Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mexico with Peter and Julie

The view of the docks from the tower at Isla Contoy

And north over the end of the island
We still had a wonderful week in Isla Mujeres with Peter and Julie. We packed a lot of activities in that time but left plenty for lazing around too.
Our first day trip was to the nature reserve at Isla Contoy. Scott and I did this with other cruiser friends last year and enjoyed it again this time. It costs $65 per person and we signed up at the booth just north of the ferry terminal with the Isla Contoy sign.  We snorkeled on the way there (in a fast motor boat on a tour, not in Scott Free) then walked around the island watching the birds and the people. I spent some time observing the expert fish cleaning and prep for the huge BBQ fish/chicken lunch they serve. To check out pictures of this - look up my blog entry on Isla  Contoy last year.
We enjoyed the great lunch and the unlimited beer provided. On the way back the crew entertained us some with dancing demos on the top deck. It was a fun day and the weather cooperated. We had originally canceled and then rescheduled due to concern over the cold front arriving from the north any time. It held off till the next morning and then came with a vengeance.
Next day we spent in the cockpit watching the boats in the harbor drag and reanchor with lots of dinghies zipping around to help. Peter and Scott worried about our lines too. At the beginning of the storm the wind and waves came from the NNW straight down the harbor and our boat bucked and gyrated something fierce with the waves. They rearranged them with the use of the engine and all held fine. The wind was steady 20+ knots and there were gusts registered up to 40. It was a huge relief when the wind turned to the east and the harbor calmed down. We had a good night sleep.
Fisherman cleaning fish and lobsters at the Social Justice Coop

A cozy dinner in our salon with Peter and Julie
While nature provides the scenery
North Beach on Isla Mujeres
Looking north over the wooden bridge to the largest hotel
Another day we went into Cancun to check out the Las Americas Mall. We took the ferry over and first had lunch at our favorite beach bar Paraiso just north of the ferry dock. They serve a wonderful fish soup first with tortilla chips and salsa, followed by fish in any way you want - and we had it in four different ways; filets with garlic, grilled, with coconut and fried, and last a fried whole fish. All these came with rice and salad. We weren't hungry for a long time afterward. All this was $7 or $8 each.
The Mall was identical to any nice one in the U.S. but with all the signs in Spanish. Otherwise you couldn't tell the difference. Most of the restaurants were U.S. chains too. We had thought to see a movie in the huge multiplex, Bruce Willis's new one and Django Unchained were playing, but later we all ended up tired and headed back to Isla instead. Scott and I did note some stores we'll revisit later for needed items.
A third day we rented a golf cart and toured the island. We puttered around every road looking at the real estate and the views. We stopped in a local beach bar late morning for a beer and then spent some time at Captain Dulce's beach restaurant and museum. This is a lovely place on a nice beach with some very interesting nautical pieces and sculpture scattered all over the grounds. We had a fantastic margarita and vowed to return some time and stay longer. We'd intended to have lunch down at the southern tip but when we checked it out, it was crowded and rather plastic looking. So instead we returned north to eat at The Joint, a place with no pretensions and unfortunately only one waiter. It was a long wait for food, but gratefully not for beer. Later in the afternoon we had time to do some heavy type provisioning at the Chedraui supermarket before we had to return our cart.
Of course we ate several lunches and dinners out, including one memorable and excellent dinner at Olivia's. Their middle east/north african food was a nice change from the usual food on the island. And we swam and walked all over as well as enjoyed sitting and talking on the boat. It was a wonderful two weeks with Peter and Julie and it was sad to say good-bye.
Hidalgo Ave. - pedestrian only,  shopping and restaurants
Captain Dulce's beach bar, restaurant and museum
Over ten of these life sized sculptures were scattered
Peter shows how large this navigation light really is
But we had excellent margarita's at Captain Dulce
Wind scoop sculpture at Captain Dulce
The Joint - nice place to have lunch
And of course, some beers

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Guatemala to Mexico

We had a great Pot Luck at Tortugal before we left, that's
Tick and Bill on Scott's right.

Deborah and Jerry, our friends from Tulsa,
Oklahoma on Czech Mate

The food was really great and there was lots of wine. I'm
wearing the native blouse and skirt I bought at Lake Atilan.

That's owner Daphne on the left.

What a spread!  That's Andre, Kay and
Walt, Dave and Ellen left to right
Well sorry to be so long catching up with you all! We are now in Isla Mujeres, Mexico at Marina Paraiso and as usual, enjoying life. When last I wrote we were finishing up a trip to Lake Atilan in Guatemala. From there we bused down to Guatemala City, spent the night in a very gloomy hotel, Hotel Spring, before taking the 5.5 hour bus to the Rio Dulce. Scott Free was still "on the hard" at RAM Marina but we booked rooms at Tortugal Marina and Hotel. Life "on the hard" is too hard for us now. Hot, no running water or working toilet - no thanks. It took 4 days to finish up necessary work reinforcing the bow thruster with additional fiberglass and we were in the water and at our slip at Tortugal. This is a great spot with lots of cruiser friends and a very lovely owner, Daphne, that we were delighted to get to know. The food was excellent both at the Marina, at local restaurants and on "Will O' the Wisp". Honoree and Walt are working on their boat there making a beautiful boat even more beautiful. It was wonderful to spend time with them. Happily we'll see them again in Belize in April.
Scott, Walt, Honoree, Julie and Peter aboard Scott Free
Honoree's a great cook and served us up some wonderful
meals aboard "Will O' the Wisp"

