Log #54c Isla Contoy and Puerto Morelos

March 28, 2012 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 54, The Logs

Anchored off RAM Marine,

Fronteras, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

March28, 2012

Hi Folks,

We are just lazing here at anchor off this marina where we can access, free of charge, their WiFi. Happiness is having access to the internet from the boat. The town of Fronteras is also called Rio Dulce, after the river system on which it is located. Within a short dinghy ride we have access to fuel docks, where we can purchase water as well. Across the river we can tie up our dinghy at Bruno’s Marina and a short 100 yard walk gets us into the hurly burly of the main drag of the town (see attached picture).

Log_54c_Veleda_at_anchor_in_Fronteras

We have finalized our location for leaving Veleda for about seven months while we return to Canada and take our trip with the trailer up to the Yukon and Alaska some time towards the end of May. We will be back for the Easter weekend and live in our trailer while back.

I heard that there is a display of Mayan culture at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto until April 11. Judy and I want to see it when we are back. I hope to send another one or two logs specifically on our Mayan tours, and hope to be caught up on my logs shortly.

All the best,

Aubrey

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Log #54c Isla Contoy and Puerto Morelos

Fronteras, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

March27, 2012

 

At anchor at Isla Mujeres, we could leisurely enjoy Mexican hospitality, dinghy into the main part of town, to Paraiso Marina for showers, garbage disposal, internet, and the best pizzas in town. I enjoyed watching the Super Bowl football game between New York and Boston, and won a draw prize, a large laminated calendar with the Super Bowl lineups in dynamic colours. I donated it to the Tiki bar.

Another day we took Veleda alongside for water, and leaving her there for the afternoon as we went to a couple of interesting snorkel locations. On the nearby reefs we had a glimpse of the underwater statuary (see attached picture – my apologies for the poor resolution), about thirty figures lined up five abreast in about twenty five feet of water.

Log_54c_Statues_underwater_at_Isla_Mujeres

There were some other objects too far down to read the inscriptions, but the one of a Volkswagen Beetle needed no commentary. The second reef dive was a drift dive, where we hopped in up tide and let the current slowly carry us through the coral heads alive with multicoloured tropical fish, iridescent blue and purple sea fans wafting lazily in the soft tidal flow. It was a comfortable lazy experience, lying on the surface, breathing through the snorkel, supported by a life jacket (required wearing on all snorkelling events which unfortunately prevented us from diving down for closer inspection of underwater venues), passively watching the undersea world leisurely slide by as we were silently carried downstream by the tide to be picked up by the dive boat. We then were ferried to the beach strip on the northern tip of Isla Mujeres where we enjoyed delicious fresh ceviche (a tasty cold soup of tomatoes, cucumber, onions, spices, lemon juice, olive oil, and chopped up pieces of fish and shrimp, one of my favourite soups) before returning to Marina Paraiso, and taking Veleda back out to our anchorage.

Another trip was to Isla Contoy, a natural coral reef island, 28 miles north of Isla Mujeres. It is a National Park, a refuge of biodiversity for all marine life, including 172 species of birds, three species of turtles, and 250 species of fish and 98 different plant species. We toured the sand dunes; saw several species of bird life, especially the majestic frigate birds gliding effortlessly on the Caribbean breezes. We saw various kinds of land crabs and iguanas, and while snorkelling saw groupers, sting rays, barracuda, horseshoe crabs, and hundreds of colourful tropical fish darting to and fro, nibbling on the coral. After a chicken barbecue on the beach, we returned to Isla Mujeres, and dinghied out to Veleda for our own steak barbecue while watching the sun set. Frequently when I am enjoying our cockpit, barbecuing, reading or listening to music, a smile goes across my face, happy and thankful for such an interesting cruising life.

There is an inner bay south of our anchorage, well protected, and can serve as a hurricane hole. We met many U.S. expats who have lived either ashore or on their boats here in Isla Mujeres for several years. They find it more economical and laid back than Cancun, and enjoy the warm climate all year round. While at anchor we met a couple of boats that left Tortuga a few hours ahead of us, but were more than 12 hours behind us arriving at Isla Mujeres; they took the fancy route going west from the Tortugas, then due south off Cuba and then west across the Yucatan Current, adding over 25 miles to their passage and fighting the Gulf Stream and Yucatan Currents for a much longer time than we did in our straight line passage as mentioned in my last log. They also did not use an agent to help with the bureaucracy and as a result took over three days to complete all the entry procedures.

Isla Mujeres is a bustling town with busy narrow streets lined with colourful vendors’ stalls, and an enjoyable vitality. There is a pleasant concrete sea wall walk on the Caribbean side (see attached picture).

