Hi to all from Cozumel Mejico! ( Monday, Jan 24)
We have arrived in good fetter, excuse the wordiness below, our sailing has been a runon diatribe of Mexican style adventurism..
We departed via the stunning Rio Dulce River section of Guatemala which sends fresh water to the sea from most of the eastern drainage of the country.
The lake behind Rio has recovered from hurricanes Eta & Iota and is at its normal water level, after rising to new historic record, gaining 7’ and flooding most everything it could. Shops in town have mark’s on the walls, most about 4’ off the floor. These were the two largest hurricanes in recorded history of the Central American coast. They hit within a week of each other in November Eta just three days after my arrival back to Guatemala after a lovely summer in Colorado. Damages caused in Honduras and higher elevations of Guatemala were almost uncountable, many lives were lost and crop lands will be affected for years.
Our sail maker on an isolated bay did a great job on fixes and makeovers in his solar powered loft on stilts. We now have a fresh set of sails, stack pack, trampolines, watercatcher, cushions and surly more.
Checking out in Livingston was a very pleasant experience ( more to come on checking into Mexico..).
With literally no exception other than covid, two massive hurricanes, road closures due to flooding; our time spent and overall experience in Guatemala was superb.
I want to thank, again, my team from Guatemala who did the vast majority of work on Ana Luna, and as well did some great improvements to our folding kayak/sailboat/tender; not to mention our home and gardens in Panajachel. They are the best! And we really feel their love!
The morning following our checkout was welcomed with an unusual western breeze which took us up about 1/3 up the ‘still closed to everything including us’ country of Belize.
Winds died and then turned light northerly which combined with the ‘unusual’ southern running current made for arduous motor sailing/nosail motoring all night to transit Belize and arrival in our ‘thought to be checkin port’ of Xcalak, in the very south, behind the reef.
Not so it was. Xcalak was an entry point but that all changed and we were instructed to call on the next port up of Majahaul.
Motored all day in light northerly breeze, found it best to stay close to the reef line as further out is was quite oceanlike..
Majahaul arrival was right out of a Mexican twilight zone comedy. You had to know to remember to laugh!
We hail the port captain on vhf 16, he responds that we have not given him 24 hr of arrival so we cannot stop there. I come back that we were instructed by his fellow port captain in Xcalak to do so and that we were not allowed ashore there, so any notification would have to be done by the port authority on our behalf, also that there is no mention anywhere if this notification requirement. He accepts this and instructs us to anchor way up north by the cruise ship dock, then calls us back and asks that we come back to town and tie to the navy dock. This huge jibe in the space of 2 Mexican minutes!
We go there guided by a dive guide who jumped on from one of the many dive boats plying those waters.
Forget the dock though, we partially ground approaching it and anchor off in front. Guide and I launch the folbot and go looking for the port captain. He comes to the dock instead to inform that they can’t check us in either as immigration is no longer there due to covid and no cruise ship visits. He makes three new plans one after another involving immigration and others coming on the bus from Chetumal, all gets tossed when they remember that mañana is Sunday. Bunches of excuses are made, the best being their requirement that we have evidence of the boat being ‘deratted’ ( my comment was if they derat so will we!, he did think that was funny..), anyway nobody came and we did not check in.
So the next day, as fate would have it, was a fiesta to christen the new copula for the Virgen of Guadalupe, right there on the Navy dock.
In Mexican fashion the port captain invites me to the party along with giving permission to come ashore and do as we please…, but if anyone asks the answer is that we never disembarked in his port. And so it was!
The party was great, Virgen came in its own boat, everyone ate tacos and beer, music was way to loud, I was the honored guest and chipped in to buy more beer to allow the party to continue until way after we were all in bed..my crew liked that.
Next, of course, the wind blew big time out of the north and we were pinned down in port for 5 days. Fun through, Majahaul is a nice place, abet purpose built of tourism; a far cry that when Debbie and our young girls visited 30 years ago. Then was paradise, now it is paradise lost. But hey, where isn’t?
