Isla Mujeres, Mexico 2009

The time spent in Isla Mujeres in November and December of 2009 was a really a great time for us. We love being there. The place and the people are wonderful. This missive, of our time in Isla Mujeres, is being written after we departed, so I hope I remember all that happened.

We pick up here at the end of the November 8, 2009, Dream Away update. That update ended just after we arrived in Isla Mujeres, and after Hurricane Ida passed.

On Monday, November 9th, we started the official check-in process. I went into the city Centro with the agent, Jose, from Marina Paraiso, to first go to the Health Office and clear in there, and then go to Immigration and start that process. Then we went back to the marina to await the arrival of all the other officials. The Immigration official showed up and officially checked us into the country. Next, Kitty, Diana, and Jim B. went into town to do some shopping for fresh goodies while I waited for the Customs officials and the official from Agriculture to arrive. The Customs folks showed up, and did their inspection of the boat, and, of course, found no issues.

Jose said the official from Agriculture would not be coming that day, but was coming to the boat on Tuesday, November 10th. The crew came back from town, and we really got settled in. I started working on a project list to get some things done while I could take advantage of good friend Jim being on the boat until November 20th. Diana wanted to do some cooking, and we all needed to catch up on rest after our crossing, and preparing for the hurricane. We all took showers, and had a cocktail hour. Diana cooked us a wonderful meal, we all had another adult beverage, and then into bed!!

Puss-N-Boots (PNB), and my “alarm clock”, woke me up at approximately 0530, as they had every morning since we docked in Isla Mujeres! One of the ferry companies operating between Isla Mujeres and Puerto Juarez, in Cancun, keeps their ferries docked right next to Marina Paraiso. The ferry service starts at 0600, so the ferry captain and crew arrive early and start the onboard generator. This is our “alarm clock”! After their generator runs for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, they start the main engines and let them warm up, and off they go for a day's work. When PNB hears the ferry generator start up, he knows it is time to get up, so he starts walking all over me, including on my face, to make sure I get up. He is the monster I have created in the mornings. When I get up, I make my coffee, then PNB and I go for a “walk”. When we were in Texas, we would actually get off of the boat, and PNB had a choreographed walk we did every morning. Since we are now cruising, and he cannot get off of the boat, we walk around the deck of the boat. He really seems to enjoy the outing, and it is a great way for me to watch the day come alive.

We all eventually got up and got into gear. The Agriculture official showed up to inspect the boat and to see PNB. The International Health Certificate for PNB was out of date, so we had to call a vet to come to the boat. The vet inspected PNB, and all of the paperwork we have on him, then went back to his office to write up a health certificate. The vet came back with the new health certificate, so the Agriculture official was able to sign off on PNB. While the vet was gone, the Agriculture official did an inspection of the boat. No problems except for one. He asked if I had any beef on board, which I did. He said we could not import any beef from the USA or Canada, into Mexico. We agreed that what I had on board was for personal consumption only, and he allowed us to keep it. He did ask me to promise that, if we ate any of our beef, and it had bones, we would put the bones in a sealed container, and not dispose of the bones in Mexico. The Agriculture official left after all of the paper work was finished. We were finally, completely, officially in Mexico.

During our crossing, we had had some damage to a couple of the sails. One or two of the “pads” that allow the monofilament line to pass through the sail cloth for the Dutchman flaking system had come loose on the main sail, and needed repair. We also had a small rip in the stay sail. The really big problem was the genoa. The Sunbrella cover that is used to protect the genoa, when it is rolled up on the forestay, was starting to come off, and needed to be sewn back on. Tom, the marina manager, told us about a sail maker who worked out of another marina. Jim and I loaded up the sails on my two-wheeled cart, and went off to find the sail maker. We did find her, and we explained what we needed to be done. We also said we were not in a big hurry, but would like to get the sails back a week from Friday, November 20th.

Jim and I went back to the boat to get to work on projects. The next two days, which were the remainder of Tuesday and then Wednesday, were spent cleaning and washing the boat, sails, and cushions. We also washed and dried all of the extra lines we had used to tie off Dream Away for the hurricane.

