The storm hit late last night, lots of lightning and rain and a howling wind that bent the palms over and strung out their hair like girls with their heads out of a car window, but there was little effect upon the buildings. It was dramatic enough for me to say that if this was just a tropical storm I am no longer sure I want to experience a real hurricane. The power went in and out and finally died for good and I fell asleep with my wet clothes strewn about the room. This morning I woke to an overcast sky with little wind and a flat sea, the ceiling fan turning again. Kind of a big fat nothing’ the whole deal. There are some leaves and branches on the streets, some minor coconuttage, folks are unboarding their windows and getting back to normal though with little prospect of doing business until the tourists return. I sense relief but some slight disappointment that all the preparatory work was wasted.
The forecast is still terrible, strong winds for a couple of days and continued rain and thunderstorms for a week; this is getting tiring. I may have to take off in the rain because I can’t live with this waiting much longer.
Hurricane Rina has degenerated into a tropical storm which is kind of disappointing after all these days of anticipation. We are still in for some nasty weather but nothing to worry about. The storm proper should arrive tonight.
The island flew into action yesterday. Many hundreds of boats were moved into sheltered Laguna Makax in the middle of the island and the town boarded up most of its windows. I helped until we were out of plywood and after that there was little anyone could do but wait. Most of the tourists have left and most businesses have closed up for the duration, so the place is quiet between sporadic outbursts of torrential rain. At firsts the streets ran murky despite all the rain last week but now the water flows as clear and sparkly as a mountain stream. This town is clean.
Desesperado is upsidedown and weighted with lumber and blocks at the excellent and friendly Paraiso Marina whose owner Frank and manager Kevin have been nothing but charming and helpful to me since my arrival here.
Throughout my trip people have said “Oh the hurricanes are very dangerous” and of course that is true but they have never worried me because there is always warning and even then they miss most of the time. In this case we have been waiting for a week and the storm has weakened and veered off and become an anticlimax. I have the great advantage over other vessels that I can run straight for land and haul out singlehanded (this is no accident, it is my main reason for building a weird boat) so hurricanes have never worried me. It is lesser storms with less warning that bother me, but so far so good.
I have a cheap hotel room, just moved there this morning after the last one repeatedly flooded.
I have been trapped on Isla Mujeres so long now I can barely remember life on the trip far from restaurants and people who speak my own language. I almost wish I’d gotton stuck on some random beach or islet and had a more difficult and intense experience. It certainly would have been cheaper.
I would have left Isla Mujeres some time ago but for the frustrating weather which has pounded us with rain and strong winds for 13 days now without any breaks worth mentioning. The tourists have stayed in their rooms, activities like diving, snorkelling, sailing, island tours and paddleboard rental are all suspended and the local people are out of money and unhappy. The seas to the East of the island were for days quite huge but now that the winds are coming from the north they have moderated and become barely navigable however with more severe weather on the way it seems I should remain here where I know the ropes and have a few friends, until things calm down. Desesperado spends most of his time hauled up upon North Beach beneath the palms, every day I move him a little more inland as what little beach remains is eroded away by the waves. Yesterday I took him for a risky little spin and was hammered by a squall, lashed by horizontal rain and bounced around until my passenger (carried for ballast) screamed. She has a story to tell her friends, and I am reminded that what has come to seem normal for me is quite abnormal for others.
Mostly I sleep on the boat but I have been forced into cheap hotels some nights by the continued leaking of my shelter which I was unable to re-tar due to the weather – finally in desperation I lashed it to the boat and thoroughly smeared it with goo (the ninth time. The cover is now so thick and heavy I have trouble stuffing it into cargo bay three) in a 25-knot howler and I think this may have done the trick at last. Funny that after a day on the beach being wind-blasted my hovel now seems to be a luxury pad, a delicious escape from the elements. I have also replaced a cracked rudder bracket, repaired my folding chair and created a new non-slip deck by mixing sand with paint which worked a treat; thanks to Dave the mad scientist for that suggestion.
