Dream Away Update 11-Nov-2005
We have arrived in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, and are checked into the Marina Paraiso. By far, this passage was our best one. Pretty much everything went as planned.
We left Marathon, Florida, on the 3rd of November and headed west. We anchored for the night in New Found Harbor. It was a pretty uneventful motor sail down the coast, inside the reef. The only real problem was that the engine overheating problem was still there. The temperature was just fine when the engine was running at 1300 RPM. However, if we cranked the engine up 1500 RPM, and temperature started to climb. I let it get up to 210 degrees on the gauge, and then I backed down on the RPM to 1300, and the temperature dropped back down to 180 degrees on the gauge. I decided that this was not a show stopper. The weather prediction showed favorable winds for the passage, so we would not have to depend on the engine that much.
The night of November 3rd, we had a great dinner, and during the cocktail hour in the cockpit, we saw the “green flash” as the sun was going down. Of course, we saw this as a major good luck omen. The next morning, on the 4th, we upped the anchor after a rain squall passed us by, and headed out for Key West. I wanted to get into the anchorage area near Wisteria Island as early as possible. The wind was blowing at the predicted 15 to 20 knots. We had heard that there were a lot of damaged and sunken boats in the harbor, remnants due to hurricane Wilma. We got to Key West and anchored on the southwest side of Wisteria island. The bad news is that we were overwhelmed with the amount of boats that were not in the anchorage any more. There were also a lot of boats that were sunken, and many boats were blown up on the shore of Wisteria Island and other surrounding islands. Just in the area in which we were anchoring, there was stark evidence of seven sunk boats!
That afternoon, I put our new RIB dinghy(Avon 1989) into the water and then put on the new (to me (1988)) Yamaha 15 HP motor. Wow, what a difference from our previous inflatable with the five HP motor on it. The new one got up on a plane in no time with both Kitty and me in the boat, even with a load of trash and other weight. It makes quite a difference in getting around. Of course, fuel usage is much higher. With the old 5 HP, it seemed that the gasoline evaporated faster that I used it in the motor! Now we are a two dinghy family. We have the original Achilles inflatable rolled up and stored in the new forward deck box, and the new Avon 12” RIB is hanging from the dinghy davits on the stern. Also stored on the stern is the Yamaha 15 HP motor, the original Mercury 5 HP motor, the ‘Hummer’ grill, the 45 Lb Danforth stern anchor, the 100 Lb Fisherman storm anchor, and a second (bent) 45 Lb Danforth anchor that was given to me. It looks a bit crowded, but it is all very necessary and functional.
The next day, the 5th, we got word that one of our crew was not arriving at noon but around 3 PM. We changed our plan a bit, in that we did not go into Key West until later in the day. We went in around 2 PM, got a few grocery items, made the required stop at West Marine, and then waited for our first crewman, Dennis, to arrive by taxi at the Turtle Kraal. He arrived, we had a refreshment, and then Dennis and I went out to the boat to put things away and to get him somewhat settled. Kitty ambled around town while she waited for our next crewman, Rick, who was not scheduled in until around 5 PM. Dennis and I returned to Turtle Kraal, and Kitty and Rick were waiting for us. They were having refreshment. They finished up, and then we all went to dinner at PT’s, a very good local restaurant. After we had dinner, I started the ferrying out to the boat. I had to make two trips.
On the 6th, we poured diesel from two Jerry jugs into the fuel tanks, and took the jugs into Key West to get fuel. We made another stop at West Marine, and got some last minute groceries … fresh food and fruit. When we got back to the boat, Kitty was still involved in getting our cell phones turned off and our cruising communications in place.
We got all finished up and upped the anchor around 1400. We headed out the southwest channel heading for Havana. Naturally the wind that was supposed to be blowing 10 to 15 knots was down to 5 to 7 knots!! Somewhat of a slow start. The sail plan was to sail across the Gulf Stream as quickly as possible, and then to hug the Cuban coast until we rounded the western tip of Cuba at Cabo San Antonio. If you hug the Cuban coast, there is a counter current that helps a west bound vessel.
The first night was a great sail as the wind slowly picked up, though it was only about 30 degrees off of our stern. Also, there was a lot of commercial ship traffic, so the crew on watch had to keep a good look out. We stuck to the sail plan and rounded Cabo San Antonio around 1700 on the 8th of November.
From our location off of Cabo San Antonio, it was only about 100 nautical miles (nm) to Isla Mujeres ... really great news except for the detail of the Yucatan current. It averages any where from 1.5 knots to 3.5 knots. The strategy that I used was this: from our location 13.5 nm off of Cabo San Antonio, we headed on a course of 190 degrees to a point at 20 degrees 30 minutes north, a leg of approximately 95 nm. At this point, we headed back northwest towards Isla Mujeres, a trip of approximately 80 nm. On this leg, we sailed a broad reach, and had the current with us. Most of the leg south and then back northwest we were able to sail the boat with no motor, otherwise we were motor sailing.
The strategy worked great except that we arrived off of Isla Mujeres on the 9th of November, just as the sun was going down. (The trip took just about 80 hours.) We got as close in as we dared, just into the lee of Isla Mujeres, and dropped anchor. The anchor coordinates were 21 degrees 12.157 minutes North, 86 degrees 45.116 minutes West. We kept anchor watches over night, but the off watch crew was able to get some gooood sleep. The next morning, the 10th of November, (United States Marine Corps Birthday), we had a good breakfast and then got under way to Isla Mujeres and to Marina Paraiso. The car ferries were operating, so as we got close to the harbor entrance and we were able to verify that we would leave the red markers to our starboard side. We were into the harbor and tied up at Marina Paraiso by 1030.
Let me say that the area is pretty well devastated, but there is constant work to get the damage repaired and the situation back to normal. The Isla Mujeres harbor entrance buoys are there, but at this time they are not lighted … the lights being blown away. The Baja Pepito light/buoy is gone. The light/buoy at La Roca Bandera is also gone. The Punta Sur light house is still there but the light was not operating. I do not know what the schedule is for repairs, so, if you are sailing this way, please be careful. The good news is that in the daylight it is very easy to get into Isla Mujeres. We had done the prudent thing by getting into the lee of the island and then anchoring until daylight.
We are now happily ensconced in the marina. The docks are in pretty rough shape, but we are told that the will be repaired tomorrow. The water pressure is very low, so there is still a leak in the system, but they will be addressing that immediate, too. We do have electricity, so all the amenities are easily available on board. The big disappointment is that this once lush tropical island is now far from it. Many trees were blown down, or away, and most of the foliage left standing is denuded, or brown from Wilma’s salt spray. People here are happy and upbeat, and are working hard to get things back together. It is still a delightful place, and the Caribbean waters and the gorgeous weather are simply exceptional.
We are so pleased to be here. Now we feel that we are really cruising. There is just something about making landfall on foreign shores. Seems like the real thing.
jim & kitty
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