Puerto Morelos - Mexico
We are now in our second Mexican location, the Marina El Cid near Puerto Morelos which nestles between two newish fully inclusive resorts on a fairly boring part of the Yucatan coast.
The marina The swamp - here be crocs.... or are they alligators?
We have been here for two weeks and have so far seen 5 weddings taking place so who knows just how many people have tied the knot when we weren't around to witness the event. Today a light aircraft flew over the resort towing a large sign "Megan - will you marry me" which caused some mirth amongst fellow boaters. How much it cost Megan's prospective hubby we can only guess - just hope Megan hadn't popped off to the bathrooms when the plane flew over!
When we arrived here we were cast into the 'cheap seats' on a mooring ball as there was a three day fishing tournament in full swing and every berth was occupied with sports fishers large and small with noisy crews and extremely loud music into the early hours. They certainly know how to party. The next day at pre-determined times they would stream out of the harbour with their battle music playing at full blast. Later that evening they would be back with the air heavy with the smell of freshly caught fish with the gutted remains of Dorados, Barracudas and Marlin floating around the marina looking for a way out to sea.
The fishing competition First prize in the next competition ....The Pick-up, not the poster
We were actually quite glad to be out on the moorings and away from the noise at the dockside. We were even entertained by a couple in one of the resort complexes one afternoon who no doubt were feeling frisky in the Caribbean sun seated in their balcony hot tub and perhaps unaware that their activities were clearly visible by the 'naked' eye on a sailing catamaran a few hundred yards away. After twenty minutes the skipper had to forcibly confiscate the binoculars being used by the 'Admiral' who in turn then pulled rank and confiscated the ones being used by the skipper!
One of the irritations of South American countries is the laborious system of checking in and out. Arriving in a new country without a Zarpe (a mysterious piece of paper issued on exit of one country and duly presented (no-demanded actually) to officials in the next. Having been in the Bahamas and USA, both of which operate simple non zarpe schemes for clearing pleasure craft through their borders and Cuba where the system seems onerous but at least the officials (and dogs) arrive en-mass, the system here is more complex and some people bite the bullet and hire an agent to traipse round the various offices that need to rubber stamp your arrival into the country.
In Isla Mujeres for instance we started at the Port Captain's office where we were clearly interrupting their enjoyment of a television interview with a footballer and instructed us to go to the hospital to start our clearance in case we were disease-ridden but not before the 'Admiral' managed to drop a plastic bottle full of water over the floor in the office. Fortunately our friends Steve and Roberta had jumped through similar hoops before us and knew where the hospital was and we joined a small queue outside a office where the nurse was. Once in she looked at our paperwork and then directed us to the local internet office to obtain four copies of each boat document we had as well as having to create an impromptu crew list (4 copies also required). Back to the hospital to wait outside the door whilst she dealt with a local man with a brief case. Once in we completed some more forms which related to known diseases on the boat, rats (alive or dead) and whether any of our crew had died on the voyage - we had a quick head count and ringed the 'No' answer.
Next it was off to Immigration where there was another form to complete to obtain some tourist visas and some money to pay. Presumably to avoid local corruption this has to be paid straight into a government bank account and was payable in local Mexican Pesos not US dollars which was all we had available. In Mexico you cannot change foreign money into Mexican Pesos unless you have a tourist visa which of course we were trying to get but had to pay in Pesos etc etc....Our friends came to the rescue again and kindly lent us the required Pesos to pay the bank to get the paper to show to Immigration to get our tourist visas to then be able to change some money to pay our friends back! It was now back to the Port Captain's office where the football channel was still on, a fact clearly known to us as the hombre at the front desk picked up the TV controller and increased the volume so he could hear.
We now had to go through the agriculture inspection and a charming young lady who was sitting in the reception area claimed that she needed to inspect our vegetables. It was explained we were at anchor but she said that it was her job despite not liking dinghy rides. Knowing some yachtie friends she's probably had a few scary rides in the past! The half mile trip back out to Ajaya was into the full force of the day breeze and by the time she climbed out of the dinghy onto our deck she was soaked but certainly not down by any means as her professional training kicked in. Requesting to see all the vegetables we had onboard with knowledge of their origins she carefully inspected each item, tut-tutting over the garlic bulbs we'd been given in Cuba. She was also due to check the beds for bugs and insects we may have that could possibly devastate the entire potato crop on the Yucatan peninsular. She decided that as the boat looked pretty shipshape and that there were no obvious signs of vermin that she would complete the inspection but with warnings that we must eat everything we had and not take ashore any waste material from the said vegetables. We had to dispose of them at sea (where they would no doubt be taken by the Gulf Stream to some other country, but not Mexico). We promised that is what we would do and the ride back to the shore was drier and more comfortable.
It was back into the Port Captains office where the football channel was still on and it was time for him to undertake a little admin work, clearly not a popular aspect of his job description as he proceeded to kick a swivel chair right across the office where it cannoned off a distant desk before coming to rest. More paper work and a dubious charge for anchoring as well as the clearance fee. We still hadn't completed customs clearance as the customs officer wasn't in residence that day but we now had some local currency, were lighter by almost $100 due to the fees and could now celebrate our first night ashore in Mexico with Steve and Roberta. (At a Cuban themed restaurant)!