A rotten thief keeps stealing stuff from the boat- navigation lights, two sets of snorkelling gear, ropes and so on so I have moved everything to another hotel room, this one rented in anticpation of Hurricane Rina which should arrive in force on Thursday night if nothing changes in its predicted track. The authorities are likely to evacuate all foreigners from the island so I will have to hide from them in order to stay near my vessel. Rina, now north of Honduras and moving slowly directly towards us is at present a category 2, not as bad as Gilbert a couple of decades back which really wrecked the place… the locals say that the waves were so huge that they broke clear over this narrow island such that it could not be seen from the air. I am not yet sure where I shall store the boat but at least I have the advantage that I can dismantle it and carry it inland and as long as I can avoid falling palms it will be ok.
I am feeling a little happier though still somewhat full of self-doubt. It is hard to keep in mind why I am doing this; maybe I was never clear in the first place. There is some Dengue fever knocking about here but it has missed me; my health is good apart from a cracked or broken rib sustained whilst climbing coconut palms. I have made a few friends and Isla Mujeres is not an objectionable place to get stuck; I wander about, fiddle horribly in the wind on the beach, drink a little in the evenings and even dance a bit… salsa does not really move me, it kind of has to be learned, it is all in the hips they say and this movement feels to me to be more than a little, well, gay. (“But it’s not your culture!” exclaims my Cuban instructor). It seems to me that salsa is great for dancing in couples but I have never seen anybody dancing to it with wild abandon as they do to say, Appalachian fiddle or Trance Techno. Nonetheless I am insanely jealous of those who can do it.
I have not filmed anthing nor sent any SPOT messages since I arrived here. Likely we will be without power for some days after the hurricane so I will dig out SPOT and send messages during the storm to let folks know it is all ok… if it is ok that is. I am kind of looking forward to it. Today I will see what I can do to help others prepare, boarding up houses and so on though I have seen no such activity at all, the island is in a state of oblivious calm as far as I can see; perhaps this happens often enough that nobody takes action until the last minute when impact is certain.
So, I still exist and everything is ok. I will report on the hurricane as soon as I am able.
My apologies for the long silence.
Things have not been so good. The black guy mentioned at the end of the last post was not my friend at all, he was in fact a con man and he took me for a lot of money. Maybe I will tell the tale someday but right now it hurts too much; I would rather not think about it.
I am still on Isla Mujeres. I have been profoundly depressed, lonely and anxious, and at present lack the ability to continue my voyage. At least life is not stressful here… I exist as a beach bum using my only asset – the boat – to make a little cash by renting it out with myself at the tiller. I meet interesting people but they are mostly tourists and they leave, I walk the streets in the evening in the faint hope of some momentous encounter, fail, swim or wade back to bed wherever the boat is anchored. Occasionally I catch a barracuda but I release most of them. I started salsa dancing lessons this morning, this seems essential for a visit to Cuba should I eventually decide to head that way. Maybe I could live here? I don’t know… better than returning to the forest in upstate NY with winter coming on, though at least there I would have a bed.
To rent out the boat I have attached myself to SUP Isla Mujeres, an outfit consisting of two groovy guys who rent out Stand Up Paddleboards. I like David and Marcelo a lot and they have been most welcoming. At first I felt I was tempramentally unsuited to life as a beach bum but it is growing on me a little. It is low season – barely anyone on the beach – and I am unable to advertise my services for fear of legal consequences (I am here on a tourist visa for one thing) so renters are few and far between. Desesperado always gets a lot of favorable attention, he is the fastest sailboat around and the prettiest. For some reason he is able to outrun catamarans of twice his length which just shouldn’t be. Sometimes I take him out with the big sail up to blast around the windy edge of a rainstorm and try to beat his speed record but we cannot break 12.7 knots. The sailing is fantastic here – good breezes over clear blue warm water.
I will be here at least another week or two.