Thursday, July 18, 2013

Heading (towards) Home

Saturday, July 20, we fly from Cancun to Houston. Its sad to leave Wahoo. We've spent the past week getting her ready for whatever comes. Hopefully, not a hurricane. This year like future years she will be in harm's way. We tell ourselves it would be that way even if she was home in New Orleans but its still brings worry lines to our foreheads.

We are in a marina in the lagoon and it is The "hurricane hole" of the area. But Isla Mujeres is not a place that commuter cruisers, like us, usually choose for hurricane season. Normally they head to the Rio Dulce like we did last year. We just couldn't bring ourselves to "going backwards" and felt if we had to come through Belize again we'd be right back in the same spot next year and would NEVER leave the Western Caribbean. So our plans to cross over to the Eastern Caribbean are dictating our decision. Fingers Crossed!!

Sebastien and his Dinghy came to meet us!
We sailed into Isla without a hitch riding a 2 knot current that carried us most of the way. Sweet! Sebastien, who lives on his boat here at Marina Del Sol, came out to meet us and guide us through the lagoon to the marina. It's a tricky, shallow route. So good to see him and Lily again. We feel confident that the boat will be watched over as Seb lives on Sea Rooster right across the pier from us. So home for Wahoo is Marina Del Sol, Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

We took a day off from chores to enjoy Sebastien and Lily's company. Seb took us out on Sea Rooster for  an afternoon swim, Lily drove us into Cancun for some parts, and we ended the day feasting on the last of the Belizean lobster we'd "caught".  A lovely day ending with a great sunset.

Nothing left but the shells

Roy took this from the top of the mast

Marina Del Sol is a barebones marina. Meaning none of the great amenities we enjoyed at Mario's last year. But its safe and has all the necessities. Both the owner and his brother live onsite and they care for about 30 boats. So Roy's taken off the chart plotter and wind-vane to come home and be repaired. We've repaired leaks, cleaned inside and out, changed the oil, filled the diesel tanks, removed the jib, tied up the main, secured the dingy, taken off the bimini, added extra dock lines and now what's left is to get her under wraps and head for home.

We look forward to coming back to Isla Mujeres and we'll love the ease of provisioning in Mexico for our next cruising season.

PS: We'll be in New Orleans August 1st - 10th maybe a little longer for me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Checking In to Cozumel

Yesterday and today are why cruising can be so much fun! Roy and I want to share the silliness.

down comes the Belize flag
We were able to sail out of the reef at San Pedro Sunday (July 7 - John Edward's birthday). We left by 7am and knew we would sail 154 nm, our longest sail yet, and it would take about 24 hours. We had decided that as we had a short weather window we would make it all the way to Cozumel and not make the one overnight stop we could. The sail went pretty much as planned except that we had about 15kts of wind from the NE instead of 10 kts from the SE and the waves were 4 - 6ft  with 1 - 3 second intervals instead of 3 - 5ft with  8 - 10 second intervals. The difference between a nice beam reach and a choppy day and night. But we only had the edge of 2 squalls and we had nearly a 2 knot current going with us; whose complaining. We made Cozumel around 5am and worried for a little while that it would be too dark to anchor. But the sun rose as expected and by 6am we were snoozing.

At 9 we woke up. The plan being to get checked in, get a MX simm card for the phone, find some WiFi and get a good night's sleep and then sail the 53 nm (7-8 hrs) to Isla.

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha HA Ha Ha Ha

Totally oblivious of what was to come
The Capitania De Puerto is right near the anchorage and last year you could pull the dinghy up on a little sandy beach nearby. First off we noticed that this had been roped off. We would have to land the dinghy across some coral on a sand spit. Roy waited for the highest possible wave and we surfed in, I jumped out and tried to pull us up on the sand. Ok, so now we are wet and sandy but the dinghy's secure.

