Date: 28 May 97 13:23:42 EDT
From: Gene Gruender <104675.2134@CompuServe.COM>
Subject: Isla Arrival

We arrived in Isla Mujeres. After a 72 hour sail, around 30 hours of it in light wind and about 2 knots progress, we dropped anchor Tuesday afternoon.

I'll have to admit that we did use the motor for about 24 hours. We spent so much time in light winds that it was looking like a weekend arrival. Fortunately, the drive train is still in one piece, although it's grumbling quite a bit.

This passage was a lot like others. We had wind, then we didn't have wind. Several times we had dolphins all around the boat. It's really something to have 50 or more dolphins swimming and jumping all around you just showing off.

We had a couple things that were new to us, too. For one, we were sure we would get boarded by the Coast Guard along the way. We've entered one of their prime areas to do that. We haven't seen a thing. It didn't stop us from worrying, though. And about midnight last night Nellie woke me up saying there was a ship near, she wasn't sure how close it was or where to go. When I got up to the cockpit, trying to get my eyes open, we were real close. Closer than I first thought. Like, a boat length away (his, not ours) but I had trouble figuring out just which way to turn. Being half asleep probably contributed to that, but with us nearly along side him, his lights didn't make sense. When he turned a powerful light right on us, I knew we were close. Then the problem was, I was really blinded. I finally just turned about 180 degrees. It had to put us farther away from him. Since he was traveling probably 4 times as fast as us, it didn't take long for him to get some distance from us. And, speaking of distance, we were at least 60 miles from any land, so you can meet up just about anywhere! If there are any ship captains out there reading this, the one thing that the guy on the ship could have done that really would have helped was to shine the spotlight on his own boat for a few seconds so we could have had a clear idea of what was where. As it was, he did get our attention, he just didn't pass along the best information to help get the problem solved.

The other thing that was a surprise was how strong the current was as we approached Isla Mujeres. We were cutting across a stream of nearly 3 knot current. I had to head south west to go west. The current was a little east of going to the north and for a half hour, while sailing 3 to 4 knots, we didn't move. It was like trying to sail across the Mississippi in a flood. We were cutting a good path through the water, but were not moving over the bottom. I finally got the motor going again to get on across. If you make this route, head a ways south and let the current make your northing for you.

Checking into Isla was a hoot. I've read about checking into Mexico and all the trips, etc. that are required. Not to mention the copies of forms. I went to the Port Captains office, the first stop mentioned in the guides. They were closed. Oh, they were all there, they were all at their desks, but they were closed. I was told to go to customs and immigration, then come back after 5. (It was about 2:30). Off to Customs, which was padlocked. Well, immigration was next door. I went in and they got serious about getting me checked in. Papers and more papers. They wanted my crew list. Every other place has it's own form. I mentioned to them that most places have the forms with the information the way they want it. Did they have them? Sure - 1. I filled it out, but they wanted 4. I had to go find someone to make copies while they waited. About 6 blocks away I found a store with a Xerox machine and had everything I had copied 4 times.

Back at immigration, they were happy now. They were even impressed that I had my own immigration forms filled out and stamped from their consulate in Corpus Christ. They stamped everything I had, all copies, all forms, everything. I was told to go to the clinic for my health clearance.

After walking about 8 blocks and finding the clinic, I asked the lady at the entrance what I needed to do to clear in from my boat. She didn't speak English, but did know exactly what to do. Stamp everything. All copies, all originals, everything. Then sign and date every one of them. Had I know that in advance, she wouldn't have seen nearly as many copies. After a very lengthy signing, she handed me all the papers, except one copy of everything, smiled, and it was clear I was done there.

5 pm came and I headed back to the Port Captain's office. The same guy behind the same desk was open then. I was really supposed to clear customs before he finished with me, but since they weren't open for some unknown reason, he blew that off and took care of it. He started going through all my papers, which had now grown to a fairly large pile, and started stamping. We went through a lot of questions, like color of boat, length, how many masts, where we came from, (everything was already on at least several copies he had, but what do I know?) He asked for the home port (in Spanish) and had a tough time figuring out what I was saying, which was "Austin, Texas". I looked into my stuff I hadn't revealed yet for something to show him how it was spelled and pulled out my documentation paper, which is the registration. Bad mistake. The first rule of checking in is to never let them see anything they haven't asked for. His eyes lit up, he smiled, and immediately had to have a copy. Right then I had to go 6 blocks each way to have another copy made. He'd never even have wanted it if he hadn't seen it. I'm learning.

So tomorrow Customs is supposed to be open at 10 am. We'll see. I think I need to plan a couple days ahead of when we're leaving to start checking out.

We do have some adjusting to do. They drive on the right in Mexico. We've spent 4 months in countries where they drive on the left. We find we're looking the wrong way when we step off the curb, just like we did when we first got to the Bahamas. We've spent 4 months in other countries, but they all spoke English, even if the accents were a bit strong at times. I speak about 5 word in Spanish and 3 of them are numbers. We have some adjusting to do.

We have found out where several of the best places to eat are, with good meals for about $4. We found that there is a Sam's Club over in Cancun. We may get supplies for our trip to Texas. (Read "JUNK FOOD").

But, all in all, the people are fun, they're friendly and we're enjoying it.

Gene Gruender
aboard Rainbow Chaser
anchored out in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

From the Publisher: Gene wanted me to pass on to you, the link to the Montego Bay Yacht Club.

Enjoy,

Ed DeBee