THE DOWN SIDE OF SAILING
Well it has been an interesting year. Yes my blog are becoming few and far in between. But there is a reason for it. First, I have never been much of a writer. Peggy was much better at it, and it is not only her writings that I am missing. Seconds, I prefer to write with a whole season’s perspective, that way I can mull over what I am going to write, and only put My foot in My mouth only 4 or 5 times instead of a 100 times. Well, let’s say that putting My foot in My mouth, is a point of view. Me I call it as I see it, I am not politically correct, I do not care who I offend, and frankly I prefer to have few friends, then many knifes in My back.
So let’s analyze this season.
First the weather was the crap. Most people blames it on El Nino, others blames it on climate warming, and others, Oh well who cares. The end result is that the weather is changing. First, the torrential rain in the RioDulce in Guatemala. Well it rained to a level rarely seen around here. Yes it did happened in the past, but not quite to this extent. The hotel/Marina was closed for almost 2 weeks, because of floods. Everything was under water. Offices, bungalows that are on stilts, well you get the picture.
So let’s see if I can figure out how to insert one here.
Any who, the rain was terrible.
So I rose with the boat to the occasion (pun intended) and it was a great time to scrub the hull. The water line was at dock level J such an easier task that way. But came the time to sail a bit for the year. Always do a little up keep, and maintenance, and a few renovation every year. Just like a house, if you do not take care of it, eventually it will fall apart.
Now since Peggy left, I have been trying to get a crew every year. Not that they are needed, I sail perfectly good by myself. But it sounds better to sail with other people, someone to talk to, someone to share the tasks, watches etc.…. Well I must either be looking in all the wrong places, or get the wrong people on board. I never charged any money for sailing crew, they just have to cover their own expenses. Most of them want either the experience, a short free ride, well sort of free, since they have to cover their food and visa entries and such. Remember I can solo sail, so it is not that I need them, just want the company.
I guess there must be people either watching too much TV, movies or whatever. Because let me tell you that it is not all deserted paradisiacal islands with a waiter waiting for you on hands and knees with a Pinacolada on a silver tray for you. Nor is it perfect sailing weather, and no you cannot take a ½ hour hot shower on a boat. Maybe on a cruise ship perhaps, but not on a 43 foot sailboat. And yes trimming the sail is involved in sailing, so is keeping watch and fixing things is part of the whole package. And no there is no internet in the middle of the ocean.
So for this year, crew # 1 could not remember what to do each time we had to tack and jive, or raise the sails, whether it be the main, Genoa or whatever. Keep in mind, all my lines are color coded, all different colors, and they can all be controlled from the cockpit. So if after raising the main 14 times, one cannot remember that they have to pull the green and white line, well perhaps the Captain is allowed to (pop a fuse) and once the line is identified, and the crew ask “what end should I hold ?” well one is certainly expected a roll of the eyes and a deep sigh. And never mind that she wants to be on line every day to check her B&B business in Europe. So you get the idea. No clue how to sail, no will to learn, and a need to be connected 24/7. So crew #1 gets off loaded in Belize after 2 weeks.
Crew # 2. Well I figure if women don’t work so well, perhaps I should give a guy a shot at it. Hummmmm well, perhaps solo sailing is in the cards for Me. This is a mature guy, between 55 and 60. He apparently owns a 25 footer that He sails regularly on day sail. Well this must have been a plastic 2.5 inches boat in a daily tub. Because, this one barfed the whole time, slept the rest of the time, could not cook to save his own life, needed internet 24/7, because he needed to talk to his mommy 3 times a day, spending the rest of the time on face book looking at stupid video about nothing in particular. And yet did not have the decency to buy his own internet stick. And those are only the main issues. There not enough room on this blog to talk about the rest.
So that was the “crew” part of this year’s season. I gave up ans sailled solo for the rest of the season. Is there good crew out there? I am sure there are, just haven’t found them so farL .
