Isla Mujeres, Mexico

by Susan on May 18, 2012

May 9, 2012

On May 9, it was time for us to head to Isla Mujeres, our last stop before heading to Florida.   We had to get some fuel first but there was a lot of surge in the marina so we requested some help getting out of our slip and tying up to the fuel dock.  Marina staff helped us get out of our slip but there must have been something lost in translation because there was no one to give us a hand as we were pulling up to the fuel dock (or to give us fuel for that matter).  As soon as Michael got close enough, I managed to jump onto the dock right before a big surge lifted Calypso, tilted her and slammed her into the concrete piling.   It shaved off a bit of our teak wood railing but otherwise no damage.

After fueling up, getting off the dock was impossible.  The surge had us pinned against the dock.  We had to have a powerboat tow our bow away from the dock in order to continue on.  Not a great way to start the journey but the remainder of our passage was calm and without further incident.

The passage was only 34 miles so we made it there within five hours.  There was a time when five hours seemed like an eternity.  Now it’s a short trip.  It’s amazing how your perspective can change.

Isla Mujeres is a small island about 10 miles off the (northeast) coast of Cancun and a jumping off point for sailors/cruisers like ourselves who are preparing to cross the Gulf of Mexico to Florida.   There are three marinas to choose from here: the popular Marina Paraiso, the newer Marina Milagro (next door) and the Puerto Isla Mujeres Resort and Yacht Club which is tucked into the lagoon offering much better protection from northers and is the cruiser’s choice for those staying on the island during hurricane season.  Though we’ve heard reports of poor holding and boats dragging at anchor, we chose to stay in the anchorage.  The weather was perfect with calm conditions so we took our chances.  No boats dragged during our stay.

The only excitement in the anchorage was when a large power yacht pulled in with hired crew on deck and owners oblivious to anything other than the party they were throwing.  They arrived long after we had retired for the evening, startling us out of our sleep with the revving of  their engine, the clanking of their anchor chain and the blinding light from their spotlight coming directly into our stateroom through our transom windows.  We didn’t know what the heck was going on.  We rushed out thinking someone might be having a problem but the only problem they were having was trying to anchor in the small space between us and another sailboat.  We spent the next half hour watching their several attempts to drop anchor until they finally realized they didn’t have enough room and needed to try elsewhere.


After settling in, we dinghied over to Marina Milagro , arranged for the use of their dinghy dock, got some local information and headed “downtown” at the north end of the island to grab some dinner.  The village is small with narrow streets that are lined with tourist shops and restaurants.  We strolled down Avenida Hidalgo, the main drag, leisurely browsing the shops and reading the menus of every restaurant we passed until we finally settled on one to satisfy our craving for more Mexican food.   There were so many great restaurants to choose from.  We ordered a couple of drinks and enjoyed the laid back charm of our new surroundings.  We ended our evening with a yummy gelato and headed back to the anchorage.

Northwest Part of Island

Boats Seized for Running Drugs in the Caribbean

Avenida Hidalgo, Downtown Isla Mujeres

We spent one day circumnavigating the 5-mile long island in a golf cart with Bob and Sandy on Sapphire (a cruising couple we met in Roatan).  Five miles certainly does not take a whole day, but we took our time making many stops along the way.   Half way around, at the south point of the island, is Punta Sur where perched on a cliff overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, are the remains of a small temple dedicated to Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of fertility.  There are also quite a bit of sculptures scattered about the grounds which I thought took away from the natural beauty of the place but it’s still one of the most beautiful spots on the island.

Ready for Our Island Tour

West Side of the Island

West Side of Island

Land Ho

At Punta Sur


Iguana Scupture

Lunch at Seaside Restaurant

East Side of Island

Private Home Shaped Like a Large Conch Shell

The remainder of our time was spent in town or at one of the marinas talking with other cruisers and trying to get our hands on some guides and charts for Florida.   We got very lucky to have met a young couple heading toward Panama with whom we were able to trade and managed to get our hands on exactly what we needed for our intended trip up the coast of Florida to Brunswick, GA.

For now, however, our focus was on getting to Florida.  The anticipation of this crossing created a lot of anxiety for me.  As you have already seen, the Northwest Caribbean can be very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.  But the stories we had heard about the Gulf were not encouraging. Some called it the Gates of Hell.   I just wanted it to be over.  Our buddy boat friends, Anna and Gary on Trumpeter, who had parted ways with us in the Hobbies due to pressing needs to get back to the States, experienced one of the worst accounts of a crossing we had heard.  Though most of their trip was uneventful, 50-60 miles from Florida they had a head-on collision with a storm which delivered 15 foot waves and 40-50 knot winds sustained for the remainder of their passage.   As they powered up their engine, they lost power (due to a plugged fuel line) and the engine died.   They ended up having to get towed into Key West.   To add insult to injury their bowsprit got damaged during the tow.   Two other boats somewhere within the vicinity, also got hit by the same storm and ended up in the same boat yard.  One, a catamaran, got dismasted and the other, a 70+ foot power yacht, was flooded and as a result also lost their engine.  These were the kind of nightmares I prayed we would never experience.

We prepared the best we could until the time to leave finally arrived.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle Oyama April 24, 2013 at 4:28 am

They really should have asked for my permission before they sculpted my body and put it on public display! The fact that they gave her some exotic Mexican name is irrelevant….. Everyone obviously knows its really a perfect depiction of me!!!!

Ha! On a more serious note, when I went to that private resort in Cancun, it was directly across the water from Isla Mujeres!!! We could see it from our balcony. They had daily boat taxis so you could visit the island. 🙂

mike April 24, 2013 at 2:42 pm

In 1984 I went snorkeling in Isla Mujeres with a young friend. My young friend was so engrossed in the sights below that she was almost swept into an outcrop of sharp rock. Luckily for her, I saw the danger and between the both of us paddling and pulling and in the nick of time, we got her out of harms way. (I was rewarded later.) Having said that, it’s a beautiful place.

PS who is Mike’s buddy with the camera on the end of the dock?

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