Date: 06 Jun 97 17:02:53 EDT
From: Gene Gruender <>
Subject: Leaving Isla Mujeres

I explained the procedure used for checking into Isla Mujeres. I wondered how much trouble I would have checking out. I did have one ace in the hole, though. If it got to be too much trouble, I'd just hoist anchor and leave. After all, I was going to the US, who won't issue papers when you leave. I don't see how they could turn us away from our own country for not having papers when we showed up. We'd give it our best shot at doing it properly, though.

I'd asked about the hours for checking out on Saturday and was assured that I could check out before noon without any problem. Each office I had to visit posted hours that showed them to be open at least until noon. It shouldn't be a problem. I showed up at Immigration about 9:30, but was told I had to go to the port captain's office first. This started with him asking for my crew list again. I showed him the list I'd used to check in. No, that wasn't it - I needed a different one to check out. Eventually, shaking his head, he gave me one blank copy. Of course, I needed 4 copies, so once I filled it out and verified with him it was done ok, I was off again to the copy machine across town.

Upon returning, he started filling out papers. All sorts of stuff. Slowly. Somewhere, half an hour or so into this processes, he looked up and started calculating. He was counting on his fingers, looking deep in thought, and then looked at me and announced that I owed a tax and it came to 81 pesos (about $11). I'd paid my port tax and was confused. I asked again, what was this for? This time he told me "overtime". I asked, "what do you mean, overtime?" He counted off on his fingers, Monday, Tuesday ....... Friday, then smiled and said "Saturday, overtime!" I could feel the touch being applied and it made me mad. How dumb did he think I was? I think the counting he'd been doing was figuring out how much his electric bill or something was, so he'd know how much to hit me up for.

I told him Saturday was a normal day that he worked; it said so on the door. Why should I pay overtime? He started to mention something else about it, then shook his head and went back to typing. I figured we had another round or two to go on that, but I wasn't paying a rip-off without a fight. He finished typing, gave me a stack of papers and I was off to Immigration and Customs. Those went pretty quickly and I went back to the port captain's office.

When I got back, we were best buddies. He typed another form up, the actual form I'd leave with, which took quite a while on his old, worn out typewriter. Eventually, he finished it and announced he had to have a copy. Here I went again, I thought. Across town to the copy store. Then he said no, he could do it there for 1 peso, which was the same as the copy store charged. Now why, I had to wonder, did I have to run all over town for copies if he could have done it there in the first place?

Later I talked to someone who'd been there for some time. He said it wasn't unusual, and had a few more thoughts. He said that many of the Mexican's who deal with the Americans in these ports think the Americans are really dumb. I think I understand why. They come in and don't speak the language. They don't know the system. They pay unneeded fees just because they're asked. And I'd have done the same if it had been posed as something believable.

After all that we finally got the anchor up about 1:30 Saturday afternoon. We sailed up to it, picked it up, turned and sailed back across and out of the anchorage. We rounded the end of the island and headed north. Once we were into the Yucatan Channel, we picked up the current and really took off, doing about 9 knots over the ground.

About 10 miles out we noticed that there were sports fishing boats all around and figured there might be fish, too. I got the big rod out, the very tiff one with a 9/0 Penn reel and 125-lb. line. I dropped the line over the back with a small green squid lure and let out about 100 yards of line. It wasn't 5 minutes until the reel was screaming!. I'd lost almost all the line and the reel had smoke coming out of it before we got the boat hove too and got the fish stopped. Another 50 yards and I'd have lost it all. It took a bit, but we got about a 20 lb. Bonita into the boat. The line went back out and it wasn't long before we did it again. With 2 20-lb. fish lying in the cockpit, I'd had enough and put it up. It was all the fish we could eat this trip.

The next morning we rounded the end of the Yucatan Peninsula and didn't see another boat for 2 days. We didn't even see a Coast Guard boat - we've expected to be boarded many times by now and it hasn't happened once.

The second evening out we had a big bird join us. I have idea what it was, I'd never seen one like it before, but had a long neck and about a 4 foot wingspan. He circled us for a bit, then tried to land on the bimini. He missed. After several more circles he made it to the solar panel a couple feet from me. It is mounted on an angle. He slid down it and fell off, not the most coordinated bird I ever saw. Finally, after about 3 more circles, he made it onto the bow pulpit. He rode up there the whole night, leaving quite a mess.

A couple hours later we had another visitor, a little bitty bird. I think this one spent his whole life at sea, as he had no fear of people. He just walked across me as though I was a stick or something. He also had never learned what a cat was. When he walked across Ninja's head, she came right out of a 3-month nap. Zachary spent the rest of the morning trying to keep the bird from becoming breakfast, once even taking the bird out of Ninja's mouth. It was sort of like the cartoon where the cat has to cough up the bird! The bird was so dumb it still didn't figure out that it needed to stay away from cats.

We're noticing something else, too. We've been down around 18 degrees for the past month. The days have been about low 80's, the evenings and nights down into the 70's. You could do just fine with nothing but a pair of shorts - if you even needed them. We're up to about 25 degrees now and the days are hotter. Surprisingly, the nights are getting colder. We're seeing signs of weather, too. Changing weather. We haven't seen that in a month or two.

As we approach Port Aransas we've seen 4 boats since we left the Yucatan Channel. Two were Mexican boats doing seismic work near the coast. The other two were large ships. Last night we saw the second one. Nellie and I were both in the cockpit, mainly watching forward. One of looked back and realized we were being overtaken by a large tanker moving at a good clip! We were never in any danger, but he did pass about a quarter mile from us.

We left Isla Mujeres with 38 gallons of diesel in the tank and 27 gallons on deck. It seemed like plenty, there is usually a lot of wind going the way we were going. We knew front came across the Gulf of Mexico just as we left. We hit it the second day. There was not weather associated with it, the wind just shifted. We had very light wind right on our nose. Naturally, we motored for a bit. It's turned out that we've motored all but about 16 hours since.

Yesterday morning the gauge read bone dry when I woke up. I was surprised the motor hadn't died. I dumped in 22 gallons and saved one 5-gallon jug for an emergency. At the speed we were motoring, trying to do about 6.5 knots, we'd used too much diesel. Of course, we didn't expect to motor the whole way, but our fuel was going too fast. We were burning a gallon an hour or so. At 4.5 to 5 knots, I can get nearly 2 hours out of a gallon. We had to slow down and plan as though we were going to end up motoring the whole way. It is bad enough that our transmission or drive train may quit at any time, but we didn't want to run out of fuel in addition to it.

We had 215 miles to go to the jetties at Port Aransas. Putting a bunch of figures in the calculator, no matter how I figured it, we were a little short of enough fuel to make it. We slowed down, and started watching for a little wind. Several times we caught a few hours of wind. Picking up about 25 mile under sail, we were in the running. As I write this, we're 45 miles from the Port Aransas jetties. I've gotten about 32 hours of motor time out of those.

Well, there's a break here. The wind piped up, we sailed on in, and we're in Port Aransas, Texas. We had 2 1/2 gallons of diesel left.

More details after some sleep!

Gene Gruender
aboard Rainbow Chaser