Sunday, 28 April 2013

No 15/13 Key West

Hi from Clare,                                                     Saturday 27th April 2013


We left Isla Mujeres Mexico Friday 20th to travel 350 miles to Key West Florida. In the first 24 hours we sailed to the north coast of Cuba in a boisterous sea. We had 15-20 knots of breeze forward of the beam. We transited 70 miles across the Gulf Stream and at times had 2-3 knots of current going with us. We saws as much as 9 knots of boat speed but the current flow was not consistent and so the sea became very confused and bouncy. Early Saturday morning we arrived off the north coast of Cuba and enjoyed a very pleasant day’s sail along the coast protected from the wind and current. By nightfall we were running out of wind and the weather forecast was for light conditions. We decided to continue north overnight, crossing the Gulf Stream once again, to arrive in Key West Sunday afternoon. Well what can I say? The weather forecast was wrong and after a few hours out we could hear thunder and see large patches of heavy rain on the radar. Try as we may to dodge the rain we failed. Between midnight and four am we headed into 30 knots of wind, thunder and lightning, pouring rain and waves coming up over the dodger. At 2am at our shift change I was in the cockpit soaking wet and looking like a drowned rat. My darling husband stuck his “dry” head out of the companion way and said “Happy Birthday Sweetheart”


We spent a few days in Key West and celebrated my birthday in fine style. We also enjoyed browsing the shops and wandering the backstreets looking at the well preserved early 19th century homes. Although we were in Key West in 2004, when crewing on Pacific Dream, I remembered very little of the town. So it was good to return and have time to take it all in.
The famous Whistle Bar with clothing optional Garden of Eden Rooftop Bar and the local movie theatre

We had to go out to the airport to check in with customs. The nasty man wouldn’t issue us with a new cruising certificate. Our last cruising certificate was for twelve months and expired on 10 April. Apparently we are not eligible for another certificate until 15 days after the expiry date. It would be helpful if this information was written on the cruising certificate. However it is not so we had applied 12 days after the expiry date and were refused.
One of the Churches and one of the many homes

We are allowed to stay here but we have to physically present ourselves and check in and out of every port along the coast. This is both time consuming and costly. The only way around it is to leave the States check in and out of another country and then re-enter the States. It all seems a bit absurd as the requirement of 15 days after the expiry date is to stop people getting annual cruising certificates without ever leaving the States. We left the States in December and have been out for 4 months; a fine example of bureaucracy at its worst in the land of the free.
Another home and a crazy car


Just to add to our “joy of life” the hose to the forward fresh water tank became detached on our rough crossing to the States. This water tank is under our bunk so anything stored there got wet and we dumped 100 litres of fresh water into the bilge. The boat has been in a state of upheaval once again while we dry everything. Andrew has had his head in the bilge for three days pumping it out and moping up with towels. This is never a quick job because even after the bilge is dry the water still has to come down out of the frame. Some of this happens at anchor with the boat rocking but the job won’t be finished until after our next sail.


We left Key West on Thursday and motored 40 miles east to Marathon. We spent yesterday doing boat chores. We might go into town later today and see if we can find some Wifi. We hope to have favourable winds to leave here on Monday to travel up the east coast.

Love Candy xx

Friday, 19 April 2013

No 14 More Isla Mujeres

Hi from Clare,                                Thursday 18th April 2013

Our second week in Isla Mujeres Mexico has been a fairly quiet one. We have been anchored off the marina with a number of other boats. It has been a windy week and so we have stayed in close proximity of the boat in case of dragging.

We enjoyed our BBQ last Wednesday at El Milagro marina, so much so that last night we attended the weekly BBQ again. Last week they cooked a big grouper and last night we had a huge snapper. The salads and hot side dishes were delicious. The Staff does the cooking and washing up and so for the lowly sum of $10 per person all we have to do is enjoy.

Fish on the barbie

We also had a pizza with American friends Sonny and Kay on 'Valentina' at their marina. The chef comes from New York. He sailed down to Isla Mujeres some time ago and has stayed. The pizza is excellent and so big that we couldn't finish one pizza between the four of us.
We also went out for a Mexican meal with English friends Phil and Nicky on 'Ajaya'. The restaurant is called The Soggy Pesos; doesn't sound very inviting does it? However the food is very good and restaurant is well frequented by the cruising community.

The Pizza with Kay and Sonny

We have walked into town a few times and I bought two summer frocks after some bartering. The price here is definitely "whatever they can get for it". I priced a dress on Monday and then on Tuesday I priced the same dress with the same fellow and the price had gone up three fold. I mentioned it to him and he just said "sorry" and walked away. I discovered later that there was a cruise ship in town that day; I guess it makes a difference!
Some things here are remarkably inexpensive. We bought a Mares mask and snorkel for $37 retail. The same mask and snorkel we bought in Australia last year for $100 wholesale. My L'oreal of Paris hair colour is $5.60 here and in Australia I have paid as much as $17 for the same. So I will do some stocking up before we leave.
We also went snorkeling but the visibility was really poor. Apart from that we have been reading and surfing the net and just waiting.

We may leave tonight for the USA. The wind is supposed to drop down and although the window of opportunity is not big, it might be the only one we get for the next two weeks.

