Wednesday, October 30, 2013

End of Time Warp; Leap Makes Quantum Leap

As reported by the Isla Mujeres Tortugas :

After 79 days in a lightning induced time warp Leap and her crew are setting sail on Thursday 10/31 at 0600.
Leap feels quantum physics interceded rousing the universe into releasing her into the capable hands of her Captain and Co-Captain, Charlie and Karen, so that they can continue on their adventure exploring the Western Caribbean.
Charlie and Karen said their goodbyes to Isla Mujeres and El Milagro Marina.

If you want to travel along with us you can follow us at:

If you use the aerial view you should be able to see the beautiful blue water of the reefs we hope to visit along the way.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cozumel While We Wait

While we were waiting for the autopilot to show up the first time, we took a sailing trip south from Isla Mujeres to Cozumel. The water there is beautiful, but the anchorage near town on the western shore was rough, really rough, due to winds and seas, but mostly due to relentless boat traffic - in particular passenger ferries. The anchorage on the north end of the island would have been quieter as far as boat traffic but with the wind direction it would have been rougher.
In the end we decided to stay near the town, San Miguel and take the dinghy ashore for sightseeing. It is a small town but bigger than the town on Isla Mujeres  with the usual hawkers and tourist shops laden with trinkets galore catering to the passengers on the cruise ships. However,we did come across a very nice bar restaurant in town called Wet Wendy's, where we imbibed on margaritas made with their homemade tequila, which in this case means; it is made locally, but finishes its aging at Wet Wendy's. 

They also have wifi which is very handy for us cruisers.

One day we rented a scooter and headed out with the snorkeling gear to visit some reefs.
Alas, we did not find much for shallow reefs it was more like rock gardens. 

We swam out across the rock gardens from the beach and had a pleasant snorkel but did not see many fish and little in the way of live coral, hard or soft varieties. While hiking back to the scooter we observed many turtle nesting sites. As we neared our dive bag an officer approached us on a dirt bike ( did we mention this was a rutty dirt trail we went out on?) warning us that we should not leave the scooter and dive bag unattended, as it could get stolen. There wasn't another soul around but we took his words at face value pledging to be more careful. We obviously could not take our gear with us snorkeling, so then what does one do?  

Well....get back on the scooter and head to the highest point on the island where one can find refreshments.

Coconuts Bar and Grill is reported to be on a 300 ft high bluff. We think its probably more like 100' high, as you can see from the following pictures.

Nonetheless, it was a beautiful view as we sat under the umbrella and had a margarita.

We finished out the day circumnavigating the island on the scooter. We learned that the signs designating scooter/bike path don't mean a thing, as you can meet cars, trucks and even buses on the path. So as always, pay attention while in Mexico.

The water is gorgeous in Cozumel.  The deeper reefs on the south end of the island are part of a National Park. They start around 40 ft deep and go down past sport diving limits. They may be gorgeous and worth paying the park fee, dive boat and dive gear rental fees but not for us. We were hoping for readily accessible snorkeling and that was not the case.  It is illegal to anchor in the park and it was over 14 miles by dinghy so the only way to access the one reported good snorkel site is to sign up for a charter and wear a stupid orange life jacket while trying to snorkel. No thanks.

The afternoon before we wanted to head back north to Isla Mujeres there was a storm standing along the mainland.

Fortunately it stayed on the mainland and we were grateful for that! There were many storms similar to this in the area while we were there. That was another reason for the rough anchorage and our decision not to travel further south as originally planned.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

There is no joy in Isla, the Autopilot has struck out

After weeks and weeks of waiting and struggling, the long awaited, vaunted autopilot finally arrived. With great optimism and enthusiasm we tackled the various functions, hardware installation and connections. Following a manual that seemed vague at times we nonetheless were ready to run the first test; a critical step in directing the autopilot to steer the proper course, and it failed. We double checked the wiring, we tried the wiring diagram for the opposite tack setting. It failed. We tried a replacement piece of hardware, it failed. Lacking additional time we sent the control unit back with our friend to have it returned to the manufacturer promptly in an attempt to get it sent back to us promptly. Promptly in this case means a week of shipping in either direction. Not to mention the time it will be in the factory. 