When we were preparing for the hurricane, I had taken off all of the sails on Dream Away, and we had folded them in the yard at the marina. The good news is that we got all of the sails folded and put away on Dream Away. The bad news is that the yard in the marina was very wet, and lots of dirt and grass got folded up with the sails. As it turns out, the sailmaker, Alejandra, and our crew mate, Diana, were good friends who had spent a lot of time together before this trip. Diana went by to see Alejandra to catch up and visit. During the visit, Alejandra mentioned to Diana that she could work on my sails, but they were so dirty, she was concerned about causing a problem with her sewing machine.

When Diana came back to the boat and told me of Alejandra’s concerns, I decided to go back, get the sails, bring them back to the boat, and wash them down. The weather was beautiful and sunny, with a great breeze blowing. We washed all of the sails, allowed them to dry, and got them all refolded. This took the remainder of Tuesday and all of Wednesday, November 11th.

BTW, just so there is no confusion, I did fly the Marine Corps flag on November 10th, the Marine Corps birthday. A proper toast was made to all Marine's, past, present, and future. The flag was left flying for November 11th, Veterans Day, and a toast was made to all veterans.

On Wednesday, November 11th, Diana had made arrangements with one of the golf cart companies in the city center, for Thursday, November 12th. We decided to take Thursday off and become tourists to see the island from north to the south. Having the golf cart also gave us the chance to take the three cleaned sails to the Alejandra to have the work done on them.

On Thursday morning, Diana went into the city Centro, got the golf cart, and brought it back to the marina. We all loaded into the golf cart. There was Kitty, Jim, Diana, myself, and three bags of sails. We headed south to Puerto Isla Mujeres Resort & Yacht Club to drop off the sails at Alejandra's shop so she could repair them. We then headed out, and stopped and visited with Guillermo, who is Alejandra's husband. He is an artist and a musician. It was interesting to see some of his artwork. Very dark, and a little scary.

Next, we went all the way south on the island of Isla Mujeres to some very small Mayan ruins. We went up into the lighthouse, and looked all around the area. We then went back north on the east coast road that runs right along the beach. We stopped at one place, and walked out to the beach and rocks. We looked at the waves, and some of the fish and animal life living in the rocks.

We continued north on the coast road, stopped at a very small local restaurant, and had a wonderful and very inexpensive lunch. Then, we continued north past the airport, through the city center, and onto the north beach. The north beach is the really nice beach on Isla Mujeres where all the tourists go. The day we were there, the wind was out of the northeast, so there were big waves breaking on the beach, and not too many folks out. Still it was nice to hear the waves, and feel the sand between our toes. We hung out on the beach for a while, then slowly made our way back to the marina.

Diane and Kitty took the golf cart back to the city center, turned in the vehicle, and made their way back to the marina. We finished off our official “Tourist Day” with a wonderful meal, again prepared and cooked by Diana, and had a couple of adult beverages. It was a good day, and very relaxing.

Kitty and Jim On Golfcart

Diana Taking Picture

Cancun From South Isla Mujeres

Hotels In Cancun

Jim, Jim, Diana On The East Beach

Beach East Side Isla Mujeres

Vegatation Along Beach

Captain On Beach

Captain Walking On Beach

North Beach Isla Mujeres

North Beach Isla Mujeres

North Beach Isla Mujeres

North Beach Isla Mujeres

North Beach Isla Mujeres

Kitty, Diane, Jim On Golf Cart

Kitty Diane, Jim

Kitty, Captain, Jim

Starting on Friday the 13th, Jim and I went to work on projects that needed to be done while I had a second person to help. During this time, Kitty was cleaning up and drying the inside of the boat as best she could, while working around Jim and me. Diana prepared and cooked most of the breakfasts and evening meals, and spent time getting coordinated for her trip south. She also worked with Alejandra, the sailmaker, to help out her friend.

On November 15th and 16th, Sunday and Monday, we took another tourist break. A person can get into this cruising lifestyle! We had heard from the manager of Marina Paraiso, and other people that the Mexican city of Merida was not to be missed on a Saturday or Sunday night. So the four of us went via bus to the city. See the details of the Merida trip here.

