Not so Safe at Anchor?

Friday January 31, 2014

boat at anchor

I don’t want to jinx myself by saying this, but it seems like some of our most hair raising experiences so far on this adventure have been at anchor. And of all those hair raising experiences at anchor, they seemed to be focused here in Isla Mujeres. Or, The Anchorage of No Holding, as I’m going to start referring to it. First, there was the time that Skebenga started dragging their big steeled hull toward us shortly after we arrived here, luckily to have Luki and Elmari be on the ball and start fixing the problem as soon as it started. Crisis adverted there. Then during one high winded night, we watched a boat from the other side of the harbor drag it’s way into the channel, finally catching again while it was still far enough away for us to catch our breath and go to bed without too much worry.

The next night, it was us who found ourselves in trouble, our anchor having gotten caught in a bike frame, causing us to drag about 400 feet, narrowly missing the boat anchored behind us. After all this excitement, we decided the lagoon would be a much safer spot to sit out the next storm. And oh boy, it was a nasty one. Sustained winds of 40 knots put all boaters on edge and on a close look out through the dark to make sure nothing seemed out of the ordinary. All of us who had secured a spot during the day, properly setting our 1-2 anchors, were kept on watch all night long as a new boat came into the lagoon while the storm was blasting on high, dragging multiple times and almost running into us twice. From experience here, we’ve learned that it’s not only your anchor you have to watch out for, it’s everyone else’s too.

Back out in the main harbor for a few weeks now, we’d been keeping a very close eye on the weather every day since we’re trying to take the first chance we can get of sustained south or west winds to carry us over to Florida. We also keep an eye out for any strong systems that look like they might pass over us, but I hadn’t seen anything coming through over 20 knots. Nothing was in the forecast, and we felt comfortable staying where we were in the large and open harbor. Then just a little after nine o’clock last night, we noticed the winds shift and begin to pick up a little. Usually we have E or SE breezes blowing through here, and all our bobbing our bouncing is due to boats passing through the channel and throwing off a wake. When we suddenly shifted to the NNW, we were open to the bay that separates us from Cancun, and there was a noticeable fetch starting to come through. Winds had gone up from the 5-10 range to 20 or so knots, and although it wasn’t bad, it was something we said we’d want to keep an eye on.

When the clock struck 10:30, my eyes began to get droopy and I was ready to head off to bed. But just out of curiosity, I wanted to sticky my head out and check conditions since they seemed to be steadily building. While looking around I saw the catamaran that had just anchored next to us that morning seemed a little close for comfort, although it was hard to tell how much they moved since monohulls and multihulls move differently at anchor. Looking at the boat directly upwind of us, their anchor light appeared just a little bit brighter than it had before, and it was enough for me to know that one or both of us should keep an eye on everything until the winds settled down more. It was shaping up to be another long night of anchor watch. Throwing on a jacket and tucking a flashlight in my pocket, I went to start watch in the cockpit while Matt made tea below to keep us warm. At the beginning of these storms, both of us usually have enough piqued curiosity that we want to be out there and see what’s going on.

On this night we didn’t have long to wait before the action started. While the two of us were having a debate on if the little 22 ft boat directly upwind of us looked like it was dragging closer or was just swaying back and forth at anchor, we caught the movement of another light further north in the harbor. Sure enough, there was a boat on the move, and not at the will of the pilot. It wasn’t headed near us or any other boat thankfully, but it’s always a sad thing when you see another boat in impending danger and you can do nothing to stop it. This boat was headed for the shore and the few wrecked and half sunken boats already in that spot did nothing to ease our nerves or our empathy for this boat on the move. Once or twice it appeared to catch and we breathed in a sigh of relief, only to watch it pick up and start moving backwards again moments later, finally coming to a halt against the shore but without any perceptible danger of it flipping on it’s side.

Just as we thought that was going to be the whole excitement for the evening, the catamaran just to the side of us began to move as well. It was strange since it appeared moments before that we had seen movement in the cockpit by one of the owners, but once this hunk of fiberglass began taking flight through the anchorage, not a soul was to be seen. Having been smart enough to put on the radio this time, we heard calls to the catamaran, warnings that they were dragging. There was no response, and no light on board. Another boat from the far side of the anchorage began flashing a light in their direction, trying to get their attention. This also did nothing to stir any person on board. Watching and hearing this all happen from our own cockpit where we were still safe from this wrecking ball, we tried to to our part, bringing out the air horn and giving it five short blasts. Nothing. Then all three of us started in at once. Calls on the radio, blinding flashes of light, blasts on the air horn. Still, no one was to be seen on the catamaran.

We all watched as it slid back to the same shore already holding the first boat that dragged. Thinking that if anything, they’d just end up on the shore and be their own problem, we were wrong. Just as it looked like they were about to make contact with the mangroves that lined the shore, lights lit up in the cockpit and there was an illusion of forward movement. We quickly breathed out a sigh, knowing they appeared to be safe, only to suck in our breath again and wonder where they would try to go from this point. For us, we didn’t need to worry. For the poor fellow on a mooring at the back of our group, well, he had a new permanent neighbor for the night. After wondering why this catamaran wasn’t moving out into the anchorage, I pulled out the binoculars and saw through the lights on deck that they appeared to be tangled up with the boat in the back.