Well as stated before, the rain was biblical in Guatemala this year, flooded town, landslides, many people have died, and neighborhood obliterated. So I left Guatemala early January on My way north to Isla Mujeres, to eventually meet My sisters there.
Well from Guatemala to San Pedro Belize, it was not bad, some wind, some storms, but behind the reef, well, it is bearable. So I waited for a weather window in San Pedro, it is not a bad place to wait for one, a bit too touristy to My liking, and a bit too rolly because of the constant high speed water taxies. But what the heck, no places is ever perfect, not even in what could be paradise. So I stayed there a few days, made My way to Xcalak Mexico. Get the basic legal paper work done, and waited again for a weather window. The plan is to sail from Xcalak to Cayo Del Norte and overnight there. I checked 5 different site on the net, Buoy weather, Chriss Parker, windguru, Passage weather and so on. The consensus, is the next 3 days are excellent, 10 to 20 knots wind, 6 foot seas and well-spaced. A dream ride to Isla Mujeres. But Murphy decided to pop its ugly head up. 3 hours out of Xcalak the wind raised to 35 to 40 knots. If you know the coast of Mexico in the Carbbean side. There are very few places you can get in or out in heavy weather, there is no turning back since the entrance to Xcalak is only 150 feet wide with very bad reefs on each sides. Cayo del Norte, not much better, and Mahajal has no charts, so I did an over nigther to Cozumel, I was too late (My own fault) and ripped My genoa. Thus I had to sail overnight to Cozumel with the main. I arrived there early in the morning, with an easterly wind, making it in nice calm waters since I was on the lee side. Within a few hours a couple of sailboat limp in, both of them with ripped sail. At least I did not look that stupid, seems other sailors got the same surprise, and the same treatment. I tried to finish My clearance papers there, but after the run around, I gave up. Cozumel is a cruise ship Mecca, and de local authorities do not give a hoot about us little people. Leona Whemsley must have given them her book on how to run things. And in any case a “Northy” was coming this way, making the lee side not so lee anymore. Cozumel is not a good place to be, when the ugly “Northy” shows its ugly face. The port of Cozumel was closed to cruise ship twice this year because of storms, so if cruise ship should not be there, well neither should I, Thus I make a bee line for Isla Mujeres, in 35 to 40 knots of wind. So guess what, I ripped My other sail just as I arrived at Isla Mujeres. fortunately, it was just a small one in the right place, quite an easy fix. Finally a break during a somewhat bad situation.
So now the sail fixed, and the bad weather mostly behind Me, it is now time to make way back to the Rio. The sailing was somewhat pleasant, always nice when one is solo sailing, but the current was a solid 3 knots up all the way to Belize, and a head wind also made things a bit slow. Lots of tacking and Jiving. Thus the engine got a bit of work. But you gotta love those Yanmar engines, they are a work horse, they use little fuel, and they are fairly quiet. So be it, it was motor sailing all the way to Belize. And once behind the reef of Belize, sailing becomes very easy. Good protection from the reef means small short waves. A bit noisy at times, but fairly comfortable. But being behind the reef and solo sailing, also means constant alertness. Shallow areas, lots of water taxi’s etcetera, and then there are the lobster traps and the fishnets. So a keen eye, and being aware of your surrounding is warranted at all time. But the scenery and surroundings are magical, so why would anyone wants to be sleeping and missing all that ?
So with good weather most of the time, I made it back to the Rio in about 1 week solo handed. Now the reno and fixing will be in order, But I will keep that for next year’s log .
THE PLACES FOR THIS YEAR
So from the Rio I made My way to Belize. I love Belize, the people, the surroundings, the islands, the sea life. It is a unique place, almost a paradise. I say almost, not quite. It is also gouging heaven. Not by the locals, most of them are very competitive. A bit more expensive than the rest of Central America, but still affordable to a certain extent. But when you have to deal with the government, well that is a total different story. First the fees. Yes they have changed over the last few years. It now cost $200.00 for the first two days when you bring a boat in Belize, then it is $5.00 a day for the privilege of keeping the boat in their waters. Compare to Honduras and their measly $25.00 to $50.00 that includes everything for a possible 90 days depending on your situation. It makes Belize very expensive. Then there is the passport issue. They only stamp your passport for 30 days, at a rate of $25.00 for the first time, and $45.00 every time after that. So every 30 days, it is the paper dance, go to immigration, then port captain, then custom etc…, every time you have to open your wallet.
