Cuba to Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Monday afternoon we returned to the Hemingway dock master and paid our bill, relieved that he did not ask us for a tip as had happened to other cruisers.   We picked up our laundry, returned to Morphie, watched our final Hemingway sunset and had an early night.

Hemingway sunset

Tuesday morning we were up very early to find hardly a breath of wind.   We recalculated our passage many times with different scenarios but couldn’t work out how we could make it before dark without punishing the engine.  So we decided to do a day passage to Bahia Honda instead – then push on to Cabo San Antonio the following day.   Decision made – and we slipped away from the canal – and round the corner onto the Customs Dock.   After a bit of a wait, we were issued our Despacho and the customs guy came on board to check we had no additional passengers.

We finally left Marina Hemingway behind us going straight out into a beautiful azure blue sea.   Very few boats out and about and we enjoyed watching the scenery – and the industrial landscape – of the coast of Cuba.   

Sailing down the coast

The wind came out to play for a little while, but still very light airs, so we deployed our whisker pole for the first time.    It all went pretty smoothly so we were pleased with our performance.  Mika – the catamaran we had met in Varadero – chased us down and came alongside for a little radio chat….  We waved them goodbye and carried on – pulling into Bahia Honda at around three o’clock having covered 41.8 miles.  It was a lovely downwind sail with the occasional lift from a counter current that runs along the coast.

Very light airs Mika 2

Bahia Honda is a large bay and we radioed the Guarda Frontera to let them know of our imminent arrival.  We found the customs building and anchored off – amazed to find ourselves in the middle of a junkyard….and not little boats either….  

Junkyard 1 Junkyard 2 Junkyard 3

Well after an hour of radioing and with the sky darkening we decided to get some shelter away from the channel and radioed the Guarda (in Spanish!!!) to let him know that we were moving to anchor behind Punta Del Caldero if he wished to see us.   We have always chosen not to be the only boat in the anchorage in isolated places – and, guess what, this is exactly that.  

Anchorage in Bahia Honda

So we enjoyed the sunset and then had an early night having set all our security measures in place.

Bahia Honda sunset

Up early Wednesday morning and by 6.45 am as the sun was coming out to play we picked up and moved slowly out of the bay.  

Bahia Honda sunrise 1 Bahia Honda sunrise 2

Again the winds were very light and variable so the pole was deployed ….then the wind swung ENE and dropped, so the sail got put away….then it came out again….and the scene was set.   Richard decided to try his hand at fishing and caught a lovely female Mahi Mahi – but we decided to let her return to the deep as we didn’t have time to eat it all before arriving in Mexico, where it would probably be confiscated and wasted.  We loved watching the hundreds of flying fish getting out of our way but, despite hours of trying, I couldn’t get a decent photo of one of them skipping across the waves ahead of us.

Downwind sail

And then the ships came out to play with one altering course to give us safe passage….   Thanks!  

Lots of ships

The sun went down and it was the blackest night ever…..with no moon.  Now the wind strengthened, the pole was put away, and we were picking up speed in another current – and we were now going to arrive in the dark!   So we reefed to slow the boat down although we still maintained 6/7 knots and then, suddenly, as quickly as it had started the current switched against us and our ETA was pushing back….and we were now only going at four knots so the sails were unfurled.   Lots of ships around too…..

Heading off to the end of the island

By 8.30 am on Thursday morning having watched another sunrise at sea we were alongside the dock in Los Morros, Cabo San Antonio, having completed another 137.2 mile passage.   We did the paperwork and then wandered up to the marina buildings saying hello to the many cats that were wandering around and ‘talking’ to us!   

Sunrise at sea Morphie alongside the dock Marina buildings Local wildlife

We found out that there was an Eco hotel up the road – about 4 kms – so we cadged a lift from the white van man who drives constantly backwards and forwards between there and the marina.   The exhaust on the van was absolutely wrecked and we could barely hear ourselves think!   We arrived – were amazed to find wild pigs wandering around – and had a couple of beers in the bar.   We chatted to some Canadian woman, and her Cuban boyfriend who seemed to be enjoying himself spending her money on expensive imported Scotch whisky, and then went off to find our van man again.  He had by now removed the exhaust and just left it there on the road as he took us back!  

On the road to the Eco Lodge Wild pigs at EcoLodge Ecolodge Our transport Cabo San Antonio

Back at the marina we chatted with another boat who had just turned up from Mexico – with the guys being quarantined on board as the customs office had no visa forms so they couldn’t be checked in and were being diverted about 150 miles north or south to complete formalities – they were not happy!   Then a coach drove down the dock – as this dock is clearly the only gas station in this part of the island.   Was a strange sight alongside.   We then had an early night in preparation for our passage the following day.

Fuel dock!

