The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 2: A very nice week
Sunday, December 9, we cruised north to Isla Contoy with the sailing vessel Awab. Isla Contoy is an island about 15 miles north of Isla Mujeres. Contoy is about 4 miles long and 1/2 mile wide. It is a bird sanctuary and never before have we seen so many "man o' war" or frigate birds. Hundreds, perhaps a thousand of these birds remained airborne for hours at a time working the Island's atmospheric thermals, rarely having any need to flap their wings. Several pink flamingos also flew in front of the boat.
The weather was perfect with light winds and an occasional puffy cloud. We snorkeled around the northern end of the island and were impressed with the size and quantity of fish. Around one coral rock there were at least 20 large grouper. In all I could have counted a hundred or so within 1/2 hour. The grouper didn't seem to be as skittish as usual. Hmmmm. I saw for the first time a great Atlantic barracuda. That was an impressive predator and at least twice as large as the largest reef barracuda I had ever seen. It appeared dark gray to dark green and was clearly "boss hog" of the area.
Later in the day, fishermen in pangas (Mexican style power skiffs) set so many gill nets around the north end of the island that we had to leave early or be trapped. So we cruised about 1/2 way back down the island and dropped the hook near the sanctuary facility and lookout tower. There, we took Maggie ashore and walked around a bit. There were many iguanas and other smaller lizards scampering about. Maggie paid them no attention whatever; she knew the rules. Later in the evening, a panga came alongside and advised us that while we could stay, we were supposed to have had prior permission to visit the park and MARINE SANCTUARY. No wonder the grouper were so at ease, but we still don't understand why the local fishermen can cover up the area with nets.
On Monday, we cruised to the reef about three miles south of the Island/park. With expansive areas of live coral, but few fish, I did meet several sea turtles. Two turtles resting on the bottom allowed me to approach to within a few feet. They watched unconcerned and never moved. After a while park rangers showed up and advised us that we had to move. There was a designated space for visiting yachts a mile further south. Thus we found out that the marine sanctuary included about 8 miles of reef from Isla Contoy south. None of our publications had indicated this. Oh well, it was a pleasant cruise and swim. Back to Isla Mujeres.
Peter on Awab has been experiencing some battery problems. A cell in one of them exploded. The batteries are 8 volt Rollies and as such are almost impossible to acquire in this area. The Rollie folks in Miami are shipping one to him under warranty. Awab is a 40 year old, 50 ft plank hull vessel. The hull and gear are in good sound condition, but it is the details that are often troubling to cruisers. Peter has had the motorsailer for about a year and is still working out some bugs.
We are unable to get satellite TV here with the small (18") dish. The currently stowed one meter dish is too big for our tracker and useful only when Francesca is tied to a dock. With occasional trips to the video store, the news on hf radio from The Voice of America and the weatherfax we manage to be entertained and in touch.
In part 1, the propeller dimensions were stated as 24" x 18". Sorry, don't know why that happened, it should be 18" pitch x 24" diameter.
The cruising distance from Marathon, Fl to Isla Mujeres was 383 nm or 459 statute miles. We averaged nearly 6.8 knots over the distance. The throttles were set for a still water speed of 7.8 knots, but we were bucking current nearly all the way.
Joan, Ben & Maggie