And so we enjoyed the delights of Isla Mujeres before travelling the 30 miles south to check into El Cid. It's been a nice stopover, using the facilities at the resort featuring the largest swimming pool we've ever used approx 100 yard long with one of those bars that you sit at whilst still being in the pool. A few beers blagged despite the white wrist band we are issued with indicating to the staff that we are entitled to be on site but entitled to no food or drinks. There is poolside entertainment each evening, most notably a Mexican magician who performed various acts of illusion and magic with a commentary in two languages to ensure all in the audience could follow his act (tough luck if you were French).
Enjoying the facilities....... including the wet bar......
Some of El Cid's beautiful features within the resort ..............
Whilst here we have made some new friends and special mention goes to Jim & Laura who, having spent a month here already were about to leave when they tried to start their engine and nothing happened. Despite advice from all directions after the visit of a seemingly demented mechanic that looked liked a cross between Catweazle and a skinny Rolf Harris, the engine had to be removed from their yacht where it was found that water had backfilled into their cylinders and siezed the engine. A hefty bill to pay and a few more weeks enforced stay in El Cid Marina before they can head south to Panama for the summer. Despite all the gloom and doom they have been great company and we wish them well for their summer cruise (try and keep the water out of the engine you two!)
Jim & Laura's Yanmar off to the workshop!
Doing what cruisers do best - troffing with lots of chat Guacamole dip demo at 'El Cid' watched by Roberta,Jim and Laura
Today we checked out of Mexico which proved slightly easier but considerably wetter than clearing in. We've just endured two days of almost continuous rain - some of it torrential, real tropical downpours meaning the boat has been without fresh air for most of the time, as leaving a hatch open just a smidgen means serious amounts of water pouring in. The only plus side to this has been to wash the decks clean which has been a chore since a Cormorant has taken residence at the top of our neighbours mast some 20ft away to windward. When the blighter feels a little full in the evacuation department up comes the tail and an impressive ejection of guano take place splattering our decks and bimini. The other night it took its bombing act a stage further by managing to get some through our over-bed hatches and onto the Admiral's pillow just inches from where her head was peacefully laid. Previously it had successfully saturation-bombed the port aft cabin bedding through an open portlight. There is now a death warrant on that bird!
Guano covered! Not Iguana covered !
Back to that rain! - We needed to attend the Port Captain's office in Puerto Morelos to obtain a Zarpe to clear from Mexico. It was still pouring with rain as we entered his domain. We couldn't have been wetter had we just climbed out of a swimming pool but he offered his seats to our wet posteriors as he carefully studied our paperwork. He then kindly, as a favour, called immigration to attend at the boat the next day, not at 1000am as we wished but at 0900. We then had to pay the fee for the Zarpe ($20 or 203 pesos). This is when the wheels came off our wagon as neither credit card would work on their card reading machine. After much shrugging of shoulders it was agreed that a member of the staff (but not the port captain himself) would use their card and we would pay him back in cash, which we didn't have without a visit to the money exchange in town.
So off to the town and the exchange and back to the Port Captain's office (well Phil only) as the Admiral had mucho shopping to do. On the way back to the Port Captains office the heavens opened again, heavy smell of sewage in the air with the flooded roads. Zarpe in hand and back to the town (ignoring the reptilian hiss coming from the mangroves on the way but quickening the pace a little) to re-join the 'Admiral' in the small supermarket buying up as much as possible to tide us over for a while.
The next morning the Immigration officer duly arrived at .....1000am and completed the form to enable us to leave Mexico. That's when we hit our next problem as he needed a copy of the b.....dy Zarpe. At this point, having taken a photo of the document to print off - being very hi-tech, the printer resolutely refused to function. With both of us frantically pushing buttons and hissing expletives whilst the officer sweltered in the 35 degree heat watched over by one of the ships bears we resorted finally to the 'Admiral' sprinting' - well no, that's not the right word to use, walking up to the marina office to ask to use the photocopier. Meanwhile Phil still continued to try and obtain a copy on the printer whilst the immigration officer sat patiently withering. We are free to depart Mexico - but where to go next?
The Rio Dulce in Guatemala is an obvious choice but we still hanker on getting to Panama. Unfortunately our route has been blocked by what the weather forecaster described as a band of disorganised convective squalls in the region just north of Panama which if they get their act together could form a tropical low etc. Then the H for hurricane word appears as a possibility to scare us both to death. Currently it has a one in ten chance of doing this within the next 48 hours. So we are hanging on to see what happens. The system is forecast to form a low and head north or northwest across the eastern tip of Cuba and the windward passage leaving us free to head southwards. But that is a few days away yet and we are cautious about these forecasts as summer in the Caribbean means tremendous energy being released into the upper atmosphere to cause havoc somewhere - but hopefully not anywhere near us!
Talking of bad weather - on the way from Cuba to Mexico we encountered a massive thunderstorm on the north Cuban coast which caught us with full main up although we had rolled the genoa away - and the main's pretty small anyway. Well the storm became a lot worse as the minutes ticked away and we recorded a maximum wind speed of 48.2 knots at the masthead. Not pleasant especially as the system lasted a full hour with torrential rain to add to the misery. It wasn't the best of voyages but we did land a fish at last to make up for the rotten weather.
Fish 'n....... ........ Shits! (sorry - but that's a lot of wind!)
Viva Mexico!! Yes - quite agree!
Dockside restaurant in Isla Mujeres Restaurant row - busy season The beach at Isla M.. quite beautiful