Sunday, January 9, 2011


Funny thing.  We've met lots of new friends here and most of them, like us, have a harrowing story about crossing the Gulf of Mexico.  I had thought our high winds, towering seas, sea sickness,dinghy catastrophe and emergency layovers in Atlantis (see last post) were unusual.  Not so much.

The only difference seems to be our tolerance for uncomfortable sailing.  I'll admit it.  My threshold is very low.  Our cruiser friends who have been sailing far longer than we have take bumpy crossings (that's a euphemism) in stride.

I don't know if I'll ever get to that place.  I like calm seas with enough breeze to fill the sails.  I always thought of myself as a fair-weather sailor.  I guess I'm really just a wimp.

As the bumpy ride fades into the recesses of our memory, we are having fun getting to know Isla Mujeres, or "Isla" as the locals call it.  This island is a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun, but worlds apart in many ways.  

Bedroom at Las Palmas Hotel.  $80 per night.
Phil resting at the entrance to Las Palmas Hotel, which has an open-air rooftop lounge with a dipping pool.

There are a few fancy hotels, but most accommodations are small hostels that surround open courtyards filled with tropical gardens.  Prices range from $25 to $150 a night, but many nice hotels are in the $50-$80 per night range.  

When you depart the ferry from Cancun, you are certain to be within walking distance of your hotel.  In fact, you are within walking distance of nearly everything...beaches, restaurants and shops of every description.

Fresh fish caught, cleaned and delivered.
Restaurants line the beaches.  Some are pricey, but many offer a full dinner for less than $10.  Seafood is featured everywhere, and it doesn't get any fresher than this.  As we sat near the water having lunch the other day at one of our favorite places, we watched as the crew of a small fishing boat tied up, cleaned their day's catch, and delivered it to the kitchen of our restaurant.

Local menus usually include grouper, snapper, shrimp, lobster, octopus and conch, served fried, blackened, grilled and sauteed.  Hot sauce and hot-hot-hot sauce are usually offered with any entree. Corn or flour tortillas are part of every meal.

Street food is everywhere.  Most street vendors operate from bicycle powered carts.  One vendor offers orange juice that he squeezes while you wait.  Another offers tortillas filled with refried beans, cabbage, hot sauce and a hard-boiled egg.  (I haven't tried that one yet.)

Others offer Mexican ice cream.  Another chops the end off a coconut and sticks in a straw.  Still another offers Marquesitas, made from a thin waffle-type batter spread with Nutella (hazel nuts mixed with chocolate) then covered with shredded Edam cheese and rolled up.

Finally, you'll always find local senoras in front of the grocery store serving home-made tostados and tacos from a folding table.  

The beaches are big, with soft white sand and shallow enough that you can walk out 75 yards and still be only waist deep in the water.  Beach-front bars offer margaritas and pina coladas.  

Isla Mujeres has white sand beaches and clear turquoise water.

 Most taxi drivers and shop keepers speak a little English, but it's best if you know some Spanish.  Phil and I both took French in school, so we are learning Spanish.  The locals seem to appreciate our humorous attempts to communicate in their language.

We are waiting for our new dinghy to arrive next week.  Our old dinghy was damaged in the crossing and resisted all attempts to repair it.  With a dinghy, we'll be able to leave the marina and anchor nearby, getting us back within our cruising budget.  For a small price, we can still use the marina facilities (hot showers, internet, laundry and, most important, happy hour with $1.00 cervesas and other cruisers at 4:00 p.m. daily.

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