Inside  the first officer called a second then a third for assistance. There's that  sinking feeling. Eventually it was agreed that they would start the process but we would need to go to the airport then to immigration downtown and then to the hospital. The hospital we asked? "Amigos no problemo, no pay at the hospital". So after they made copies of our passport and filled out a gozillion forms we hailed a taxi. At the airport we spotted a series of 3 windows: Customs, Agriculture and something unknown. Now in Mexico - you can stand in an office or at an office window forever because to the guys inside... you are invisible! I don't know, is the window opaque from the inside? We tried the first window, could see the Customs agent on his cell phone. He didn't see us. The second window, two people totally involved with their computers, they didn't see us. At the third window our distress led to an answer. Ahhhh, a young lady looked up. Roy was waving papers and I kept repeating "Stamp, Stamp?" I'm not sure, was it the yelling of "STAMP" or the rather insistent knocking. All 3 windows conferred and eventually decided someone needed to inspect the boat.  Hospital, we asked? No, of course not, we didn't need the hospital, they took care of it all.
Cozumel for cruise ships Not Cruisers!

We were getting somewhere now! Two guys thought they pulled the long straws and were getting out of the office, yippee! We all hopped in a truck and drove to the waterfront. One look at our dinghy and these guys, not dressed for dingying, were sending out worried signals. One of them had an idea. He instructed us to get the dinghy and meet them over at the cruise dock. They dropped us off and we manfully managed to pull and push the dinghy back through the sand, over the coral up the cresting wave and get it launched. Wet Again. Soon there's me, Roy and 2 overdressed burly custom men in the dinghy heading to Wahoo. How we managed to get everyone aboard is still a mystery. But they dutifully "inspected" our boat and to prove they had been there, confiscated 1onion, 2 mangoes, 3 tomatoes and half of a lime we'd left on the counter - left us the garlic though.

Back in the dinghy for the reverse trip. Thoughtfully, they dropped us off at Immigration, downtown. Of course, when we knocked we were told they closed for the day at 1pm (it was 1:15). We must have looked more than a little of what goes for postal in Mexico because an officer came outside to talk to us. He said he'd sign the papers and take care of us if we took care of him. Of course we would :-)). Soon, we're all in the nicely air conditioned office and zip, zip, zip papers are signed. Now we're told that we must take these papers, all with one stamp a piece, over to the bank to pay. All the paying is done at the bank. Its hot and still outside but, who cares, we trot those 6 blocks to the bank just knowing we're finally nearly done. Dead stop! The bank line is about 20 deep. We wait, wait and wait some more. Its finally our turn and Roy is prepared; he'd noted an ATM and taken out pesos. Guatamala banks won't give you money, you have to do it through the ATM. I was very proud of his forethought because I'll bet its the same in Mexico. Only about 20 minutes for the bank tellar to collect the required 550 pesos, laboriously fill in and print out an additional 6 forms. 3 for him, 3 for us - but all stamped. Yea!! Back to immigration where our friend looked everything over, took the copies of our passport which were made by the Port Captain (remember this point), stamped everything again - now our Second Stamp and told us we were done. Roy tried to pass him a little something as we offered a profuse "Gracias".  He just smiled, shook his head and said "De Nada".

Time to get back to the airport for that Customs stamp - we eventually found a taxi and headed out there. No one is at any of the windows! But we can see that bag with our 1 onion, 2 mangoes, 3 tomatoes and 1/2 of lime sitting right there. In desperation we run around the airport asking everyone for the Custom and Agricultural Agents. I swear, in another little room was a fellow in a T-shirt and jeans when we finally asked him he looked up from playing on his cell phone and held out his hand for the papers, totally bored. This was The Guy? We were too dumb-founded even to be shocked. He went over everything, looked at each stamp and all the papers right side up, upside down and backwards. Shook his head, made a phone call, looked at everything again and finally, finally reached for it it, YES the STAMP. Three Stamps! Are we home free? The Guy agrees. Says we, now, just have to present everything back to the Port Captain and we're good to go. So we go out to hail a cab. Look around - what kind of airport doesn't have cabs standing in wait? Well the Mexican kind where the mayor controls the airport and all transportation goes through him or his brother. We must buy a voucher and load into vans that make the rounds of the hotels and condos. So not only is it twice as expensive but we must wait for the van to load up with 8 passengers and then wait our turn to be dropped off.

Exhausted but still a beautiful Flamboyant tree
Finally, our triumphant return to the Capitania De Puerto. Out of the van clutching our paperwork and up to the door - LOCKED! Its now 3:15pm and this office, like the Immigration office closed at 1pm!!! Did anyone tell us? Did we look?

