Thursday, February 13, 2020

Isla Mujeres, Mexico


Sunset in Key West
Hola! from Mexico . . . our destination for this winter.  Entering the Caribbean’s west coast isn’t easy but far easier than heading to the islands in the Eastern Caribbean.  The route we followed this time took us from Key West to the Dry Tortugas to Isla Mujeres.  
Fort Jefferson
Dry Tortugas National Park
Our friends, Tony and Anne joined us in Key Biscayne and we continued to Key West; a most enjoyable place to visit.  With great sunsets, interesting shops and quasi-decent food, we waited for the perfect weather to make passage.  The Dry Tortugas is on Richard’s “bucket list” so we sailed overnight to this small collection of low sandy islands and the home of historic Fort Jefferson. Check it out at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Jefferson_(Florida) .  
Fort Jefferson
We toured the fort, walked the beautiful beaches and prepared for what promised to be one hell of a thunder and lightning storm.  This weather event lasted the better part of the night with lots of electricity and very high winds.  The holding was good in the anchorage and we were well protected in the lee of the island.
Finally, on Sunday the weather and winds seemed right and weather guru Chris Parker gave us a thumbs up so we ventured off for two full days and three nights of sailing.  After the first 24 hours, we were moving west shadowing the Cuban coast with good wind and fair seas.  With four people on board the “watch schedule” is much more pleasant than with just two and allows for lengthier periods of sleep – as long as you are able to sleep with the boat doing its best to toss you out of bed. The following day we entered the Yucatan Channel and crossed the Gulf Stream for the second time in following seas. The currents mostly worked against us rather than for us but at sunrise on Wednesday morning four tired sailors and one dog desperately in need of a walk, arrived at Isla Mujeres (Spanish for “island of women”) - our home for the next 6-7 weeks.  
Isla Mujeres
Mexico
We settled at a dock at  El Milagro (https://www.elmilagrobeachhotelandmarina.com), cleared customs,  and are once again on island time.  The water is warm and blue, the temperatures are in the mid 80’s and the food and margaritas are perfect.  There are plenty of tourists here this time year and the ferry brings loads of “day trippers” over from Cancun. The streets are busy with the main modes of transportation being scooters and golf carts. The mainland is a 15-minute fast ferry ride away. We rented a car and drove to Puerto Morelos and Valladolid for a change of scenery.  
We’ll pass our days with outings on the island, volunteering at Isla Animal Rescue, snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking, and of course, some boat maintenance.  We are enjoying meeting people who share our love of exploring Mexico in a low key way that isn’t experienced at all-inclusive resorts.  Locals are welcoming and beach bars abound; we are so fortunate to have this time in such a wonderful, interesting and beautiful place.   

Thanks for following our travels.


 More Pics:


Tony and Richard

Kay in the lobby of El Milagro
Isla Mujeres
  
The crew cooks up a great dinner for all
El Milagro
  
The leaning lighthouse
Puerto Morelos
Mexico


Ann and Kay at
Tacos.com
Our favorite restaurant in the world!

The Ferry coming into Isla Mujeres
from Puerto Juarez
Lunch in Valadilid, Mexico




Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Weather Weather Weather.......


The Three Amigos - Vero Beach 
We are now in the Florida Keys, a day or so away from Key West. The wind is howling and the seas building.  The holidays were spent in Charleston with our southern-based family. It was wonderful to spend December visiting Jason, Meredith and Liam. As usual we ate too much food in too many fabulous Charleston restaurants.  This year we had the joy of attending Liam’s Holiday Concert at school,  joining him for lunch in the cafeteria, and volunteering at his 2nd grade Economics Fair. It felt great to be back in an elementary school with all its energy and excitement.


The sail from Charleston to Miami was sans Kay who had a great visit in Vermont with grandson Henry, Tara and Chad.  Our good friend John Creelman took over as first mate for three weeks and did a splendid job.   The sail south was a combination of outside passages and Inter-coastal Waterway depending on weather conditions in the Atlantic. The problem with the ICW is that inadequate funds have been allocated for dredging resulting in significant shoaling.  The saying is, “There are two kinds of sailors in the ICW, those that have gone aground and liars.”  A second issue with inter-coastal travel is the transiting of bridges.  There are many 65’ fixed bridges (our mast is about 64’) and other lower bridges that have to open either upon request or on a set schedule. This results in a lot of “hurry up and wait”.  Since we can only motor about 50 miles a day on the ICW, we prefer overnight passages in the Atlantic. The good news is that the ICW is available when the weather is inclement and there are places that are stunningly beautiful.  This year John and Richard discovered the town of Cocoa near Florida’s “Space Coast” - a lovely town with great restaurants and a rich history from the early days of NASA. They even witnessed a Spacex launch and separation.