Everyone in the anchorage seeming to sense this at the same time, jumped on the radio to see what the issue was and offer their help. Unfortunately, winds were still blowing so high and the chop in the water was so rough, that sending a dinghy to get anywhere near or possibly between the two boats seemed like more danger than do-gooding. All the while on the radio, there were also messages of spare anchors if needed, or if any boats felt they had poor holding, they should move to the lagoon before another situation arose. This message was relayed many times to the initial boat that dragged into the mangroves, whom did not have their radio on, but eventually did get themselves off.

Through the next hour we waited for winds to subside and kept a keen eye for anything else on the move. There was one large steel hulled boat on the other side of the channel that, in my eye, had clearly moved much closer, but caught once again before even making it to the channel. The initial boat to drag, once their anchor was down again, dragged at least twice more that we saw, but each time was able to get moving before getting too close to the jagged rocks they had now decided to put themselves in front of. We finally went to bed weary and hopeful that no more storms ever come through while we’re here. Maybe we’ll just take our chances out on the open water instead of waiting for a window?* At least it’s not likely that anything is going to hit us out there.

1.31.14 (1)

 The boat that spent a few hours in the mangroves.

1.31.14 (2)

 The red boat on the far right was the one making it’s way toward us, luckily catching before it got too close.

1.31.14 (3)

 And…the big wreck of the evening.

1.31.14 (4)

 

*Of course we’re actually going to wait for a good weather window. We may be anxious to get out of here, but not that much.

 

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Luki’s Meatball Recipe

Tuesday January 28, 2014

spaghetti and meatballs

What was that? A recipe? On this site? Don’t worry, this isn’t something I concocted on my own, I wouldn’t subject you to that. No, this is something much better. Luki’s recipe for his spaghetti and meatballs that he passed down to me and, even better for you, had no objection with me sharing it on our site.

These are hands down some of the best meatballs I have ever tasted in my life anywhere, and I’m here to share the recipe with you today. I’ve made this recipe on my own now, unfortunately not having all of the ingredients that Luki had made them with each time we were served them on Skebenga, although they still came out pretty frickin good. Below I’ll write the recipe as it was given to me, and then let you know how I prepared it myself. Also, there weren’t necessarily measurements of the spices included when I was told how to make it, so I’ve attached photos of what my mixing bowl looked like before combining everything. It may take a few attempts to figure out exactly how much of everything you want to include, a little more of this, a little less of that, but I promise, you still won’t be disappointed with your first few tries.

 

 

Meatballs

 

Ingredients

1 lb ground beef (or pork)

2 shallots/spring onions

2 cloves of garlic

Lots of salt & pepper (yes, I’m giving this to you verbatim)

Flavored salt, possibly something with lime or other citrus flavorings

¼ cup Parmesan

Rosemary

Thyme

 

Instructions

Mix ingredients together and form into balls. Lightly oil a non stick pan, wait for the oil to heat, place meatballs inside pan. Let meatballs brown, turning half way through to fully cook. Approx 8-10 min.

 

What I did

Well, I’m terrible at making grocery lists, and even worse about remembering to bring them to the grocery store with me, so I was not able to get the shallots/spring onions because I forgot that I was supposed to look for them. In place I used about a half a cup of chopped white onion. It did the trick, but I think the shallots would have been more flavorful if I’d used them. Since I did not measure out any of the spices, I’d venture a guess that I added about a ½ teaspoon of black pepper, a few pinches of table salt, and a few sprinkles of garlic salt. I probably could have gone just a little bit heavier on the salt and pepper.

About a half teaspoon of thyme was added, although I probably could have gone up to ¾. I used dried Rosemary sprigs and used about 3 pinches of them (is that a term?). Mixing everything together, I was then able to separate the meat into 14 medium sized balls, although you could always change it to fewer balls if you want them larger.

 

 

Sauce

 

Ingredients

½ chopped onion

can of diced tomatoes (or approx 4-5 fresh roma tomatoes)

splash of dry white wine

tomato paste (add to preferred taste/thickness)

 

Instructions

In lightly oiled non stick pan, add the onions and sautee. Then add the diced tomatoes along with the splash of dry white wine, and simmer 5-10 minutes. Place the meatballs in the sauce to soak and cover. If the sauce is thin, add tomato paste to desired thickness. Add a spoonful of sugar and let simmer for another 20-25 minutes.

 

What I did

Since I live in a small space and like to fill my sink with as few dishes as possible, I used one pan throughout this. I’m not claiming to be a master chef, so I don’t know if that changed the outcome, but it still tasted just fine to me. I added the onions right to the pan that the meatballs were cooking in and let them simmer for 2-3 minutes. I did not have any white wine on board, so I omitted that step. Since my can of diced tomatoes appeared to be making a very thin sauce I ended up added a 5 oz can of tomato paste and it worked out great.  Also, I added a can of mushrooms since, well, they’ve been sitting in the bilge for 18 months and really needed to be used.

