Log: Updated September 18, 2007
Living on Isla Mujeres
Life here since Hurricane Dean has been slow and, believe it or not, pretty ordinary! We shop and cook, we bike and swim, we do a small boat project or two. We practice our Spanish, and try to learn a few new words every day. We've been getting heat-buildup rain almost every afternoon, which is welcome because it knocks down the heat.
Some nights find us in town, at any one of a number of local restaurants where the staff are friendly and the food is inexpensive but good. And now that it's football season, Tracy has scouted out all the bars and restaurants with big screen televisions and sports channels. Go Auburn! Go Jacksonville State! Go Duke! Go Cal!
We've also settled into our new marina at Puerto Isla Mujeres, and decided to stay here for the duration. Partly, we decided to stay because it's such a lot of work to move the boat back and forth; partly, also, because the manager of our old marina pulled some nasty stunts with our good friend Christopher's visa paperwork, causing him a huge hassle with the immigration authorities, to the point where there was a warrant out for his arrest, and he had to get a lawyer! So we no longer want to patronize that establishment. (And quite honestly, this marina is quite a lot nicer, even if it is more expensive...)
Chris' visa issue was straightened out, but only after a whole lot of worry; and our old marina manager is facing his second fine in as many months, for acting improperly in his official duties as an agent. We see this as a good sign that the old legacy of the "mordita" is no longer tolerated in the "new" Mexico.
Welcome, Family, to Isla!
The highlight of our stay since last update was spending the Labor Day weekend visiting with Tracy's sister Carole and her husband, Dick, and their brother George. One of the special things about having visitors is that we get to be "tourists" again! The old sights, seen through the eyes of visitors, become new again, and we find ourselves proud to show them our new "home." Visits to Punta Sur to see the Mayan ruins, a trip to the turtle refuge, dinghy rides to Zama Beach Club and North Beach, pollo al carbon (charcoal grilled chicken) takeout from the corner stand, to eat on the deck of their lovely hotel, Casa Ixchel.
They had the penthouse suite
with a huge deck
overlooking the pool and the Caribbean Sea.
The highlight of their trip was a wonderful sunset dinner on the beach their last night here. Christopher joined us, and the meal was memorable (thank you, Dick!). Carole, George and Tracy decided at dinner that Christopher is now a full-fledged Watkins family member. I hope he knows what he's in for!
It was very hard to say goodbye when they had to leave.
Say Hello to the Fishes!
One thing has been accomplished this month: Sharon finally fulfilled her life-long dream of getting qualified for SCUBA diving! It seems odd that it hadn't happened before, since she's such a fish, but living for so long near cold water kept her putting it off. Now that we're in the tropics, no more excuses!
Tracy already has his certification, so he took an adventure dive while Sharon took her last two PADI qualification dives. We are looking forward to sharing photos of the creatures we meet under the sea!
Time to Go Sailing!
Christopher decided we had all been tied to the dock long enough. He made the effort to untie all of Stingray's hurricane lines, and readied it for a sail. What fun! Our first ride on a catamaran! The sea was calm, the wind moderate, and the sun warm. We hung out fishing poles, but the fish only stole our lures and swam off. Fortunately, we'd brought picnic fixings, and after a few hours of sailing, pulled up close to the North Beach sandbar, dropped anchor, took a swim, and then climbed back aboard for a small feast.
Now, this is what cruising is all about!
Other Isla Residents
There are some wonderfully different creatures who live on the island, creatures we don't get to see much in the States: iguanas and sea turtles.
The grounds surrounding Villa Vera (the hotel) and Puerto Isla Mujeres (the marina) are chock full of iguanas. The long sidewalk between the hotel side of the resort and the marina side of the resort hosts as many iguanas as there are slabs of concrete, one to a slab. It's amazing how they all line up--some days we see over 30 of them!
They also know to hang around the poolside dining area, where they beg for french fries and tortilla chips, then scurry away.
Sea turtles are magnificent creatures, slow and graceful in the sea, able to dive underwater up to hundreds of feet and stay submerged for an hour or more at a time. Sharon was lucky enough to see one on her qualification dive. What a treat!
According to Defenders of Wildlife:
Sea turtles are one of the Earth’s most ancient creatures. The seven species found today became distinct from all other turtles at least 110 million years ago. The sea turtle’s shell, or “carapace”, is streamlined for swimming through the water. Unlike other turtles, sea turtles cannot retract their legs and head into their shells. Their color varies between yellow, greenish and black depending on the species.
But sadly, almost all species of turtles are endangered. Fishing, pollution, coastal development and loss of nesting grounds all contribute to their falling numbers. In addition, even without mankind's help, birds, fish, reptiles, sharks, dogs and cats all prey on turtle eggs and baby turtles. In the wild, only about 1 in 1,000 survive their first year. Hard to believe they've survived all these millions of years, all things considered!
In an attempt to boost the turtles' chances of survival, an organization here in Isla collects turtles, breeds them, protects the eggs and babies, and finally releases them into the sea when they are more able to defend themselves.
The egg nests on Isla are protected from all predators, helping to ensure hatchlings have the best chance possible of growing to adulthood.
One doesn't ordinarily think of turtles as being cuddly, but don't you just want to pick up and hug one of these babies? Well, they don't let you touch them, but you can drop turtle food pellets into their tanks, and it's so fun to see them paddle around, jostling each other to take a bite.
The older ones are darling as well. Friendly,
After growing up some in the small pools, they are released into the protected sea pools, where they grow bigger and stronger.
Visitors to the facility can contribute to the turtles' survival by guarding wild turtle nests on the beach at night, protecting them from poachers and other creatures. Our friends on a 41' sailboat, Boisterous, a couple traveling with their five boys, volunteered to help. They are home-schooling their children during a year long journey exploring the Caribbean. Those lucky boys--what a great way to learn!
We've known them for about two months now, and so are finally getting all the boys' names straight. But for the first month or so, we just called them #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5. They are good sports, and thought it was hilarious. And Tracy was happy to find a big enough group to play a little touch football with! Of course, Gellie wanted to play, too. That poor football!
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