Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sailing (finally)

Nazario and Aldo enjoying a day of sailing aboard Whispering Jesse
Nan and I took Nazario and his son Aldo sailing on the Saturday after we returned to El Milagro Marina from the boatyard. There was a brisk ten to fifteen knot breeze blowing from the south, and the sky was filled with puffy cumulus clouds. It was a perfect day to get out on the cool blue waters between Isla Mujeres and Cancun, and a good opportunity to see how Whispering Jesse would perform after the repair work on her skeg, which had kept us from sailing since we arrived here in late May.

We threw off the lines at 10:30, with the idea of sailing all the way around the island. We motored out of the bay, past the two red buoys that mark its entrance channel, and aimed for the distinctive Gran Puerto building over in Puerto Juarez. The water just past where the island's peninsula juts out is shallow and features a sandy bottom, which makes the water appear a brilliant aquamarine, like what you imagine the person who came up with swimming pool paint was trying but failing to achieve.

Once we reached double-digit depth, I turned us south into the wind and we raised the mainsail. Nazario and Aldo both speak very good English, so communication was not an issue. We fell off the wind toward Cancun and unfurled the jib. I had Nazario slide the fairlead aft and then I opened the lifeline gate so we could sheet the jib in tightly. Otherwise, the sheet puts excessive pressure on the lifelines and stanchions. We took a bead on the new hotel over in Cancun's Hotel Zone that looks like it has a hole in it and tightened the sheets for a fast close reach. On a whim, we also unfurled the staysail, for the true cutter (two headsails) effect. At six to seven knots, we were heeling a little beyond comfort, so we slid the traveler leeward to flatten the ride. Nazario and Aldo, who are very experienced with fishing boats but not so much with sailboats, were smiling broadly. They commented that it seemed like we were going much faster than we actually were.

Nan, me and Aldo sailing Whispering Jesse, with Isla Mujeres in the background
There is a large red buoy that marks the southwest corner of the shallow water at Punta Sur, the southern point of Isla Mujeres. We furled the staysail and then tacked when the buoy was off our beam. We were adjusted for our new heading before I realized it would take us another couple of tacks to clear the island's south end. We had been out for over an hour at this point and it was going to take a few more hours to get all the way around, so I asked if we shouldn't maybe think about heading back instead. The others agreed, and we jibed to follow a heading right up the island's beautiful western coast, with its many beaches and impressive villas.

Coming back into the bay, the boat traffic was intense, causing greater wave action than we had experienced outside it. We furled the jib, dropped the mainsail, and followed the red buoys back in. As we approached El Milagro Marina, we dodged other boats while looking for an opportunity to turn to starboard in order to set up for a reverse entry and a stern-to tie-up. Soon we were standing on the pier in the hot sun drinking ice-cold Modelos. When Nan asked him what he thought of the experience, Aldo said with a smile, "Now I want a sailboat."


Sidonie Phillippe said...

John, your writing is terrific! And
we want to know when we should show up and go sailing with you! Sailing here tomorrow on Reudi.
Sid and Danny

Sidonie Phillippe said...

John, great writing! When do we come for a sail?? ;) sailing here tomorrow on Reudi....7800 ft.

John Lichty said...

Thanks, Sid! You're welcome anytime you can get down here. How is the sailing up Ruedi way?