Log_54c_Shoreline_walkway_on_the_Caribbean_side

There are a couple of large well stocked grocery stores, several pubs, restaurants and many tiki bars along the sandy inner shoreline, together with small fishing boats tethered to posts bobbing in the water. We left our dinghy at an inner wooden pier, part of the bustling town dock, next to the patio of a shoreside bar/restaurant where we had the occasional meal. The town dock was busy with small and large tour boats, dive boats, fishing boats, local lanchas and ferries. Bewildered pale white or sunburned tourists ambled along, gawking at the boats bobbing alongside on the wakes created by others, or trying to figure which boat they were to take for their tour or dive excursion.  Further down were the large concrete piers of the ferry terminal with high speed catamaran ferries running over to Cancun every half hour. On the street were hawkers selling weavings, sandals, and other touristy brick-a-brack as well as the many dive and boat tours around the island.

Log_54c_Docks_at_Isla_Mujeres_on_the_bay_side                                                          Log_54c_Ferry_dock_at_Cancun

 Many of the tours from Isla Mujeres linked up with the major tour companies in Cancun which in turn went to a wide diversity of Mayan sites, adventure theme parks, and nature preserves. We took two as mentioned in my last log. The first one was to the Cenote and Chichen Itza, and the second to Tulum and Coba (as described in my previous log). These were both full day excursions for which we had to catch the 0630 ferry to Cancun, take a local taxi to a central gathering point to catch the comfortable air conditioned bus to the attractions. The trips also included a very good Mexican meal, and of course stops at tourist shops for souvenirs, and guided tours of the ruins and a few hours individual wandering.

We had the cost of the trip to Tulum and Coba refunded to us by a condominium sales pitch in which we were ferried over to Cancun for breakfast and a tour of a condo development one morning. They are very smooth in their sales presentation, and a new condo development was underway next door. The condos were less than 15 to 25% occupied and yet they were still expanding. They are linked to a wide network of other vacation, B&B’s, hotel and resort complexes that owners can access rather than remaining at the original development. It sounds good, … too good. It is large business trying to tie you in to 25 to 50 year commitments to further their real estate empires.

We decided on a Friday afternoon to leave, but wanted to do our out routine for leaving Mexican waters as part of a two stage exit format in which we would do most of it now in a larger town, and then do our final exit just before actually leaving Mexico in a few days time. However, Murphy’s Law was well at work, and the Port Captain’s office closed early on Friday, so we would have to wait until Monday. Arrgghh! When we want to leave I get antsy about any delays, but we waited until Monday, going to the Port Captain’s office just before opening time at 0900, only to find out that on the Monday all government offices were closed for some holiday or other. Arrggghh! I would not wait another day, and so we took off, hoping we could do the out routine further down the coast. At least on Isla Mujeres we knew where the government offices were, but were apprehensive about getting to the government offices in smaller or larger communities down the coast. We could have gone to Cozumel, but heard the offices were out at the airport, a long way from the marinas. Well, we would take our chances further down. I was not going to wait another day. We returned to Veleda, weighed anchor and left!

It was a good sail most of the 33 miles SSW down to Puerto Morelos. My concept of the Yucatan Peninsula before we got there was that it stuck out in an easterly direction from Central America. I was wrong; going down the Caribbean coast is in a southerly direction, and we were helped along going SSW by a northeast wind, allowing us to go wing on wing (our main held out by a preventer one side and the genoa out on a whisker pole on the other side, with the wind behind us).

The interesting thing about entry into locations on the Yucatan is that they are protected by offshore reefs, and one has to be careful to make an entry through the reef at the proper location to get to the sheltered waters inside. Some passages through are marked by channel buoys, others with only one entrance buoy, and others still have only a navigation aid on shore. You have to enter on the right course, at the right angle to get safely through. Our GPS was good in identifying the proper entrances. It would have been very difficult without such assistance.

When making an entry through the reefs, unfortunately, there is often a following sea, pushing you forward, and not allowing you to change your mind once you have started your entrance. Sometimes you can see the edges of the reefs and the quieter water in the entrance, so you know where the dangers are. Other times there is just a large swell carrying you in, with no visual indication of where the reef is below the surface. Once inside the water is calmer, but shallow! So we have to make our way up to the anchorage in depths varying from 25 feet to 5 feet, and hope there are no uncharted coral heads. It is a tense time from the entry, and passage up to a suitable anchorage, until the anchor has been dropped and grabbed hold on the bottom. We put the boat in half power astern to make sure the anchor has set properly, and we set the GPS to tell us how far away we are from our initial anchoring point. Once we shut the engine off, we can heave a sigh of relief, depending upon how tense the passage and entry through the reefs was. When cruising, every entry is a first time entry.

We anchored off Puerto Morelos (20 50.616N, 086 52.570W), just by the town dock and the cockeyed lighthouse (see attached picture).
Log_54c_Lighthouse_at_Puerto_Morelos
It is a pleasant town with a large tourist resort outside and several B&B’s available in town. Several streets were cobblestone paved, others dirt roads. A busy town square had several bar/ restaurants around the edges of the plaza. We went down to the port captain’s office and did a bit of our exit paperwork with him, and were told that we then only had to check out at our last port in Mexico which would be Xcalak, just before the border to Belize.

We had a nice lunch ashore and I bought a colourful Mexican tropical shirt. We left next afternoon for another overnight passage 83 miles down to Punta Allen.