Anne, Kay, and Tony on Key Biscayne 

Key Biscayne
We grabbed a mooring in Vero Beach in a very protected harbor.  Unlike most places, they double and triple raft boatsv on the moorings.  We had the great fortune of being rafted with S/V Ring of Kerry owned by our friends George, Cecilia and their puppy Champ.  We were also happy to spend time with our friend and Vero resident, John T. who we had shared a house with in Guatemala for several weeks. Our Vermont friends Peter and Blaine are only a few  miles down the road so we were able to visit with them, too. All and all it was a wonderful visit with old friends and great weather.
Atalanta at rest in No Name Harbor

The next stop was Key Biscayne where we anchored comfortably in No Name Harbor.  Richard rented a car to facilitate a crew change and provisioning. Kay arrived in Miami on January 14,  John departed from Ft. Lauderdale the afternoon of the 15th and Tony and Anne arrived from Westbury, UK  that evening. We also squeezed in a lunch date with Richard and Martin from S/V Sea Cloud.


Richard and John in Vero
We are currently stalled at Marathon Key due to weather and anticipating a sail to Key West on Thursday where we hope to chill and relax for a few days with an eye to the weather.  With the help of professional meteorologist, Chris Parker, we will look for a three-day weather window enabling us to sail to Mexico.  We anticipate a brief stop over in the Dry Tortugas, a group of small islands 60 miles west of Key West.  It will take a couple of days and nights to get across the Gulf of Mexico to beautiful Isla Mujeres.  Hopefully we will be sipping margaritas on the beach there the next time we post.

Richard and Kay

Click here to follow our progress: 

More pics:

Opulence on the Inter-coastal

John Creelman

Kay, Richard, and Roseanne at Angel Oak

St. Augustine


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Winter Seems to Have Arrived

Preparing to Face the Weather
We had only been out a week and were already waiting out a second storm; first at Block Island and then in Cape May. Our southward journey continued with stops at anchorages in the Cohassey River, Turner Creek, Back Creek, Oxford Marina, Tred Avon, Spring Cove in Solomon’s Island, Deltaville, and a couple of days plugged into heat the Tidewater Marina in Portsmouth, VA. We had the opportunity to visit with friends along the way which is the best part of the trip. We are finding that boats have emptied out of the harbors, leaves have mostly fallen from the trees, nights are chilly, and daylight hours are too brief. 
Each time we set out, we never know how the trip will feel or what our attention will drawn to.  We struggle with the desire for each sailing adventure to be new and unique and try to avoid repeating prior experiences – even though we’ve visited wonderful places and met lovely people. This time, our focus  seems to be about how difficult it is to leave family and about the weather patterns arriving this fall.  The easier of the two to deal with is the more complex one, weather.  We make decisions based on how much risk/discomfort we are willing to endure, whether the wind will carry us in the right direction, or if it’s time to just sit and wait for more favorable conditions.
Murray Finding his Own Seat
Having accurate weather information to base our go/no go decisions upon is essential and we currently have series of resources that we are pretty happy with. We use Passage Weather Offshore for weather routing and departure planning, WeatherNet to download GRIB files (small maps), and a range of text based reports, NOAA (National Weather Service) for its mammoth data-base.  Recently, we contracted with Chris Parker, a marine meteorologist who emails a detailed, region specific analysis of the weather for the area that we are sailing.  We highly recommend his services!
Cape May
We are settling back into the boat way of life.  While we miss our family in New England we are moving every day closer to our Charleston family.  We are anxious to spend December at Charleston City Marina near Jason, Meredith and Liam before we leave them too soon and sail to Florida. Our good friends, Anne and Tony who “buddy boated” many miles with us aboard S/V Argosea, will hop onboard in Miami and we’ll make our way to Key West where we wait for a weather window to make the passage to Isla Mujeres, Mexico for February-March.
While tied up in Portsmouth/Norfolk, we rented a car and drove to visit our good friends in Richmond for a few days.  Spending time with them is always a highlight of our trip south.  Today we move through the Great Bridge Lock while trying to keep warm during this cold front passing through. We saw snow flurries yesterday which is great motivation to get moving south.  Today we inch our way toward our destination.







Saturday, October 26, 2019

Beginning a New Adventure: October 2019

It has been a while since our last blog.  We tend to only use this format when we are traveling more extensively and anticipate new adventures on the water.  On Friday, October 25, 2019, Kay and I once again pushed off from our home port of Bristol, Rhode Island.  Our goal is to reach the Yucatan area of Mexico by February.  Like most sailing adventures, it is the journey rather than the destination that makes it all worthwhile.

