23/01/2016/4:18 pm, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
After several weeks of little interaction with other cruisers, we have been very happy to mingle!
When Lucy and John (Maraka) came by to welcome us to Isla Mujeres last week (and, we suspect, to find out who these folks were who had anchored near them!) we eagerly invited them aboard for sundowners. Good thing they accepted, because they were fountains of information and really nice folks! The VHF radio net is on channel 13 at 8:15 every morning and Captain John gives a good weather forecast. The best place to get a sim chip is from Adrian - don't even bother trying the Telephone company or the grocery stores. The time is an hour later here (that was really good to discover!)
We knew David and Elizabeth (formerly on Patience I) were staying at El Milagro, so we popped by there to say hello. We met them 4 years ago when we stayed at there on our way down and it was great to see them again. We have since enjoyed several get togethers - mostly involving delicious food at their casita, and at Justicia Social as well as tea on Madcap. We hear that Justicia Social will be open for only another month - so disappointing because it is one of our favourites. It is part of the Fishermen's Co-op and has very fresh seafood at good prices. We'll have to go back lots while we are here!
When we heard James and Dee (Karma I, from Halifax) check in on the radio one morning, it rang a bell and I remembered that we had exchanged messages a few years ago when we were coming and going from the Rio Dulce. Sure enough, we found them at Marina Del Sol, and had a lovely catch-up conversation.
Zach and Mia (Agape III) are next to us on the dock at Puerto Isla Mujeres, and they came for sundowners one evening - and gifted us with some lovely mahi mahi fillets. They are from Charlottetown and I expect we will be leapfrogging with them as our boats make their way up the coast.
And in a few days, we will see Tom and Michelle at their Isla Mujeres home. We met them at El Milagro on the way down as well. They aren't cruisers but were staying at the hotel then and we have kept in touch.
We have had a couple of lunches at Bally Hoo - both good fresh grilled fish or shrimp, pizza from Oscar's, and Caesar salad and grouper burgers at Bahia Tortuga. There is no shortage of good, affordable food here, and with lots of boats in the marinas and the anchorages, no shortage of folks to share it with either.
Can you tell we're sounding happier? maybe food, maybe friends, maybe peace of mind - maybe all of them. We are enjoying this place now!
(This photo is at Justicia Social with David - Elizabeth is the photographer)
20/01/2016/4:10 pm, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
We had a peaceful Saturday night in the lagoon with winds 15 - 20 knots from the South but little fetch ... until morning when the wind changed direction and we dragged. Again? Yes again, and when Jim pulled up the anchor, we could see why. The bottom here is a thick mix of grass and soft mud. Our Manson Supreme dug in nicely and held well in winds of 25 knots. But when we turned 180 degrees, it couldn't reset itself. As Jim pulled it up, the strain on the windlass grew stronger and stronger, until he could see that it was one giant clump of mud. No wonder it couldn't reset - there was just a clump of "stuff" with not a bit of anchor to be seen. He had to knock it off with the boat pole before he could raise it the rest of the way. Once anchored again, we held well through the next day's blow.
On Sunday the wind blew 20- 25 with gusts to 30 and more, whipping up whitecaps inside the lagoon. There was no getting off the boat to go anywhere. And so we sat. No internet. Still weary of wind. Watching the wind indicator and listening to the howl in the rigging, checking the anchor line, checking the chartplotter, reading, napping. At one point Jim said, "Why do people do this? We could be out doing something, and here we sit wondering if we are going to cut loose and go drifting away." I guess the enforced stay aboard is a bit like staying inside during a snowstorm back home, but we didn't ever worry then about the security of the house!
It was about then that we started thinking that a dock would be an excellent idea. So on Monday, when everything calmed down we set off on 2 major errands: internet and dock space.
Back we dinghied to El Centro. We tied up at the fuel dock and walked to Adrian's place of business (on the square, near the grocery store) and found the man himself behind his desk. What a blessing. He opened his cash drawer, pulled out a card with Sim Chip, told us in excellent English all about the process, and proceeded to set it up. We bought 3GB of data good for 1 month for 400 pesos, and the card cost 150 pesos. (The exchange rate just now is about $1. CA to 12.5 pesos.) It took a little while because even though the printed rate from the telephone company was 399 pesos, it wouldn't connect without adding another 20. We laughed to see him pull out his special tool for opening the iPad - not a paper clip, but a hypodermic syringe! (We checked next door at the phone company store just for interest sake, but no - no sim chips there - only in Cancun. Hmmm.) With that errand done, we started checking out marinas.
El Milagro is convenient to town and pretty with lots of Mexican tile and a little sandy beach, but the price has doubled since we were here before. Oscar's and del Sol in the lagoon were full, and although we have heard that they will both try to find a place to squeeze you in, we just didn't feel like squeezing. Next stop, Puerto Isla Mujeres Resort and Yacht Club. The price ($1.05 US per foot per day) is about the same as El Milagro, but it is farther from the busyness and big wakes of the tour boats, the well-groomed grounds are more extensive and there is a gorgeous big pool and fountain.