Our Australian friends Peter and Julie Gowan (actually Kiwis but now living in Australia), that we spent time with in the Bahamas two seasons ago, flew to Guatemala to spend 2 weeks with us sailing up to Mexico. They spent one night in Antigua before catching the bus down to us. We gave them only one night to recover before taking off the next morning! It was a great night with appetizers and drinks over with Walt and Honoree and then dinner at Kangaroo Restaurant across the river. The ride as the sun sets up the creek to the restaurant is really romantic as was the night trip back. We couldn't wait longer as we need to exit the River mouth during the two times a month the tide is highest. Our target departure was that evening at 6pm. We scheduled our check out with Ruaul's nephew that afternoon in Livingston and his brother in law Hector to help us over the bar. Last May we had almost 2 feet of tide and barely made it over on our own so at night with less tide this time, we planned for assistance in advance. We could have made it ourselves as it turned out but we bumped violently on the bottom for a full 10 minutes - a long 10 minutes believe me. Once out of the river we happily motored the 2 hours over to Tres Puntas and put down the anchor well off shore. It was a lovely dinner with wine that followed as a celebration.
The bridge crossing the Rio Dulce at Fronteras is one of the
tallest in Central America. It's just downriver of Tortugal
and we passed under on the way out.
Our berth at Tortugal Marina
One of the beautiful private residences on the River,
reachable only by boat or plane/helicopter
The gorge as we approach Livingston at the mouth of the River. The cliffs are very tall and hard to capture in a photo
The next morning, a beautiful clear warm day, we motor sailed north to Ranguana Cay in Belize. Last season we were there several times and love it. Just a small palm tree lined island with 3 moorings off shore between the reefs and a tiny restaurant/bar run by now friends Desiree and Denby. We'd hoped to spend 2 nights but that afternoon discovered we had a leak in the fresh water system. We weren't sure how much water was left as the gauges were not reliable. So after Peter and Scott jury rigged the hoses bypassing the hot water system the next morning, we decided to get further north. The wind was supposed to pipe up considerable as well and there isn't much protection at Ranguana.
Another 60 miles brought us to Blue Ground Range Cay, a spot we anchored in last year with excellent holding and protection. We had a quiet night there and the next morning conferenced with our weather man, Chris Parker, on the Single Side Band. A norther bringing heavy winds was expected in Mexico on Saturday morning. It was now Monday. We decided to take off that very morning. The winds were predicted to be 15 - 20 knots steady with higher gusts, more than we generally like but from a favorable direction, on the beam and moving aft over the next few days. It was breezy as we sailed north behind the reef up to the main channel out to sea near Belize City. The Belize Harbor Patrol called us on the VHF (they saw us on our Automatic Identification System) to ask us questions but were satisfied with our accounting that we were "in transit". We had to turn directly into the wind for the last portion of the channel and passed a huge freighter entering. It was very rough but Scott Free can handle it. Once we were safely out to sea and turned north we expected it to calm down, but it didn't. It was about 3pm and it was a rough night ahead. The waves were very confused and it was hard to move about the boat. None of us felt like eating. We were glad we had a good lunch. I did manage to make some tea. Unfortunately Julie became quite sea sick and continued so until the following evening. Poor thing she was quite brave but miserable and couldn't get up for 24 hours.
We really appreciated having an extra hand that night. Peter took more than his share of watches. It was hard for any of us to sleep and unfortunately the auto pilot couldn't handle the gusty wind and rough seas. We mostly hand steered until the following afternoon. That is very tiring. It was so great to see the sun come up the next morning. It's all a lot easier in the daylight. By late morning Peter, Scott and I could eat a little bit and felt better. The waves were more regular and the wind both calmed down a bit and moved further aft. "Otto" was able to take control again at least part of the time. We were moving amazingly fast. We sailed the whole way and often were averaging over 10 knots. We had a 2 knot positive current for the last half of the way (it was negative for the trip south last year of course). We were all watching the expected arrival time on our chart plotter. Would we make it into Cozmel before dark? This was important not only to anchor with some light but also because our navigation lights had failed last night. The rock and rolling had evidently pulled out some wiring. The sun went down and we anchored only a few minutes later. YES!
The view in the morning while we sip our coffee before setting off down River and up to Mexico

Relaxing in the warm water off  Ranguana Cay, Belize

We couldn't believe this fishing
boat anchored near us at Ranguana
Cay in Belize!
At least a dozen men managed to live aboard and fish on
this tiny vessel. They even cooked!
This shot was taken of Julie just before she came down
with seasickness. What a brave smile! She's wearing one of
our inflatable life jackets and is teathered into our jack
lines on either side of the boat. We always do this in rough
weather and at night. 
A view of our cockpit while at anchor
A close up of the busy harbor front at Isla Mujeres - huge catamarans take large numbers of tourists out for tours of the area along with lots and lots to drink. Much to Peter and Scott's delight they pass by our boat, bikini tops off by that time and dancing.
One of the huge hotels on the beach at Cancun
A research vessel for Thor was docked at
the Naval Yard
As we approached Cozmel Julie joined us in the cockpit. Just then a big pod of dolphins joined us to play in our wake. Everyone celebrated. She was feeling much better. We had come behind the island and the wave motion had calmed. We were able to open the hatches and give her some fresh air. She had no more problems the rest of the trip. Happily she was even able to join us for an excellent dinner in our cockpit listening to the raucous sounds of Carnival only 100 yards away on the waterfront streets. We were so tired that not even Soca Music blasting all night could keep us awake. The next morning we had a relaxing breakfast before our quick and quieter sail up the coast, past Cancun and into the channel between it and Isla Mujeres. We motored into the harbor and pulled into a slip at Marina Paraiso, where we berthed last year. It was Wednesday, only 5 nights since we left Tortugal and the Rio Dulce but it seemed much longer.
We'll be here until later in March and another post will be coming soon on Isla Mujeres itself and the rest of our weeks with Peter and Julie.