Friday morning we got our Zarpe and left the dock by around 8.30 am.   And, of course, there is no wind.  But we have to get going – our tourist visa expires in a few days and there is bad weather coming from the South – so we traded good passage conditions for the lack of wind.    Goodbye Cuba – we had enjoyed revisiting you – but we will not be back again.   With the restrictions put upon boats not being allowed to visit many anchorages unless they either have a marina; are a clearance port; or a tourist resort – the rest remains a myriad of beautiful cayos but you are not allowed ashore anywhere by dinghy, particularly near settlements.   The people of Cuba continue to endure hardships that you can only imagine.  

Actually the wind did pick up enough to get out the main so we motor sailed – into huge amounts of ships.  There were never less than seven ships on the AIS throughout the whole day….with us slowing to let some pass ahead of us and others diverting to pass behind us.   Certainly made the watches interesting!  

Flat calm in the Yucatan Strait Shipping lanes

Not to mention riding the currents…..crossing the Gulf Stream……which pushes north at a rapid pace of knots….so we had to adjust our course to allow for all that….   Check out the movement of the currents below.

Currents between Cuba and Mexico

It was a cloudy grey day and the dark night loomed – and then we were surrounded by lightning storms.   So we reefed down accordingly anticipating them coming at us – but they just kept circling.   The wind switched, the current got us at one point forcing us to change our course by 35 degrees just to keep going in a straight line, and the sea got lumpier.  Oh well….almost there…..  Certainly not much chance of falling asleep on watch with all this activity going on!   And we always get mesmerised by the fairy dust being sprinkled into the dark ocean by that tiny leprechaun who resides on the stern.   Can watch the magic of phosphorescence for hours at a time – absolutely fascinates me for sure.

The sun came up welcoming us to Saturday morning and we were rewarded by a lovely dolphin encounter.   Ahhhhh…..makes us both smile every time!

Sunrise at sea Dolphin encounter Dolphin encounter 2 Dolphine encounter 3

Finally we can see land ahead – although it was difficult to tell apart Isla Mujeres from the coastline of Cancun beyond for quite a way away.    Then it became clear as the rocks at the end of the island became apparent ….  Navigation was definitely aided by the distinctive huge hotel too.

Approaching Isla Mujeres

We rounded the island and pulled into Marina Paraiso by 10 having completed another 115 mile passage.    We engaged Chapo – the Dock Master – to help us with the checking in procedure.   This involves loads of photocopies of loads of documents and visiting lots of different authorities….   He told us to go wait in the bar, have a cold drink, and he’ll let us know when the authorities arrive.   Nice!   The first one to turn up was the agriculture guy who wanted to check out fish / meat / vegetables.  As we didn’t have anything other than processed / canned he was on and off Morphie within five minutes.   Back to the bar……and the next to turn up was the Sanitation man. This was to check we were healthy.   Job done back to the bar….    Then the immigration man came and gave us 180 day visitor cards…and back to the bar…..watching our new best friends the iguanas.

Marina friends

The final guy was customs – but no show – and Chapo then called us over.  He explained to us that the customs guy had just stamped our papers and was not coming to visit us – neither were the drug / gun sniffing dog.   Excellent!    So we are all set – paid Chapo his fee – and we returned to the bar.   Pretty tired we shared fish and chips before heading back to Morphie for a very early night.

Sunday morning and we were on a mission – we went to the marina restaurant (which is part of a hotel) to have breakfast – and then walked 15 minutes down the road to the huge supermarket.   

Marina Paraiso Huge supermarketAmazing!!!   Sells everything and must be the Mexican equivalent of Walmart.   We got some pesos from the ATM and bought some fresh meat, vegetables and crusty bread.  Yay!!!  

Food glorious food

We walked back and then got to work – cleaning all the salt off Morphie and spot cleaned her top sides.   She looks pretty again now.

Cleaned up

Then we took ourselves to the pool for a bobbing afternoon before returning to have an early dinner of steak and fresh vegetables (yum) before turning in after a spectacular Mexican sunset.

Pool bobbing Goodnight from Mexico

This morning – Monday – and we’ve spring cleaned Morphie down below.  Now Richard is masking up the “eyebrows” as they need varnishing badly.   

Masking the eyebrow

I’m down below blogging……   We are finally getting back into our ‘mornings for boat jobs’ and ‘afternoons for fun’ cruising routine.    Not sure what we are going to do later – probably head out to explore a bit as we haven’t been here for at least 15 years.  

Tomorrow – Tuesday – we have to get the ferry to Cancun to secure our Temporary Import Permit (really a cruising permit) to enable Morphie to stay in Mexican waters for longer than five days which we have to do in person.  And that will finalise all our paperwork – incredibly bureaucratic process!!   Oh yes and we have decided to remain in the marina for the time being as bad weather is forecast from Tuesday through to Friday – building to 36 knots – making the anchorage, which has poor holding in grass, not a particularly desirable option.    

Weather forecast

Bye for now