Run Ins and Waterspouts

Wednesday January 15, 2014


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.


Dinner on Jargo

Friday January 10, 2014


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


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.



boat anchored in Isla Mujeres harbor

What a Drag

Saturday January 4, 2014

boat anchored in Isla Mujeres harbor

 You’re sitting pretty now, but little do you know, we’re going to come careening at you in a few hours.


The past few days on Serendipity have been quite boring. There’s a front blowing through the area, bringing clouds, rain, and lots of wind. We actually haven’t left the boat since we’ve returned from Cancun, not actually wanting to put ourselves out in that weather even for much needed groceries, and subsiding on a diet of sandwiches and lots of reading. The weather has brought our batteries back down as well, so of course, computer work is once again out. Yup, these have been quite boring days indeed. And if I was lucky, it would have stayed that way.

The winds yesterday were much more fierce than they have been today for the most part, only blowing in the high 20’s with gusts up in the 30’s, instead of yesterdays 30’s with gusts into the 40’s. During our after dinner relaxation time though, they began to kick up again. The wind would howl, rigging would clank, and we’d look up from the books we were reading, our eyes communicating to each other, ‘Wow, that was a big one’. At some point we began to step into the cockpit to glace around and make sure we were still in the same place, that our anchor wasn’t dragging at all. But with darkness, also comes confusion. It became much harder to tell exactly where we were because we were now surrounded by a sea of black with only twinkling lights from town and the occasional anchor light as a guide.

There were a few times that we’d pop our heads out, and I being the much better judge of measurements and distance, would mention to Matt, “I think these other boats look a little closer than they did before”. These other boats, meaning two that were anchored behind us. With the wind coming over the island from the east, we were at the front and center of the channel, with nary a boat in front of us, which is just the way we like it. We have a Rocna. It holds. We don’t have to worry about dragging, our biggest fear is of others dragging into us. So with these ‘slightly closer’ positioned boats, we weren’t sure if we’d actually moved or if our eyes were playing tricks on us in the dark. They tend to do that sometimes. Going back to our books we just said that we’d keep an eye on it, looking out again every so often to make sure these other anchor lights weren’t getting any brighter. Every 30 minutes after that we’d check again, and everything looked normal. I thought to myself ‘Even if we did somehow drag back a little bit, we seem to be still now’.

We were quite content with our situation and position while getting ready for bed around 10:30, when we heard our anchor alarm going off. Normally this doesn’t send us into a panic as it will sometimes go off even if we’re only rotating at anchor, but this time we knew to be suspicious. I stepped up on deck, and Matt was quickly behind, moving me out of the way because, as usual, I wasn’t moving fast enough. We looked behind us and though, ‘Ok, yeah, that boat does look a little closer’. Then we looked to our side and said, ‘Huh, we weren’t even with that boat before’. And then it dawned that we hand in fact dragged. And silly me, I somehow assumed that we’d caught again. We formulated a plan to move forward and re-anchor, and I went about finding a clip to pull my hair back so that it wouldn’t blow in my face, causing temporary blindness, and changed from my long yoga pants into shorts so that I wouldn’t trip on hem while out in the cockpit. Finally getting back out into the cockpit I realized that I should have been in much more of a hurry. The boat behind us was growing closer and closer….we were still dragging! And not very slowly either.

Since we had to deal with the new problem of having issues with our starter, and THANK GOD we figured that out earlier or we’d still be engine-less, just like we were when we went to charge the batteries this afternoon and found out it wouldn’t turn on; Matt jumped into the lazarette and manually started the engine as I was behind the wheel, quickly trying to unlock it. There had been no time for a discussion on exactly what was going to be done or any kind of planning for a course of action. This was a fly by the seat of your pants, get your ass moving before you hit the boat that you’re quickly coming up on, situation. I put the boat in gear, not sure of how much punch I should give it since I knew we still had to get the anchor chain up in the first place and I didn’t want to go roaring past it. So I kept us around 1300 RPMs. Until I looked behind me and saw that we were, I’m not kidding, about 40 feet from hitting the other boat. The wind was so strong that drowned out my cries of “Oh Shit!!” as I punched us up to over 2000 RPMs to get us moving. I kept at this pace until I saw the boat growing dimmer behind me, and finally, Matt waving his arms, trying to get my attention to slow down. So I basically brought us to a stop. Can you see where this is going?

Now my too slow speed was giving us no forward motion against the winds that were trying to hold us back, and the bow was turning to Port even though Matt was sternly pointing toward Starboard and I had the wheel fully cranked that direction. Scared, flustered, and frustrated, it didn’t dawn on me to give us enough gas to at least keep us moving forward until Matt had to run back and tell me. My heart sank a little more as I realized this is the only way we could communicate. There was no way we could hear each other over the HOWLING wind with him at the bow and me at the stern, and with it being so dark out, my beloved hand signals were now obsolete. I kept moving us forward at a slow and steady pace, unsure of where we where, or even where we were heading. The darkness made everything so disorienting and I couldn’t tell exactly how far away we now were from the other boats, or especially the channel.