The night before leaving Bristol
In the past we have met new friends, explored new and exciting places, immersed ourselves in different cultures and shared much of it with old friends from home.  We are hoping for new experiences despite the fact that some of the places we will be going are somewhat familiar.  As always, the hardest part is leaving family.  We love our time with our kids and grandchildren, nieces and nephews not to mention my sister and mother.  Hopefully, they will visit and perhaps we will slip home at some point to surprise them.  Regardless, we will be back in New England again in the late Spring for summer in New England.

Here is our tentative itinerary:
Leaving Bristol

  • Leave Bristol October 25, 2019
  • Block Island
  • Cape May
  • Chesapeake Bay
  • Portsmouth, VA
  • Round Cape Hatteras or use ICW if weather requires
  • Beaufort, NC
  • Charleston, SC (for the month of December)
  • January 1 leave Charleston for Florida
  • Pick up Tony and Ann on Key Biscayne
  • Key West (by Jan. 20)
  • Isla Mujeres, Mexico (February and March)
  • Begin north from Mexico mid March
  • Return to Bristol by end of May
We hope that you will follow our blog and make comments as we progress.  

Thanks for following

Richard and Kay













Saturday, January 6, 2018

80 MPH Winds, Bombogenesis & Frigid Florida

Weather impacts our daily lives regardless of where we are but living on the boat and being on the water can add a bit more drama. This was especially true on two recent occasions. We carefully monitored the weather on October 29th onboard Atalanta in Bristol, RI when high winds and heavy rains were forecast and Mother Nature delivered.  Wind gusts reached hurricane force with 81 mph recorded at Comimicut Light off Warwick at 11:15 pm. We had more than our share of gusts in the 50-60 mph range and later heard that we had been rocked by 80 mph gusts overnight. I'd never heard of bombogenesis but we experienced it. Scientifically, bombogenesis is defined as a drop of 24 millibars in 24 hours. The central pressure in this storm dropped 29 millibars in just 21 hours. I (Kay) found myself feeling unusually anxious. I imagined worst-case scenarios and questioned our decision to remain onboard Atalanta. Even in a more positive state of mind, sleep would have been elusive. Atalanta tossed and pulled at her mooring but didn’t let go. Wind roared, waves washed over the decks, and every halyard in the mast banged and clanged. We shouted at each other to be heard. At sunrise, we discovered others had been less fortunate. The VHF was busy with distress calls, a large sailboat was high and dry in the harbor, over 200,000 people were without electricity and 2.92” of rain had fallen overnight resulting in heavy flooding. We certainly sympathized with those who had to deal with the aftermath of the storm.

The only damage we suffered was a bottle of bourbon that didn't survive its bounce on the galley floor and a few frayed nerves.



We didn't depart Charleston until December 27. It was cold. It got worse. We bundled up in foul weather gear and drank cup after cup of hot coffee traveling from SC to Florida.Log entry for New Year's Day reads: 0730 - Anchor up in icy rain. Painful. Sleepless, bouncy, 35 knot night. No improvement. 1100 - Strong current in our favor on St. John's River. Will it reverse when we cross? Yup. Speed dropped from 9.3 to 3.9 kts. And snowflakes. 1550 - High wind alarm sounding. Winds over 35 kts. Spitting snow. Boat heeling in ICW! 1720 - Arrived St. Augustine. Bridge of Lions operator indicated winds gusting at 50. Somehow managed to pick up mooring. Icy deck. Safe.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Adios Mexico: Hello USA


After nearly four years of cruising we’re back in the USA.  We aren’t certain exactly how many miles we traveled onboard Atalanta (to be figured out on some cold winter night) but we estimate between 20-25,000 miles.  The adventure is certainly not over yet.  After a month at City Marina in Charleston we will sail to New England, enjoy our family and new home in Vermont for the summer, and take Atalanta to local waters in RI, MA, and ME. When the leaves begin to change, that is the signal to once again move south. 

Our passage from Isla Mujeres, Mexico to Key West went well. April Hayes and John Creelman joined us for the three-day/ three-night passage and helped out with watches. We sailed well if not on a bit more of a northerly course than we would have preferred.  Moving to the east is always a challenge especially this time of year as the trade winds are still evident and weather tends to move in from that direction.  Once in Key West, our crew departed and we once again became a crew of two.  Our friends Paul and Mary on Genesis III buddy boated with us from Mexico and continued with us up to Key Biscayne and on to Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades). 

Fort Lauderdale seems to have no shortage of extreme wealth as we moved along the ICW past miles and miles of enormous waterfront homes and super yachts of magnificent grandeur. 
One of Many on the Intercoastal
After spending so much time in places like Dominica, Guatemala, Suriname, and the Bahamas, we realized that we did not see this kind of conspicuous wealth anywhere else in our travels.

