April 2, 2010
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
April 1, 2010
Just Another Tequila Sunrise
For some reason, I had forgotten how much I like Mexicans. They’re genuinely friendly, often happy, very eager to please, and seem to actually like Americans. Here, (at least), on the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s safe: no dinghy theft, kidnappings, robberies, and all the other adventures that make cruising so interesting. Isla Mujeres is a fun place, sort of a funky resort island set a short ferry ride away from it’s more famous, bigger, and much more plastic big sister, Cancun.
Of course, Mexico invented the Manana Syndrome (pardon the lack of a tilde; I tried to insert it, but it’s too much trouble, no problema). Manana literally means tomorrow or morning. The Syndrome, however, is something different. It means not now. That could be anything from tomorrow, to next week, or never (more often than not, it’s never). Mexicans, and Latins in general, hate to say no to anything, regardless of the circumstances. So, if asked directions, they’ll give intricate answers, despite the fact they have no idea where it is you’re talking about. If asked to do something, it’s “of course, senor” (again, the tilde) even though they haven’t a clue what you’re asking for, and even if they did, they couldn’t possibly do it. It’s a form of courtesy, I think, and quite charming, unless you actually need something. The trick is not to need anything. No problema!
We got to Isla (as all us hip cruisers call it) from Lighthouse Reef, Belize, in one shot. We logged our first (and only) 200 mile day (in part because of a big lift from the current), and found a friendly reception at Isla Paraiso, not far from the center of town. So, after 3 months of suffering and deprivation on the hook in Belize, it’s party central again: socializing, eating out, mucho tequila. The restaurants are generally good, some great. We celebrated my Medi-Care inauguration at a Middle Eastern (it figures) restaurant run by a Mexican Israeli that was wonderful. There’s a fabulous Cuban restaurant just down the street, the best fish tacos I’ve ever had at another place in town, and, wonders of wonders, a delicious New York style pizza place one block away that delivers to the boat. When they first opened a few days after our arrival, I went 5 days in a row (sometimes secretly). Heaven! I won’t say anything more, for fear of stealing the thunder of my friend Lulu, the famous cruising restaurant connoisseur (see the latest issue of “Bue Water Sailing”).
Since we arrived here, Antares has only moved 3 times. Once, to get hauled at the local yard (we had to replace all the bottom paint that was scraped off when we were dragged through the bar at the Rio Dulce), fix some leaking bow thruster seals that were discovered during Jordy and Cindy’s visit [good thing they didn’t know; we almost sunk][not true, but it sounds more exciting]), and some other things. Incidentally, while we were hauled out, some large animal got on the boat (we could see it’s tracks). Phyllis, of course, went nuts, imagining it to be hiding somewhere (like the engine room vents, the bilge, the shuffleboard court, etc.). We now have a pet iguana somewhere. He only eats small parts, like fingers.
The second time we moved was to a different slip with a better view. Then, our friends Bruce and Sandy came for a visit, and in order to do some “real” cruising, we took a little trip to Puerto Moreles, a cute little town about 30 miles from here. I went for the diving. There’s a huge barrier reef right off the anchorage. Unfortunately, like in Belize, where almost everything is some sort of National Park (read excuse to extract money from tourists) the Mexicans have turned the entire barrier reef from Cancun to south of Puerto Moreles into, you guessed it, a National Park, which means money and rules. The money wasn’t much. You have to buy a bracelet to dive, if you can find one. The rules, however, require you to wear a life preserver (or, what some comedian bureaucrat named a personal flotation device, or PFD). This is not, as you may think, for safety, but to prevent you from free diving (which was the whole idea to begin with). Most of you have seen these things: big, bulky and safety orange colored. This, along with the shocking pink bracelet, clashed with my hair, which, when it existed, used to be red. All this ruined my day.
The best parts of the Puerto Moreles trip was a restaurant we found that had the best ceviche any of us had ever had, and a trip to a local animal park named, improbably, “Crocoland”. They didn’t only have crocodiles, but many other animals as well, which explains why Phyllis has a small boa constrictor around her neck in one of the pictures following (she is not, as you may have thought, in the habit of trekking in steamy, dense, jaguar infested jungles to find boa constrictors to wear). Sandy, being an animal lover, refused to wear or kiss any animals. In fact, she spent the entire visit in the gift shop.
We also traveled inland to the “White City” of Merida (which is actually several shades of grey). There, we went to art galleries, free music in the park (every song had the word “corazon” [heart] mentioned hundreds of times, because Meridians like to think of themselves as romantics. A typical song would go something like this: corazon, corazon, corazon, mi corozon, and then repeat that line 24 times). We also went to a great Mayan archaeological museum, where I was forced to dress up as a Mayan person (see following pictures). Those Mayans had it hard. The earrings hurt, but not as much as having to have my head flattened. This is an ancient Mayan custom (really) that they did to children because of what seems to me a very strange sense of beauty, but then, I’m not Mayan. By the way, this reminds me of an old, possibly politically incorrect joke about the perfect woman, which I won’t tell, but involves the shape of her head, her dental condition, and her height. Mayans (who are short) with poor dental care may have been, in fact, the perfect women (other than Phyllis, of course).
Isla Mujeres means Island of Women. It was named that in 1517 by the Spanish explorer Hernandez de Cordoba, when, upon awakening on the island, he found himself thrilled and delighted, and exclaimed (in Spanish of course), “there’s women here!” OK, as anyone over 50 (and Lyle) knows, that’s not true. I stole it, with some modifications, from Mel Brooks’ “10,000 Year Old Man.” If Cordoba found any women here, he would have done to them what any self respecting Spanish explorer did in those days, raped them and killed them (not necessarily in that order). By the way, if you think that’s harsh, I recommend you read the book I’m reading now, Aztec, by Jennings. Those Spaniards had quite the sense of humor!
I was hoping to save the best for last. However, it didn’t quite work out. I was approached by the marina owner, asking if I would be interested in chartering my boat for a photo shoot. I would be paid hundreds of dollars, but better than that, the shoot was for a Mexican men’s magazine, “H” much like the American “Maxim”, which contains ridiculous advice for horny 20 somethings, and, more importantly, soft core porn. Can you imagine? My dream come true. Topless (and more) beauties running around my boat in provocative poses. I was even promised that I could get some private pictures with me and the models. Of course, during this time, Phyllis, who wasn’t too happy about the whole thing to begin with, would have to be steering and cooking, adding insult to injury.
Alas, it was not to be. The day of the shoot there was another in the interminable series of northers this winter (thanks, Al Gore). They had given me the cash, and supplied lots of food. They showed up in the AM, but I refused to go out, claiming it was too rough and dangerous, playing the idiotic role of responsible skipper. They insisted on staying, instead of coming back the next day, as I suggested, to take some background photos (actually, to pester me all day until I relented, which didn’t happen). The model even used our boat to change into her thong bikini, which only Phyllis had a chance to witness, as I stupidly wasn’t on the boat at the time. She even asked Phyllis to help her with the strategic placement of the rear strap, lest she revealed too much (unclear on the concept, if you ask me). She used my bike as a prop (I’ve changed the seat so that I can preserve the original in perpetuity). All day they were shooting pictures around the marina. Just by chance, that day, every gringo sailor, Mexican or even male dog within 100 miles happened to be there with their cameras. Finally, in a completely misplaced fit of modesty, the model refused to pose any more in public, they made me give back the money (it’s a long story, but I had to do it), and hired a nearby mega yacht to do the shoot. Shoot!. That’s why you have to look at completely boring pictures of parrots.
OK, we’re off to the fish taco place. More later.