Thursday, April 28, 2022

Close Call for a Weather WIndow!


Dani and Heather on Scott Free Saturday night. They came for dinner..
April 25th. We took off early in the morning (after the weather forecast) to walk into town while the sun wasn't too hot. Breakfast at Mariscos de Huma on Hidalgo, the main, walking only, street was delicious and fun people watching. Then we found the Mercado, public market, where Scott scored some chaya, Mexican spinach plant. I'll use it for a soup or stew. It was a lazy day for me actually. We ordered pizza from Oscar's for dinner!

We walked this lovely beach on the ocean side of the island on our way back from the Mercado. The beaches on the protected side of the island are packed with people and restaurants.

April 26th - This morning Stormy (one of Chris' weather forecasters) told us that a good weather window was coming up, leaving Friday morning. We fired off emails to anyone who had expressed an interest in crewing. They would have to fly down tomorrow Wednesday if they wanted to come with us as we needed to all be here for a full day of checking out of Mexico on Thursday. That was too soon for everyone, although Sean tried very hard to arrange transportation from Denver, where he was working. But he would have had to fly overnight from L.A. and that was just too much! But kudos for trying!

Three of the staff pose while they prep for the BBQ. This is our communal kitchen which the guests can use to cook their meals. 

Carlos and his helper came early and spent the day cleaning one of our fuel tanks and polishing our fuel. Scott spent the day watching them and assisting. I sat up at the Marina enjoying the breeze and getting to know some of our neighbors. That evening was the weekly BBQ here, fantastic buffet with grilled fish and ribs, lots of vegetables and salads ($20 each). The staff here, all men, do the shopping and cooking. Pretty much all the guests signed up - fun evening. 

April  27 - We were carefully set up to listen to Chris this morning up at the Marina. We didn't want to take a chance the internet would fade out. The SSB isn't very clear tied up here. And it was a good thing we did. Chris started out describing our 3 day passage and then said, "Oh, Oh!" This doesn't look good." Saturday night the wind was ramping up and turning northeasterly. Right on the nose. He advised that we wait until next week. Boy, were we glad we didn't arrange for a crew member to come down today. If they had come, we would have probably left on Friday and had a difficult time. But with a crew member we would have managed - not just the two of us The alternate strategy would have been to stop in the Dry Tortugas, or go up to Naples on the west side of Florida, which is really out of our way. 

We walked into the north end of the island and had lunch at the North Garden restaurant. It was really hot in the mid day sun and I thought about "mad dogs and Englishmen". We hitchhiked back. This works out incredibly well. We only put our thumbs out for golf carts with only 1 couple and almost always get picked up. Dani & Jens gave us this advice and we've been doing it a lot. 

So we're here for another week and with mixed feelings. We love it here and are enjoying the island and our Marina very much. But it is getting really late for getting home. We have many doctor/dentist appointments in mid May and our insurance company wants us in the Chesapeake by June 1st. It could take weeks going up the east coast once we get to Florida. Oh well, one day at ta time 

Achiote (also known as annatto) paste
is rubbed into the fish and then the filets
are layered in the rack with sliced onions
and tomatoes. Yummy!

Sunset off the end of our pier at El Milagro

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Settled in El Milagro Marina

April 21st - The next morning after our arrival, we started the check in process. What a horror show checking in is here now. I guess in the past we have always used Chepo at Marina Paraiso as an agent so didn't face officialdom on our own. We first had a hard time finding a place to put our dinghy. There isn't a spot downtown any more. Dani had told us about "Scott's Landing" near El Milagro but we couldn't find it. No signs or people on any of the docks near there. So we left our dinghy at the El Milagro Marina and walked - they allowed us to do that but Scott didn't think they were friendly and has taken against them. I hope he changes his mind as I really like it there. 

