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 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 (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!”