John, Kay, and Richard
The winds continued to blow so we continued to motor the ICW. In Vero Beach we had the pleasure of reuniting with our friend John Terry, our Casa Mate in Guatemala.  It’s fun to visit a native in his natural habitat and John treated us to a fun time in his hometown.   We then headed to Sebastian and a visit with our Vermont friends Peter and Blaine.  While squeezing into a favorite anchorage off their home, we found a sand bar that just didn’t want to let go of us.  With the assistance of Towboat US, we continued on our way the next morning.  As old salts say, “There are two kinds of sailors, those who have grounded and liars.” 

During a brief two-day stop in one of our favorite cities, St. Augustine, we reunited with friends we met in Guatemala, Rob and Rhian on Beyzano, who we hope to see in points north later this summer. We also enjoyed spending time with Jerie and John on Peking who we knew of in Guatemala, met in Ft. Lauderdale and traveled with for the trip north.  Our paths will cross again.

After a fast overnight of motor-sailing, we are now docked at City Marina in Charleston, SC where we will sit for a month to enjoy the pleasures of this fine City, visit with family and play with our grandson Liam.  

Also docked here is the magnificent Athena. Athena is a clipper-bowed three masted gaff rigged schooner built by Royal Huisman in 2004 for Internet entrepreneur James H. Clark. She is 295’ long, 40’ at the beam, and accommodates 10 guests and 18 crew. She carries 22, 712 gal of fuel and 6,426 gal of water.  She’s for sale so if you are interested in owning a $100 million boat, check her out here:
http://www.superyachts.com/sail-yacht-2276/athena-specification.htm

Charleston has become a home away from home so we are looking forward to the coming month. 

Best always,


Richard and Kay





Mary and Paul
Buddy Boaters
on Genesis III
Buddy Boaters Jerie and John
on
Peking
Kay Playing with the dolphins

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Heading Back to the USA




After almost 9 months in Guatemala and a month Mexico, we are planning our return to the US.  Summer in New England will mean some time spent on Atalanta in Rhode Island and New England coastal waters and some time as landlubbers Vermont. We are looking forward to a summer that brings us closer to family and friends. 

Until then, our adventures at sea continue. Noah and then John Creelman joined us adding much enjoyment to our travels.  Sharing our life onboard with friends and family is an integral part of living aboard and we love it when schedules align and enable us to welcome guests.
Loving Great Food in Mexico

After tackling some boat jobs, provisioning, and sharing margaritas with friends at El Milagro Marina in Isla Mujeres, we realized it was time for another road trip. We picked up our rental car (ever heard of a VW Gol? We don’t recommend it) in Cancun and hit the highway headed for a night in the colonial city of Merida.  After one night at a great airbnb that once was a Spanish guardhouse and a delicious meal at Chaya Maya we were off on the 2.5 hour drive to Campeche (pronounced kahm-PEH-chay).  The town of Campeche lies in the State of Campeche and is visited mostly by those gringos looking to escape the resorts that crowd the beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula. A lovely 2-bedroom airbnb house in the historic section of town was our home for two nights. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, over 1600 building facades have been restored. We visited a museum housing world-class Maya artifacts, walked the Malecon on the Gulf of Mexico, watched an amazing lightshow in the town plaza, and added dozens of photos to the 6,000+ we already have.  When you come to visit, Richard will show you ALL of them!

Back in Quintana Roo we drove to Tacos.com in Puerto Morelos where Richard claims to have discovered the best tacos in the world.  Although our stomachs were already stuffed we stopped in the plaza for ice cream and marquesitas. We also took our gringo selves to Costco where the hotdogs are served with jalapenos instead of pickle relish!

Noah Hand Steering
from Guatemala to Mexico
It’s almost time to make a multi-day passage from the Carebbean to the USA.. The trip north can be a challenge thanks to the Gulf Stream current and strong seasonal winds that, of course, tend to blow from whatever direction you want to go in. Sailing in wind-over-current conditions poses a number of challenges.  Waves build quickly and the interval between waves can be short making for a rough ride.  We had our share of 20+ foot waves and 30+ knot winds on the way here and hope to find a weather window that provides a comfortable, smooth and speedy ride. Yeah, right!

We wanted to arrive in the Dry Tortugas about 70 miles west of Key West. However, the DTs are not a port of entry so we will have make landfall in the US in Key West where we can check in with Customs and Immigration. Other stops on the way to Vermont may include Sebastian, FL (Peter and Blaine: prepare the anchorage), St. Augustine (Jason and Meredith: want waffles and milkshakes for breakfast again?), Cumberland Island, Ga. and then on to City Marina in Charleston for a month where ya’ll are invited to visit and enjoy warm weather and great food.

Adios amigos!

Richard and Kay


Noah and Richard in
Guatemala



John and Richard
in Isla Mujeres, Mexico


John and Kay in Merida, Mexico
Conversation Chairs
Merida
Campeche, Mexico

Light Show in Campeche, Mexico