 

End Product

Boil your pasta while the sauce still has about 10 minutes left to cook. Then…serve. For a garnish, add chopped cilantro. (Who would have thought to add cilantro to spaghetti? Not me, but turns out it tastes amazing!)

meat and spices

My 400 g of ground beef topped with all the seasonings.

meatballs on plate Formed into meatballs and ready to hit the skillet.

meatballs and sauce

 Everything simmering together in the pan.

spaghetti and meatballs Voila!  Delicious meal!

 

Bonus – Garlic Bread

 

(this is something I grabbed offline and thankfully has all measurements listed)

Ingredients

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

1 (15 x 3 ½ inch) loaf Italian bread

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Stir together butter, oil, garlic, and parsley in a small bowl

Using a serrated knife, cut bread in 1” thick slices without cutting all the way through

Pull apart slices and use a pastry brush to butter them with garlic mixture, then sprinkle with Parmesan

Wrap the loaf in foil and bake in the center of the oven for 15 min

Open foil and bake for 5 more min

garlic bread

 

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Sometimes Nothing is All You Need

Monday January 27, 2013

reflection in hatch

If you’ve been following our Facebook page, you may have noticed me spending a little of my time complaining that we can not seem to find a weather window to get to Florida and we’ll be forever stuck in Mexico.

Today, I decided to let that go. I can’t control the weather. I can’t control the universe. I can’t control much of anything, really. But what I can control is my outlook. Yes, we are stuck in Mexico. No, there is nothing in the forecast that shows we’ll be leaving anytime soon. So instead of sitting here whining about the one thing I my life that I can even complain about, I decided to sit back and get a little perspective.

All of my friends back home are suffering through one of the worst winters we’ve had in years. Not only are they shutting down schools, but they even closing down places of business and sections of road altogether. People are only leaving their house unless it is absolutely necessary.

Where am I during all of this? Sitting on a sailboat in Mexico. For the past few days I’d been bummed that we’ve been here so long and I wanted to get a move on to something new, something interesting. We’ve already done town, the beach, the restaurants. What most of our days are filled with now are sitting on the boat, only getting off every few days when groceries run low, or maybe once a week, just to force ourselves back into civilization. I was bored with it and I wanted a change. Then while checking the weather again this morning and realizing that we very well might be stuck here until the middle or end of February, I finally accepted it. And then I realized, this is not a bad place to be.

It was like a curtain lifting over my eyes. I started to take pleasure in doing the same nothing that we’ve been doing for weeks now. I made a cup of coffee this morning and savored it. I sat in the cockpit and got work done on my computer, taking in the beautiful sights around me. I let the sun warm my skin and then jumped in the teal waters surrounding me to cool off (and sneak in a bath). I spent my afternoon swaying to music playing through the speakers and making fresh salsa. I mixed up a fruity little cocktail and watched a beautiful sunset from my back porch.

There really hasn’t been much of a variance in my schedule from what I’ve been doing the past few days, but what did change was my outlook. Did I do anything extreme or out of my ordinary today? No. Basically, I did nothing. But just sometimes, nothing is all you need.

sunset in Isla Harbor

sunset in Isla harbor

 

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Pizza and a Sunset

Thursday January 23, 2014

Elmilagro Marina Isla Mujeres

There still isn’t much to update here in Isla Mujeres.  We keep looking for a weather window to get ourselves to Florida, and they keep disappearing as soon as we get hope that there’s something on the horizon.  We’ve actually been spending a lot of time on the boat, really enjoying ourselves here now that we have a fast internet connection.  Couple that with the sun keeping our batteries pretty full lately, and we’ve been electronic maniacs for the past few days.  Tool around on the internet in the morning, read a book and catch some rays on deck in the afternoon, prepare a tasty meal and enjoy in while watching a movie at night, and then maybe a little more internet time before hitting the sack at night.

Tonight I decided that we needed to get off the boat to finally do something more than grocery shopping.  Matt suggested we try one of the pizzas over at Marina Paraiso.  Luki and Elmari had told us the portions are very big, along with the pizza itself being really good.  Plus, since we land our dinghy there every 2-3 days and haven’t actually given them any business since having lunch with Lee and Amanda about 10 days ago, we figured they were due some of our cash.

The nights here have been getting a little bit cooler, enough for me to start nagging Matt that I need to pull out the down comforter that had just been stored away when we were leaving Guatemala.  Donning long pants and t-shirts, we went to the open air bar/restaurant, and put our orders in for pizza and beer.  While glancing back and forth at the many tv screens playing various sporting events, the wind was still kicking up and making it a very chilly evening.  As soon as the pizza was set in front of us we quickly picked up the piping hot pieces to keep our hands warm, but couldn’t seem to stick around any longer than when we’d had our fill.  As Matt was paying the tab and getting the remaining, truly generous portions, boxed up, I snuck away to the docks to get in some photos of that night’s sunset.

Matt kind of likes to mock me each time I run out with my camera to do this, but really, do amazing sunsets ever get old?