Now the marinas. most boaters live on the hook, not because they love to, but because the marinas are too expensive. At Roberts Grove, (a very nice marina, but lousy to nonexistent services). A boat My size (43 feet) is about $450. U.S. a month, not cheap, but still affordable. But, and there is a but. It is only if your boat is flagged in Belize. If it is flagged in any other country, the price suddenly more than doubles to the tune of $980.00 a month. Why ???? Well because they say so. And the marina keeps empty, and all the boat live at anchor. Now what geniuses cannot see that there is a bit of a problem there. It bugles the mind.
Most anything boat related is outrageous. Not everything, but most anything.
But if you want to talk diving, then yes everything IS outrageous. More than double than what other Central American countries charges. A simple dive is about $75.00 and up, a 2 to 3 dive trip is $250.00 and up. That is why I have dive tanks on the boat. But they need to be filled. A bit expensive, but it is the lesser of two evil.
So will I return to Belize. ABSOLUTELY. it is a beautiful country, with great people and a gem of a place.
And there is also a glimmer of hope. Before I left Placencia for the Rio, I talked to 2 officials from the tourism department. They were fairly high up the chain of command. and they listen to Me for a couple of hours, and they agreed in principle to My gripes. And they understood the situation, and they were sympathetic to the situation. They said that they did noticed a reduction in boaters visit, they saw that they were missing on an opportunity ( boat needs fixing, fixing=money and jobs) The Rio understood that a long time ago, and it is quickly becoming the place of choice for boat repair and upgrades. So let’s hope that the situation will eventually be corrected.
Now Mexico, also a beautiful country and gorgeous people, and no I am not just talking appearances. They smile all time, they have very little, but they will give you the shirt off their back if you need it more than they do.
The paper work can be a hit and miss. If you hire an agent, it is a breeze. It can be well worth the money. Over all the fees are reasonable, not cheap, but over a 180 days stay, yes it is well worth it, not so much for a 30 day stay. Depending of the officials and the place you get the papers done, it can be a breeze or a two days affair if you do not use an agent. Punta Sam with an agent is the simplest time I did My papers. Cozumel ???? well forget that one, it is almost impossible. Once I waited 4 days for officials to come to the boat (yes they do HAVE to come to the boat) Isla Mujeres is cheaper, but it is a one to two days affair depending on how many boaters checks in that day. But if you stay in Mexico for 180 days, than what does 2 days matters, plus the place is a bit of paradise. Next time I go to Mexico, I will try Mahajal. It is not on any cruiser brochure, but I hear that it is possible to do paper work there. We’ll see.
Now the marinas. Well any marinas in the big tourist area have all become quite expensive. In Isla Mujeres 4 years ago I was paying $350.00 a month at marina Pariadiso. It is now around $900.00 a month. 4 years ago the marina was full all the time, now there are only 3 to 4 boats in there. Ummmmm someone dropped the pooch on this one again. And all the marinas are now the same. Lets gouge the gringo type of mentality. The exception might be marina ElCid. In puerto Morelos. Not dirt cheap, but affordable. The only down side, is that it is way out of town if you are like most boaters and hoof it. Taxi’s will charge you 250 pesos, for a ride that should be 50 pesos at the most anywhere else. So either way, you get soak.
So again the Rio wins on every aspect when it comes to boating. So to the Rio I go, back to Marina Tijax, with outstanding staff, Ninette and Oscar and everyone else there. Eugene (the owner) is awesome and for the paper work, Raoul is one of the best. Not cheap, but well worth the money. So till next year, after My renovations and upgrades, I shall stop My bitching.