Matt came back once more to tell me that it all started because our anchor had gotten caught on a BMX bike frame which came up along with it and the chain (wtf?!) and now to just keep an eye out,that we wanted to try and end up at the current position we were at that moment after the anchor was let down again and enough chain was let out, so to just get us a little further out. Which again, in the darkness, I had no idea how to judge when we’d gone another 100 feet or so. I just kept us slowly moving forward, hoping for some kind of signal from the bow, when I looked over to Port and thought, ‘Huh, that kind of looks like a mast’. Then I stuck my head out further around the dodger and realized, ‘Holy s%*t, that IS a mast!”. I guess in my rush to get us forward I had put us into the channel, and now we were coming up on another sailboat that was anchored on the other side. One which, instead of having a light atop their mast, had one glowing from the cockpit, perfectly matching the location of the lights on shore. I know a lot of people have these, so don’t take this personally, but I HATE anchor lights situated on the boom or in the cockpit. It does NOT light up your cockpit making you easier to see, it just makes an optical illusion that you’re much further away than you actually are. (Done ranting now)

Eyeing this new boat that we were now on top of, I quickly turned the wheel to Starboard and we began to follow the path of the channel. Becoming extremely aware of my surroundings now, I eyed the anchorage more closely and realized there were a number of boats that didn’t have any kind of light on. None. I could barely make them out through the blackness. Another pet peeve of mine. Yes, I know that legally it is not mandated that you have a navigational light on your boat at night if you are in a marked anchorage. But seriously people, do you not want to be seen?! I know people aren’t normally moving around anchorages at night, and if they are they should at least have radar on, but there are times (like this!) where emergencies happen, there isn’t time, and that’s not an option. (Whew, sorry about all this, if you can’t tell, I’m both a little stressed out and worked up right now).

Since I happened to instantaneously change direction, Matt came back to see what the heck was going on, where upon he got a full earful from me on all the things listed above. He was just as peeved too. Once we both took a few deep breaths and calmed down a little, we made a plan to keep our new course for just a minute, now putting ourselves in an area where no one was behind us, before slipping the boat into neutral and dropping the anchor once more. We settled into a spot that we’d hoped was just out of the channel, although I’m sure we’ll both be up with the sun tomorrow, ready to reposition. The winds now seem to be dying down, but my heart is still going a million miles a minute. I hope we don’t ever have to do that again. As I just mentioned on our Facebook page, THAT.WAS.SCARY.




Leaving our Provisioning List Full

Thursday January 2, 2014


One of the reasons Matt and I had been looking most forward to getting to Isla Mujeres, was the opportunity for a trip to Cancun.  It only sits four miles from Isla, and word was, they had such luxurious shopping centers as Walmart and Home Depot.  We were so excited about the shopping in this city, and so sure of what it would offer us, that this was supposed to be our big stockpiling location should we have been heading straight to the Bahamas.  Since, you know, you can barely find a variety of food there and it’s ridiculously expensive when you do.  In my head were visions of stocking up on boxed wine with flavors of actual Cabernet or Merlot instead of ‘vino tinto’, and other things like cheddar cheese and Skittles.  Matt was looking forward to getting some must have repair items for the boat like caulk and a drill based pump for our oil.  We were both quite excited for this trip.

Waiting for all the holiday hubbub to die down, we thought today would be the best day to do our wandering around the large and hopefully modern and Americanized city.  Assuming we would need the full day to do our shopping, we hopped on the 9:00 ferry for the 20 minute ride over.  I had research with what little internet I had in the anchorage where these two main stops of our were, and what buses we needed to take to get there.  Being the (normally) logical person that I am, I suggested that we hit up Home Depot first since I planned on fully stocking our two backpacks with every kind of goody from Walmart that I hadn’t set my eyes on for the past four months.  According to the vague information I was able to scribble down from my computer, we were to go to a place called Plaza de Americas, and Home Depot was only one block south from there.

We found the Plaza without issue, and with the compass on Matt’s watch, began wandering in a southern route from there.  We assumed that the bright orange sign would jump out at us, but no matter how many blocks we walked, there was nothing in site.After 30 minutes of finding nothing, and becoming quite sweaty in the process, I finally broke down and asked a gardener maintaining the hedges of one of the office buildings where the Home Depot was.  Surely he would know, it was probably one stop shopping for all his gardening needs.  Then I realized one more problem.  I knew enough to know how to ask for directions, but I wasn’t prepared to receive a decipherable answer.  A slew of words that I had not mastered yet were thrown at me, and when Matt turned to me, expectantly waiting for me to tell him where we should turn, I pointed in the same direction the gardener just pointed me in.  That much I could decipher.

Getting across the street there were once more no orange buildings in sight, and we were at a dead end.  Even though I was planning on following pointed fingers until I got there if that’s what it took, I had a happy surprise when I asked the next gentleman I ran across for directions.  He spoke perfect English.  Then came the bad news.  The Home Depot we were looking for had moved a few years back, it’s old location now being turned into a casino.  One that we had in fact circled twice.  The new location was about 4 miles way.  Continuing with his hospitality, this man flagged down a cap for us, gave the driver specific directions on where to take us, and talked him down to the local rate instead of the one they probably tried to squeeze out of tourist.  We were very thankful to find him.