Sol

sunset at Marina Paraiso

Sunset at Maraina Paraiso

Sunset Marina Paraiso

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The Wanderers

Saturday January 18, 2014

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

We finally moved ourselves out of the small depressing hole that is the lagoon, and back into the main harbor. The weather was good enough for us to do this days ago, but the fact that we were getting internet on the boat there made it very hard to leave. It’s so nice being back out in the harbor though, the sun shines a little brighter, the water is much cleaner, and now thanks to Lee, we can get internet out here as well. Life is pretty perfect. I do feel a little bad though that we’ve now spent over three weeks on this island and haven’t fully explored it yet. I’m sure we’ll get there in stages, so today we decided just to take a leisurely stroll before hitting the grocery store in the afternoon. Instead of doing the large 1-2 week stocks like we used to, we found out in Guatemala that it’s much easier just to buy for the next 3-4 days. Something that forces us to get off the boat, and keeps our waterline just a little bit higher.

On our way in we decided that instead of filling up on carbs through the various muffins, cookies, and rolls that we’ve been buying dirt cheap at the store, we would try and hit this taco stand right next to where we land our boat, one that has always sold out of food by the time we walk by it in the late afternoon.  After looking through the many varieties of ways she could make up our food, we put in our orders and enjoyed them under the shade of a palm tree nearby.

Matt said my Spanish is getting much better, but I’ve just realized that’s because instead of trying to put together elaborate sentences that I don’t know how to conjugate I’m going for very simple fragmented sentences instead. “Two chicken and two of those (point at one of many pork dishes). With everything. One Coke and one Pepsi. How much for everything? Thank you.” To the woman working the stand I must have sounded like a struggling preschool student, but to Matt I sounded like a Spanish speaking goddess. All he saw was that I was actually able to get my point across, and was understood. Which I guess in the end is all that matters. Until I finally have enough battery charge to keep my computer going for more than 4 hours a day (these blog posts are really time consuming! (ok, and Facebook)), and I can get back to my Spanish lessons.

taco stand, Isla Mujeres

 When we finished with our food we didn’t really have a certain area in mind that we wanted to check out, so we fell through the back streets until we eventually ended up at the Melecon that lines the east side of the island.  I was hoping that some of the large 3 meter waves that were supposedly rolling through during the last storm would still be there, crashing up against the rocks, but we were just left with the easterly trades throwing up a little bit of spray here and there.

Taking a left we starting making our way to a small sandy beach ahead, one much less crowded than north beach, but with a few people still taking in the afternoon sun.  There were a few wading pools to go in and cool off, although the red flags were flying which meant it probably wasn’t a good day to try.  The area reminded me a little bit of the Bahamas, all the jagged coral edges we’d tiptoe around while exploring uninhabited islands there.  On our way down to the beach, Matt even found a little dog that wanted to be his best friend, and if it wasn’t for the collar on his neck, we probably would have tried to take him with us.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Matt with stray dog

Jessica on rocks in Isla

Walking all the way until the beach ended, we found a little trail through the sand and rocks until it dropped us off at the beginning of North Beach on the east side of the island, right next to the Avalon Hotel, a landmark that many sailors coming from the north use to first spot the island.  It looked like a beautiful place that had perfect turquoise waters with sandy bottoms for families and little kids to safely swim in.

As we wandered further up, we came across parts of the beach that we had never seen before, never having ventured that far down.  Today there was one area set aside for a wedding, dozens of chairs set up and a canopy perfectly framing the white sand and clear waters behind it.  Each seat a a maraca lain down on it, a little present for each guest attending.  Not that I didn’t love my ‘destination’ wedding in Vegas, but had we been a little bit older and willing to part with a little more money for the even, this would have totally been the way to go.  It was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l.  Whomever you are, Matt and Emily, you made a great choice by planning your wedding here.  I was almost tempted to force Matt to run me back to the ‘Dip so I could throw on a dress and crash the thing.  Guess I’ll just have to come more prepared next time.

Ten minutes later we had made our way across the whole North Beach and were back to the main street with all the vendors and tourists just getting off the ferry.  Our whole wandering experience had taken less than an hour.  I looked at Matt and pathetically muttered, “We are the worst wanderers ever, we couldn’t even make it two hours”.  Then he corrected me.  “No, that just makes us good wanderers.  We don’t get distracted”.  I guess that’s one way of looking at the glass half full.

Avalon Hotel Isla Mujeres Mexico

wedding reception

wedding on beach Isla Mujeres Mexico

wedding on beach Isla Mujeres Mexico

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Run Ins and Waterspouts

Wednesday January 15, 2014

waterspout

Isla Mujeres has not stopped providing it’s excitement at anchor.  I just happened to be looking out one of the deadlights today at just the right time and saw this waterspout.  At first I was worried about where it might be going, but then I realized that it was still in the Caribbean Sea and would have to cross over land before making it to either the lagoon where we were anchored, or the main harbor.  We kept our eye on it as it swept closer to us from the sea, but as soon as it did come up on land the whole thing dissipated within moments.

There was also one more act of excitement since we’ve been sitting in the lagoon here.  A few days ago, before we removed our second anchor, another sailboat passing through the channel caught it.  I had just laid down for an afternoon nap up in the v-berth, when all of a sudden I heard a loud noise and a tugging motion.  Tossing over, I tore out of bed and ran up the companionway just after Matt to see the other boat which now had our pulpit in their lifelines.  Luckily we didn’t get tangled and they were able to push themselves off right away.  However, they still had our anchor line attached to them in one way or another, and the two of us were sure it was around their prop.  The other boat owner stated he thought it was on his keel and he wanted to reverse.

