|Milly sharing the anchorage with the only other boats in Cozumel.|
Cozumel, the next place to check in, was a lovely island with a busy tourist-centered town. To our surprise we were the only cruising boat - we had expected some company. The anchorage was in beautiful sand. There was no dinghy dock - we hauled TomTom onto the beach through a small surf to go to town.
|The melacon was lined with kinda tacky sculptures. This one featured the underwater world and happened to frame Milly|
Checking into the country proved to be an expensive challenge. The process is different in every country. Unlike arriving on a plane with immigration and customs represented by one official and one booth, we usually must go to at least two, sometimes three offices. Here's what we did in Cozumel:
- Visit to port authority - closed for the day at 2 pm
- Visit to the port authority - copies of documents made and directions to visit immigration at the airport.
- Walked to the airport. Immigration at the airport would not deal with us. Sent us to immigration office across town.
- Walked across town to immigration office. Forms completed. Direction to meet with agriculture and fisheries representative in office.
- Agric and Fish young man (very broken English) explained that he had to inspect Milly for produce - oh, oh. This was most unexpected! and I hadn't prepared by either eating or hiding our produce of which only a pineapple and bananas were visible. We joined his partner in a dog catching truck. Peter was directed to sit in one of the dog cages - hilarious, no dog - while I scored the front seat an the second official sat in the other dog cage. They were nervous when I took a picture - this was strictly against the rules.
This is no dog! Still looking happy.
- Drive to beach where TomTom was "parked". The guy accompanying us had never been in a dinghy before. He was obviously more comfortable with the Agricultural part of his job. He pulled off his big leather shoes and socks and attempted to roll up his pants when he saw, to his surprise and, I think, displeasure that he would have to wade into the water before climbing into TomTom. Peter and I have worked out a routine for putting TomTom in the water when there is surf. I stand at the bow in water to my thighs, holding the boat out perpendicular to the breaking waves as best I can. Peter clambers in, puts the engine down and starts. I dive into the boat head first or, if I'm only up to my knees, swing a leg up and over as Peter goes into reverse. This is not a delicate operation. The official became a little more chagrined. As we slowly drove out to Milly, his knuckles whitened from holding on so tightly. He took the centre bench seat, not trusting the inflated gunnels.
- On board Milly, he apologetically filled a large garbage bag, first with the visible fruit and then he opened the fridge and loaded it with eggs, cheese, cold meats, all fruit and veg, juice. Unfortunately, I had stocked up in Belize because we thought we might stop at the deserted anchorages on the way to Cozumel. Darn it!! Even though Peter could drive in the dog cage against all rules, the official became officious when it came to confiscating our contraband.
- Back to the beach with a full bag. Back in the truck. They offered to take us to the next office we had to visit. Although I was giving directions, they circled over and over on one-way streets - perhaps it was my Spanish? - finally letting us off a couple of blocks away.
- Walk to doctor's office where an approved doctor needed to sign a health form. He was not available.
- Back to Milly to recover.
- Return to doctor's office. The doctor saw us immediately. He looked at us, looked at the form, asked us what boat we were on and how long we were staying, signed the form and ushered us out. Not a word about health was exchanged.
- Walk to customs at airport. A plane had just arrived. We could see through our teller-type window that the customs officials were busy. After ten minutes of standing politely at the window a guy saw us, rushed over, stamped our forms, made copies of our passports, all in record time.
- Walk back to port authority office to show off all our completed forms. Directed to go to the bank to pay the fee. Their credit card system was not working.
- Walk to the bank. Paid fee. Easy process.
- Walk back to the port authority where the guy who needed to put the final signature on our paperwork was unavailable. Directed to return the next day in the a.m.
- Picked up completed forms, signatures intact.
|We rented a scooter to check out the rest of the island.|
|The east coast of Cozumel was magnificent - wild and undeveloped. The road edged the ocean and gave spectacular views of many coloured water.|
|This guy was just hanging out on the lagoon side - waiting for an unlucky tourist to slip in the muck|
|Leaving Cozumel, we crossed paths with Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior. Very cool!|
We had discovered that the east coast of the Mexican Yucatan peninsula is not at all set up for cruising. Isla Mujeres, the jumping off point to the US or, alternatively, the first port of call leaving the US or Cuba on the way south, is the exception to this.
|The whale shark is a big tourist draw here. We didn't visit during the season when you can swim with these giants but a local insisted on taking our picture with this one.|
|Mother Nature shares the altar here.|
|The pedestrian street in the tourist centre was full of souvenir shops but even these added colour and liveliness.|
|Again, the east shore offered gorgeous blues.|
|Peter and I tend to seek out cemeteries. The styles of the graves are so different from place to place that they offer an insight into the culture and history. These were particularly decorated.|
|Note the lighthouse, and the two churches.|
Isla Mujeres was easy living. Many cruisers come for a brief rest on their way north or south and never leave. We biked and hiked. I went to a yoga studio. We had dinner with a large group of cruisers twice a week and often socialized with those we met. For the six weeks we stayed in Mexico, with a very pleasant standard of living we spent less than $1500US. Amazing.
|This estancia was built by a señor for his lover but he was rejected. Maybe the steps were a touch to steep.|
And we waited and waited for a weather window to sail to Key West. The northers blew through every 5-7 days so timing was difficult. Life was getting a bit too comfy - I had visions of staying so long that Milly would grow a beard of seaweed like we saw on other boats in the anchorage. Finally, we set off for what ended up being a 36 hour sail because we left at the wrong time. Oh well.
|Sunset as we left Isla Mujeres. For the first time it was at the stern of the boat.|