Heather, Dani, Jens and Scott at the Soggy Peso restaurant. 
So we arrived at the Port Captain's office just before 10 AM. We had to wait while others finished and then she said we needed 5 copies of everything. Scott only had the original and 4 copies. So we were off to find the copy place and when we returned, another wait. But now she says we have to go to the hospital and get our papers stamped by a doctor there. A helpful person waiting told us to take the bus - much cheaper. Scott told the bus driver to let us know when we got to the hospital (down in the south end of the island) but he forgot and when we were concerned, told us to get off there and walk. Another 8+ blocks in the sun. So next we got the papers stamped and took another bus back. No exam, tests, anything -just fill in lots of forms and get stamped. By the way, the doctor was using carbon paper to make copies. We hadn't seen that for a while.
El Milagro Marina and Hotel, looking out the dock area. There isn't a restaurant but a full kitchen for residents and lots of comfortable options for eating or lounging. 

Back in the Port Captain's office, she said we needed to go to Immigration next and then return. By now it's 12:30. So Immigration wasn't too bad and not far away. Now we're back again and this time Customs people are waiting for us. Two of them want to go out to the boat. I waited for Scott as our dinghy is better for 3 big guys. They all return and it's Agriculture next (in the same office as the Port Captain luckily). When that's finished she hands us 2 forms to fill out and as I'm doing so announces that it's time to close the office. We have to come back tomorrow morning. It is 2:20 PM and they are closing at 2:30 (not the scheduled closing of course) but she won't finish us up. Boy were we upset - hungry, tired and hot. 
Happily after several wrong attempts we found "Skull's Landing" where we were able to get a cold beer and some lunch. Back to the boat and collapsed for a nap. We're meeting Dani & Jens at the Soggy Peso tonight for dinner. 
Going up from the dock where Scott Free is tied up, there is a bar area (BYOB) and further on the left is the communal kitchen with everything you could want. Beautiful Mexican tiles decorate every surface.

April 22nd - Great night with Dani & Jens! We got to know them at Tortugal Marina and they are part of our Tortugeezers Zoom every Saturday since the start of COVID. From  Germany, they now split their time between their home in Majorca, S/V Arwen here in Isla, their RV (currently parked at Rosie's (from Chickcharne) house in Montana and another residence in Germany. 
There was a very nice restaurant across from the Port Captain's office where I waited for Scott yesterday, Marina Bartolome that had a dock out front. So this morning we dinghied in there and had an early breakfast before returning to finish the check in process. No wonder she couldn't finish us up yesterday! It took 4 more hours. By 1:30 PM Scott was exhausted and stressed. He would have been happy to spend another night at anchor. But we had little water left and the security of the Marina was singing a siren call to me. Kindly he agreed and only an hour later we were tied up at El Milagro Marina. We celebrated that night at the Sunset Grill and made new friends with the owner Felipe, his wife Margarita and their son Leon. 
Beach areas are on both sides of the dock

April 23rd. -
Having filled up our water tanks, our next job was replenishing our food stores. A huge supermarket, much like Walmart, called Chedhui is an easy walk away. We stopped and had breakfast at the Cafe Verde. There were too many bags to walk, so we took a taxi. Dan & Jens are leaving soon for a inland trip around Mexico, so we had them over for dinner. Fun evening!
Early that morning I spoke to our weather guru who surprised us with a good weather window starting Monday. Unfortunately we won't be ready then. Scott has arranged for someone to look at our fuel problem. They are coming over tomorrow morning and would schedule the job for next week. So we will not be leaving until at least Thursday. We have a number of potential crew members but they won't have much notice. We aren't sure of weather window until 3 o4 4 days in advance and they would need to be here the full day before for the checking out process. 
April 24th - 
Carlos Miranda came over this morning and gave us a quote of $500 (US) to do the job and he'll start on Tuesday. It's another beautiful day in Paradise. We look forward to our Family Zoom at 4 PM and the Fourth of July Zoom at 6 PM (our time). 
This iguana blends right in with the cactus. 
There are a lot of them on the property.