With our high test 5/16ths G4 anchor line possibly about to get shredded if it was not in fact just around his keel, we’d be out one really nice set of line.  Eventually he let the current push him back a little where we found out that it was thankfully only wrapped up in his keel.  Soon they were off and yelled their apologies back to us, stating that they’d come back with beer to make up for the trouble.  So far we have not seen them again.

I’m starting to think that Isla is rejecting us and giving us hints to leave as soon as possible.  With all of our friends also leaving now, there really isn’t a reason to stay.  As soon as a window of three to four days of south and/or west winds come up, we.are.outta.here.

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Our Last Dinner with Skebenga

Tuesday January 14, 2013

dinner on Skebenga

Tonight we had our last dinner with Luki and Elmari for what could be the last time ever.  After one more front passes through tomorrow, they’ll be on their way to Cuba, and up to Cape Canaveral to sell Skebenga and move back to South Africa.  Their adventure is soon to be over.

In true Skebenga style, they invited us over to their boat where one last extraordinary meal would be prepared and we’d all act like this was just a short term separation, because there is no way the fates could keep us away forever.  We’ve become family now, a bond formed by the sea, and it won’t be an easy one to break, even when each of us is once again stranded on land.

For our last night together I had Luki share with me his absolute to die for recipe for spaghetti and meatballs.  I remember eating this meal for the first time on the roof top deck of Luis’ boat back in Guatemala, and ever since I have been desperate to find out how to make it myself.  Armed with my camera and a notebook, I followed Luki around the galley, scribbling on my paper each time he made a movement.  When the balls of meat had been placed in the pan to simmer, and the tomato sauce was added shortly later, there was nothing left to do but sit and wait for it to cook, enjoying a glass of wine in the process.  Now there’s something I know how to do very well.

Matt, still trying to knock 80% off the price of Skebenga so we could buy it ourselves, kept remarking on how well built it is, even having me take photos of the floor because ‘Our next boat needs to have them’.  Putting on our sweetest faces, we tried to get Luki and Elmari to give it up for charity (us), but they’re pretty keen on actually collecting the money so they can start their new life on land.

When the food was ready we all moved up to the cockpit and enjoyed great food and conversation under the stars.  Since Luki and Elmari were no longer going to the Med to leave their boat stored for six months of the year (their original plan), they loaded us up with all their guide books and recommendations of places to go.  We found that we can take the boat up a river in Italy to get just outside of Rome, and Mallorca is such a beautiful place that it’s hard to get there and not set down roots.  We were also entranced with stories about Morocco and camel rides through the desert.  Once again, the desire to keep moving and see new things was bubbling up, and a three to four week trip across the Atlantic seems well worth the spoils.

After dinner we savored a few sips of wine that Elmari only brought out on Special occasions.  Once that was gone we knew we needed to follow suit, although I was ready to cuddle up in Skebenga and stay there forever.  We said partial goodbyes, but knew we’d get the final one just before Luki and Elmari leave for good on Thursday.  I’m already beginning to formulate a plan to see them in Florida since I know I won’t even be able to make it a month without seeing them.  Besides, it would be completely rude of us not to take them out to dinner to repay them for the fifteen guidebooks that were just handed over to us.

meatballs on Skebenga

 They’re not even cooked and they look delicious!

Matt on Skebenga

 Matt and his Nalgene bottle of Coke.  He can’t go anywhere without it.

 

 

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Dinner on Jargo

Friday January 10, 2014

1.10.14

I have to admit it, we (or at least me) kind of have a crush on the crew of Jargo. We haven’t met any new faces in a long time, probably since we got to Guatemala in June, and the fact that these two are young and fun, and the fact that we all clicked right away, well I’m kind of in a swooning phase. Not only was I excited to see them again, but I also wanted to show them off to all my other friends. Which while we sit here in Isla Mujeres, is Luki and Elmari. Or maybe I was just excited to show off Luki and Elmari to Lee and Amanda? They’re all such awesome people, I guess it kind of goes both ways.

We have gotten a little bit of disappointing news in the past few days that both of these boats will quickly on their way out of Isla, with Jargo heading south to Belize and then Guatemala, and Skebenga moving over to Cuba before landing in Florida to get the process started on selling their boat. We were quickly about to lose both crews and end up all alone. Although we still had standing dinner plans with Lee and Amanda, we did want to get both groups together at least once and planned a little cocktail party on Serendipity in the late afternoon. Can you believe that in all the time we’ve known Luki and Elmari, the only time they’ve ever set foot on our boat was the first day we met back in Jamaica, and they never made it further than the cockpit? I mean, it’s easy to see why we always hung out on Skebenga, their boat is gorgeous, but we couldn’t let them leave for good without getting one tour of the ‘Dip.

Matt and I spent the day tackling some of the cleaning projects that usually get pushed aside past the every day maintenance, such as Cloroxing the ceiling and making it shine, and then made a run out to the grocery store to stock up on supplies, also dropping off a six pack of beer to Alex and thanking him for the drinks he got us our other night out. Back on Serendipity, we had just enough time to pull in all the cushions that had been airing out outside (yeah, we’re going to have to get those steam cleaned in Florida, our previous cleaning job was a total fail), and for me to finish my bruschetta before our guests arrived, surprisingly within about sixty seconds of each other.

