Aqui estoy mis amigos:
The day after Crumpetina’s lovely visit ended I rather sadly set sail from Isla Mujeres. No more $4 per night hotel room, no more breakfast biscuits at Barlitos. The wind was light and I had to resort to anchoring exposed off the horrible thumping hotel zone of Cancun. Due to the current pushing me one way and the waves coming from the side I had a rough night – waves from the side strike the outrigger and then the main hull flat-on and the boat shakes and jerks so violently that I cannot lie on my side without being flopped this way and that – but at least the Asphalt Shack did not let in the copious rain. In the morning a school of little fish which had become fond of the boat in the night swam desperately along close to the hull until I had to leave them behind, so tiny and alone in the vast clear blue.
Just south of Cancun begins the reef; a couple of weeks ago when I passed here on my aborted attempt to go south the entrance was beset with breakers but this time it was clear and calm, however the dangers of the reefs were brought home to me by two vessels – a small sailing yacht and a big motor vessel – that had become grounded upon the coral. Woe betide the careless here. It appeared that the big motor boat was a salvage vessel sent to recover the yacht. Once behind the reef one still has to take care because of patches of coral and isolated coral heads that are especially hard to spot with the sun ahead and low to the south, reflecting off the water. This is quite stressful and adds to my general mental malaise, irrepressible anxious thoughts that rise to the surface like the fat in a stew and cannot be stirred down for long. I would quit this voyage now if I didn’t think I would regret it for the rest of my life, also this is one of the most lovely coasts in the world and it would be a shame to miss it. I intend to go no further than the end of Mexico, then I must decide on how to save myself and Desesperado.
The wind was weak and vacillating so I didn’t get far. About four kilometers north of Playa del Carmen I ground over a few rocks then hauled out on the beach at a vacant spot between hotels, discovering to my surprise I can now move the boat up the sand end-for-end whilst it is fully loaded – I seem to be getting physically stronger whilst mentally weaker. I had a delightful night with at least four hours of good sleep which sounds sarcastic but it really was nice. Sleep has been a luxury on this trip.
The morning, this morning, brought rain and strong winds so I stayed in bed thinking I would not sail today but finally out of sheer boredom I rose and packed up, changed down to the smaller sail then walked the boat out past the rocks, leapt aboard and blasted out to sea and southwards leaving a small crowd at a nearby hotel waving. With this howling wind behind me I made crazy speed towards Playa del Carmen and was soon soaked to the skin and wishing the sky were clearer and the sun higher.
I thought I would stop at Playa but somehow that didn’t happen. I don’t like the place that much and though my speed was frightening, the coral invisible under the chop and I was freezing cold I thought “so far so good” and carried right on by. I think a big factor in this decision was this – I was too afraid to be depressed! And busy too.
This stretch today between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum was the scariest and fastest of the whole trip. Conditions deteriorated as I went along, the barrier reef petered out leaving me on a broad reach in the open ocean with great swells lifting me high then dropping me into great pits, with confused smaller waves reflected off the land running in all directions. The wind increased, whitecaps everywhere and Desesperado plunged through wave after wave throwing up spray by the bucketload. Once in a while a little piece of my shirt would dry out enough that I could wipe off my sunglasses. The hotels on my right petered out with the reef and the coast became a low shelf of incredibly spiky wave-worn limestone beset with breakers, interrupted occasionally by small lagoons which might be enterable but for the reef strung straight across the mouth of each one. Breakers crashed across these reefs and though I might have had clearance I dared not risk it. The waves might lift me over – but they can also drop one down.
So I pounded along. I think for only about four hours or so. Then another bay appeared and this one had no end in sight. If I were to cross the reef could I sail along inside out of these crazy waves, maybe as far as Tulum, my target?
I piddled about outside the reef in an ocean which was getting madder by the minute, decided on a spot where the breakers were less. It didn’t look too bad. I shunted and headed in, regretted it as the swells behind reared up and twice bashed me sideways before passing by. I regained control and the next one lifted my stern so high I was at a 45 degree angle (I am not exaggerating, it felt like I was pointing vertically downwards) and we surfed down the slope at horrible speed, then the coral was flashing by close below and we slowed down and it was over. I was shaking from head to toe for the next twenty minutes which warmed me up pleasantly.
The inside of this bay is strewn with the coral heads so I was continually lifting my rudder and standing up to see ahead better. A good deal of the swells made it over the reef so it was still rough and there are areas of shoals covered in breakers through which I had to run, turning into the waves when I could to lessen their impact. One breaker caught me side on and completely covered the whole boat, ripping away one of my water bottles which I keep lashed above the outrigger as weight to help prevent capsize. This was the only loss of the day – all this battering resulted in no damage at all to Desesperado.
Only a few miles of this bay-hammering and I looked up at the cliffs to my right and was amazed to see Mayan ruins. This must be Tulum! Sorry, I had my hands too full to take pictures. A beach was coming up ahead; I landed and made instant friends. Papo unasked gave me a shoulder massage… he owns a lancha and knows the pain of steering long distances. I am glad I made the shore for the wind later became even worse and the rain returned to clear the beach of all tourists. After a couple of beers I hired a guard for the boat and was driven to the town of Tulum where I intend to have more beers and some food. I am famished. I’m going to eat now. This post is haphazard but it is done for the time being.