Sunday, February 26, 2017

Tulum and the Reserva de la Bioshere Sian Ka'an

We rented a car for a few days and revisited beautiful Tulum just south of us. Inhabited during the Post Classic Period AD 1200 - 1521, it was a major port town. Although the structures are modest in size compared to the big Mayan sites we've been to like Tikal, Chichen Itza and Copan, the setting is spectacular. The rest of the day we drove south along the coast towards Punta Allen, through the busy but very low key resort areas of the Mayan Riveria and then into the Reserva de la Biosfere Sian Ka'an (Where the sky begins).  In 1987 the U.N. classified it as a World Heritage Site. This whole penninsula contains 5000 sq km of jungle, marsh, mangroves and islands.
The road was pretty awful and we went very slow. Most of the land on the beach side is privately owned and fenced. We're not sure how that all works in a Reserva but eventually we found an entrance to the beach just after crossing the bridge at Poca Paila. It was worth the wait - an endless stretch of white sand and clear water. I can see why many young people come out here to camp. We picked up two of them on the way back and they were grateful to avoid many miles walking the hot road. They enjoyed Punta Allen and camping on the beach but were finally driven out by the sand fleas - too bad. Even Paradise has it's problems.
We are flying to Cuba on Tuesday 2/28 for a 9 day stay in Havana. After returning to Mexico we'll move up to Isla Mujeres and wait for a weather window for an overnight to Cuba's south west corner at Port San Antonio where we will check into the country. Then Scott Free will cruise the south coast of the island. So Cuba by land and by sea!
Scott silhouetted in one of the four entrances
to Tulum through the defensive wall.

These building do remind me of Greece.

The original cove which served as the trade port for nearby

Many iguanas roamed the ruins

Occasional greenery and flowers are a welcome respite
from the sun.

Hundreds of tourists were visiting the site with us.

The buildings have names based on their resemblance to
other places but they have stuck. This is called El Castillo
or The Castle.

There is access to the beach from the site and many people
go down and enjoy the water.

From Tulum we drove down the shore road towards Punta

The beach was long, white and perfect. And there were
almost no people.

It was heaven!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Safe Passage to Mexico

We bicycled into the charming town of Puerto Morales for some lunch on the beach.
We are tucked into El Cid Marina in Puerto Morales, Mexico. We left southern Belize on Tuesday 2/14 and enjoyed some lovely anchorages on our way north along the inner side of their long outer reef. Dave & Ellen on Cordelia and Jeff & Beverly on Tern accompanied us. Unfortunately Cordelia's transmission stopped working just as they entered our last anchorage before heading out to Mexico. They managed to sail back to Placencia over the next two days but we were all very sad to see them go. 
Tern and ourselves motored out of the reef entrance at 8 am the next morning 2/16 and did an overnight offshore up to Mexico. It was a clear starry night with a half moon. The seas were lumpy but we had good wind and mostly motor sailed. Scott and I alternate during the night keeping watch, usually 3 to 4 hour shifts. Tern fell behind us quickly as their cruising speed is slower - they planned a two night trip to Isla Mujeres.
Our plan was to make it all the way to Isla Mujeres in one night but as we approached Cozmel it was clear we wouldn't make it there before dark. In the past we've anchored off Cozmel but decided to press on for another hour or so and go to the El Cid Marina on the mainland. We came in there at 3 pm and checked into Mexico the next morning, using an agent provided by the Marina Although they charged $200, it seemed worthwhile to us. It was a long but easy procedure here in the Marina on our boat. First the agents came and explained everything to us and got our papers ready. Next two people from Immigration arrived. They took the longest with several needed forms to fill out. Meanwhile 6 men in fatigues and machine guns (one man was dressed for snorkeling and we're not sure whether he swam around the boat or not - we were busy and didn't notice) and a German Shepard came from Customs. Only 2 men and the dog came on board and went below to investigate. They only took about 5 minutes. The dog was amazing going up and down the steep ladder entrance! They were looking for drugs - only aspirin aboard our boat!
Then the woman from Agriculture came on board - a very big woman. She asked me to accompany her below and looked into cabinets and my frig. She confiscated the fresh veggies and fruits that were visible - but didn't find the ones I had tucked behind other items. One large plastic bag full was lost. Last was Health. They didn't even come on the boat. Just asked questions and had us fill out a form. The cost for the check in from Mexican authorities was $53. So $253 with the agent charge. It took about 1.5 hours. 
That night we went out to dinner with our good German friends Thomas and Uli to nearby Puerto Morales (they are the couple we visited on our trip to Germany two summers ago). They rented a car for a week and had just returned from a trip around the Yucatan. We may rent a car for a few days as well - only $25 per day. Great restaurants in Puerto Morales and lots of live music. It's possible to buy tickets for the buffets here at the very fancy resort, breakfast was amazing for only $6 per person! We can use their pools, exercise club etc. Yesterday we used the Marina bicycles to ride into town for lunch on the beach. 
Cordelia and ourselves had planned to fly to Havana and Trinidad and do our land travel followed by a cruise with our boats on the south coast. Now we're waiting to hear if they can fix their transmission and rejoin us up here. We're keeping our fingers crossed!
A close up