While giving the tour, Elmari was very impressed for the layout and the use of space in this 34 ft layout. I love hearing the phrase “It looks so much bigger down here than you’d imagine” and “This is plenty of space for two people to live in”. It just helps me confirm to Matt that we do not need an extra ten feet unless we’re planning on starting a family while cruising, and neither a bigger boat or a kid is in the budget right now. Just after the tour, the sexes split up with the guys hanging out in the cockpit, and us girls enjoying the comforts of the salon. It was fun to have Amanda and Elmari talk about places they’ve both cruised, Elmari having lived in and obviously cruised South Africa, and Amanda having joined Lee on a leg of his circumnavigation down there. All of us were shocked when the clock was already striking eight, finally breaking up the group so we could all start our dinners.

Luki and Elmari headed back to Skebenga while Matt and I trailed behind Lee and Amanda to have dinner on Jargo. We settled into this beamy boat, and while Amanda started on our pasta dish for the night, we listed to more stories about how the two of them met on the French island of Reunion where Amanda was working as a teacher and Lee was passing through on Jargo. We also gave them pointers on where to stay in the Rio Dulce, basically forcing them to agree to a slip at Tortugal where Jargo will be holed up for nine months while they go back to the States to top off the cruising kitty. Lee told us about how this is now his third time in Isla Mujeres, and how this place can really suck one in, keeping you here for weeks when you only planned on staying a few days. Tell us about it, our stop was originally supposed to be about 7-10 days and now we’ve already been here two and a half weeks.

We enjoyed a great dinner of wheat pasta and meat sauce, and now Matt is obsessed with trying to find wheat pasta in one of the markets around here. I had brought over some after dinner entertainment, a DVD to watch, since I had not been able to shut up about a show called Three Sheets when we were having our bar crawl the other night, telling them about this comedian that visited countries all over the world and partook in their local drinking traditions. We positioned ourselves along one of the settes while the movie played on Lee’s laptop on the table, and I have to say, it wasn’t as good as I remember it being the last time I watched it a few years ago. A little bit of a letdown there. Luckily, I had also packed the first season of Modern Family, since that show had come up in discussion also, with neither Lee or Amanda having ever seen it before. Thank you to Modern Family for saving the day. I think we may have just hooked another couple on it, and I’m pretty sure Matt and I are ready to go back and watch it from the beginning again.

Tomorrow will be a leisurely lunch with Lee and Amanda before they head out for Belize on Sunday.  It really sucks that we’re going to have to say goodbye to them so soon after meeting.  I would say that’s a good thing because I probably would have turned stalker on them, but they’d probably turn around and do that right back to us.  Which is exactly why I love these two.

drop cat

Don’t worry Georgie, all these people aren’t moving aboard and taking up your precious space.

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The Introduction of the Sangrita

Wednesday January 8, 2013

Sangrita

Today was a whirlwind of activity that we were 100% not expecting when we woke up. Just like the past two days, we assumed that we’d be sitting at anchor, in these cloudy and cold conditions, just hoping for some rain to fill the tanks, and that the winds wouldn’t pick up enough again for us to be on anchor watch. Of someone else hitting us. So when we busied ourselves around 10:30 this morning removing our second anchor, we were happy and surprised when Lee dropped by to see if we wanted to go to shore with him and his girlfriend Amanda to grab a coffee or beer. He said he’d be back in 30 minutes to pick us up, and we quickly rushed through some very cold cockpit showers in order to clean ourselves up in time.

When Lee came back to get us around 11 am, with Amanda now in tow, I could tell that I liked this girl already. She was dressed in jeans, a winter coat, and a wool hat..in Mexico. When I told Matt I had been thinking about wearing a winter hat out, he had laughed at me. At least one other person around here shared my values. Finishing out the introductions, we zipped off to Oscar’s Marina inside the lagoon, and tied up at the end of one of the docks, ready to grab a beer. Our conversation on our way out must have caught the attention of one more, because there was a guy on a boat at the dock we were using that popped his head out and joined our conversation. He asked if we were headed up to the bar and said he’d love to join, bringing our group up from four to five now.

While being introduced to the newest member, Alex, I had already known a little bit about him just by his boat name, Pumpkin Pie. On our first day here, Luki and Elmari had mentioned that there was a boat crossing from the US that had been demasted out in the Gulf of Mexico, and required the Mexican Navy to tow it in the rest of the way. The boat? Pumkin Pie. We had seen it tied up at the concrete pier in the harbor for a few days until it disappeared, and I guess it wound up at Oscar’s marina. Over our first beer there, I tried to get the story of what happened from Alex, but all I came away with was that there was a Chiquita banana container ship that a crew member abandoned to after he decided that he no longer wanted to wait out help on Pumpkin Pie. Someday, I will get the full story.