Several living room areas are under the roof but
open at the front and back. There are a number of 
hotel rooms and suites.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Finally in Isla Mujeres

We have finally arrived in Isla Mujeres, almost a month later than hoped and expected. But we are safely anchored in the harbor and will check into the country tomorrow. We left Cozumel at 7:30 AM. We used the engine only twice - once to push off from the mooring ball and second to enter the complicated channel into the Isla harbor. And it worked fine. Scott had changed all the filters and felt sure it would. But we sailed all the rest of the way and kept our mainsail up until we anchored. We had a lot of wind almost on the nose for the first 80 % of the trip - 16 - 20 knots with gusts up to 24. This wind was against us and the 3 knot current which we had with us. So we were going over 9 knots for hours due to the current. And the waves, supposed to be 4 -5 ft were much bigger. But our boat is good in these situations, just not us. We barely managed to drink water and hit the head for 6 hours. Then the wind and waves subsided as we neared Isla, exited the current, and the wind diminished as well. 
Tomorrow we will talk to the two possible Marinas here and then we'll have dinner with cruiser friends Jens and Dani, who called to welcome us as soon as we arrived at 4 PM. Then we had our celebratory beer and a nap. Later I made corn chowder for dinner while we enjoyed the sunset. 
The view of the sunset off our stern at Isla Mujeres. It looks so peaceful and empty. NO WAY - coming into the harbor we passed hundreds of boats. The shore of the island was packed with more boats, beaches packed with people. But where we are anchored, at the back of the harbor, it is possible to look out at this view. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

A Good Ending to a Hard Night's Passage

After towing us for about 2 hours to Cozumel, the Mexican Navy rescue boat rafted up to us to put us on a mooring in front of their base. 

April 17 - We are celebrating my birthday here in Cozumel but it was a very difficult trip. We had an early problem with the engine coming out of Sapadilla Lagoon but Scott thought changing the filters would resolve it. And it did until we got 100 miles down the coast in the early evening. And the engine hasn't worked since. Well, let me make this clear, we have no problem with the engine. It's the fuel. Unfortunately we have no control over the quality of the fuel in foreign parts. And the boat wasn't used for several years over COVID so we need to empty tanks and have them cleaned thoroughly as soon as possible. Certainly in Isla Mujeres! 
We managed to sail all the way until just south of Cozumel. Our boat doesn't go upwind well and our "tacking angles" make it difficult - so we were having a hard time getting east to Cozumel. And then the wind dropped and we were stalled.. 
We had been talking to friends on the Northwest Cruiser Net that morning and they instituted hourly check ins. Jeff and Sue on Blue Jacket contacted the Cozumel Port Captain and he offered to arrange a tow. Scott didn't want to do it for some time (we also were concerned as we didn't have much cash on hand) but finally agreed. Not long after the Mexican Navy rescue boat arrived with 3 men and towed us 2 hours into a mooring off the Navy building (just south of the regular anchorage). So we are there now and what a relief. And they didn't charge us anything!!! (Happy Birthday Heather). 
Scott gave me this lovely necklace and cooked up a terrific dinner for my birthday.

But now our problem is getting to Isla. The weather for tomorrow is for Light & Variable and we would like to be able to sail. Scott can change the fuel filters but it is possible that the fuel line might be clogged so we really want to sail as much as possible. From Cozumel we need to go northeast up the channel and that doesn't look good tomorrow. And the forecast from Saturday was for wind filling in from the NE Monday night. So we'll talk to Chris tomorrow morning. We can't check in here but we were told we can stay here until the weather allows us to go.

April 18 - We enjoyed the first sleep (and real meal) last night we'd had since Friday. It was so quiet and peaceful on Scott Free! After our conversation with Chris this morning, we decided to wait until Wednesday when the wind turn more easterly to continue on to Isla Mujeres. The officials here have agreed to our remaining on this mooring. We expect a bouncy night tonight when the front comes through with northerly winds but we're on a safe huge buoy. 

