Archive for April, 2007

Arrecife Alacran

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Winds were variable in both speed and direction for our trip to Arrecife Alacran. It took us so long to pick our way out of Isla Holbox (murky water and SHALLOW), we didn’t think we would make it to the reef before late afternoon when the sun angle would be unfavorable for picking through coral heads but the way in to Alacran turned out to be a piece of cake. There are many lighthouses on many of the keys and quite a sizeable naval installation (they never came out to visit us though and we couldn’t hail them on the radio). Lighted green and red buoys mark the main channel into the southern anchorage of the reef but there is sandy shoaling off the southwest edge, off Isla Pajaros, and we just anchored there rather than go inside. The water is clear and the place looks cool.

Shortly after we got settled, a tiny bird settled on our rudder outside our settee window. We took pictures and got on with our lives but then he moved to the edge of the open window and looked like he might actually come inside. I nudged a tupperware lid with some water near him; he seemed mostly unconcerned by the presence of the large mammals. Then he hopped inside and explored the window shelf area. After about ten minutes of initial shyness, he was hopping and flying all over the inside of the boat, exploring many of the cubby holes, landing on rims of dishes in the galley, Joshua’s arm, my book, etc. We had a field day taking pictures of the little guy; I’ll post some when we get where there is internet. Every time he took a sip of water, he would shudder and fling it all over the cabin. He explored the cockpit and cubbies there and then moved on into the foreward cabin for a while, then came back for a few more laps of the aft cabin. After a few hours, around sunset, he took off.

We would like to hang out a day here at the reef and do some exploring but we just checked the NOAA weather and there’s something brewing over Texas later this week with winds increasing; therefore, we will pull anchor and leave as soon as we get coffee made.

Crossing the Gulf of Mexico

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Church. Isla Mujeres Mexico

[Church virgin in the zocalo, Isla Mujeres.]

We spent only one day in Isla Contoy, mostly because with the new improved natural park restrictions one can only walk in a circle around oneself at a diameter of approximately 30 feet—that and the water was too murky to snorkel due to an algae bloom of a most vivid green —then we moved on to Isla Holbox. The island is pronounced like ‘ol-BOSCH;’ the “ol” part like “this ol’ dog” and the bosch really hard on the ‘sch’ part. We’ve been enjoying ourselves listening to the dudes on the radio trying to contact the Capitania del Puerto de OlboSCHHHH (he never answers).

The Boat Life has been pretty low key lately. We have continued to read an astounding number of books lately, but have slowed these last couple of days due to the fact that we’ve read nearly every book on board above ground, so to say, and would have to delve deep into the stuffy depths of our aft storage area to dig out new and unread fodder. New Unread Fodder includes: “Madame Bovary,” “Gravity’s Rainbow” (I have read this already, technically, yet it always counts among the unread), “The Origins of Postmodernism,” that Star Wars novel that someone gave us, “Caesar”—some historical fiction given to us by somebodyorother, oh there are others but you can only imagine. I’m likely to pull out the Madame Bovary next. I’ve been rereading Zorro in Spanish (by Isabel Allende, all good solid swashbuckling fun, I say). I like Isabel Allende in Spanish because I hardly have to look up words ever. Words I don’t know I guess at or just skip over yet I feel like I have pretty good comprehension. Foreign books are too hard to read if you have to look up every tenth word. Zorro is fast-paced and there are lots of heaving breasts and slashing sabers.

Isla Holbox has internet, which is a grand thing, and we were able to check our meager weather sources (NOAA and “buoyweather,” which pretty much sucks most of the time). There are northers coming all the time it seems for the “off season” as they say. So, not much that we can do except hang out here until our hair turns gray or else just pull anchor and head north across 700 miles of Gulf sea.

The plan this day is to head for Arrecife Alacran, north of here by around 150 miles or so, anchor for the night, do some snorkeling if it’s clear, then head on when we get a weather window (when-EV). Mileage should be around 550 or something like this and we should have at least a three or four day weather forecast so that if we hit anything unexpected (a norther—and probably more or less expected at that), we can alter course to the west and aim for Port Isabel, where the intercoastal waterway starts. We still have some minutes on our sat phone so if we can hold still enough out there in the gulf to get a signal, we can post our position and get some email. I’m a little nervous since this will be the largest crossing I’ve ever done but Joshua has done it a bunch of times. It doesn’t help that in all the times he’s crossed he’s never made it without a (harmless) “SCREAMING norther” coming through.

