and seltzer water are hard to come by. And we miss a larger selection of juices and flavored teas.

It’s also getting harder for Scott to find Coke in cans, as bottles become more and more prevalent. He swears that the carbonation in a can is better. Unfortunately, he has found (and we’ve been told by others) that throughout the Caribbean, it’s flat coke from a bottle when you order a drink. Which has him thinking of byoC (can-of-coke) to the bar!

Packaged Food: We’ve found it strange that things like cereal, crackers and cookies don’t taste the same. Most cookies and crackers, with a few exceptions, are tasteless, and Scott hates the Cheerios that he recently bought. They become mushy immediately, and have no taste. I was excited to find Hellman’s mayonnaise, only to find that the taste wasn’t nearly as good, and the consistency is much more “loose.”

Media Crema: Although I’ve never tried it, crema has become a popular item in the U.S. recently. This media crema has been compared to half and half, but I find it thicker. It’s everywhere, and we have seen it on the shelf and also refrigerated (Hans uses a version that is fresh made for his white pizzas).

I have learned that you can use this to make sour cream. Mix the contents of a small box with two teaspoons of white vinegar (mixing thoroughly after each one). Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, and voila…sour cream!

The check out process is stressful. We are always amazed at how much they cram into the little bags. Even if we try and separate things on the belt, they still get crammed in willy-nilly…and they’re fast little baggers! Scott is thrilled when there’s no one waiting at the end of the belt, and he can load things into our bags as they are rung up.

Walking back to the boat is the most fun. You never realize how heavy your groceries are, until they are loaded on your back and hanging off of each arm. Even when we set out for a lighter shopping trip, the bags still seem to fill up. We end up regretting the six pack of beer, bottle of wine, or cans of coke as we trudge along!

So think of us with a smile, the next time you come out of the store, load 15 plastic bags of groceries into your trunk and hop into the air conditioned goodness of your car to head home!

As we travel, I’ll post about groceries/stores in each location, keeping you in the loop on our quest for food.

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