Running in the door, ready to fill up our basket, everything looked just like the Home Depot that we became so familiar with in St. Augustine, ridding our bikes there almost every other day.  Pulling our our list, we got to work.  First up, 3M 4200.  Hmm, nope, they didn’t have it.  5200?  Didn’t carry that either.  Luckily they had Sikaflex 1A which would do the job Matt needed it for up in the anchor locker.  Ok, next item, a drill pump so we can change our oil.  Nope, nothing.  No kind of backup for that one either.  Master brand combination lock?  Nope.  In the end we left with only two things on our list, the Sikaflex and a small package of latex gloves, the rest having to wait until we make it to Florida and it’s much better stocked stores.  Running next door to an AutoZone, I talked Matt into getting a manual pump for our oil for $10.  I’m pretty sure that stuff has to be changed before we dare crossing the 350 miles to Key West.

Even though Home Depot was a little bit of a letdown, our next stop wasn’t.  How could it be?  We found McDonald’s, and no matter where you fine one in the world, you can always count on a Big Mac at your disposal.  The fries were just as good as I remembered them, but strangely enough, I couldn’t eat all of them.  Or my sandwich.  Or even finish my 16 oz drink.  What would have normally taken me less than 10 minutes to eat in my previous life was now taking me 30 minutes just to get a little more than half.  Finally conceding, I shoved the rest toward Matt, the garbage disposal that can finish any kind of extra food whether he’s hungry or not.

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Hopping on one more bus, we were dropped off in front of Walmart, only to come across the same problem we had at Home Depot.  The sign out front was the same as back home in the States.  The contents inside, were not.  Although it was a much larger store than we’re used to shopping at back in Isla, it pretty much contained the same items. Except with a lot more toys.  I kid you not, we ended up walking out with ten items.  Here are just a few of the things we were expecting to find but could not:  Cat litter (of any kind), upholstery cleaner, Corelle coffee mugs (we’re down two from the beginning of the trip, apparently they’re not completely shatter proof), Miracle Whip, boxed wine, and even pretzels.  Dejected, I grabbed a small bag of Skittles in the check out lane to satisfy at least one craving, and we taxied back to the ferry dock where we arrived about four hours earlier than expected and our backpacks limply hanging at our sides.  Looks like we’ve just added a few more things to our list of things to pick up in Florida.

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boy on beach, Isla Mujeres

Let the Sun Shine

Monday December 30, 2013

Playa del Norte, Isla Mujeres

Unfortunately, ever since we got into Mexico, even though we’ve pretty much been having nothing but gorgeous and sunny days, we could still not get our batteries up to a full charge. Our system is set up with four 6 volt wet batteries, and three solar panels totaling 475 watts to keep those batteries at a full charge. Normally this is not an issue whatsoever. Once we escaped the wrath of Florida’s first coast (which was surprisingly more overcast than I would have expected), we were back in full time sunshine and never had to worry about using power on the boat because there was an over abundance of it. Laptops were always plugged in, we had the t.v. Going from 6pm to 11pm, and my Bodum Electric Water Heater was getting used almost daily. Throw in some microwave use for heating up leftovers, so it’s suffice to say that we used all kinds of power without ever thinking twice about it.

We first noticed an issue with our battery levels dropping back in Guatemala, but we assumed it was because of our position in the marina. Even though we loved being placed right in front of this little thatched roof ranchito, basically an extra living space for us, part of the roof hung out far enough to create shadows on our back solar panel and kept us from getting our full amount of daily sun. We remedied that by using a battery charger that was plugged in to shore (we ditched our actual shore power system back in Michigan). We assumed that once we went back to anchor that everything would be fine and we could once more let the sun do it’s job of keeping us fully charged.

Here’s the funny thing though, as soon as we left the marina to be on the hook again, the sun disappeared. There was 2-3 days of cloud cover for every day of sun. We had to slip into super conservation mode just to keep everything necessary running, and still had to run the engine at times. This whole ‘no sun’ ordeal lasted us a good five weeks. Not fun for someone who’s used to spending their time diddling on their computer and watching a movie every night. Sure we had book and a few games (I was trying to figure out is bingo clash legitimate on my phone at the time), but it didn’t take long for those to get old, sooner because there was no vitamin D around for me to soak up and get into a go with the flow attitude. So once we got to Cozumel and now Isla Mujeres, we thought out battery troubles would be all over because for once we were getting nothing but sun.

Only, they would never fully charge. Normally if it’s a sunny and cloudless day, we’re pulling in anywhere from 16 to 22 amps. Let that happen all day for days on end, keeping our house battery at over 13 volts, and yeah, we’re good. For some reason, we still weren’t quite pulling in those numbers, and even when we started getting close to them, the house battery would be back down to 12.5 volts. So what gives? Why aren’t we pulling in and keeping a charge? We thought that maybe the batteries were dying on us, although that seemed strange and way too quick since we had just purchased them in July ’12. There had to be another reason for what was going on, and today we finally found it. After Matt shimmied himself into the lazarette to check the connections, he found out that our large 205 watt panel was actually not connected. We don’t know how or when, but at some point it came undone, so not only were we dealing with endless cloudy days for awhile, but then we were only taking in half the power we were used to.

