Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sailing to Isla Contoy

Karen and Nan in the cockpit of Ati, an Amel Super Maramu 54-foot ketch
On Saturday morning, our friends Scott and Diane, who own Ati, the Amel Super Maramu 54-foot ketch in the slip next to ours at El Milagro Marina, invited us to go sailing with them. Charlie and Karen, new arrivals who own Leap, a Pearson 386 sloop anchored out in the bay, were also invited. I had been out kayaking in the bay earlier in the day and the wind was blowing hard out of the southeast following a recent tropical storm, so I knew it would be a good day for a sail. But by the time we finally got organized to go, it was 2:00 in the afternoon and the wind had mostly died.

Charlie and Scott at the bow of Ati before the sails were deployed
Nan and I have been sailing a few times in the area between Isla Mujeres and Cancun, and we have sailed around the island once, so we suggested that we all sail to Isla Contoy, located about 15 miles to the north. The island is a national park and bird sanctuary, and Nan and I have been there twice before on organized tours, but it had been at least ten years. We wouldn't be able to make landfall without a permit, which was fine with us because we remember the island as being extremely hot and buggy. It would be enough just to sail in a new direction for a change. It would also be a nice change to be crew on someone else's boat and let them be responsible for everything.

Catching the first wahoo with a pink streamer and hand lineWe slipped the lines and motored out into the bay without a hitch, thanks to the boat's electric bow thruster, which makes tight turns easy. Many other features on the Amel are also electric, like the mainsail mast furling, the anchor windlass, and the sheet winches. Nan and I had to smile as we watched how easily Scott and Diane could deploy their mainsail, simply by turning into the wind and pressing a button, a process that on our boat is almost a three-person job.

Diane at the helm (Note the elaborate whisker pole setup)On an otherwise uneventful seven-hour sail that took us up to a point a few miles east of Isla Contoy and back, there were three incidents of note:

We caught a good-sized wahoo using a hand line. Scott and Charlie had rigged a Rapala-type jointed plug that vibrated the line but didn't catch anything. I took it off and put on a squid-like pink streamer, similar to the yellow one we had had such success with on the passage down from Savannah, and we caught the wahoo less than an hour later. I was ready to put the rig away, but Karen said we should try again. Sure enough, we caught another wahoo a little later, but this poor little fellow was hooked through the top of the head, snagged while checking out the lure from an unsafe distance. It was just a flesh wound, so we released him. When I asked if he would survive, Charlie said, "Hey, sharks need to eat too!"

The sun sets over Isla Blanca as Ati returns to Isla MujeresWe had run up to Isla Contoy using a series of jibes, and it was going to take a series of tacks to return again with the wind blowing out of the southeast. If we wanted to get home before dark, we were going to need to motor. Diane at the helm fired up the engine and it ran smoothly for about fifteen minutes before the alarm sounded, indicating that it was overheated. When Scott lifted the engine room hatch, which doubles as the cockpit floor, and jumped down onto the rubberized perch on top of the engine, he almost burned his feet, and that was a definite first. He and Charlie ran through a list of what the problem could be and finally deduced that the cold water intake strainer was clogged. Charlie cleaned it, Scott reinstalled it, and we were off and running again.

The sun set while we were still several miles offshore, and it was fully dark and close to 8:30 as we approached Anvil Rock, marking the northeast corner of the island. Fortunately, there was a waxing gibbous moon, and the lights onshore were shining brightly. Diane had never sailed at night before but stayed at the helm as I stood next to her, guiding her past Playa Norte and around the northwest corner to the familiar red buoys that mark the entrance channel. Soon we were tied up at El Milagro again and hungrily heading over to Iguana's at Marina Paraiso for Carlos's barbecued ribs special.


Laurie said...

This makes me so happy! Fair winds, y'all!

Sidonie Phillippe said...

wonderful blog John!

John Lichty said...

Laurie, we miss you, Damon and Mr. K at El Milagro. Austin did not work out but Miami might. More on that later.

John Lichty said...

Thanks, Sid! There's good, challenging sailing down here, and you can catch dinner while you're at it!

George H. said...

Came over to your blog from Leap Notes (Charlie and Karen). You have a very well-written blog here. Good luck to you.

John Lichty said...

Thank you, George. I appreciate your kind comments.