Diane spent a couple more days with us, but she had people to see in Belize and on the Rio Dulce, so she left us on Wednesday, November 18th. We did not expect to see her again until her next trip down after the first of the year, when we would be in the Rio Dulce. Her plan was to come back from her trip south to Belize and Guatemala, and to fly out of Cancun on December 6th. Our plan was to be in Belize by then, leaving Isla Mujeres right after Thanksgiving.

Jim and I spent the next week working on some leaks, and checking out the water maker lift pump and the generator raw water pump. The water maker and the generator were pretty big items for us, so Jim and I decided to work on those items first, and get them checked out.

He and I put in the new water maker lift pump, and it failed almost immediately. I will not go into the long story here, because the story is covered in the updates for Dream Away 11-08-2009 and Dream Away 01-07-2010 . Jim and I spent pretty much a whole day taking out old pumps putting in new pumps, checking out the failures, and then putting the old pumps back in. Not especially back breaking work, just time consuming, and because of the result, time wasting. The good news is that I still have a working lift pump for the water maker even if it is not at 100%.

Next, we started on the generator raw water pump. Here I was pretty sure I was covered as far as spare parts went. Oops, slapped down again. We got out my box of gen set spares, and set to work. First we had to remove the leaking raw water pump from the gen set, rebuild the unit, and then put the newly rebuilt pump back on the gen set. We were good to go.

We discovered some parts issues when we started to fix the leaking raw water pump after its removal. Looking closely at the parts list for the generator, it turns out that there are three possible raw water pumps for this unit. The first pump listed, which I do not have, is the pump for which I have a complete spare parts kit, which is now of no use. The second pump listed is a Johnson Pump. I do have a new Johnson Pump, but no spares for it, specifically, no spare impellers. The third pump listed is a Jabsco Pump. I have two Jabsco Pumps, and several impellers for them, but no spare seals. Of course, it is the seals that have failed on these pumps.

Jim and I tried to come up with a fix for the seals on the Jabsco Pump, but we were not able to do so. We found out that you cannot order replacement parts for this pump through Jabsco or any of their distributors. The parts are available only through Northern Lights. (The gen set is a Northern Lights 5KW unit.)

Jim and I decided to put the Johnson Pump on the gen set to keep it working so we could make water on our trip down through Belize to the Rio Dulce. We just hoped the impeller would work and wouldn’t fail until we reach our destination. So far, with the gen set, my only failures have been impellers for the raw water pump. We got the raw water pump on the gen set, and the pump is checked out was working just fine.

Another part of the pump effort is ordering and getting the parts to our friend Paul so that he can bring them to me in the Rio Dulce. It turned out to be quite an effort between Dan at West Marine in League City, Texas, Jim in Irving, Texas, and Paul from Plano, Texas, who was actually in Boston visiting his newly arrived twin grandchildren. When Jim left Isla Mujeres, he took the failed Jabsco Pump with him to Irving. I was in contact with Dan in League City, and he had the new older model pump, which he sent to Jim in Irving. I asked Jim to send the failed new model pump to Dan in League City so I could get credit for it, which he did. I then contacted a Northern Lights Distributor, in the Miami, Florida area, Bishop Marine, and ordered all of the impellers, seals, and O-rings I needed for the gen set. As it turns out, Bishop Marine did not have all of the parts in stock, so they ordered the parts from Northern Lights in Seattle, Washington, and had the parts drop-shipped to Jim in Irving, Texas. When Paul returned from Boston, Jim gave all of the parts to Paul, who will bring them to me in the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. Ahhh, the adventure of getting parts while cruising!!

Jim and I next tackled the problem of leaks. I have some leaks at the front cabin of the boat, and some leaks mid-ship on the port side of the boat. The forward leaks show themselves by getting the cushions in the forward berth wet, and anything laying against the hull up forward gets wet. Not a good thing, especially when you are using the forward berth for crew or storage. The port side leak manifests itself by dripping water from the overhead into the navigation station. This is not a great situation, as we really use our electronics for vessel navigation, and entertainment, and, of course, work on our computers.