But before that we had to make our way up from Belize.
Here's a shot of Cordelia, our hoped for buddy boat, at
anchorage in Bannister Bogue.

Sunrise after an overnight passage - a wonderful sight!

And so is Marina El Cid at sunset as we look forward to a
peaceful night's sleep

Scott Free tied up at El Cid.

Uli, Heather, Thomas and Scott out for a celebratory dinner!
We enjoyed meeting a couple from Phoenix at the
restaurant for lunch.

Fishing boats tied up off the beach in Puerto Morales (behind
the protective reef).

The central plaza is quiet during the morning but bustling
in the evening.

The charming little church shares a small plaza with a coffee

We attended the last night of Carnaval. It was quite different
from others we've been too, but of course, this is a very
small town. There were rides of all kinds and lots of fried
food. Instead of a parade, that night was a stage show with
local dance troupes of all ages.
We went with Uli & Thomas and Claudio & Claudia from
Flying Fish, also from Germany. 

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Back in Placencia, Belize

Motoring down the Rio Dulce

Scott relaxing while I drive

A view of the mountains from the Golfete where we anchored
to check out Czech N Mate's autopilot.

In Placencia at a special dinner with Sharon and Kevin on
Magique. We had the rijstaffel at Francis Ford Coppola's
Turtle Inn. Great evening!
The trip out of the Rio was not fun. It started out very hopeful as we motored down the river with our friends Jerry and Debra on Czech N Mate. But mid way through the trip Jerry called us to say his auto pilot wasn't working. We both anchored and Scott went over to help. It wasn't an easy fix, so Jerry opted to return to Tortugal. Scott and I carried on alone and anchored off of Livingston at the mouth of the river to check out of Guatemala. Due to our 6.5 foot draft we need one of the twice a month high tides to exit the Rio. Unfortunately this tide was only 1.5 feet (which is added to the general 5 ft. depth) and at 7 pm. We needed a motor boat to stand by and help us if we get stuck.
Despite emails and reminders Hector never showed up and we were fast aground not long before the ocean buoy - in the dark and with waves turning us sideways. I wasn't happy as you can imagine. Finally another boat came out and helped us. Once they were there it didn't take long to free us. They pulled us over on our side with one of our halyards from the top of the mast and we motored forward. Then we had a 3 hour trip in the pitch black night over to the anchorage at Tres Puntas. Normally I wouldn't have worried about that, but especially in the beginning, there were a number of fishing boats around, mostly without lights.
Once at Tres Puntas it was great. An easy anchorage with 2 other sail boats there. So we had a good night. Our only problem was Scott's losing the anchor snubber overboard. But he managed to find it snorkeling the next morning.
It was an easy 6 hour motor up to Placencia and no problem checking in. We've been here for 10 days now socializing with cruiser buddies and local friends. The Super Bowl is today and a group of boaters are meeting to watch the game. Go Patriots!!!
Tomorrow we'll head out for some time on the outer reef snorkeling and diving. Next weekend we'll return to Placencia for their annual Sidewalk Art Festival and Rosie's Birthday Bash at Yoli's. The following day we'll be consulting with our weather forecaster Chris Parker on the first weather window to sail north to Mexico and happily we'll be buddy boating with Dave and Ellen on Cordelia.