In shock I want to just leave, hand all those papers and stamps to the agent in Isla Mujeres where checking in was so easy last year. Luckily Roy's cooler head prevailed, he steered us to a restaurant - we hadn't eaten all day. Ordered some food, used their wifi to get in touch with everyone and I agreed, there was nothing to be done. You don't mess with Mexico - last year a friend of a friend's boat was impounded for over 6 months because he didn't have a Zarpe from his last port of call.

We went back to the boat and had our first taste of good news. There was free WiFi in the harbor so we could make phone calls, get weather reports and emails. We had a cocktail (or two, was it three?) and went to sleep. Tomorrow was another day.

This morning off we go -
The Port Captain accepts our paperwork looks at it from every direction, counts the stamps and looks at us and says -
"No hospital? No doctor stamp".
"What, the hospital, no - no -no Customs told us they did it all", we only needed three Stamps!. We are looking desperate again. He took a step back, raised himself very upright and in a deep, official voice said "I am the Capitaine of the Puerto I decide if you must go to the hospital". He then smiled and offered to give us the address and once again said "hospital, no problemo, no pay". Again we hailed a taxi, again there's a window where no one looks at you. But now we know - Knock loudly on that opaque glass and yell Stamp, por favour. We eventually got the Fourth Stamp, again handed in the paperwork,  again it was looked over. The Port Captain looked up and ominously said "Where's the Copy of your Passports?" (well he said it in Spanish) . The response to our reply that it had been taken by Immigration was a sight we would have preferred to miss. "No, No, No, My machino make copies not their machino" this went on for awhile with lots of slamming of doors and stomping of feet. Not knowing what to do, we just stood there. Eventually he came back handed us both our Mexico check-in papers and our departure for Isla Mujeres paperwork and with a quick smile said."It is better for sailors to check into Isla Mujeres."
We Definitely Agree!!

Friday, July 5, 2013


My Belizean readers will recognize the title immediately. And yes, we (almost) got stuck in PortoStuck.  Seemed the right, oh no, that's starboard; port (left) the thing to do.

Belize Swing Bridge from the Ferry
PortoStuck (go to port or get stuck) is one of those wonderful Belize names and terms that means exactly what it says. It's a narrow and shallow passage between 2 small cayes that you must pass through between Belize City and any of the northern cayes (Cay Chapel, Cay Caulker, Ambergris Cay). We were headed to San Pedro on Ambergris Cay from Belize City.

Anyway, we made it to San Pedro on June 21 right in time for the Lobster Fest on Saturday the 22nd. Lots of lobster was had and we once again enjoyed the pleasures of San Pedro Town. On the 26th we took the fast ferry back to Belize City to meet Cynthia Reeves and Pat Cabral. We wanted to give them a taste of Belize City as the rest of their trip would be spent on the island. So we toured Government House, St John's Cathedral - the oldest Anglican Church(1812) in the Americas and the Museum that's in the old prison. We finished with a typical Belize lunch of rice and beans, stewed chicken (or fried fish), potato salad and fried plantains at Bird's Isle Restaurant looking out on the Belize River.
Snorkeling across a Hol Chan Reef

Up Close and Personal - 200 lb Grouper
The next 5 days were spent snorkeling, eating more lobsters and generally enjoying San Pedro (Sour Sop ice cream, yum yum). Our best snorkeling trip was Hol Chan Marine Preserve. Hol Chan was Belize's first marine preserve established back in 1981. We're proud to say we were there then! Once again we anchored outside of Hurricane's and enjoyed cocktails and ceviche as well as the view. Its been great, but Cynthia and Pat left on the 2nd and took the good weather with them.

We were left with two tropical waves one of which raised the winds to nearly 30kts and almost had us and Wahoo in Hurricanes for cocktails. After that 300 ft anchor drag we moved over and re-anchored using both anchors the Bruce and the Fortress. Thankfully they held throughout the night and all of yesterday as the winds howled. The reef protects us from the higher waves and the anchors did their job.

Check Out the Green Moray and a Black Grouper

Finally things are settling down and we're looking to leave. Roy's ashore checking us out of Belize, I'm doing my best to get 7th Street re-rented. We'll motor over to the fuel dock tomorrow and fill up with diesel and water. We'll sail for Isla Mujeres either Sunday or Monday. Maybe Sammye and Grouper will meet us for fun and games in Mexico. We'll be on our way to Houston before the end of July. John Edward is building his studio and he wants his Dad there and his Dad wants to be there.

Good by Belize - We Loved Every Minute!