Still in Isla.....

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Wed 23 Jan 2013 00:00
We are entering our fourth week in Isla Mujeres and enjoying the excellent amenities of the Marina Paraiso. Weather windows to get to Key West some 370 miles to the northeast at this time of the year are as rare as hen's teeth. With this in mind we have taken a more laid back approach to our lack of progress northwards by killing off some long outstanding jobs. Ah! The Jobs List - the Bane of every mechanical object invented by mankind (but especially old boats and new types of airliners produced by Boeing).
'Skip' gets to grips with re-bedding the pulpits, a job that more easily undertaken lying down .... whilst overhead we are entertained by the might of the Mexican air force on a flypast
Unfortunately, shortly after our arrival in the marina, having decided to de-coke the starboard engine exhaust system and change the oil in the port engine it was discovered (announced by a cry of angst from the Skipper) that the port head gasket had blown again.  Almost exactly a year after it was replaced whilst we were in Roatan on our way South. The on-board 'engineer' deemed that this probably occurred because we had been unable to have the cylinder head skimmed by a workshop whilst we were in Honduras. We had hoped that it would suffice to clean up the cylinder block and head face, replace the gasket and torque the head back down. So with the starboard engine compartment still not quite shipshape from the de-coke (which had resulted in lumps of black carbon being sprinkled all over the boat much to the disgust of the 'Admiral') the port engine was immediately stripped down to remove the cylinder head and have it skimmed at a workshop in Cancun. It was back the same day, courtesy of the local resident Mexican mechanic called Dave, nice and shiny on the gasket face and with the valves reground. (the head - not Dave) With so much mechanical work going on aft our foreword cabins were full of mattresses from the aft cabins which made our sleeping area seem like a padded cell, although we are obviously not drawing on direct experience to make such a comparison. Eventually all the parts were back together, the engine restarted and run for an hour or so under load. All seems OK (so anybody non mechanically minded can now breath a sigh of relief and move on to more exciting events such as checking the boat into Mexico !).
We've been here before - hope it's the last time we have to do this!
The Marina offers a 'checking in' service where all the Government officials get into their cars and drive to the marina to carry out the procedure. Usually, as we irritatingly discovered last time, on arriving in Mexico visits to numerous offices are required and in a particular order starting at the hospital to ensure you haven't arrived carrying the plague (the fact you are already ashore distributing it is neither here nor there). Then to Immigration, the Port Captain, Customs, and Agriculture in case we have some dodgy Honduran spuds onboard. If you have animals then a visit from the vet can also be expected. So for the princely sum of a pre-agreed amount of money known in western cultures as a 'tip' these good upright officers arrive at the marina with their brief cases full of paperwork, stamps and inkpads to avoid us having to disturb them in their various offices in town. However, one journey we did have to make was to obtain our 10 year importation license for the boat which is now mandatory if you are staying more than a few days in Mexico! So with paperwork generated by the marina office basically saying that the boat was what it was meant to be and that the identification numbers could and had been witnessed by a third party i.e the marina, we joined crew from two other boats on the fast ferry to Puerto Juarez to visit the main customs office. The young lady carefully examined every word on every page of our documentation and pronounced that she was not happy with certain aspects of it, basically that the declaration from the marina was not on headed paper. This applied to all three crews except for some reason neither of us can fathom out our Hull Identification Number does not appear on our British Registry documentation. So to cut an already long story short 'Skip' was back on the fast cat ferry the next morning with hopefully the now correct paperwork and this time our 10 year importation license was issued. Unfortunately, current cruising plans mean we are unlikely to be back in Mexico in the foreseeable future so the license is pretty much meaningless but there you go. Rules are rules and the Mexican authorities are not to be underestimated.
Ferry to Porto Juarez (day one)            and the CIS Office where we were refused our 10 year importation permit (looks like he was refused one as well)
It hasn't all been work and business though. The 'Admiral' has been swimming in the marina pool on a daily basis. An activity curtailed temporarily by a particularly nasty cold front that brought some chilly air down from the north which made the unheated pool very unappealing.  When the air mass wafting over us moves back into the warmer easterly sector the daily dips will resume. These cold fronts are a regular feature of winter weather in the Caribbean and being caught out in one is not fun at all. Two small boats arrived in Isla recently having sailed across from Cuba without any prior weather forecast. They were caught in 60 knot winds in the turbulent waters of the Yucatan Channel where the Gulf Stream starts it's flow northwards. They were very lucky. Two other yachts left today but returned later concerned they would not make Key West in time before the next cold front arrived. We had already attended two previous 'farewell' suppers on their behalf and on both occasions the weather forecasts changed unfavourably and they cancelled their departure early the following mornings. So, given their frustrated efforts to get north it looks like we could be here for some time ourselves.
he Front cometh                              and incidentally 13 very good reasons not to buy a ketch rigged yacht!
Within easy walking distance of the marina are a number of excellent bars and restaurants for when we give the on-board 'chef' an occasional night off. The Marina bar and restaurant are also just yards from the boat with regular live music from local bands. This Includes one band that specializes in the murder of any Pink Floyd number they can learn the music and lyrics to. This last week we attended a fund raising event at the Bahia Tortuga Bar which was donating the entrance fee of 150 pesos (or £15 for the two of us) to the local animal shelter where they apparently carry out numerous 'snip' operations on the local stray feline and canine population. Our entry fee alone was probably responsible for the non-appearance of thousands of future strays around the island for years to come. The animal centre seems to be doing a great job as there are very few strays of any description to be seen unless they are hiding away in daytime for fear of having their vitals messed with!  Entertainment in the second part of the evening was provided by two country singers - one apparently a recording artist from Canada. They were surprisingly good given our lack of appreciation in the finer points of Country and Western music - but why do all C&W singers sound exactly the same?
   The musicians.......                               the audience..............                     and the hard worked bar staff     
Speaking of music, daily we are visited by an armada of catamarans and tri's all packed with day-trippers paying a ridiculous amount of money to spend the day getting hammered on their beverage of choice. As we are situated directly on their route into the large lagoon on the island which is a sight-seeing attraction they have by then already been onboard for 4-5 hours and are up for just about anything. Last week we were treated to the spectacle of mass mooning from one boat passing another, although by the time the 'Admiral' had run inside for some binoculars it was all over. However, what we do find objectionable is the loop tape of music that starts when they cast off from Cancun 6 miles away. By the time they arrive off our marina, such is the timetable these boats work to, our ears are assaulted with either The Macarena or YMCA being played at full volume. It's more than our 'rock educated' sensibilities can possibly stand. The amazing thing is that a catamaran with 75 + inebriated young people on board can tolerate the stress of them all jumping up and down on the deck simultaneously! Look appealing?..........
The magnificent sightseeing fleet....................                                    ..................think we'll give the last one a miss - bet they wish they had
When will we leave Isla? We have no idea at the present time. Looking at the weather forecasts on a daily basis gives us little encouragement for an early departure with our enthusiasm to confront the seas in the Yucatan Channel severely tempered by the aborted attempts to leave by our cruising pals. But if we wait long enough something will happen - assuming we don't have the boat in pieces when it does.