Ahhhh, that explains a lot. A few minutes later, all connections were back and running, and our power intake went from 12 amps to 20 in just seconds. We’ll probably still have to wait a few days to see if the batteries do still take a full charge, or if being drained for so long, have now affected their performance. I’d really hate to get back to Florida and have to visit Sam’s Club to try and get them replaced, especially since we have no clue where that receipt went. Here’s to hoping everything’s alright.

In fun news, we finally got ourselves off the boat today to do a little exploring of the island, and visit La Playa del Norte, or, North Beach. Every guide book or person we’ve talked to has recommended this area as one you can’t miss while you’re on the island. Packing up a bag with a beach blanket, some snacks, and a couple of cold beers, we ventured toward this famous beach. We weren’t really sure what to expect, since honestly, we haven’t spent much time at beaches since we’ve begun cruising. Who needs to start at a beach when the water is already at your back door? As we crossed from the main road through an alley that led us into the sand, we were quite surprised of what we found there.

Granted, this is the holiday season and there are probably many people here actually on holiday, but this place was packed. We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of people gorged onto one strip of sand. Where the road dropped us off was nothing but restaurants and lounge chairs in the sand, each one dotted with a large umbrella to keep away the hot Mexican sun. There wasn’t even a place to walk through the masses unless we were skimming the shore. While these seats did look very comfortable, we didn’t know if you had to rent one out for the day or if you were allowed to sit in one just for ordering a beer at the restaurant. Either way, we continued down the waterfront until the chairs ran out and there was only open sand left. I used that term loosely since all it really meant is that the chairs were replaced with people laying on blankets, or directly on the sand.

Weaving through the masses we finally found a small open spot in the shade of a palm tree. While I had been so tired due to a little bout of insomnia that I probably could have napped the afternoon away on the beach, the people watching was much more interesting. All the women frequenting this beach are very comfortable with their bodies, and their suits either ranged from bikinis, to thong bikinis, to topless. Regardless of age or size, they were confident with their looks and had no insecurities forcing them to cover up what society didn’t deem as perfect. It was actually pretty refreshing to see since so many Americans are usually shamed into hiding anything that wouldn’t make the cover of a magazine. For more people watching, the little kids also brought lots of entertainment. Ranging from toddlers to tweens, they were all enjoying their time out in the sun and sand without a care in the world.

We only stayed a total of about two hours since our shade started to disappeared as the sun moved further west in the sky. I did have time to get down a cold Bravah while people watching, one of my last beers from Guatemala, and we both took a dip in the refreshing and hypnotizing aqua waters. We also couldn’t stay too long since we had dinner plans with Luki and Elmari at 6:00. We all met up at Marina Paraiso for a quick beer before dinner. While there we found 3 other people that had been in the Rio Dulce at the same time as all of us, one of them that was in our marina, and one of them was one of the guys that watched Georgie while we were in South America. I know this is a typical route north for cruisers in that area, but it still felt like such a small world to see them again. After hellos and some chatting, the four of us were off to find good food. Based on a recommendation from the bartender at the marina, we hit up a little placed called Bobo’s, famous for it’s wings and burgers. The wings were only $6 a pound, and washing them down with an Amber Dos XX was just heaven. Turns out I didn’t have to wait to reach the states before getting my decently priced buffalo wings after all. Take that, Hooters of Cozumel.  

Playa Norte sign

crowds of chairs, Playa Norte

beach, Isla Mujeres

boy on beach, Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres shark sculpture

swim with dolphins Isla Mujeres

A Snorkeler’s Christmas Eve

Tuesday December 24, 2013

dinghying outside of Isla

I would like to say that we had gotten around to seeing all that Isla had to offer yesterday, but unfortunately we were still much too exhausted after our ride over from Cozumel to do much.  After a small visit with Luki and Elmari when we anchored, I tried to catch an hour of sleep before waking up once more so we could find out where the Port Captain’s office was.  Luki and Elmari were headed there anyway, they’re still trying to check in after having arrived on Saturday morning (and it turns out they were Almost Skebenga that we passed after exiting the San Pedro cut).  We were told from the office in Cozumel that we needed to check in here with the Port Captain upon our arrival, and Mexican Customs and Immigration was not something we wanted to mess with.  This makes me extremely thankful that we stopped in at Cozumel to check in though, it sounds like Skebenga is having a hell of a time at it.

So yesterday we got back to the boat after about two hours in town, with 2-3 hours of sleep under our belt from the past 30 hours, and enjoyed the sun that’s shinning up here, hoping it will finally start to raise our battery bank over 13 volts, since we haven’t been there since mid November.  I’m just happy that now we’re finally in a place again with sun-kissed weather, and we have good friends at our disposal.  It did not take us very long to take advantage of that part.