Love Candy xx

At 12:52 PM9/04/2013 (utc) our position was 21°14.60'N 086°44.45'W

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

No 13 Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Hi from Clare,                             Tuesday 9th April 2013

We left Grand Cayman Sunday 31st March and had a good down wind sail to Isla Mujeres Mexico arriving Tuesday evening in time for a well earned sun downer. We caught a big Mahi Mahi along the way which provided us with five delicious fish dinners.

Our fish

Isla Mujeres is a small island off the north east coast of Mexico opposite the lively tourist city of Cancun. When we first arrived in Isla Mujeres we contacted an American couple on 'Valentina'. Sonny and Kay have been here since December. They kindly walked into town with us and showed us where to check in. We then met friends of theirs Rick and Roseanna on 'Tension Reliever' and the six of us had lunch at a beach front restaurant; it was so nice to relax and enjoy the beachfront view.

 Isla Mujeres main street

Island scenes

We are staying in El Milagro marina as the holding in the anchorage is only good in calm conditions. The chap who runs the local radio net each morning describes the bottom holding as "two feet of ice cream on coral".
The El Milagro Staff are very friendly and the facilities are good with a fully equipped kitchen, laundry, BBQs, a swimming pool with lounges and hammocks, an air conditioned movie room and a very comfortable outdoor lounge area with Wifi access. In addition to the usual indoor bathroom facilities it also has four outdoor showers. These have solid walls on three sides and a stall door and no roof. There is plenty of air circulation and plenty of water as the 'rain forest' shower head installed is huge. We are enjoying hot shower at night and it's so lovely to dry off and get dressed in the breeze - maybe I will install one at home!
We have been into town a few times. It is a twenty minute walk along the paved waterfront. There is a local bus that we can pick up anywhere along the way, but it runs so infrequently we usually walk the distance before one comes along. Time doesn't seem to be important here. The locals work on a "Mexican Minute" which they tell us is about an hour. So if someone says the bus will be here in a few minutes, we start walking. The marina introduced courtesy bikes but the local 'bike hire' businesses in town complained about losing business, so the courtesy bikes sit idle. We heard a story that when the first bus arrived by ferry on the island the local taxi drivers physically threw it in the sea; so much for a competitive market hey!

On Saturday we went for a double dive with one of the local operators. The dives sounded wonderful mentioning abundant fish life, turtles, sharks, colourful corals many swim throughs and a drift dive. In actual fact the dives were probably the two most disappointing dives we have ever done. The visibility was so poor we could hardly see the fish, the small amount of coral lacked colour, the swim throughs were unremarkable and the drift dive didn't happen. To top it off, there was a strong surge and the Dive Master leading our dive got a bit lost, we were clearly going around in circles. Eventually we came across the other group and the Instructor pointed our Dive Master in the right direction; I suppose you can't win them all.

Sunday we rented a golf buggy and toured the island. That was as funny as a circus as the golf buggy had a very sudden clutch and it tended to take off in forward and reverse rather rapidly. Andrew did a marvellous job especially doing three point turns in narrow streets with cars parked on both sides. The island is five miles long and half a mile wide with some spectacular ocean scenery. The average housing is basic and the little towns are untidy away from the tourist areas. There are some lovely homes along the waterfront.

Yesterday we took the 6.30 am ferry to the city of Cancun and then a tour bus to the ancient Mayan site of Chichen Itza 200 km west of the city. Cancun is a popular international tourist destination. We drove through miles and miles of thirty story big name hotels and luxury waterfront accommodation. The whole area is totally manicured with beautiful gardens, walkways, running tracks, fountains, rolling lawns and private access to the beaches. Our coach had to do a few pick ups along the way and so we got to pass through the security gates of some of the posh hotels and see how the other half live - suffice to say they are not doing too badly.

Cooling off in the Cenote

Mid morning we stopped at a Cenote (a natural underground fresh water lake) for a swim. Not everyone went in but we couldn't resist. The water was cold and wonderfully clear and refreshing.
Our next stop was for a buffet lunch with some traditional dancing and the inevitable gift shop stop for the purchase of Mayan crafts. We had to pass through the gift shop to get to lunch. The time table had allowed 30 minutes in the shop. There was probably as many staff in the shop as tourist. They pounced on anyone who stopped to look at something. I decided to just keep walking around the shop and I had a staff person walking around behind me the whole time.

Temple of Kulkulkan & Juego Pelota Stadium 

The Observatory

We eventually arrived at Chichen Itza around 2pm. The site is 17 square miles and dates back to 432 AD. The Mayans inhabited the site until the 1400s when the Spanish arrived. It was then abandoned till the 1860 when restoration began. Restoration has been hampered as a lot of the original stones have been removed from the site and subsequently lost. The Mayans were very advanced in astronomy. Only the scholars and the elite Mayans lived at Chichen Itza. The others lived in a village 2 km away. Our guide explained the design and features of the fully restored Temple of Kulkulkan. We then visited the Juego Pelota Stadium where we learnt all about their ball game (played only by the priests), their extensive culture and ritual. We then had free time to roam around the site and fight our way through all the touts. It was a very long and hot day and we arrived back to the boat exhausted around 10.30pm.

Mayan tourist souvenirs

Tonight we are attending a fish BBQ that the marina is putting on for $10 a head. They have two large grouper on the grill and a table laden with salads, bread, potatoes and various hot dishes; it all looks and smells delicious.

We will stay here for another week or so before heading for the USA.

Love Candy xx

At 12:52 PM9/04/2013 (utc) our position was 21°14.60'N 086°44.45'W

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