Isla Mujeres, Mexico
We are on the three hundred mile threshold of home trying to find a window in the weather to get across. The situation is this: a strong north current off of Isla called the Yucatan current that will carry us north and then it bends east to become the Gulf Stream as it rips along north of Cuba and south of the Florida Keys. And prevailing winds from the east. So the current helps but the winds do not, in fact the easterly winds blow against the east-setting Gulf Stream and suck the waves into a really nasty state.. So we are waiting for unusual south winds to sail it or no winds to speak of and motor across. We are stuck, therefore, in a vacationers' paradise trying to leave.
It has been a tough cruising season. Lots of strong fronts got down to the Bay Islands of Honduras where we were for December and January. Then a respite up the Rio Dulce. Then a couple of weeks in Belize while we got Blair, our guest/crew, up to speed and waited for some parts to repair the water maker. Those parts helped but the water maker is still not working well. So we set of for Mexico relying on tank water to keep us going between ports.
We had a good time in Belize, got out to the barrier reef, South Water Cay and Tobacco Cay, got up the Sittee River to see our friends the Wrights who live there, got to spend several nights in the Pelican Range and had the time to get to know Dustin and Kim who run the Hideaway Cay Resort (one room on AirBnB) and serve a mean rum punch. But we needed to get back to the States: my dad was in very poor health and was admitted to hospice while were setting up to leave Belize.
We set off with a solid south east wind driving north after a late cold front had blown out. We had 2-3 knots of current pulling us north too. We saw 10 knots over the ground reliably as we screamed north. We were going so fast we had to slow down as we passed Cozumel so that we didn't arrive at Isla in the dark. And my dad died while we were coming into the port on Good Friday.
We got into Isla Mujeres on Good Friday morning. We refueled, took on more water, and set off again for the US the next morning with the advice from our weather router that the winds would be stronger but still from a good angle and would then go even more southerly so we could turn east and make it to the Keys. It was a lot stronger. It was blowing at least 10kts harder than when we arrived and the seas were now topping at 10 feet. We had to aim the boat east to start gaining ground towards the Keys and that put the seas onto the back quarter of the boat, "aft the beam". Extremely rough and difficult to control the boat. Then the current started pulling to the west. Hard. So we had to turn even more to the east to try to fight it, setting the seas directly on our beam and made the conditions simply intolerable. Imagine your house being thrown 6-10 feet in the air, both up and sideways, in a semirandom cycle every 15-20 seconds.
(no pictures, it was just too much work)
Intolerable. We bailed out at the last point we could, turning west to hide behind the most northerly of the islands of the Yucatan, Isla Contoy. We made it in, anchored in the lee, and enjoyed a lovely sunset while trying to figure out what to do. Easter morning, remember this was now Easter, dawned with clouds of sea birds wheeling over the boat. And the Guarda Parque alongside in a launch demanding that we leave! "This is a preserve, you are not allowed here, it is the rules" We pointed out the waves breaking 50 feet in the air on the far side of the island, asked where he thought we might go, and finally we claimed safe harbor. Eventually he relented and allowed us to stay if we didn't leave the boat. Of course! So we spent Easter on the boat, watching the amazing bird flocks and relaxing.
The next morning, the Guarda showed up at 06:30 with a girl who spoke English saying "It is time to say goodbye!". We replied that we needed better light and then would be gone. Which we were. A very interesting route that took us 100 yds inside the 5 miles of reef running south from the island towards Isla Mujeres. Blowing hard still but manageable. We worked our way across the open water inside of Isla Mujeres, approached the harbor, and called our marina from last year for a slip. We knew our favorite spot was open as of Good Friday, and the manager said, sure-come-on-in. And we did.
We got into Isla and got air tickets back home for a rushed trip to Salt Lake for my father's memorial via Cancun.
And here we are now, going to the beach while our youngest's college graduation in Florida is getting nearer, and watching the weather like hawks for a window to cross to get home. Sometimes cruising isn't much fun.