This morning we moved both boats over to the lagoon I mentioned earlier.  There’s supposed to be some high winds coming in tonight and we’ve heard that things can get a little rough in the main anchorage of the harbor.  I was just happy to be in a place where we had wifi at our fingertips.  I know, I know, I should focus on other things besides having a constant connection to the world wide web, but it’s hard to let go of after having it everyday at the marina for five months.  And then going three weeks without it (for the most part) until getting here.  I have an addiction, I can fully admit it.

Then it was time for snorkeling!!  Matt and I loaded ourselves up in our dinghy along with our gear and a cooler with a few bottles of water and a couple of beers.  Luki and Elmari did the same in their own dingy, adding two crew members I haven’t mentioned yet, Luki’s brother Jan and nephew Stephan (Stefan?).  Together the six of us tore out of a little cut that leads into the open waters between Isla and Cancun, resting at a little beach to relax and have a lunch of one of the best submarine sandwiches I’ve ever had, courtesy of Luki, prepared with prosciutto and fresh toppings.  And even though I brought my own beer, I had cold Dos Equis passed to me from their cooler.  I still can’t get over how nice and generous these two people are, how lucky we were to find them back in Jamaica, and even luckier that they still like hanging out with us after all these months.

While the four of us original cruisers hung out at the beach for a little longer after lunch, Jan and Stephan/Stefan took out t/t Skebenga to try and find some good snorkeling spots along the coast.  With their 15 hp outboard, they were definitely the better scouts than us.  They came back after 30 minutes saying they couldn’t find much along the coast without going to the very south tip, so we decided it would be better for us to check out the spot next to the little cut we had used to come from the harbor.  Just to the north side was a whole area sectioned off for divers, so we brought the dinghies to just outside of that area to swim over.

I had the job of tying the anchor to the dinghy while Matt outfitted himself in snorkel gear, and a few minutes later I was right behind him.  It was when I crossed under the barrier rope to the designated snorkeling area that I realized the two of us seem to be plagued by a bad snorkeling course.  He were are in some of the world’s finest reef and snorkeling areas, but we can not seem to stumble upon the good stuff.  Belize, Mexico..we’re just left with murky water and eel grass.  I’m sure we could pay to have a tour boat take us out to the really good stuff, and we might have to, because we’re not finding it on our own.  In the hour we spent in the water I think I saw maybe five fish.

We would have loved to hunt more down, but there seemed to be another crisis at hand.  Even though I swore I finally got my bowlines down, and I even waited two minutes before jumping into the water to make sure my knot was secure, t/t ‘Dip came undone from her anchor and began floating away.  Thankfully the good folks on t/t Skebenga noticed this and chased her down for us, towing her back to the spot we were snorkeling.  Now all that was left was finding the anchor, still sitting somewhere on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea.  The hunt was on between Matt and I to find the anchor, and the rest of Skebenga was keeping t/t ‘Dip secure while simultaneously getting yelled at by the Guarda for having divers in the water in an unmarked swimming area, and also not having life vests on.  We think  It was all in Spanish.

Just as we were about to give up, Matt spotted something shiny on the sea bed (that should tell you about the water clarity in this area, we knew exactly where we dropped anchor), and was able to retrieve our anchor before bringing it back aboard.  Even though we didn’t find the amazing snorkeling we had set out for, we did still manage to find an amazing day with our friends.  I’m telling you, it can make all the difference in your happiness when you have friends with you to share your day with.  So it’s a good thing they’re not looking to get rid of us so easily, and have invited us to spend Christmas with them, enjoying lunch and lounging at one of the marinas for lunch before enjoying dinner aboard Skebenga.

Lagoon at Isla Mujeres

Leaving the boats behind in the lagoon.  Not as pretty as the harbor, but much more secure.

t/t Skebenga

The crew of Skebenga, showing off with their fifteen horses.

dinghy cut in Isla Mujeres

The little cut next to our snorkeling spot, and probably where our dinghy was floating after it came undone.

swim with dolphins Isla Mujeres

 Christmas Eve was a busy day to swim with the dolphins.

rain showers off Isla Mujeres

 Rain showers in the distance, but they didn’t come our way.

family on beach in Isla Mujeres

 There’s lot of private power yachts in this area, Mexico’s elite, living it up for the holidays.

spinnaker jumps

 Hoards of tourists piled on to catamarans for tours, some of them performing spinnaker jumps out in the water.

private beach in Isla Mujeres

 One of the power yacht families, setting up a posh spot on the beach to relax.


water jet pack, Isla Mujeres

 Water jet packs for those tourists that are feeling brave.



Cozumel port

Disney’s Gonna Run me Down

Monday December 23, 2012

Cozumel port

Our plan for sleep before departure failed miserably.  I don’t even know why we tried.  I should have just said eff it and stuck with the Pepsi Jolt I bought at the grocery store since at least that way I would have had a few more hours to play around on my computer while we had internet, and a sugary treat to boot.  Since we both happened to be up when the alarm would have gone off at 11:00, we decided not to postpone until midnight before leaving, originally giving us time to fully wake up and become alert, which we unfortunately still were at this point.  I was a little worried that if we left too early we might get to Isla before the sun rose, but as far as we knew, we’d have to be traveling at average speeds of almost eight knots to make that happen.  Not very likely.