(earlier notes from before our trip) April 13 - Scott checked out of Belize and we did last minute provisioning and laundry. Marc's son Hadrian arrived so we had them over for dinner. I managed to make a lasagna and carrot cake - lots of baking in the hot weather! But it was all great and sad to say good-bye.

April 14 - An even sadder good-bye was to Yoli, Reagan, Cherie and Eric. We went in early this morning after talking to our weather guru (all continues to look good). As we were exiting the north entrance of the harbor a pod of dolphins escorted us - good luck sign for sure! It was an easy trip up to the Reserve Marina at Sapadilla Lagoon - sunny day with wind behind us, around 10 knots so we motor sailed. We haven't been able to find the slow water leak so wanted to fill up our tanks. We had planned to anchor out in the lagoon but the dockmaster Taina gave us a price we couldn't refuse (much less than expected) so we stayed on the dock for the night. 

April 15 - After talking to Chris at 7 AM and the Northwest Cruiser NET at 8, we were off the dock and starting north. The rest of the trip is covered in the first post. 

Two of our Mexican Navy rescuers. 

Scott's birthday dinner for me - Pork Chop,
coconut ginger rice and squash

Our cruiser friend Renate sent this shot from
the AIS tracking website. That's our boat
showing on it's way the north off of San 
Pedro, Belize.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Update April 12 - Plans are made!

 April 7 - Thursday

Our new cruiser friends Roni & Jerry heard that we were renting golf carts and taxi's and insisted we borrow their golf cart for a week. They are building a house just north of Thunderbird Boatyard and are still living on their boat at the dock there. They have a car as well so the golf cart was a spare.  We took our friend Marc and his newly arrived crew Volker up to the Maya Beach Bistro for dinner. 

April 8 - Friday

Roni & Jerry checked out this morning and we took them out for lunch and a swim at Mariposa and returned their much appreciated golf cart. 

Roni & Jerry

That evening as predicted the cold front blasted it's way south with squalls up to 30 knots all night. Happily the holding is good in Placencia harbor and no one (as far as we know) dragged. But the hatch over my bed started leaking again with the heavy rain and I had to move to the v berth. Funny how you get used to every day noises, in the stern stateroom it's the dinghy creaking and the wind generator over our heads. But in the v berth it's halyards beating against the mast and the anchor chain that's creaking. But my mantra was, "I'm safe and dry so stop complaining!"

Two of Reagan's workers helped us reinforce our dinghy. A quite lovely piece of mahogany was
bolted on the stern to provide a strong anchor for our outboard.

Scott's got a list of boat repairs and projects to complete but the leak in the water system has found a new outlet (Mark had found one source when he and Connie were visiting) and it's in an inaccessible location. So we're conserving water like crazy. Yoli let me have a long hot shower at her home.

April 9 - Saturday

It rained and blew all day but we had a fun afternoon at Yoli's. It's Trivia afternoon at 3 PM and we teamed up with John & Shelia and came in a respectable third. No walk today - too wet.

April 10 - Sunday

It cleared up nicely for Yoli's BBQ and what a fun afternoon with lots of friends and great food. 

Marc and I and Volker 

Yoli & Reagan at the BBQ cooking ribs, chicken, pork chops and this week only, lamb steaks

April 11 Monday

We talked to Chris Parker, our weather guru on the SSB this morning and it looks good for starting north on Thursday and making it to Isla Mujeres on Monday. We have to check out on Wednesday as Customs, Immigration and Port Control are closed for Easter holidays. Rosie & Don, our long time cruiser friends from Montana on Chickcharne arrived and we went out to Rick's for dinner with Rosie's daughter Monica, who had just flown in.

