[Mexico] No beer in Paradise

Hut Point, Mexico. – Upfront: Happy Thanks Giving! It is quite an interesting moment to celebrate one of America’s top holidays in Mexico and meet a fresh married couple on their honeymoon vacation who spiced this day somehow to a real "Thanks Giving". It all started with a clear first-world-problem on this little adventure cruise: We took the dinghy ashore and walked up to beach bar after beach bar to order "dos cervesas, por favor." Every time we learned in perfect English: "Sorry, but we can only serve the guests staying here in the Hotel and are not allowed to serve the public. Maybe the Hotel next to us can help you." There we stood in our bathing suits with some almost dry Pesos, US-dollar, Euro and even Credit Cards in Paradise: Unable to buy a cold beer Waiting for a front to pass over us at Hut Point took already a few days longer than planned. And slowly we became desperate to get off the boat for a while. The Place was not as great as the book described. Still ok and it is not the authors fault that "a conspicuous hut" at "Hut Point" turned into a bunch of hotels since the most current guidebook for these waters was written in the nineties. The forecasted strong winds associated with the front came two days ago. A typical clockwise cold front called "Norder": The warm westerly trade winds die, while the wind starts turning south. The cold winds pick up from the southwest to full strength from northwest and turn northeast. Now they are on their decline but still too strong and yet not east enough for us to catch a sleep at the anchorage at Cozumel. So we stay here between a Resort-Marina-Adventure-whatever-makes-Fun-on-the-Water-Thing ashore and a quite useful coral reef on the other side at a place called Hut Point. The coral reef is our shelter from the swell that comes off the Caribbean Sea as it breaks most of the large waves and only some light rolling makes its way to us. That alone makes one say "Thanks Giving" for it. But it also invites for snorkeling and watching the later to be grilled lobster and fish while I get better in opening fresh picked coconut from the trees behind the beach every day. – Waiting out a bad weather has been harder on this trip than it is here. To not make the picture too desirable: The "Thing" on land on the other hand offers between 9am an 5pm all sorts of Jet-Ski rides, speedboat rides and snorkel trips on with too many people, some drinks and loud party-music on large catamarans. These "Ocean Safari", no surprise, include the most exotic things to see: A boat smaller than one of their floats carrying a German flag and two persons – Well, who knows for sure on which side of the fence is one when visiting the zoo? However, after a few days on the boat, in the dingy, below and above the water we were a little desperate for a "not moving table and chair" at the beach. We had almost given up and were about to return to the boat when we reached the final bar for another episode of the already known result. – This time the place felt more friendly and the barkeepers "Sorry" sounded a little more real to us than before, still not changing the outcome. As he was about to explain the problem with us being no guests another voice came from the opposite side of the bar: "I buy them a drink if that would work." – It worked! Besides just being thankful today for being here, being thankful to live this adventure, being thankful to travel and make a small living from it, we have to add a "Thank You".

[Mexico] Perspectives on a boat and what is a harbor

Puerto Morelos, Mexico – We moved on for a few hundred miles to the west, some to south. After a week on Isla Mujeres we jumped yesterday to Puerto Morelos. After the isolation we experienced in Cuba it was good to be in the ever alive streets of the mexican Island. We needed people and voices, smells and even honkig cars around us. Yesterday the desire for more remote places returned. The first one is an anchorage in a, to me, before rare style: A wide horizon to the east marks what I would not consider to call a sheltered place. A harbor looks differend. Especcially since that open east is from where the tradewinds blow and pile up two to three feet waves. But we are not exposed to them, only to the wind. Half a mile to the east breaks a shallow reef the waves into a white line that seperates us from the open sea. We anchor in almost calm water. Behind us on the beach are fisherman preparing their boats for the day of work and now, the sun just rose out of the sea, the small town becomes alive. Dogs bark, birds sing, a few cars go around. As I sit here and watch the scene I suddenly see me and the boat from a different perspective. This was just the next port from Isla Mujeres wich was just the next from Cuba, wich was just the next from the USA… But than… Wait a moment: I sailed this boat from Germany to Mexico, I’m at the Yucatan.

Resort time

Cayo Levisa, Cuba – Well shaken after the front passed over us at night we now spend most of the time on board below deck. As supposed the front stalled almost directly over us turning from gusty winds into a drizzeling rain. The mangroves turned into foggy steam baths and the scene changed to a mid fall like ambient light. Still it is different from fall in Europe: The water seems to be greener than ever, swim trunks are all we need. Making use of the rain we slowly fill our watertank, read alot, work a bit… The hotel dock is just one minute across from our anchorage and sailors are welcome there. Cuba Libre and Pina Colada are 3 CUC each and the dinner buffet is 10 (1 EUR = 1.26 CUC / 1 US$ = 0,85 CUC). In a break from the rain yesterday afternoon we took the dinghy ashore had a walk on the beach in white sand, some drinks and waited for the buffet to open. In the restaurant we took our turns three times. – Having no fridge on the boat we maybe apeared to be strange to some people: Toast and butter was a celebration, big portions of salad and fruits also. After that we tried to read minds: The hotel is a perfect place to get away for a few days and enjoy the water, sun and southern life. A place where one rents a hut on the beach for two. A few children are around an most guests seem to be in their early thirtys. They come from Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain… How much do they know about Cuba? What is the image they take home from here? Cheap beer, cheap cocktails and a minimalistic buffet? Do they know how that an average Cuban can pay about four visits to this buffet from his monthly income and has to feed a family? – Cuban resort life is far from Cuban life but it is a comfortable life.

Green hills of Cuba

Cayo Lavisa, Cuba – What was my image of Cuba before? The more I think the more clear is, there only was one about Havanna. A picture of old colonial buildings, wide streets with walkwys under the shade of trees. Somehow all a little worn out. It was no vision of a country, it was an image of city streets full of life, filled with people, honking cars, bikes and overoccupied busses. It was all there, it was all expected. But as it was supposed to be there, it all was not new. Over night we now arrived in the new. The rural Cuba. The part of the country I had no image and no expectations about. Not even about the landscape. Two hours before sunset wie received the clearence to travel the country and left Marina Hemingway. A trip into the night between less and less lights on our port side and a pitch black Gulf of Mexico to our right. The night was calm. After midnight we motored over a motionless ocean, eight miles off shore to avoid the fishing boats. Cubas coast is steep and here we were already in more than 600 meters of deep water. Long before sunrise a contour of high and many hills was drawn under a slowly illuminating sky. Later these hills formed to an impressevie background of Cuba’s West. The Skyline was not build of sharp rock like mountains. The impression of someone forming and sanding the surface to a smooth shilouette with round tops emerged. Before them a large set of reefs, mangroves and passages between shallow sandbanks opened. We duck behind the mangrove covered Island Cayo Levisa to wait for a strong front to pass. The Anchor slides down in 5 meter deep clear water and diggs in the gras covered bottom of a place I had not in mind when thinking about cuba before.