Checking In & Serendipity
13 February 2012 | Milagro Marina, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Beth / 80's
Coming through the reef at Anvil Rock and around the north end of Isla Mujeres was thrilling. We used the instructions in Freya Rauscher’s book plus waypoints from our friends on Rachel and had no trouble negotiating the passage past the beaches with sunning bodies and thatched huts, past the ferry docks – dodging the blue and yellow fast ferry to Cancun – past the fishing boats and along to what is still marked on the charts as the “shrimp dock”.
El Milagro Marina is a gem! They were quick to answer on the VHF and Jaime, Julio and Steve and Sandi (Yonder – already there) were all on the dock to welcome us and help with lines. Jim did a perfect job of steering us into the slip – bow in with pilings to hold stern and spring lines. We are getting better every time at flinging lines over pilings like these and the cheers that go up from the folks on the docks only increase the sense of satisfaction! It is helpful of course if there is no current or wind pushing us forward and there is time to carefully position the boat pole with looped line on the end over the piling and let it drop. At Milagro, there are no finger docks so we are also getting increasingly agile at climbing over the bowsprit to the dock. (In Cuba we ducked under and over the dinghy davits, and I think perhaps the bowsprit is easier.)
We were barely tied up when Julio summoned us up the dock to the thatched palapa where the casually dressed Immigration and Health officers waited at the picnic table. Friday is a half-day for them and our just-before-noon arrival meant they wanted to check us in quickly and be on their way. This was a very pleasant process. Julio is the agent for the marina and he took care of the paperwork, making all the copies we needed and collecting the money ($125 US). We laughed with the Health officer as he supplied Jim with sites for finding apps for his tablet, told me with a wink that the Agriculture officer would be looking for eggs and fresh vegetables, and suggested that we read Carlos Fuentes’ book the Orange Tree. With papers stamped and many copies in his backpack, he donned a bright blue helmet, hopped on his motorbike, helped the Immigration officer onto the back and away they roared.
Within minutes, the Customs and Agriculture duo showed up, on foot and in uniform, to do their bit. More papers were filled out with Julio’s assistance, and we walked down the dock to the boat. The Agriculture officer did indeed confiscate a half dozen eggs, a half bag of carrots and a head of broccoli. She looked carefully at a calabrese sausage but once she found the “Italy” label, it was OK. I had planned it so there was very little fresh produce left by the time we got here, and I could probably have hidden these but what would really be the point of that? They’re all easily replaceable, and we prefer not to play games with the authorities – especially on arrival! The Customs officer opened all the lockers but did no digging around, and both officers were very respectful.
So – within an hour, we were in and legal. The boat importation could wait till Monday. We took down the Q flag – the yellowy orange one that tells authorities we are new - hoisted the Mexican flag, said hello to our fellow dockmates and decided it was time for lunch.
Sandi and Steve (Yonder) had checked out the Fishermen’s Cooperative the day before and we were happy to join them in a return visit. It is just a 10-minute walk up the road toward town and has fabulous fresh and inexpensive food. My grilled fish topped with tomatoes and chilies and served with rice was delicious. The fajitas looked yummy and the beer was cold. We stopped at the bank (HSBC – the bank we use most often is everywhere!) to withdraw some pesos. 100 pesos = $7.80 Cdn. Prices are marked with a dollar sign so it is a bit shocking at first to see that lunch costs $90. The town is filled with touristy stands selling all manner of goods – bags and hats and shirts and jewellery - and golf carts and scooters zoom along and there are gringos in various states of sunburn and tans on the sidewalks and beaches. But there are also Mexican families and workers on those same scooters and on the streets and Hola’s and waves are exchanged everywhere.
Back at the marina, we enjoyed chatting with fellow cruisers, David and Elizabeth (Patience 1), Carey, Tom and Erika (Dragon’s Toy), Bruce and Delmi (Twilight), Jeff (Pegasus), and David (Atalanta). One of the great joys of this little place is that Milagro has land accommodation too so we have also met land based visitors, Tom and Michelle, Julie and Eric, Penny and Dave, Jane and Victor, and Angelina.
We decided we could stay awake a little bit more in the evening so we trooped down the road a hundred metres to Bahia Tortuga to sit at the bar, listen to the excellent Cuban band and sip our first official Mexican margaritas of the season. This is where our second serendipitous encounter took place – so now that I’ve told you about the checking in part, I’d better back up and start at the beginning of this amazing story.
As we chatted at the marina with Tom, we learned that he is an anaesthesiologist in Wisconsin and knows Pat Sullivan, our former neighbour in Ottawa and also an anaesthesiologist. Not only that but Tom and Jim were at UNB during a couple of the same years. How incredible is that? We come way down here and one of the first people we meet knows our neighbor and walked the same campus as Jim? And the story gets even more unbelievable. We trooped off to Bahia Tortuga, perched at the bar and started chatting with the fellow on the next stool. Jim did the usual “Hola! And where are you from?” “Michigan” was his reply. “Oh really! My brother-in-law is from Michigan.” “What part?” “He grew up in Williamston.” (I’m sure you can see what’s coming.) At this point, the man’s wife exclaimed, “No way! That’s where Lee is from!” So then they got to names and the upshot was that this fellow at the bar, Lee, played on the same football team as Jim’s brother-in-law, Dave, and was in the same class as Dave’s brother, Hal. Two such “less than 6 degrees of separation” experiences within hours of being here were almost too much to comprehend, but they served to convince us (as if we didn’t already know) that we are truly in the right place!
With all this activity coming on top of our 4-day passage, we practically fell into our berth for the soundest sleep of the week.