Since we were still in the lee of the island for a few miles before rounding the north tip of Cozumel, we started with a double reefed main and decided to wait to see what conditions were really like before unfurling the headsail.  As we motored out to the depths separating the island from the mainland and dodging any late night ferries, there was an obvious and sudden change in the air temperature.  Rain was definitely on it’s way.  We brought the radar up to see what was in store for us, only to see massive pink blobs headed our way.  They were coming at us fast, but it also meant that they’d be passing by fast as well.  This time I heeded Matt’s advice and took shelter under the dodger through the storms so I didn’t soak, but probably only because I was going to bed shortly and didn’t want to sleep in wet underwear.  If it was daylight out though, I’m sure I would have kept my spot behind the wheel, eyes glued to the chart plotter, which rotates, getting soaked and telling myself “This is my place”.  What’s wrong with me?

Once we had finally ditched our shelter of the island, the winds picked up from 10 to 25, although we had been expecting this.  Turning off the engine we still cruised along at a swift 6.5 knots, and when I realized Matt was fine on his own up there, I retreated to get a few hours of sleep, my eyelids finally drooping.  While going below to strip out of my harness, sweats, and foul weather coat, a realization occurred to me.  I didn’t feel sick at all.  Normally this routine has to be done with the utmost precision to make it as quick as possible and keep me from running to the sink to get sick.  I usually throw myself on the bunk just before sickness hits, eventually sleeping it off until it’s time to wake for my next shift.  This time, we rocked back and forth and I slowly stripped off my gear, used the head, and calmly walked toward my inviting bed.  During my sleep I could hear Matt unfurl the headsail, which was nice because it felt like we had slowed down to about 3-4 knots.  I was confused when I heard it rolled back in a short while later, but since I know what he’s doing up there I never question anything unless I hear a loud bang.

Since Matt had gotten no sleep in the night and I didn’t go down until 1 am, he was only able to keep his eyes open until 3 before coming to wake me for a shift.  I asked him about the headsail and why he rolled it in, it felt like we were moving so slow.  Then he pointed to the chart plotter, which only under a double reefed main, showed us currently going 7 knots.  He said that with the headsail out we were doing over 9, and while it was quite comfortable, we would have arrived in Isla way too early.  Everything was looking great on the course we were on, all I had to do was fall off the wind a little once we got to a certain point and then bring in the main sheet to compensate.  He went down below, and I sunk into my sport-a-seat, my normal immobile position after just having gotten queasy again from now putting on my gear.  Except, I felt fine.  Maybe a little tired, sure, but not sick.  I didn’t get it, I hadn’t used any patch, taken a pill, used a pressure band, or put in an ear plug.  I didn’t know why I was feeling so fine, but decided to just enjoy the ride.

Throughout my shift I snacked on Cheetos that we picked up in Cozumel, sipped on Pepsi, and just generally enjoyed being on passage without feeling the least bit sick for once.  When the turn came I subtracted the ten degrees and took a spin on the winch to get the main in.  There was only one issue during my shift, where one of the Disney cruise ship seemed to make it their business to want to run me down.  I didn’t get it, we were basically hugging the shore, yet the AIS was saying they were going to come within less than a mile of me. Of the five cruise ships headed down to Cozumel, they were the only ones that didn’t have a distance of at least five miles from us.  I’d subtract a few more degrees, gain some distance, and then lose it because they changed course as well.  I should have just called them up on VHF to see who on board had gone off their meds, but I finally got us more than a mile apart and took the red light of my headlamp to illuminate our sail in the dark.  It seemed to do the trick of finally keeping them away, but the light shinning through our deadlights woke Matt up a little bit earlier than I was going to let him sleep.

Since he was regrettably awake now I tried to sneak down the stairs to sleep again, but was quickly called back up.  We were getting close enough to Isla now that he wanted a second constant pair of eyes deciphering the million white buoys that lay out before us.  We couldn’t match them all up with what was showing on our chart plotter, and only two whites were showing on our paper charts.  Eventually we got ourselves sorted out, and with the sun starting to now rise, we could make out the island with it’s jagged cliffs to the south end, and the visual markers on our paper charts.  As we crossed the space of water between Isla Mujeres and Cancun, Matt fell back into a slumber out in the cockpit while I made sure to keep all red buoys on our starboard side.  Startling him awake as I turned on the engine to enter the harbor, we passed by the beaches and the few people on them who were either very early risers, or very late partiers.

Back when we were still in Guatemala and our friends on Skebenga had already made it up to Isla to pick up family members before bringing them down to Belize, we’d received an email from Elmari, detailing a good anchorage in the lagoon here, as well as the passwords to a marina’s wifi network in there.  The two of us were ready to head directly into the lagoon this morning, instead of sitting with the fifteen or so other boats in the main harbor.  Just as we were debating which spot between the two we should settle in, we saw a familiar dingy racing our way.  It was Luki and Elmari!  They were just on their way back to Skebenga after an early morning run and gave us a quick low down on the place.  They were currently in the harbor, and told us we should anchor just behind them.  While they shuttled off to their boat we quickly put our anchor down where they told us, and put Serendipity back in her regular at-anchor state.

