There are limited numbers of marinas in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, basically just three and maybe a couple more docks that are more fuel docks or downtown docks than marinas. The three are the original, Marina Paraiso (we’ve been there twice, once on the way down the W Caribe and once on the way back), Marina Milagro, a newer marina next door to Isla Paraiso and Puerto Isla Mujeres Resort & Yacht Club. The last is tucked back in a lagoon where breezes (and chop from northers) don’t penetrate. It’s also the most expensive, by more than several times the last time we were there. Isla Mujeres is not a place commuter cruisers typically leave their boats for hurricane season, since it’s right in the middle of hurricane alley. But we left Winterlude there our first year cruising while we flew home for Christmas for a month and all was well upon our return. I don’t know the current rules, but in order to leave the boat at all, we had to have the boat import permit – Importada. Not a problem but extra paperwork and a bit of extra expense. On the other hand, it’s good for 10 years, so when we returned in 2010, our importada greased the process! Here’s the Winterlude Update I wrote from our last visit to Marina Paraiso.
Until two days ago for the past two weeks, Isla Mujeres and the Winterlude crew have enjoyed absolutely picture perfect Caribbean weather … brilliantly sunny, glistening sparkling calm waters, surprisingly low humidity and comfortable mid-80’s temperatures. Billy came to visit and the perfect weather continued – sorry Aly & Dan and Susan! Immediately following his departure, the skies turned gray and ominous and it’s been blowing 25-35 for the past 2 days … and we are extremely happy to be tied to this dock!
Isla is a very interesting crossroads of cruisers, boats going north, boats going south, boats going east, all congregating here, eating fish tacos and ceviche, enjoying telling tall tales and each other’s company. After being socked in here for a few days, almost every boat is looking for a weather window to go somewhere … and some are more anxious than others. Several boats have crew that has taken vacation time to fly down and join them for a crossing … and the weather keeps changing day to day. Yesterday there were a half dozen boats leaving tomorrow to sail to Florida … this morning the forecast has changed yet again and now there’s a cold front/low forecast to be sitting in the Straits of Florida (between the Keys and Cuba) in two days. Since it will take between 2 and 4 days to sail to Florida, many are rethinking whether they leave.
For those boats with crew that have specific dates, it’s very difficult to make the decision – do you go anyway and take the risk or send unhappy crew back on an airplane (nothing goes to weather like a 747), missing the crossing. It’s actually quite a juggling act to leave because you checking out takes half a day. Then it’s the weekend. If you want to leave this weekend, you need to decide in the next hour and once you check out, you can’t stay, so if the forecast changes yet again tomorrow morning, you’re out of luck! Since on Winterlude we need at least a 4 day window, and preferably 5 to give us a day of grace in case the weather patterns move more quickly than forecast, the 2 day window this weekend (with a Low now sitting in the middle of it) is not an option for us.
Despite the fact that we thought we had plenty of time and no constraints, all of a sudden we’re running out of days and smack up against the fact that friends will be in Ft Myers on vacation on April 22 – 26 and we’d love to visit them. Even more frustrating, we want to fly to San Diego for a “Family Day” cruise on the April 28th and the weather keeps closing in around us, not allowing us to get to Florida. I guess flexibility is a necessity for cruisers, but my Type A personality keeps getting in my way — I HATE not being able to schedule anything because our entire lives are centered around weather. On the other hand, we’ve had a couple of less than pleasant passages this year and we don’t want to take a chance on another. So while that Low is forecast to be benign, we keep thinking that it wasn’t there at all yesterday so who knows what tomorrow will bring!
In the meantime, we enjoyed the strains of Jimmy Buffett wafting over the marina .. much preferable to listening earlier to the sounds of 30-35 knot wind gusts driving 3 inches of rain into places we never knew leaked on this boat! The VHF radio crackled for two days with boats in the packed anchorage dragging or ending up hard aground — luckily in the mud and not on the reef! Marina Paraiso and the other marinas are full as the gale continued. Any slight break in the howling winds and driving rains brings cruisers out on deck and on the dock desperate for some time out of their damp boats!
Earlier, during Billy’s visit, perfect weather reigned despite the forecast for 95% chance of thunderstorms. Some people are just lucky. We explored Isla, enjoyed the most amazing fish tacos (grouper), introduced Billy to ceviche, savored tasty mexican guacamole complete with cilantro, my favorite fresh herb; dipped tortilla chips into pico de gallo – the Mexican substitute for salsa – fresh chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro – YUM! Oh, and the best part? Three fish tacos at Bally Hoo, a thatched roof open air restaurant out on a dock over the water, were 55 pesos … about $4!
Renting a golf cart, we toured the southern end of the 5 mile long island – the beautiful powder sand beaches are at the north end but the coral rocky cliffs rise vertically from thousands of feet of ocean depths. Too many iguanas to count scurry over the cliffs leaving us to wonder if they ever lose their footing and fall into the churning white waters below.
The El Garrafon national park encompasses most of this end of the island and includes a “zip line” starting from a wooden telephone tower atop a small cliff, plunging down to a tower further down, out to a lower tower in the beautiful reef waters and finally ending at another tower on the beach. How did I find myself strapped into a mountain climber harness and climbing up that first tower? Luckily Billy and David just behind me looked almost as lost as I felt! The poor instructor at the top told me to stand on a even more rickety two foot square black platform while he gave me instructions — put four left fingers here, 2 right fingers there … pull down on this wooden block for a brake … blah blah blah. Why is it the water seems much farther down than it looked from land. Instructed to sit in the harness and dangling above open water, I briefly contemplated quitting, but somehow just about this time, the instructor let me go and I found myself zipping along the metal cable suspended above my head down toward the next tower. Trying to calm myself to enjoy the view, all I could remember was that I was supposed to pull on the brake when the attendant at the next tower gave me the signal… unfortunately it seemed he was never going to give the signal! So in the interest of stopping myself before I slammed into what looked like an unforgiving hard tower, I pulled on the brake … and stopped short of the line I needed to be able to get to the next stand… needless to say, he had to throw me a line to pull me in, frowning the entire time. I was not the most popular zip liner of the day! Still, I didn’t die and it was actually somewhat enjoyable, so stepping off the next platform for the most scenic portion of the zip line, I’m almost able to appreciate the beauty of the surroundings and the watercolors before the next tower loomed ahead. I was determined to execute this stop perfectly … and I did! From then on, I was a zip line pro … but I’m not sure I’ll try it again!
Spending the weekend in Cancun proved to be quite an experience… espeically after Billy managed to get us upgraded from our resort to the next door 5 Diamond All Inclusive resort! From the minute we opened the door of our new “junior suite” and looked directly over the jacuzzi and hammock on the balcony onto the swimming pool, the white powder sand beaches and the azure ocean waves beyond, I was hooked. Everything about The Royal Cancun was fabulous. I’m not sure I’d want to pay the price to actually stay in a suite, but the upgrade for 2 days was a highlight- especially after living in 18 feet of living space and using a solar shower for six months! Living like a princess could get high on my list for fun ideas! Now I just have to figure out how to fund the lifestyle.
I guess it’s better we caught the ferry back to Isla Mujeres and gave up living the high life!
Now we wait … tomorrow (Saturday) is a cruisers potluck at the marina, tonight we may go “downtown” to eat ceviche and fish tacos with acquaintances across the dock and tomorrow morning, we’ll all check the 24, 48 & 72 hour wind/wave charts, the NOAA GOMEX text forecasts, buoyweather, passageweather and listen for Chris Parker to determine when we might contemplate checking out and sailing back to Burnt Store Marina, Punta Gorda, Florida!