Heather, Scott, Rosie and Don having fun as always

April 12 - Tuesday

We spoke to Chris again this morning and have made our plans. Tomorrow Scott will clear out of the country (they are closing early on Thursday and no one knows how early it will be). Thursday we'll head north to the Reserve Marina to fill up with water and then anchor. Friday we'll sail north to Bannister Bogue above the ship channel and anchor. Saturday we'll carefully exit through a gap in the reef and sail overnight up the coast. On Sunday we should arrive in Cozmel later afternoon and anchor for the night. Monday we'll sail up to Isla Mujeres and check in. We haven't settled on a Marina yet. Our former Tortugal cruiser friends Dani and Jens are there right now and we'll be hanging out with them. HOPEFULLY!!! I'll try and put a quick update in underway if possible. 

The end of Yoli's dock is a favorite hangout for 
the birds.

Amazing flowers everywhere on our walk!

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Update April 6 - We're at anchor!


We often stop at De Tatch for a fresh orange juice or breakfast during our morning walks. 

April 1 - April Fool's Day - We fell for the news that the last Spider Man actor Tom Holland would be the next Dr. Who. Other than that, kind generous cruiser friends who are building a house up the peninsula lent us their golf cart for the week (they have a regular car)! So we spent the day out at the boat repairing sudden problems. First it was the lack of water due to the pump over heating and failing. Scott was able to buy a new one from Belize City and they flew it down to us (it's only money). Then our shore power (and air conditioning as a result) failed due to the electrical connection at the steering pedestal burning out (did I mention it's 89 degrees, feels like 96). That was really old and he was able to get a new one locally. But the evening ended beautifully when our Belgium friend Marc took us out for dinner!

Mariposa Resort where we sometimes have lunch and swim in the pool - which is over to the right.

April 2 - We were down at the boat early working but returned in time for the 3 PM Trivia contest at Yoli's. Good week - we came in second. And we've been stopping at the Mariposa resort for lunch and a swim in their pool for a few days. That night was Yoli's Granny's 89th birthday and it was a big celebration under tents between Yoli's and Meryl's Cafe - music, food, lots of people.

Our apartment kitchen set for dinner

The porch and table

April 3 - We only spent a few hours in the morning working and then enjoyed the weekly BBQ at Yoli's - are you still feeling bad for us? 

April 4 - Scott got the first Hooky Pooky water taxi over to Independence and met the Customs and Post Office officials. He was back by 10 AM on the boat and the two mechanics showed up right away and worked all day till 5 PM. It's going well but a hydraulic hose needs to be replaced so Scott is back on the first Hooky Pooky tomorrow morning for a new hose and hopefully, they will finish. Meanwhile I'm washing down all the walls in the boat with vinegar, doing some provisioning and cooking. As soon as it cools down outside a bit, I'll put a new coat of teak oil on our exterior teak. It looks like a norther is coming in on Friday night so that means it will be next week before we can leave. Quiet last night at our apartment eating the chicken curry I made. We're moving back to the boat tomorrow.

Chicken Curry special at Mariposa. I copied it for
our dinner Monday night (with lots of leftovers)

April 5 - Scott was able to get the hydraulic hose but the right fittings were not available. I packed up and vacated our apartment and moved us back to our boat by 9AM hoping our mechanics would get an early start but they couldn't come until 3 PM. BUT they finished up that afternoon. We went back over to the Mariposa with newly returned cruiser friends on Blue Jacket for drinks and a swim. Then a quiet dinner on the boat.

April 6 - Our next challenge was getting enough money out of the bank to pay for all this. Scott was able to arrange a transfer to the bank from our States account and we paid the mechanics and the Boatyard. The high tide was 12:30 PM and we left right on time after a slight glitch - all the work had accidently detached the line to the fuel pump. It was an easy motor back out to Placencia Harbor where we gratefully anchored and popped two beers to celebrate! 

So now we are checking the weather for a weather window north. A cold front is coming in Friday night and then they'll be squalls through Sunday so not until Monday at the earliest. We'll keep you posted...