When that story and our first round of beers were gone, Lee suggested we try a particular drink that originated in Mexico. Introduce the Sangrita. At first I thought I misheard him and he was asking for sangria, but no, Sangrita is much different. After agreeing to try one, I had a shot of tequila placed in front of me, along with another glass that housed about 2-3 oz of a clamato kind of juice, basically the mixer you’d enjoy with a Bloody Mary, only with a little OJ added. Don’t be fooled now, it’s not a shot of tequila with a tomato chaser. This is what first came to mind as it was placed in front of me, and as much as I love tequila, I wasn’t ready to shoot it down at noon. No, this is a drink to be sipped an enjoyed. Take a few sips of tequila, take a few sips of clamato, and let the flavors meld together in you mouth. It was actually quite enjoyable and went down much faster than I expected.

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By this point though, Matt and I were only subsiding on a muffin each and that was not enough to absorb all the beer and tequila that had just rushed into my system. When it was deemed that no one was ready to go back to their boats yet we decided that food was the answer. Matt and I were extremely excited to show them the awesomeness that is Bobo’s and their hot wings. Alex ran back to his boat to grab some more cash and a 40 oz of beer, which the five of us passed around as we hopped a taxi into town. Walking down the main road Matt and tried to remember which side street harbored Bobo’s, and surprisingly found it on the first try. We also found out that Bobo’s was closed and our tasty dish of hot wings and french fries was now out. But that’s ok though, because Lee came through once more with some fun Mexican information that we never would have tried on our own. Just across the street from us by the ferry dock was a cart that sold hot dogs wrapped in bacon. Excuse me? Hot dogs..wrapped in..bacon? Why were we even standing around talking about it?

Completely famished, Matt and I ran up and ordered two apiece, while everyone else only took one. Alex made a beer run to the 7-11 across the street, and we enjoyed our meals under the shelter of the docks terminal while a rain fell lightly outside. Everything was perfect. My beer was cold, my hot dog was delicious. Then I made the critical mistake of balancing my hot dog tray on a railing, and a strong gusts of wind came up and flipped my little styrofoam tray, sending my second hot dog flying to the ground. At this point I was still starving and probably about four drinks in, so I was fully prepared to enforce the five second rule and scoop that baby back up. Matt though, enforced his OCPD and made me bring it to the trash instead. But at least he did give me 20 pesos to run out at get another one.

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Even after lunch and about five hours out and about now, none of us were even close to ending the night. Lee led us down the main boulevard until we came across a little place called the Soggy Peso, which actually would have wings, and better yet, on special tonight. From the street this place doesn’t look like much, in face you can barely tell that anything is there, but from the inside it’s a fun little bar with a million banners stringing the ceiling and tables surrounding a nice little pool. Alex did the honors of ordering everyone at the table a Dos Equis and a shot of tequila (to be sipped, of course). Some hot wings were consumed, and before we knew it we were on to the next place.

Sitting down at the bar at our familiar Marina Paraiso, I looked up in front of me to see that Lee had done the ordering this time, Pacificos and another round of Sangritas for anyone that wanted them. For never having ever tried or even heard of this little concoction before, I fell instantly in love. If they weren’t so potent I could have been drinking them all night. Plus they were a little more expensive than our $2 beers, running about $6 a pop. But seriously, if you ever see us while wandering about the world and you not only want to buy me a drink, but really really get on my good side? Buy me one of these, we’ll be best friends right away. I’m serious. Unless you catch me while I’m out having a quiet lunch with my parents. Eh, you know what?, bring it over anyway. (I’m talking to you YOLO, I might be in the Phoenix area this fall).

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Sangrita, best drink ever!

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We made one more quick stop on our way back to Oscar’s where all of our boats or dinghies sat, ready to fall into bed after over ten hours out on the town. We stopped long enough by the lobster tank for Oscar himself to come out and show us how to use one of the oars to pin down a lobster and pull it out, really adding to the ‘choose your own lobster’ effect. Not that we were staying for a late dinner, but he let us fool around anyway, Matt pinning one down with the oar as shown, and Alex and I going rogue and just sticking our hands directly in to grab one. It’s all about the element of surprise.

As Lee and Amanda were bringing us back to the ‘Dip, I was thinking that we hadn’t had a crazy night out like this in a long time. Possibly since the night we played beer pong at our hostel in Peru. It’s so nice when you randomly meet young people like yourselves to hang out with, but it’s even better when everyone just instantly clicks, which is exactly what happened with our two cruising boats tonight. We’re already planning dinners and movie nights with these two, and for however long each of us are planning on staying on this island for, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other.

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 Amanda does not look too thrilled with our last stop.

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 He does not look happy to be holding that lobster.  Truthfully, he just wasn’t paying attention to me.

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Enough Excitement Already

Tuesday January 7, 2014

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The thrills of being anchored here in Isla Mujeres just keep coming. Our daily checks on passage weather showed another heavy front on it’s way, just a few days after the one that sent us dragging at anchor on Saturday. The forecast was very bad, showing winds sustaining at 35-40 knots through last night and into today. This time we weren’t going to take any chances, and we moved ourselves into the lagoon that has much more protection from the wind. At first we were worried that there may not even be room for us in there, due to shoals all around the edges and a channel running through the center, there isn’t space for more than 5-6 boats in total to comfortably anchor without the danger of possibly swinging into each other. As we motored in from the harbor we were pleased to find that only three other boats were anchored in this area, and we hoped that no more would be on their way.