Finally the wind moved to the east and we sailed to the huge inland lagoon of Espíritu Santo, where we anchored up and snorkeled in pristine waters behind the fringing reefs.
Two days on we sail up to the next huge bay of Bahia de Asension where we anchored.
In checking the weather forecasts it appeared that the next day was going to be ideal to sail to Cozumel…well it was, only the winds were 20-30 vs the forcast of 14-18..
So our 3 am departure to arrive by day ended up being a sailing at or above our hull speed and a noon arrival. Big northern current helped as well.
Ana Luna did great! Both sails nicely reefed and tuned, waves on deck all day and no leaks.
How good it that!? Well, the crew lives mostly on land so this was a bit of an eye opener, but no vomit. This is a good thing!
So then, next, we hail the port captain of Cozumel, he instructs to go to a marina and tie up to checkin.
We are greeted by the port captain (everyone we delt with wore protective masks) who nicely starts filling out forms, then is joined by our agent; required by them. Around we go with papers and they go away and instruct us to stay aboard until the authorities arrive.
Authorities are en mass. Leading the charge are 4 Mexican Marines with bulletproof vests, heavy firepower, side arms, combat helmets & sniffer dog. Side acts include 2 immigration, 2 customs, 4 sanitation, 2 who knowswho, 2 agents. Counts up to 16 officials!
They go on and on, a real out of the movies, keep smiling, starwarsbar kind of script!
When it is all over we have experienced the confiscation of mexican bought fresh food for lack of stickers on each limón & banana, dry food for lack of a sticker, cheese not in its original bag, potato salad in leftover container.. etc
The fee for all this easily broke the record, $450.00 USD! Agent got the lion share..
Least expensive ever is USA @ $0, next Dominica @ $6, most around $20-40..
Bermuda had owned most expensive honors @$45 pp or $180 with our four pp…
In retrospect we messed up and did not get a photos of the catre when they arrived on the dock…!
Cozumel is a nice place, both the island and town. Diver visits, to experience the sheer wall dives in fast currents, are among to highest in the world at around 100,000 per year. It has grown from a pueblito of 500 to a thriving mecca of over 100,000 in 40 years.
Thankfully, from our perspective, there are no cruise ships calling here now.
This makes it quite pleasant, one can walk the nicely presented streets and have the thousands of tourist schlock vendors all to yourself. Prosperity is evident and English is widely spoken, dollars fine to settle bills.
Today, a few days after the checkin festivities, Matt, Debbie and I went scuba diving in Cozumel waters.
Diving here is famous for the huge drop off walls. We were sufficiently impressed, not so much with the walls which were more rounded and less adorned with sun searching corals as the walls we have dove in Utila, Honduras. Here the water had consistent visibility of over 100’ which is quite rare, huge sponges in all colors and shapes and lots of fish which are somewhat rare in Bermuda, ocean triggerfish, cowfish, filefish, peacock flounder, rays etc..
Across the Cozumel straights looms the real tourist strip of Cancun, Playa Carmen, etc.
That area now boasts around one million residents along with countless tourists, huge foreign investment and more fun than a barrel of monkeys…!
From here we sail to Isla Mujares to meet and greet our daughter Mercedes, husband Brian and their little learners, Cameron and Gemma. Niece Jenny will be along as well with her daughter Lily.
Mid month we await weather window to take us to Cuba. This an interesting leg involving crossing the Yucatán straight and sailing the western 1/3 of country to get to one of three ports open to visiting yachts; Cienfuegos.
In theory Cuba will be largely vacant of tourists, covid in Europe and Trump hate policy’s have tourism numbers at a fraction. We greatly look forward to visiting a vastly different culture and social order. Interestly, Cuba boasts the most doctors per capita in the world along with one of the most educated populations, also an efficient army. Doctor services are traded for oil, military aid beat back South Africa in Angola.
Way cool being ‘out there/here’, always has been.. But in these days of covid, fake news, politics of hate it is refreshing to be largely tuned out, dump the daily news habit, no internet, feel the water and wind, eat really well, life large and simple at the same time…