Anyone who has owned a boat knows it is extremely difficult to find the source of a leak ... and, at some time, all boats leak. Unless you have a gapping hole, about all you can do is come up with theories about the source of a leak. Also, just to keep the wary boat owner on his/her toes, you can spray a hose on the suspected source of a leak for hours, and you still get no clues. You walk away with a smug expression on your face, and with the first small shower provided by Mother Nature, the dreaded leak is back!

Anyway, Jim and I decided that possibly the source of the leaks forward are the boat name boards, and/or the bases for the bowsprit. The possible source of the navigation station leak may be some old damage from hurricane Wilma that I had just patched and never fixed properly.

We started on the bases for the bowsprit. This involved removing the forestay. The good news for this portion of the project is that the genoa sail was at the sailmakers getting repaired so we did not have to remove the sail before removing the forestay. With the forestay removed, we then removed the bob stay. Next, we removed the bases of the bowsprit from both sides of the bulwarks. Once this was completed, we cleaned the bases, put roof mastic (that I now use for all bedding projects) on the bases, and put the bases back into place. There was some possible evidence of water leakage around the bases. Once we finished bolting down the bowsprit bases and had the roof mastic squeezimg around the outside of the bases, we were confident that the bowsprit bases would not leak in the future.

Next were the name boards. I seriously considered removing the name boards, and re-bedding them, but there are over twenty screws or bolts holding each name board to the side of the hull. I decided this was too involved a project, considering the time we had and the time required. We masked off each name board, and ran a bead of sealant around the full circumference of each.

When we finished, we felt that, if the bases for the bowsprit or the name boards were the source of the leaks, we had them fixed.

I just want to mention that while we doing all of these projects, before Jim left, not all all the time was spent working on the boat from dawn to dusk. We usually had a nice breakfast, prepared by Diana. Then we would get to work. Sometimes we would go into town and do some shopping, and stop someplace in town for a nice lunch.

In the evenings, we had showers, and then usually an adult beverage - rum and lemonade in my case, and a cold beer for Jim. Then we would have dinner, or go into town and have dinner, then back to the boat for a nightcap.

Jim left us on November 20th. We saw him off at the ferry depot. He was taking the ferry, making his way to the airport, and then flying back to Dallas. It was great having him along, not only for the friendship, but also because he is a great help on the boat.

Our plan now was to go to the sailmaker and pick up our sails, then move out of the marina into the harbor, stay at anchor for the next week, and then head out to Belize. We were planning to celebrate Thanksgiving in Isla Mujeres, then we would move on.

We went to the sailmaker that afternoon, and paid our bill, but did not pick up the sails as they would have been pretty heavy to carry back to the boat. I went the next day, Saturday, in a golf cart driven by Tom the manager of the Marina Paraiso, and got the sails. I put the main sail back on, but had a real struggle with it. I felt very faint, and was sweating a lot more than normal. That night we went to dinner in the Colonia Gloria, with some new friends we had met, Ray and Alison. We had a great time with them and a good meal at a restaurant named La Bruja (The Witch). I was having a problem with incredibly sore joints in my arms, hips, and knees. It was really bad - the pain was astounding.

I went back to the boat that night, and went to bed. Being in bed did not help the pain, but at least I was lying down. As it turned out, I had Dengue Fever, and I was out of it for about ten days. When I was finally able to get up and around, we had to wait for a weather window before we could continue to Belize.

Because I was down with the fever, we did not go out to the harbor and anchor, but decided to stay at Marina Paraiso. I was in no shape to drive the dinghy, and Kitty cannot start the motor.

I had most of the projects completed on the boat that needed to be done, so we just waited for a nice weather window. We enjoyed ourselves with relaxing and reading. We visited with friends, and generally had a very leisurely time.

We spent a lot of time visiting with the young English language teachers we had met, Ray and Alison. We would go to the Colonia Gloria and meet them for a meal, or they would come by the boat and visit. We raved to them about our trip to Merida, and they took off for a weekend and visited the city also. They had quite a great time, and a few adventures.

