South to Puerto Morelos

On Sunday, 4 May 2008, we left Isla Mujeres in our wake and sailed rapidly south in spite of the north-flowing Gulf Stream. Our first day’s destination, Puerto Morelos, was a fairly short journey, about 40 miles to the south. Just long enough to get us acclimated, over the jitters, and at home on the boat once again, but in a new and somewhat strange land, many miles from our home port. Here to the left you see Isla Mujeres fading into the distance with the Angel cruising south making 7 plus knots over the bottom. The first day of our adventure was shaping up to be an easy smooth sail to the south.

Leaving Isla Mujeres Behind
Leaving Isla Mujeres Behind

No more had our little island receded into the distance than the bustling cosmopolitan city of Cancun appeared off our bow. I had studied the charts for every leg of the trip, but somehow, it had not dawned on me just how close we were going to sail to this busy tourist haven with its high rise hotels and beach front condo resorts. Here it was, just off our starboard bow, barely a mile away. And we pulled away from the docks with this vague impression that we were leaving the civilized world behind and venturing off into parts unknown. Well, the jets streamed overhead, the jet skis buzzed in the distance, and we realized that the world is a whole lot smaller than we sometimes think. But hey, we still have a long ways to go. Our adventure is just beginning.
Very Close to Cancun
Very Close to Cancun

Joy leaves most of the navigation to me, the planning, the plotting, the worrying. Oh yeah, I often wonder what will be waiting for us over the horizon; just what will each new port offer in the way of surprises, challenges, and obstacles. As I looked over the charts and guides for Puerto Morelos, I realized that our cruising guide and the NIMA charts were at odds. If I plotted the waypoints provided in our cruising guide, I ended up on the reefs according to our trusty US government charts. The guide cautioned me that often the charts would be in error, and I could not rely on them. I had three charts, two pairs of eyes, and one cruising guide – someone who had been there before. I read earlier in the year of a boat that had gone up on the reefs at Puerto Morelos. Me worry? Never! Well, guess what; if you followed the charts, or your trusty electronic chart plotter, you would most assuredly end up on the reefs. This location would be far from the last where we could not rely on the charts. It was an exceptionally easy entrance – if you followed the advice of an expert, and used your own senses. Stop, look, and listen. The channel was right there before your eyes, and so were the reefs, right where the guidebook said they would be.
Twin Lighthouses of Puerto Morelos
Twin Lighthouses of Puerto Morelos

What a beautiful little town; friendly people, curious, happy kids paddling out to see who we were in this sparkling white sailboat, the only one around. We had anchored fairly close to the beach, about the only choice unless we were willing to anchor in the channel, and that seemed a bit risky with ferry boats, fishing boats, and pongas filled to overflowing with workers zipping to or from work. The water was deep and clear, the bottom was sand, and the holding good. We spent a quiet first night at anchor and started to swing into the cruising life.
Family Restaurant on the Beach
Family Restaurant on the Beach

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