After two attempts to get the anchor down in a decent spot that would also keep the party catamarans from yelling at us that we were in their channel (as what happened last time), we decided that a second anchor, Bahamian style, might not be a bad idea. We had approximately six hours until this blow was supposed to set in, and we didn’t want to be wishing as it was too late, that this was something we had done earlier. Shortly after we had gotten our spare fortress settled down a hundred feet from our Rocna, we were getting all the lines tight on the bow when we had a surprise visit. One of the people from another boat in the lagoon, Jargo, came by to say hi to us. He introduced himself as Lee, and it took us less than a half a second to notice something about him. He was a young cruiser! We thought those were becoming outmoded as we had not seen any new ones since Ana Bianca came on the scene in Guatemala. While talking for a moment he mentioned that he had already done a solo circumnavigation and now he was cruising part time with his girlfriend Amanda. We agreed that if we all got through that night’s storm that we’d have to go out for drinks sometime.

The remaining hours leading up to the storm were quite boring. I had just found a new series of books on my e-reader which were keeping me captive, and the hours on the clock ticked by so fast that I hadn’t even realized it had gotten dark out. Dinner was quick, I wanted to get back to my book, but I kept taking mental notes of the positions of the boats outside in the lagoon, memorizing the location of their anchor lights. Because of our Bahamian anchoring there was no swinging on our part, so it was very easy to keep tabs on the others. Every time I’d get up from my book I’d look out our deadlights and make sure nothing seemed out of place. One time, there was. A new anchor light.

I wasn’t sure if my eyes were playing tricks on me so I made sure to stick my head out the companionway to double check. I still couldn’t be sure since it looked as if it was on the other side of the channel and I didn’t know if I was confusing one of the previous anchor lights as something from the nearby marina. Grabbing a high powered flashlight and shinning it across the water, I confirmed that it was in fact a new boat. One that had come in in the dark. I wasn’t thrilled by this thought, but they seemed to be set, so I went back to my book. Every time I got up to refill my drink, use the head, or just generally torment (snuggle) Georgie, I’d glance outside. On my third or fourth check I noted that this new light seemed noticeably closer. Calling Matt up, he agreed that the boat did look like it was getting closer.

As I had mentioned in our last post, one of our bigger fears is not actually dragging ourselves, but others dragging into us. Putting on some warm coats, we flipped on the instruments as the wind was distinctly getting higher. It had sounded as if it was holding in the 20’s before, but now we were pretty sure it was getting into the 30’s. We watched from the cockpit, staying behind the shelter of the dodger, and watched as a flashlight kept running the length of the deck, making us thinking the person operating this other boat was a singlehander. It looked as if the person was trying to get their anchor up, but luckily, not getting any closer to us during this process. We watched intently as the light made rounds between the cockpit and the bow, and finally the boat was underway.

Now came the fun part. This person obviously had issues with their anchor dragging once tonight…where would they try and put it down a second time? The same spot? Which happened to be directly upwind of us. Yes, that is exactly what they tried. After 3-4 attempts of getting the anchor to stay put in that area and ultimately failing, the boater decided to start zooming around the anchorage at breakneck speeds, weaving around all the currently anchored boats and coming very close to some of them. We thought we heard a yell from our new friend Lee down on s/v Jargo, and we had a feeling he was outside watching this mess as well. Soon it became a game to try and spot this guy’s anchor light zipping through the anchorage, and then figure out what direction he was facing, and if he was trying to get his anchor down.

Honestly, we did feel bad for the guy. Even in this very protected lagoon, the winds were strong, holding in the mid 30’s, and I myself would not want to try anchoring in this midday, let alone in the dark. A few times I asked Matt if we should do anything to help him, but Matt remembered a French flag on this particular boat (we now remembered him from the main harbor), and didn’t think we could be of much assistance to him. He did finally set anchor down in front of us again, and after keeping an eye on him for the next 20 minutes to make sure he did not move an inch, we finally felt comfortable enough to go down below deck again. Being on high alert though, I kept checking out the deadlight every ten minutes to make sure he was staying put. He did not.

Just to make sure I was seeing things right, I climbed into the cockpit so I could get a firsthand view. Then I calmly called down the companionway to Matt, “I’m going to need you to put on your jacket and join me up here”. By the time he was up in the cockpit, this boat was 2/3rds closer than he was just moments before. We grabbed fenders out of the lazarette and prepared ourselves to run up front and fend him off. We were waiting for just the right moment so we didn’t have to face the brunt of these now 40 knot winds at the bow unless we knew if/when he would hit. Once more, right as he was getting too close for comfort, the engine kicked on high gear and he hightailed it out of there, realizing this was not a safe spot for him to anchor. 20 more minutes of anxious watching later, we watched him set his anchor down on the far side of the lagoon by the channel, far, far away from us. I really hope Isla doesn’t have any more of these high wind storms in store, I don’t think I can handle this constant excitement.

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One of our fenders marking our second anchor.

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Our other neighbors in the anchorage.

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This area was wide open, and we have no idea why.

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Georgie is ready to help in any way necessary.

 

 

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