So once we made the decision to open the wallet, it was really a no- brainer about where we would go. It is primarily a sport fishing marina - those big, expensive sport fishing boats with paid crew, along with a couple of huge sailboats side tied on lovely finger docks - but your regular sailboats are welcome to tie up at the slightly rickety dock at the far south end of the property!
We called ahead for assistance in taking lines - pretty much a necessity for us as I scrambled around looping stern lines over poles while we came bow first toward the dock. (It is much easier to climb over our bow to the dock, than to access it from the stern.) We just got nicely set, when Elmer, the dockman said, "Oh, not many boats here now, why don't we pull your stern around and you can side tie!" We thought about that for 10 seconds, smiled and said, "Good idea!" Fortunately the slips are nice wide ones, and we could just turn the boat with lines until she was lying side to the dock. Ahhhhhhh.
I cannot begin to describe the relaxation of this move. No more anchor watch. No more debating about whether or not we can go to town or to the grocery store or whether someone should stay on the boat. As we walk the paths and watch the iguanas, as we swim and then lounge by the pool, as we use the clean showers (without bailing out the water afterward) and think about doing some land travel, we stand up straighter and smile more. Our shoulders have dropped away from our ears. We nod and say, "Yes. This is worth every penny." - at least for a while!
Yes, we love adventure and we love being at anchor, and we're pretty good at roughing it, but we love a few creature comforts from time to time too.
16/01/2016/4:03 pm, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
There has not been much that's quick and easy about coming into Mexico this time. When we arrived 4 years ago, we pulled into El Milagro Marina, and Julio had the officials right there, ready to do all our paper work. This time, we were anchoring and although we really like our agent, Dorita, it has taken a lot more time. A couple of pluses though - because we went over to Cancun to get a 10-year importation certificate for Madcap last time, we didn't have to go over to Cancun; and because we were not at a marina, no one felt it necessary to search the boat.
Jim left our paperwork with Dorita on Friday afternoon when we arrived, and it wasn't just a sheet or two! 2 original passports and 7 copies each of: passports, crew list, vessel registration, proof of boat insurance (or a form saying the Captain would be responsible for any damage done while we are in the country) exit permit from Belize, import permit to Mexico - it all added up to a thick folder. But the officials don't work Friday afternoons. We had an appointment for 9 am on Saturday to complete the process. (There was some overtime charge. At this time, I am not sure exactly how much - but Jim handed over 2900 pesos total.) None of the officials showed up till 9:30 and then they came one after another with not much wait between them except for the Customs woman who had to come from Cancun. First, the Sanitation/Health man, then Immgration, then Agriculture, and then we went for brunch while we waited for Customs. Each officer carried a clipboard with many forms, carbon paper, and a stamp. And boy oh boy do those stamps get used. Each person stamps whatever they require from the papers we took in, adding more of their own. I counted 37 stamp,stamp,stamp,stamps from the Agriculture man! And he didn't even have a self-inking stamp - he carried the old-fashioned stamp and inkpad. None of this is done electronically, so it is cumbersome, but they were all polite and welcomed us warmly to their country.
We collected all our official documents from Dorita after brunch - except for the receipt, which would not be available until Monday. We discovered that it is very important to have that receipt - and copies of it - because if one flies out while the boat is here, the immigration officers at the airport will not accept the little insert in the passport as enough proof that you have paid your immigration fee on entry. Without the receipt you may have to pay it again.
We learned another thing from Dorita about the boat importation permit. They are good for 10 years, so if we bring Madcap back into the country before the end of January 2022, we have no problem. However if we do not cancel that permit, and come back sometime after that, we may have to pay a huge fee - about 20,000 pesos! As Dorita said, normally a permit just expires and you get a new one. Not so with importation permits in Mexico. Of course this cannot be cancelled (or applied for ) online. You must personally appear at the office over in Cancun. It appeared to be optional but recommended 4 years ago, but it seems to be necessary now.
By 1 o'clock we were finished and we went for a walk around El Centro. It's funny, I remember finding the place vibrant and interesting when we arrived last time, while this time it just seemed hot, crowded with bikes and golf carts and hawkers calling us to come into every little shop along the streets, and tour guides thrusting signs at us to join their excursions.
We visited the grocery store by the square, and went to Adrian's Internet Café just 2 doors up to get a sim chip for my iPad. No luck on that score - the Patron was not in and he was the only one who knew how to do it. By then we had had enough of the hustle and bustle, and we knew there was more bad weather coming so we needed to see about moving Madcap yet again.
The wind was expected to pick up to North 20-25 kts on Sunday, and we didn't want to be blowing around in the main anchorage with no protection. So we dinghied into the lagoon, checked on the depths and available space and decided to move. We felt much more comfortable, but the disadvantage was no internet connection. Oh well - we were still fatigued from the trip, discouraged by the thought of more wind, wishing we could connect on internet, and generally out of sorts, but at least we were safe and settled.