As a matter of fact, one just went by just now. A little one, but very squally. Heavy cloud cover, 20 knots wind max but only lasting a few hours. Then hardly nothing. I wonder if that’s all there is? I was hoping for a nice clean week-long window on that weather so we could head for Alacran but then just have such great sailing that we’d divert and go straight for Texas (and make it in record time, etc. blahblah) but now I’m thinking I’d feel much better if we went the short step before the big one and stopped at Alacran. Make cooked food. Maybe we can build a house. Compose epic novels. Raise a family.

Birds (Holbox)

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Pollo Mago. Hand Painted Sign. Isla Holbox, Mexico

[Dressed bird restaurant art from Holbox.]

Estetica Unisex Yoly. Hand Painted Sign. Isla Holbox, Mexico

[I should have been taking photos of unisex hair salon art the entire time because there were so many really good ones but, well, next trip.]

Isla Holbox was full of birds I had never seen before, only one species of which we were able to photograph with any success. This successful winner was of course the pink Flamingo, which is an incredibly appealing bird of the color pink. Pink. We went out looking for them specifically after hearing that they were seen in these parts and by god we found them, eventually. Were almost ready to give up too after an hour or so of motoring or rowing around when it was too shallow to row. Finally we beached the bote on a little islet and went in search of horseshoe crab skeletons (we found maybe 12 billion). Then all of a sudden there they were, three of them, in a spot where they were not only a second before. We watched and photographed them for at least an hour.

flamingos. Isla Holbox, Mexico

flamingos. Isla Holbox, Mexico

Their beaks have fringy stuff on the inside, and they filter shrimp and other tasty snacks out of the bay sludge. Before they dipped down for a bite, they would do this goofy dance, rocking their knees back and forth and stamping around, presumably churning up the water and the goodies from the bottom.

Among the non photographed are a number of small guys of the “songbird” variety. One, which in my totally non-scientific, non-bird-book having opinion, probably might be called an oriol. It is a beautiful black and bright yellow-orange and it would not hold still for one second. The other cool little bird was a similar sized thing but this time, intense dark turquoise in color. We also saw some white pelicans, the first I’ve seen on this trip.

Isla Holbox, Mexico

We got back to the boat Friday night and dismantled the bote for the passage to Alacran and across the Gulf of Mexico.

Salt Fish

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

drying salt fish. Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

We left Isla Mujeres on the 24th for the short trip up to Isla Contoy. Inside the reef was pretty hairy. Not much protection from the eastern swell and very very shallow and somewhat murky water. We luffed the sails to slow down and picked our way through, but finally dropped anchor in the lee of the island off of a rocky beach. It wasn’t long before the guardaparque came by and told us to move. It turns out you can only stop at the island off the park station to take one of their moorings. After moving to a mooring, we went ashore to pay the park fee ($4 per person per day) then explored the nature trails. This took all of an hour and we spent some time talking to the park ranger before heading back to the boat. It’s a nice park, but it’s too bad you are very restricted in exploring it.

In the morning we couldn’t think of any reason to stay since we’d already seen all the trails so we dropped the mooring and headed for Isla Holbox. Everyone told us that “Isla Holbox is like Isla Mujeres 30 years ago” which is probably true. Except for internet cafes and lots of motorized golf carts, the streets are still sand and the atmosphere is low key and sleepy. We hope to find the flamingos.

Mexican Booby Cakes

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Mexican Booby Cakes. Cancun, Mexico

Cancun, Mexico

We had no plans to visit Cancun, but we had to go pay a port fee which could only be paid at the Banamex in Cancun. It cost us $16 for ferry and bus fare to pay the $20 fee. So lame. We took the opportunity to visit an incredibly large grocery store where we spotted these boob shaped pan dulce. We remember blogging about other pan dulce resembling body parts in La Paz. This should also feed the prepubescent sex crazed googlers out there. “boob” (probably not used in the expected way) has recently surpassed “porta-bote” in our search engine statistics.

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell