Sunday, June 2, 2019

Leaving Isla Mujeres, Bound for Dry Tortugas

Intermezzo is leaving Isla Mujeres after a pleasant nine day rest here at El Milagro Marina. We set sail tomorrow morning at 0600 for Dry Tortugas, a U.S. National Park about 70 miles west of Key West.

I was fortunate to have found good crew for the passage after Roy left to pursue his job opportunity in Australia. Christine, my friend from La Paz flew here to go diving with me and enjoy some island time. She agreed with some enthusiasm when I asked her if she would help me get the boat to Florida. She contacted her friend Lisa, an experienced sailor who I met on the 2016 Baja Ha Ha, who hopped on a plane from Seattle on short notice to join Intermezzo's crew. The roster is rounded out by Forrest, a young man who I met when I first arrived who rode his bicycle here from Virginia. I'm fortunate and grateful to have found such a great crew on such short notice.

The weather suggestion for our passage looks good, winds from the east, around 15 knots. Not a great direction for our ENE sail, so we'll likely be motor sailing most of the way but through calm seas. The Gulf Stream current will help us move along. If we can keep up an average speed over ground of 5 knots, we should arrive on Wednesday around 1600. If we can't make that speed, we'll end up having to heave to overnight to wait for daylight before navigating through the reefs to the Dry Tortugas anchorage.

I really enjoyed Isla Mujeres. It is a mostly peaceful little island with only a few big hotels despite being only six miles offshore of the big resort destination of Cancun. The reefs surrounding the island are in pretty good shape and the water is crystal clear and warm, great for diving and snorkeling. Christine and I dove a wreck lying a few miles off the south end of the island and a beautiful reef a bit closer in. The next day we took the dinghy on an excursion to explore snorkeling sites.

We also got in the water to clean Intermezzo's bottom of marine growth. The Mexican antifouling paint applied over two years ago is getting thin, but still working well. Funny, when we looked under the dock to which Intermezzo is tied, we saw more fish than on any of our other dives! The school of palometas was so dense that if you shot a spear through it, you would have at least a six-fish shush kebab. Big groupers and snappers swam lazily around this school, some the size of and as plump as a small Thanksgiving turkey.

The El Milagro Marina is a great place. It is a small rustic hotel with a single wooden dock, brightly painted and nicely decorated. It has a communal kitchen for the use of hotel and marina guests, a big breezy open-air lobby, a small pool and a little beach, complete with complimentary kayaks and paddle boards. The bathrooms are kept impeccably clean and there a big outdoor showers with plentiful hot water. The staff takes good care of the place and is very helpful and friendly. Highly recommended as a place to stay, with or without boat.

It feels a bit strange knowing that Intermezzo will be back in U.S. waters again in a few days. It's been three years and seven months since we left San Diego and crossed into Mexico. A return to more rules, more regulations and more expensive.