S/V Stolen Child Sailing Log

Logbook for the sailing vessel Stolen Child and her crew, Patrick and Nancy.

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Name: Patrick

Saturday, December 20, 2008

South From Isla Mujeres

We pulled into Xcalac (pronounced Ishkalak) Mexico at about 13:00 on Friday, December 19. This is our last stop in Mexico. Our next stop will be San Pedro, Belize. We have been in Mexico for 7 months and had no idea when we arrived here that we would be staying so long. That is one of the nice things about this mode of travel, there aren't any deadlines or timetables. We have visited various cities and towns, explored ancient Mayan ruins, swam in underground caverns, acquired rudimentary Spanish language skills, learned to SCUBA dive, met many interesting people and made some very good friends in the time we've spent here. I have posted details of most of our time in Mexico on the website but thought I'd provide a few details of our trip from Isla Mujeres to Xcalac.

We left Isla Mujeres on Thursday, November 20th and sailed to Puerto Morelos, just a short day-trip south from Isla Mujeres. We picked up a mooring ball at Marina El Cid and spent 5 days there. A mooring ball is just like being anchored, except you are using someone's permanent mooring instead of your anchor. Marina El Cid is a 45 minute walk from the town of Puerto Morelos, so we got lots of exercise walking to town and back while we were there. We really liked Puerto Morelos. It is a very sleepy little town that is quite authentic, but has just enough tourist traffic to have nice amenities. The main amenity is a used bookstore that has tons of English-language books. We bought about 20 pounds of books while we were there.

From Puerto Morelos, we went to Bahia de La AscensiĆ³n (Ascension Bay), which is a pretty large bay with a fishing village named Punta Allen. We spent 8 days here waiting for cold fronts to blow through. Ascension Bay is fairly popular for bonefish, permit, and various other kinds of fly fishing. Nearly all of the locals make their living either from fishing or as fishing guides for tourists. We became friends with a local named Alberto. He doesn't speak any English and as I have said, my Spanish is still very rudimentary, but we managed to communicate fairly well. He took us to a little restaurant where the locals go. I guess you would call it a restaurant, since they have two tables and you can buy prepared meals there. It is essentially an open-air palapa (thatch hut) that is the front room of a family house. The mother cooks and the two small daughters carry the food to the tables. We had breakfast both times we went there and it was incredibly good and incredibly substantial. The first time we had a breakfast dish called chilequiles and the other time we had huevos motuleƱos. They are both traditional breakfast dishes that I think are unique to the Yucatan area.

Our next stop was Bahia de La Espiritu Santo, where we spent 10 days, mainly waiting for more cold fronts to pass. Espiritu Santo is very much like Ascension Bay, but slightly smaller. The weather was a very frigid 70 degrees much of the time we were here, so we didn't get off the boat very much. I have heard about the weather you are having in the States right now, so I guess you are probably smirking about my "very frigid 70 degrees" assertion, but when you are acclimated to the tropics, 70 does indeed seem pretty chilly. There were a couple of days nice enough for us to go snorkeling on the reef and I managed to catch a lobster, which Nancy cooked up for dinner. Lobsters apparently don't like being caught and cooked, and do everything they can to avoid it, including scuttling under rocks and coral. What made it such a challenge for me is that I was snorkeling and didn't have on my SCUBA gear, so I could only stay underwater for about a minute at most. Lobsters are very obstinate and it seems to require just a little over a minute to convince them to jump on the end of a spear and stay there while I carry them back to the boat and Nancy's cooking pot. Anyway, all is well that ends in melted butter.

Next we sailed to Chinchorro Bank, which is a coral atoll several miles off the coast of Mexico. According to several books I've read, there are only 4 coral atolls in the Northern hemisphere, and Chinchorro is one of them (the other 3 are in Belize, where we are going next). Chinchorro is basically an underwater plateau, 26 miles long and about 9 miles wide, rimmed with coral. The ocean floor around Chinchorro is up to 1000 feet deep, but suddenly rises to just a few feet from the surface at Chinchorro. We only spent 3 days there but found it to be very fascinating and plan to spend more time at the atolls in Belize. We saw tons of starfish and queen conch crawling around the bottom when we snorkeled around the boat.

Other than the things I've mentioned, we have been busy with general housekeeping-type of chores like cooking and cleaning, various boat maintenance chores, and of course lots of sunset-watching and general relaxing. I have also been practicing celestial navigation and am getting moderately good with my sextant.

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