We thought we had missed our chance of seeing Diana again, since our trip to Belize had been delayed. But one morning, we looked out on the dock at Marina Paraiso, and there she was, sitting on the dock, facing the sea, and smoking a cigarette. She was on her way back to Canada to do her spring planting (she has an organic farm there), and stopped by to visit. We got to have her onboard for another few days before she took the ferry to Cancun, and flew home.

>It was getting close to Christmas time, and we were wondering how we could get a few gifts home to our loved ones. The answer was our friend Ray (they don’t call her “Sunray” for nothing). She was going to the States for Christmas, and kindly agreed to take our little presents with her, and mail them from there. We were pretty sure than any packages we tried to mail from Isla Mujeres would take weeks to be delivered, if they ever arrived at all.

We did have a couple of adventures that were pretty time consuming. Because of the fever, we had stayed in Mexico longer than we planned. When we originally checked into Mexico, we thought we would only be there about two weeks, so we got a 30-day tourist visa. That was a big mistake, the next time we will get the visa for 90 days.

Our visa was running out, and we needed to get it extended. As usual, we had fun and games with the government. I am not picking on the Mexican government, doing anything a bit out of the ordinary with any government can be daunting, and we must factor in the issue that our Spanish was not great.

We went to the Immigration office on Isla Mujeres. They are a really a nice and friendly group of officials, and they speak and understand English pretty well. They understood our problem, but said we would have to go to the Immigrations office in Cancun. The Immigration official gave us a list of instructions for the paper work we would need to take with us, and told us that the Immigration office in Cancun opened at 0900. We went back to the boat, made all of the necessary copies, and planned the outing for the next day.

We got up early the next morning to make the 0800 ferry, $15.00 each round trip, to Cancun. We knew right where the Immigration office was, thanks to the Freya Rauscher Cruising Guide. When we got off of the ferry, we took a colectivo to the Immigration office, arriving there around 0850. Good news, the office was already open. Bad news, there were already lots and lots of people in line. We took a number and awaited our turn. When our turn came up, we went to the window and explained the situation to the Immigration Officer. She told us we needed an additional form and and sent us to see another Officer who was sitting at the desk in the waiting area.

We went to the second Immigration official and found that he spoke wonderful English. He gave us a new form that had to be filled out, and explained the process. We got another number for the line, sat down, and filled out the form. Then, our turn came again to see the first Immigration officer. We showed her the new, completed form, and she asked us where the second page was. We had blank looks on our faces. She called over to the second Immigration officer at the desk and asked him about the second page. He apologized a lot, but he had forgotten to give us the second page. He gave us the second page, and helped us fill it out. We each had to fill out the form, which was the request for the visa extension. He also explained that we had to get two copies of each form, and he told us where to go to get the copies made.

While we were filling out forms, and waiting in line, we saw a new friend whom we had met through the two English teachers we knew on Isla. We had gone to breakfast with Ray and Alison at a great restaurant, called the Mango Café, in the Colonia Gloria on Isla, and Alison had brought along her friend, Catherine. She is an English girl who is marring a Mexican dive shop operator who lives there on Isla Mujeres. When we first walked into the Cancun Immigration office, she was there waiting in line, filling out forms in hopes of getting the final visa she needed to stay in Mexico and marry Gilberto. We had a nice chat.

We went out to get the copies made, which was about a block away. The copy shop was operated by an enterprising woman who had purchased a copy machine and set up the business on her front porch. It was right across the street from the Immigration office. Needless to say, she did quite a business. We got our copies made, and went back to the Immigration office, got another number, and waited in line, again.

Our number finally came up and we went to talk to the Immigration officer. She started explaining something else to us, but when we couldn’t understand what she was saying. She got a little frustrated and called a lead officer over. She explained to him what was going on, in very rapid Spanish, so we had a hard time following the conversation. Finally, the lead officer took our tourist visa forms, crossed out the 30 days, and wrote in 90 days. This seemed a bit unofficial. We inquired if this would be OK, and did we owe them any money? Basically, he said everything was fine and we should just leave!!

As we walked out of the Immigration office, we made plans with Catherine to meet her at a coffee shop down the street from the copy shop, where we could have a coffee and a pastry. Catherine said she was almost finished, and would meet us very quickly. She did join us quickly, and had also been successful in her quest. We could stay in Mexico for 60 more days, and she had a visa to stay in Mexico and marry Gilberto.

