Isla Mujeres, Mexico - At Last
08 December 2017 | Marina Parasio
Awaiting a cold front
Isla Mujeres, Island of Woman.
As history tells its story, pirates sailing in these waters would keep their women on this island because there was no way to escape. The main land is some eight miles to the west. We sailed here directly from Key West, our original plan was to sail to the Dry Tortugas, 70 miles west of Key West, spend a night, explore and then depart. The weather window looked to good to pass up, NE 15 to 20 building slightly then possibly gusts to 28 but behind us so our boat speed subtracted from the true wind speed.
We left Key West at 0800 into 15 knots and sailed south of the chain of keys toward the Tortugus. Arg, so many crab pot buoys, they were everywhere. We were moving along at 8 knots but had to keep a look out for pot buoys. Not quite as dense as Maine but close. After a while I decided we'd had enough and turned further south to deeper water. Another argg!! 150 feet and still pot buoys. We were now about 25 to 30 miles south of the Tortugas heading about 270 degrees. My plan was to sail far enough west to pick up the current heading south out of the Gulf of Mexico and ride it to the coast of Cuba. This meant we would have to jybe from starboard to port at sometime in the night. The wind had picked up to 22 true so we talked about how we would do the jybe very carefully. No sweat, we are good!!, 210 degrees and heading for Cuba. This turned out to be a favorable jybe, not as much rolling, good boat speed, sails full and pulling, all was good on LB. The moon was filling helping us see the waves that were in the four to six foot range with a few a little larger.
Before sun up we jybed again off the coast to take us west toward the tip of Cuba. It on this jybe that the wind and seas picked up. True winds now were 28 knots, seas were better than eight feet and we were boogieing. We reefed both the main and the jib, settled LB down and continued our one on one off watch schedule. I must admit that my first mate gave the captain a couple of breaks extending her watch an extra hour.
I put a way point off the western tip of Cuba and we sailed west on starboard jybe until the bearing was about 200 degrees. At that point I felt safe jybing onto port so we did. By now we were south of the main gulf stream current so the seas subsided as did the wind. I hoped it wouldn't drop below 15 to 20 and it didn't. We stayed on this jybe through the day and into our second night. This where ship traffic exploded. Cruise ships everywhere going north back home to Houston and Florida and south to Cozumel; and commercial ships everywhere as well. Thank goodness for our AIS and radar. We had to call quite a few ships because our courses would intersect. AIS gave us the names, we called, they answered and all was well.
Having passed the western tip of Cuba, my thinking was to keep heading south before turning west. The current in the Yucatan Channel ranges from 1 to 4 knots heading north. So I wanted to put some money in the bank by heading south. The wind started heading us, from 210 to 220 to 240. I kept us on 240 again to keep us south of the rumb line to Isla Mujeres. Winds were E at 15, seas were 4 to 6 and aside from the rolling all was good again on LB.
Now the passage across the Yucatan Channel is about 100 miles, not a daylight trip so we were heading for a night time arrival in a foreign port, with our electronics it's not a worry but it's a new port, lots of lights on shore and it can be confusing. So now I need to tell about one thing that happened on this passage from Cuba to Isla Mujeres. We had sailed all day, heading south of the rumb line, it was sixish, I asked for a glass of wine, Alice put on some Christmas music brought up the wine and we were good to go. Then another CD, then Dave Mathews, auh life is good on LB. So now the captain is watching but not paying attention to the chart plotter. Here's yet another ARGG!, the eighteen miles of money in the bank south of the rumb line was gone! During our wine and music the current had sucked us north back to the line. Now we had to change course, reset the sails and start crawling our way to the island. Lesson learned. The plan was good, the execution sucked.
It was getting dark with some 40 miles to go, the wind fortunately picked up and helped us move through the adverse current. We were successful getting back south of the rumb but it was work, then the wind shifted again and we had to jybe. We are good at night time jybes so no big deal.
Now the issue was finding the safe passage across the entry bar. It's totally darking behind you but in front there is amaze of lights. I look at the plotter we are good, I ask Alice if she can see the flashing green, the light house light and nope, no way Jose, there is just too much clutter. I turn on the radar and behind us is a wall a water coming at us. Oh darn (s**t), Bob trust in your instruments, right!
We furled the jib, and I decided to keep the main up for stability until we crossed the bar. I know Alice was apprehensive and worried and I was a little. I found Anvil Rock light, a flashing green just where the plotter indicated and my way point was about ½ mile north in deeper water so on we went. The depth went from 60 to 30 to 25 to 15 to 10 and I was hoping that was it, YEAH 15, 18, 22 and we were over the bar. Just a little further before rounding up to furl the main. Crank, crank and a few more and the main it safely at home. LB has made it to Isla Mujeres except now we have to navigate to the anchorage. No big deal and by 23:30 we were anchored and out came the celebratory wine. Sixty one hours, four jybes, lots of rolling, some Christmas and Dave Mathews, a course correction and we had completed our journey from Kenosha to Isla Mujeres. No runs no drips no errors. LB is the best. Alice is the best of the best. And now we check in, explore and await our family for Christmas.
This place rocks!!