Sailing South

S/V Mariah with Trish & John Billings

15 January 2017 | Tropical Mexico
27 November 2016 | Mazatlan
25 May 2014 | Mission Bay, San Diego
04 May 2014 | Isla Mujeres, Mexico
05 April 2014 | St. Maarten
17 February 2014 | Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, DR
31 December 2013 | Thompsons Bay, Bahamas
20 December 2013 | Long Island, Bahamas
01 December 2013 | Exumas, Bahamas
01 December 2013 | Exumas, Bahamas
11 November 2013 | Marsh Harbor, Abaco
31 October 2013 | Grand Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
21 October 2013 | Folly Beach, SC
15 August 2013 | Folly Beach, SC
17 July 2013 | Charleston, SC
14 June 2013 | Hilton Head, SC
14 May 2013 | Key West
18 April 2013 | Key West
25 March 2013 | Venice, FL
06 March 2013 | Orange Beach, AL

Heading Home

04 May 2014 | Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Isla Mujeres, Mexico (near Cancun)

Just because we are now in Mexico does not necessarily mean that we are nearly home even though it seems like we should be. We are so familiar with Mexico, being so close to the San Diego area, we feel right at home here even though we are more than 1000 miles away.

Our trip from St Maarten to Isla Mujeres was very quick with only a few stops. We only had a month to go the 2000 miles back to Texas, so off we went in a big hurry. At least this time, we would be going downwind and I was promised a “sleigh ride.” I think NOT. It has been more of a “mogul” ride as we rock and roll over the swells that pass under the boat. We did have one wonderful day when the wind and waves were just right and we finally came to understand “what this sailing stuff is all about.” For the first time in quite awhile, we were moving in complete silence under a beautiful blue sky with not a care in the world. Magical.

We stopped on the South shore of the Dominican Republic for 2 nights. We pulled into a beautiful anchorage around mid-day and were thrilled because it looked completely open with lots of room to anchor. As we got closer, we saw many small buoys (made from plastic bottles) that blocked us from setting an anchor nearby. Too bad, we had to anchor outside with lots of rocking and rolling and wondered who had saved all those places. At around 3:00pm, we saw about 20 sailboats coming toward us. We thought it might be a regatta, but as they got closer, we enjoyed quite a spectacle of “day tripper” catamarans bringing tourists back to our anchorage from Isla Saona, about 10 miles away. The cats each carried about 60 people returning completely “soused” and dancing and singing on the foredeck. There was quite a commotion as “dory” motor boats came to each catamaran to transport all those tourists back to shore. Boy, did we rock and roll then!

Next day, we moved off to the west end of the DR to Las Salinas, a lovely quaint town full of friendly vibrant people congregating in the streets. One particular man showed off his trained goose who followed commands of “stay, heel, go.” We were all quite enamored. There were also numerous open-air shops that we thought were “tiki bars”, but when we got close, we saw that they certainly did sell drinks as well as bottles of alcohol. But in addition, one wall was covered in canned food, another in plumbing supplies and another in car parts. Mini-Walmarts all.

When we tried to leave Las Salinas to go to Barrahona to do our immigration check out, we found that the wind and waves were just too darn uncomfortable (rocking and rolling again) to continue in that direction. So, we made an executive decision to just leave the DR without checking out. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but ended up costing us an extra $60 to “convince” the Jamaican immigration officer that it was no concern of his…

Jamaica turned out to be one of our best stops so far, contrary to warnings we received that we really shouldn’t bother going there. Instead of going to Kingston, which can be dangerous, we went to the north shore to Port Antonio. There we found a lovely enclosed lagoon (no rocking and rolling) and dropped our anchor under tropical, rain forest mountains. Beautiful! It wasn’t long before the lagoon Rastafarian, came for a visit (see picture). And this is Rastafarian, Wee John, given name Clive, who lives in the Mangroves nearby, watches our boat whether we need it or not, tells us he did a fine job of it and what would we like to pay for that fine bit of service. This picture cost us the paddle, an extra that we had on board. He promised to catch us a Red Snapper fish if we would give him a dollar to buy some fuel for his lamp (to attract the fish). So far, no fish J. We gave him all our loose change before we left.

We went on an 8 mile river raft trip with our newest friends from “Exit Strategy”. We expected the rafts to be rubber, Avon-like devices and they turned out to be bamboo poles with a driver. As we were driving up the road to the start, we heard someone yell, “They’re COMING.” We thought that someone was having a religious experience, but it turned out that they were letting all the vendors know that there were some lily-white suckers with lots of money coming down the river. Sure enough, as we poled our way down, the “bar” raft came up. Of course, we had to buy our ‘driver’ a couple of beers for the road. Then we bought a coconut and sipped the juice, then it was time for a swim and, finally, we stopped for an entire lunch that they had brought down the mountain cliff in pots. Our driver was Neville who we nicknamed Pimstone after the doctor that John worked with in Cape Town and the name stuck. The other 2 drivers starting calling him Pimstone. At the end of the ride…and he poled us the entire 8 miles, he asked us to look for a job for him in the States.

Reach Falls – we drove along the coast road that we were told would take about 45 minutes. Turns out that only if you know the road and every pothole and prefer to live a very short life, then it may take 45 minutes. It took us nearly 2 hours to get to the falls, arriving at 3:45 for a closing time of 4:30 (unknown to us). It costs $10 to play in the water there and includes a tour guide to take you up the river. Even though we were pushed for time, we asked the guide if he would take us. And he did. He had us climbing up those falls and falling into a gorgeous “infinity” pool at the top. Then we climbed and splashed some more until we eventually went into about 4 or 5 more pools and falls. It was quite magical.

After Jamaica, was the Cayman Islands. We only stayed one day to provision and fuel up. We anchored next to 2 giant cruise ships that had to shuttle all their passengers to shore for their day of fun and shopping.

And now, Isla Mujeres, Mexico with Cancun across the bay. I have been to Cancun before, but I haven’t seen it from this vantage point. Wow! What a lot of huge hotels! This island itself is very small and quaint and the snorkeling is really nice. There are many sidewalk vendors here and it begins to remind us of Ensenada. But no children selling Chicklets, thank goodness.

Tomorrow we leave for our longest passage yet…6-7 days across the Gulf of Mexico to Rockport, TX where we will put Mariah back on a truck and send her back to San Diego. And the end of this adventure…sigh. And what an amazing adventure it has been. Thanks for following along, responding in a way that has kept us connected to “home” and for making me write it all down.
Vessel Name: Mariah
Vessel Make/Model: Morgan 41
Hailing Port: San Diego
Crew: John & Trish Billings
About: John & Trish hail from Mission Beach in San Diego, are avid body surfers and dinghy sailors. They are in their first year of full time cruising.
Extra: We are cruising the East Coast of the US until November when we will head South again.
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