Even though we were each running on two hours of sleep at this point, we couldn’t let the opportunity go by to do some proper catching up with our friends.  Getting the dinghy in the water, we ferried over the short distance to see what they had been up to the past few weeks since leaving us behind at Tortugal.  Climbing on board in a sleepless stupor, we gave big hugs and rehashed our last few weeks, glad to finally be among friends again.

dinghy landing in Cozumel

bay in Cozumel

anchorage in Cozumel

*All photos above are of Cozumel

sunset in Mexico

Racing Almost Skebenga

Friday December 20, 2013

beans, Cay Caulker, Belize

This photo has nothing to do with anything, I’m just running out of photos.


Yesterday finally gave us the opportunity to leave Cay Caulker and make our move to Mexico. Conditions out the window still looked slightly rough, but I was tired of sitting in one spot. It had finally gotten to the point that I would have taken an uncomfortable passage (read: not dangerous, just uncomfortable), over sitting still any longer. Plus we had finally gotten an email communication from Skebenga that they were leaving that day as well to head up to Cozumel. There was a little bit of security in knowing that we’d have a buddy boat out there with us. Now our only task was getting Serendipity out of the San Pedro cut at Ambergris Cay, a tricky little thing that we’d heard cautionary tales of from people who’d entered it coming down from Mexico. It has low lying reefs on both sides, a fun little turn in the middle, and apparently is a bitch to try and navigate in anything but calm seas.

Coming up on San Pedro I scanned the anchorage with my binoculars, searching for any sign of Skebenga. I didn’t see their steel hulled boat sitting with all the others, but I did see a few other boats traveling out on the water. One looked like it was headed toward the cut we were about to enter, so once more, I whipped out the binoculars in that direction. From what I could see, this boat had a white hull, dark blue sail covers, and double headsails, just like Skebenga. Handing over the binoculars to Matt, he took a look as well, but didn’t think it was them. We let the debate continue for the next 30 minutes as we watched this other boat, Almost Skebenga, we finally decided on, as they traversed the cut. All morning we had been debating if we should try it ourselves or not, how the weather would affect it, possibly make it harder. Once it was clear that Almost Skebenga was going for it, we watched with desperate intent.

Passing through the boundary of relatively calm water behind the reef, we stared on as they bobbed up and down like a teeter totter through the rough waves coming in, me becoming more panicked each minute. Should we save this for another day? Possibly when the waters were dead calm? But who knew when that day would be. Even though it was a bumpy ride, Almost Skebenga had made it out. If they could do it, so could we. Gathering our wits and triple checking the waypoints we plugged in to the chart plotter, we were ready to attempt this hair raising cut. It was decided that I should be put at the bow to try and guide us through any coral that we might accidentally get acquainted with, so strapping on a harness I clipped on the lifelines and made my way up front.

Before I had gotten up there, when we were back in the cockpit deciding on which person should take what role, I asked Matt, “So, say we should crash…who’s fault would it be? The helmsman or the bowman?” I was trying to save my skin of any burden placed on my shoulders. I did not get the answer I was hoping for. “If any accident happens, it’s the captain’s fault”. “I know maritime law, but I’m saying, in this boat, who would be to blame, you or me?” “The captain.” “So you’re trying to tell me that no matter what, if we crash this boat today, whether I’m at the helm or the bow, it’s going to be all my fault?” “Yup”. And with those words of encouragement I moved myself up front, satisfied by the fact that at least I wouldn’t have the guilt of miscalculating any turns should our hull puncture something hard that day.

It turns out my position at the bow was hardly doing anything for us, the water was choppy enough that I couldn’t clearly see through it, plus anything more than five feet out from the boat was basically just one large mirror, reflecting the clouds on it’s surface. I hoped the waypoints we picked up online were trustworthy. Matt seemed to be doing a good job navigating with them though, and soon we were in line with a large yellow buoy that marks the turn out of the cut. By this point we were also starting to turn into a teeter totter, our protection from the reef gone, and 5-6 foot waves rolling in at us. Normally I’d think this kind of thing would scare the crap out of me, but being right up where the action was turned out to be like a thrilling amusement park ride. Remember these waves from Stocking Island? Picture me standing at the bow going through them. We would shoot up into the air, and then the floor would come out from under us and we’d come crashing back down, a spray of warm sea water crashing over the deck.

As I held on to the head sail with both hands, I had to contain myself from whooping with joy at the sheer exhilaration of it, for fear of scaring Matt into thinking something was wrong. It was a short lived adventure though as, even without screams of delight, he thought I was a risk to myself being up there in those conditions. “JESSICA!!”, I heard a scream from the cockpit, “Get back here now!!!”. Prying myself away and crouching down to lower my center of gravity, I made my way back to the cockpit, my ride getting cut short before it was even finished.

