Happy New Year!
The Header Photograph is the sunrise taken from Coco Beach on Isla Mujeres on New Years Day.
My January 2022 number one priority is to complete the forestay repair and then I can sail again! Hopefully then, I can coast hop Mexico down to Belize sometime January into February.
The repaired forestay has been refitted but on raising the genoa I realised that something is not quite right so I’m now in discussion with anybody and everybody to resolve the issue.
In the meantime I decided, at long last, to complete the PADI Open Water Diving qualification. I needed to have a medical examination and complete a vigorous online programme of tuition, and then completed three days of diving exercises in the pool followed by four open water dives over two days. I chose Pocna Dive School based in Selina Hotel, and Anthony from France was my dive instructor. I’m thinking about doing a couple more dives and then progress to the Advanced Open Water qualification…maybe! A friend is flying out to sail down to Belize so the priority is still to get the boat ready.
It’s February, I am now a PADI Advanced Open Water diver thanks to Pocna dive instructors Pepe and Mariano….the Advanced qualification will allow me to dive any recreational dive site in the world.
I completed my first two recreational dives, and so I’m ready for all the diving and snorkelling that Belize has to offer. The forestay is fine and just needs a daysail test and a final rig check. The bottom of the boat is clean and the boat is almost ready for leaving Mexico and sailing to Belize.
The photograph is me and was taken by Instagram @malekbeeprod, the official photographer-filmmaker at Instagram @pocnadivecentre.
For only the second time in my life I watched the Super Bowl final…the first time was in Bimini in 2020. I still don’t understand the rules but it’s a great spectacle, and this time I had a favourite team, Cincinnati Bengals, but they didn’t win.
The Dockmaster at El Milagro, Julio was the first person we all met when we docked our boats in the marina, and for many of us he organised our clearing in and clearing out process, which in Mexico could entail many hours sat in the Port Captain’s office. Julio was also very helpful when my Visa was expiring. Julio was taken sick and after a short illness he died in February…Julio had worked at El Milagro for fifteen years, and it’s sad and strange not having Julio around.
I completed a short day sail in Cancun Bay to test the sails and rigging. All was well until we tried to adjust one of the bottle screws only to find it was seized! As I write I am organising spare parts from my friends at Kildale Marine in the UK. I have also contacted UPS in Mexico City to ensure a quick passage through Customs.
In the meantime I am planning a short trip to El Salvador, which has been on my Bucket List for a few years. It will also allow me to reset my Mexico visa which will make clearing out of the country so much easier when I eventually sail to Belize. It is now early March and global news is dominated by a disgraceful and sickening invasion of Ukraine by Russian military.
My trip to El Salvador began with a new adventure….sleeping at an airport! My flight from Cancun was too early in the morning to get a ferry from Isla Mujeres so I went the previous evening and slept briefly on the cold marble floor in an empty Cancun International Airport along with five other travellers. I flew via Mexico City and arrived in San Salvador at midday. I had booked two nights at a backpackers hostel, La Zona Rosa, and will book new accommodation as I travel around El Salvador.
On my full day in San Salvador I visited the Centro Historico with the fabulous Iglesias El Rosario, the Plaza Futura and the Monument to the Divine Saviour of the World. The photograph alongside is Plaza Gerardo Barrios in the Centro Historico.
The following day I jumped on a #201 Chicken Bus to Santa Ana. The journey of about 50 miles and two hours cost just US$1 and stopped many times for locals to get on and off along the way. I easily found the Casa Verde hostel in Santa Ana which I booked for two nights the previous evening. Here I had the luxury of my own room rather than the eight people in bunk beds I chose in La Zona Rosa. I do like the hostel atmosphere where backpackers, travellers and nomads become community friends, passing on travel information and guidance.
I spent a few afternoon hours locating and wandering around Parque Libertad surrounded by three glorious buildings…Palacios Municipal, Teatro National and Catedral de Nuestra Señora Santa Ana…followed by a couple of hours in the Simmer Down bar. Later, I booked a Santa Ana volcano hike for the following day, and AirBnB accommodation for three nights in El Tunco on the Pacific coast.
Five of us from Casa Verde hostel had booked the Volcano Hike and it turned out to be a perfect day. Just over an hour to drive to the meeting point where we decided to have our own guide. The day slowly turned cloudy as we began the climb to the top…clear skies and temperatures in the 30’s would have difficult to cope with as our hike lasted over two hours over steep, rocky and dusty terrain. The view at the top, as can be seen in the photograph, was immense as the cloud raced across the volcano caldera.
The downhill trek lasted just one hour 30 minutes, but my legs had a dull ache as we celebrated seeing our meeting point again. Rather than head straight back to the hostel we stopped at Lake Coateltepec which is the huge water-filled caldera of an extinct volcano.
We had a late lunch at a waterfront restaurant and then went in search of the Captain Morgan hostel on the edge of the lake.
Captain Morgan seemed to have chilled waterfront atmosphere as can be seen in the photograph.
Then all of a sudden I was on Chicken Bus #102 returning to San Salvador, and after a short search I found the bus to take me down to the Pacific coast and especially to El Tunco….a backpacker and surfing paradise famous for its sunsets. I was booked into Kali hostel for the three nights over the weekend and my accommodation was a converted industrial container, and just a ten minute walk down to the beach. Over the weekend I planned to do some beach running, yoga and possibly….surfing!
On my first early morning I went for a run, and even at 7am it is warm…overnight it doesn’t drop below 25°C by 7am it is beginning to warm up. Not only is it a great time of day to run, it attracts the surfers too!
After the run, and some photography, I booked a surfing lesson for the next day. It is about 48 years since I went on a surfing holiday down to Fistral Bay in Newquay with some other guys…I am the surf instructor’s toughest ever challenge!
The surfing lesson was at El Majahual beach with its easier waves and sandy beach. The lesson began with a short introduction to positioning myself on the board and then we went into the sea. I certainly was able to stand a few times, and the instructor was able to pinpoint what I could improve when I tumbled straight into the sea and took some video for me to take with me. It was definitely the most tiring one hour training session I can remember for many years, but I can now say “I’ve surfed the Pacific”. I will look out for surfing spots on my future travels.
I went for my last early morning run around El Tunco in preparation for what would be a long day of travelling and then Uber soured that joy by declining my taxi to the airport! But I found another local taxi and made it to the airport for the first flight to Mexico City. Although I had a long stop in Mexico City airport it was extended for an additional hour as a huge thunderstorm passed over the city. I arrived in Cancun airport at 1am in the morning and took a taxi to Puerto Juarez ferry port, and eventually found a bench to sleep until the ferries across to Isla Mujeres began their day. I walked into El Milagro marina around 7:30am, 24 hours after my early morning run in El Tunco.
The boat is now ready to sail, but while I had some time to kill I ordered my UK post to be couriered to Mexico. The small parcel included GoPro filters for underwater photography, and I guess for this reason the package is held up in Customs. I have already missed one sailing window and I have no idea when the parcel will be released for delivery to me. I’m expecting to pay some duty on the value of the filters which is usually cash on delivery. Why, oh why, don’t Customs just release the parcel so I can pay the duty and receive my UK post and GoPro filters?
My parcel finally arrived two weeks after it entered Mexico but it will be over a week before before some northerly winds arrive to carry me south to Belize. So I need to organise the process to clear out of Mexico and there’s some documentation to complete for entering Belize.
Today, Friday 8th April, I officially cleared out of Mexico and I will leave as the sun rises on Sunday morning to sail directly to Belize…Adios Isla Mujeres!