We all then went to a bookstore, but they only had Spanish titles. Catherine was going to do some additional shopping, so we caught a colectivo to Puerto Juarez, where we could catch a ferry back to Isla. We arrived on Isla around noon, and had a lunch at one of our favorite restaurants near the Port Captain's office, Cafe Negrito. After lunch, we went back to the boat, and told the Immigration story to all who would listen. We felt pretty pleased with ourselves, and celebrated with adult beverages.

As a postscript to the story, when we went to check out of Mexico, the Immigration officers in Isla made us pay a fee for the visa extension before we checked out. So, the Immigration officer in Cancun had not been correct in the handling of our extension.

Our next adventure involved getting a new TV set. Our Samsung monitor had died after we got to Mexico, so we had no way to watch movies. If you know Kitty, this situation would not last for long. We decided to try and find a monitor that I could possibly squeeze into the space left by removing the Samsung SyncMaster 191T from the navigation station .

We decided our best chance at a TV that could also be used as a monitor was to go to Cancun and visit the WalMart and CostCo stores. We crossed to Cancun on the ferry, got the colectivo to the bus stop, then the bus to WalMart. We went into the store, and found a very nice 19-inch TV that could be used as a monitor. We paid for the unit, then went back to the boat via the bus, colectivo, ferry, and, finally, the taxi.

When weset up the unit, try as we might, there was just no way we were going to be able to move enough stuff around in the navigation station area to make the new TV/monitor fit. We decided that if we were not going to be able to fit a 19” unit into the space, and we had to haul out a TV/monitor each time we wanted to watch a movie, we might as well get a bigger TV/monitor. This decision meant we would have to go back to Cancun, exchange the TV/monitor we had already purchased, and purchase a new bigger one, this time in the 22” to 24” size range.

That night, at the happy hour at Marina Paraiso, we told everyone what we had done and what we planned to do. Kevin, one of the boaters at the marina said he might be interested in purchasing our newly purchased TV/monitor. He said it would save him a bunch of hassle of going to Cancun and getting one. He looked at the one we purchased, liked it, said it would be perfect for his boat, and bought it from us.

That saved us the hassle of carrying the unit to WalMart and returning it.  So, the next day we made the same trip over to WalMart, in Cancun. We found a very nice 24” LG brand TV/monitor that came with a stand-alone DVD player. We purchased the unit, and made the same return trip to the boat as we had the day before. Since we already had a nice DVD player, and the bonus one was not for our region, we ended up contributing it (and our portable clothes washer) to Mario’s Marina, for the Eco-Rio dinner and auction that collected money to help with Rio Dulce projects. But, that’s another story.

The next week was spent just hanging out in Isla, waiting for a weather window. It looked as if one would be opening up at the end of the week, around the 12th or 13th of December. We did make that weather window, and the passage is covered in Isla To Belize.
One event that did take place before we left Isla was the annual Virgin of Guadalupe celebration. This takes place in the harbor with a parade of boats, so I was able to take many pictures of the event as it passed by our marina.

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Puppy At Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Kevin Working The Party

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Thanksgiving At Marina Paraiso

Pete Townshend, No, Kevin

Kitty At Thanksgiving Party

Ray, Kitty, Alison On Dream Away

Ray, Kitty, Alison On Dream Away

Ray, Jim, Alison On Dream Away

PNB Taking It All In

Our Guard Pelican

Our Guard Pelican

Full Moon

Working On New Monitor

Nav Station, Monitor Removed

Trying To Get New Monitor Working

Diana In Cockpit

Diana Preparing Departure

Diana Waiting For A Taxi

Diana Getting Into Taxi

Poc Chuc Restaurant

Big Ferry From Cancun

Big Ferry Docking

Mexican Flag In Cancun

Virgin Of Guadalupe Celebration

Virgin Of Guadalupe Celebration

Virgin Of Guadalupe Celebration

Virgin Of Guadalupe Celebration

Virgin Of Guadalupe Celebration

Virgin Of Guadalupe Celebration