Cay Caulker, Belize

restaurant, Cay Caulker, Belize

 We’d made it safely through the cut, and before we knew it, depths were dropping back into the hundreds of feet before our sounder couldn’t even read them anymore. Sails were raised and the engine was cut, ready to start our 200 miles to Isla Mujeres. If we averaged 4-5 knots, we’d be there just about 48 hours. Our start wasn’t great though, the winds coming directly out of the NE direction we needed to head. Tacking to the SE just to get some distance from shore, we kept an eye on Almost Skebenga, whom was headed the same direction, just a few miles ahead of us. Just like racing nameless boat on Lago Izabal, we followed all the same tacks until we realized one really long tack to the SE was needed to put us on a decent course to keeping us from having to do any tacks in the dark if we could help it. Almost Skebenga shot north and out of our sight as we made our way further out to sea.

I wouldn’t call conditions rough, but they were definitely uncomfortable enough that for the first time, both of us were feeling sick. I had put on a scopalmine patch before leaving, and was even attempting the ‘ear plug in one ear’ trick that was supposed to stave off seasickness, but the only thing it did was make me deaf to the sounds Matt was constantly trying to point out. We had a late lunch of cheesy onion bread and a dinner of Pop Tarts. It was enough effort just for one of us to make it down the companionway to grab something edible from the cupboards, and I was thankful I took 20 minutes that morning to stockpile snacks and canned foods in an easy access area. As the sun was setting we caught sight of Almost Skebenga again in the distance, and it looked like they were going to have to make another tack, while us now on a comfortable course, would totally catch them and kick their ass if they had to take time and run away from the shore.

Even though we were working with a double reefed main plus the headsail, and winds were steady around 20-25 knots, we must have had a pretty hefty current on our side since we were keeping a steady pace of 6.5-7 knots. When darkness grew, Matt decided to catch up on sleep with a short nap, and I kept watch, where an unexpected moon rise made me think that we were about to have a run in with a tanker, a sudden orange light on our port side that hadn’t been there moments before. I also watched us catch up to and pass Almost Skebenga as, just as predicted, they had to tack further away from shore.  When it was my turn to go down I had a surprisingly calm slumber, falling asleep almost immediately and staying that way.  This usually doesn’t happen until my second sleep shift where I pass out from sheer exhaustion.  Matt had somehow found a way to keep the boat from rocking violently back and forth as she normally does, and I was able to nestle into the crook of the boat.  Until I felt water dribbling down my back, but I was too tired to care at that point.

Today was met with the same kind of attitude from both of us as yesterday.  Neither of us was feeling great, and we wanted this passage to be over as quick as possible.  We tried to distract ourselves with talk about how a previous cruising couple just traded in their boat for a RV, and how that seemed to be the right way to go.  The two of us are constantly talking about the countries we’d like to visit and all the things we’d like to see inland, but how limiting it is trying to get there.  Putting the boat in a marina, finding transportation, getting lodging.  Yes, a RV is not a bad idea at all.  But we made a commitment to Serendipity, so we will stick with her.  Plus, you have to sometimes disregard the things you say about your contempt for your boat while on passage.  You’re not thinking clearly.

As the afternoon wore on and we were very sick of traveling and could think of nothing better than a anchorage to stop in, get a good night’s sleep, and regroup ourselves, we talked about our previous plans to go to Cozumel.  Yes, this would mean getting there in the dark, sometime between 7 and 9, but just like Great Inagua and Grand Cayman, there are no channels leading into a harbor.  Just a certain spot on the west side of the island used as a designated anchorage.  All we had to do was sail or motor up and drop anchor.  We also rationalized that 1.  As a cruise ship port, it would probably be much easier to check into the country there since usually they keep all the officials in one place.  As was the case in Nassau and Grand Cayman.  2.  Did we really only want to have one stop in Mexico?  Why not see at least two places, even if one of them might be extremely touristy.

Changing our course to come up on the west side of Cozumel instead of passing by it’s eastern side, moods instantly lifted.  Sure, if we just sucked it up we’d have been in Isla first thing in the morning, but again, this never sounds as intriguing when you’re on passage.  Sailing into the lee of the island just after 7, we lost all wind and our speed diminished to barely 5 knots.  Normally something we’d be quite happy to take, but after keeping a steady 7-8 knots all day (yup, that current just kept getting stronger), it felt like we were crawling along.  It was just past 9 when we made it into the anchorage, the bright lights from shore blinding our virgin eyes.  There were a few tense minutes while coming in where Matt was picking up three images on radar, but we couldn’t see them in the water.  It turns out they were boats at anchor, it’s just that none of them decided to have any kind of anchor light on.  Even though we were only a few hundred feet from a brightly lit shore, we couldn’t make them out until we were right upon them.  I know it’s not illegal to keep themselves from being lit in a marked anchorage, but this is seriously one of my biggest pet peeves.  It just seems like you’d want to make sure that you can be seen by any traveling vessels out there.

I was too tired to be any more upset than a scoff at them though, and we hurriedly put the boat back together so we could rest.  I forced myself awake long enough to make sandwiches for dinner before passing out in a wet bet with wet sheets.  Apparently we have a few leaks that this last passage has now brought to our attention, and everything on the port side of the boat is soaked.  Including our bed and every bit of clean laundry.  That doesn’t happen on RVs, right?  Can anyone tell me where I can sign up for one of those?

sunset in Mexico