Had we decided to plant a crop of coconuts on deck - and for as long as this auto pilot replacement has taken - we could already have harvested a nice crop. This bizzare reflection may have been instigated by the longing for better fruits and vegatables. The low quality, poor selection available on this coast is staggering. Our visits to the West coast yielded a totally different experience. The Yucatan coast is a dead zone from an agricultural perspective and the Mexicans are making it so on an aquatic basis as well. Overfishing and polluted runoff, are decimating reefs and fish stocks. Algae in the bay where we are anchored, rivals most fresh water lakes. It is the thick, slimy,gooey green stuff that strangles native species and robs the environment of oxygen. I for one never expected to find this here. Costal development is painfully obvious. It is unbelievable what has been done to this coastline in the past 50 years. Even the areas I think I might enjoy, the National Parks, are off limits to cruisers. No anchoring in the aquatic parks makes it impossible for cruisers to access. Ones only avenue is to go on a charter boat, run by Mexicans, of course, and pay their fees. While not exorbitant, still pricey to go snorkling  ($160.00 if Karen and I wanted to spend a few minutes with whale sharks, for instance) or visit a bird sanctuary (unclear but a fee per person around $60/day plus another cruising permit). Our trip to Tulum was aborted in part to bad weather(no wind) and in part to the loss I would feel - having been in Tulum in 1973 -  in trying to recreate an experience that can no longer exist. Why try? Why face another disappointment? 

I'm not sure there is any force holding us in Isla, but there seems to be. Something doesn't want us getting away. Why? What is it that keeps postponing our departure? Have we not accomplished what we were destined to do here? Big questions, not much for answers. It appears that we will have a couple more weeks to ponder our role. In the mean time, we live, as best we can. Andale', Charlie

As I watched Charlie's face yesterday, and our friend Chip working along side, it was pretty hard to take the disappointment we all shared when the auto pilot failed to function as it should have.
Another setback, and we wait and wait again.

I know some of you think, " Well, what better place to wait for parts?" And then there are some of you good Midwestern Scandinavian types thinking, " Well, it could be worse, ya sure ya betcha."
And it surely could have been worse. We could have lost Leap in the lightening strike as well as being injured ourselves so yes, we do count our blessings. 

What is it that makes us especially contemplative during times of disappointment and stress? Most would say it is the universe telling you to put the brakes on and slow down and evaluate. However, we already put the brakes on when we decided to take this sabbatical. So why are we having hurdles on sabbatical? Is it a test of our dedication to this dream? Or a window into what lies ahead?

If the oceans abundance is sorely diminished here what will it look like elsewhere? Are we to be witnesses, a voice for the ocean, and are we to hike up our bootstraps, or rather sandal straps and voyage on and report back what we find in the hopes that we and anyone else that may be interested can actually take action on what we find?

In that light, it is worth the voyage. We need to learn and will learn more about the western Caribbean as we sail along and we will report back all the highs and lows. 

For now we are thankful to be floating and grateful for all the wonderful people we have met along the way, especially grateful to our friend Chip, who has been an enormous help in getting our parts to us. Thank you Chip! (and to you too Lu, for sharing him)

On that note I say a good night and fair winds friends,

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Smug night

Storm clouds building the night before.

First fingers of yet to be named Hurricane Karen

In the picture below you can see a large navy blue sailboat on the right at the end of a dock and next to that the bow of a sport fishing boat. Our slip is next to the sport fishing boat. We took these pictures the night before we went into the marina.

Another band of storms pass, listing us 15% to starboard. Wave wobbeled decks forcing imitation drunken steps fore and aft in our air conditioned cabin. Curtains of rain clawing at the seals. Yet we remain dry and smug. Smug because we left the mooring in time to avoid the uncomfortable evening at anchor and sought refuge in  El Milagro Marina. Arriving with time enough to plug in and start recharging batteries, tie off and adequately secure our craft against the 30 mph winds (originally predicted at 55mph) as the low pressure storm system plows through the region unleashing it's  temper on the island and the Yucatan. Smug because we will not endure the sleep deprived night that our comrades at anchor will face, checking to verify their anchors' hold.

A negative forecast with rain, high winds and big waves forced us to delay our sailing excursion down the coast, originally intended to kill time until the autopilot arrives. Could be as soon as the 11th of Oct. or later around the 25th of Oct. all depends on Alpha Marine Systems now. They are unable to accept credit cards and as such have thrown a major hurdle in the path of progress since they will not start repairs until full payment is received. We were unaware of that policy before we mailed them a check. Now we wait. Delivery options fade as time slides by. Our desired location to ride out hurricane season is far away, so storms like today will be endured, but unnecessary if we were not waiting on parts. 

Lighting strikes, equipment failures, insurance companies, banks, shipping dilemmas, uncooperative vendors, yikes. We thought we were going to unwind in paradise, boy were we wrong. Surviving stress du jour is more like it. Another band of storms blows through reminding us of all that has gone right today, like getting into the sheltering lee of this tropical resort with its palm fringed beach (and wifi). Not a bad place to be stranded, indeed!