Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sol Zorro

One reason we love to visit Isla is because we've made so many friends there over the years. It's fun to walk down the street and see someone you know and to catch up on their lives from the past year. This trip was no exception. We found our friend Ariel working at one of his many jobs. In the evenings he works at a restaurant. He's the guy that tries to convince you that he has the best menu on the street. Kinda like the host in a restaurant that you would visit here in the states except he has to work at convincing customers to check out his menu. There is a lot of competition on Hidalgo (the main street in town) because July is low season and between swine flu and the ailing economy tourisim is down. Lots of restaurants and not as many tourists. We've known Ariel for years, he was the dive master that took us on our first SCUBA dive.

Ariel and Rosie on Sol Zorro
The restaurant gig is only one of Ariel's jobs. He arranged the whale shark tour for us and he also told us that he just bought a boat. The other news was that he got married since we had seen him last. He invited us to take a little ride around the island on his boat and we jumped on the chance to take a relaxed tour of Isla by water. The knowledge that we gained will be helpful when we finally get to sail there.

A couple of views of the south end of Isla (Punta Sur) from the water.

Ariel picked us up at about 4:30 in the afternoon and we loaded up our cameras and gear on his boat, Sol Zorro, for a boat ride around Isla Mujeres. Ariel brought his wife Rosie and plenty of cerveza for us. He also brought fishing gear. We fished all the way around the island and on a couple of reefs. I was the lucky pescadora that managed to snag a barracuda.

Troy tries his luck as Ted (known to some as Sweet T) looks on

Steve looks a little worried about what might be on the other end of the line.

My barracuda!

We caught a glimpse of a school of flying fish. They were an awesome sight, about the size of small birds and they spring out of the water and it's cool to see them disappear just as quickly back into the waves.

Colleen and Steve enjoying the afternoon

We also saw several very large sea turtles and they were all mating! We probably saw about 5 or 6 mating pairs. We thought this was a really a fantastic thing to be privileged to see. This is the best picture that I could get. As you can imagine, they didn't wait around to pose. After all, we were interrupting their sex life!!!

We stopped at a restaurant for dinner and really had a blast eating ceviche and crab with Ariel and Rosie. I was brave and ordered ceviche mixto with octopus and conch - mmmm good. Also, there were plenty of margaritas to go around! This was one of my most memorable meals of this trip. Lots of fun.

Ted drank all the margaritas, he wouldn't share!! LOL

Patrick didn't have any margaritas!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Swimming With Whale Sharks!

I've been wanting to swim with whale sharks for years but for one reason or another I've never done it. Whale sharks are the largest shark species and the largest fish in the world, they grow to 40 to 45 feet. Thank goodness their diet consists of plankton and not people! They were really really big! These sharks are migratory, traveling around the world, staying in temperate, tropical seas. Unfortunately they are only protected in about 10% of the 100 countries they visit in their journeys. They are listed as "vulnerable" under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. I cannot take credit for this picture, but here is a whale shark:

Troy and I and Steve and Colleen set out on a swim with whale sharks adventure. We had a great boat ride out to Contoy Island, we even caught a glimpse of a school of rays and saw a couple of sea turtles. The water is incredibly beautiful, so many shades of blue.

Finally we made it out to the area where the sharks are usually seen. It didn't take long before a few of the giants were spotted. There were several boats with about 10 people on each boat but the Mexican government does a great job of protecting the fish. Only 2 people and 1 guide are allowed in the water around one shark at a given time. We received extensive instructions from our guide, Jose, which included: try to stay close to the head and swim, swim, swim. Don't ever touch the shark (those are the ones that I remembered anyway). The boats circle around and cooperate with each other to minimize the stress on the sharks. All the while the sharks swam around eating lunch without much notice of all the little people staring at them. The boat captains and guides seemed to do a great job in working together and trying to make sure everyone got several chances to swim with the sharks.

Troy and I were Team Number One on our boat. We put on our fins and snorkel and mask and sat on the side of the boat with Jose while the captain positioned the boat right in front of the shark. The giant beast was swimming right at us! Suddenly Jose was shouting "jump, jump, jump". For a few seconds I questioned my sanity, but before I knew it we were plunging into the water and looking at a huge fish swimming towards us. It was awesome but it didn't take long before the shark was leaving us in its wake. We got a pretty good look but it all happened so fast. I realized that this was gonna take some effort on our part and the shark was not gonna just stop and let us get a good look. After we climbed back aboard Jose was excited because the shark was swimming slow today. I think Troy's comment was something like "yeah, slow like a freight train"!

It took three times before I got a really really good look at the shark. They are absolutely huge and there are many smaller fish swimming along with them. I had to swim like crazy to try to stay near the shark's head long enough to get a good look at him. All the while trying not to drink the whole Caribbean through my snorkel. It was all worth it. I was close enough to touch him, but of course I didn't. They are really majestic creatures and it was an experience that I will always remember.

Here are a few pictures from our trip. There are all mine (well, Troy did take the one of me)!

Troy's picture of me

My picture of Troy



Whale shark pictures:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Isla Mujeres, Q. Roo, Mexico

We just got back from a wonderful, fun, relaxing, exciting, entertaining and even educational vacation on our favorite island, the Island of Women in Mexico. I'm happy to report that the beaches are still white and beautiful and the water is just as fabulous as I remembered. We shared our vacation with all the members of Smorcalyana: Steve and Colleen, Patrick and Ted.

Now it's back home and back to work on Storyville. We just bought her a brand new autopilot and we still don't have the generator running yet, or the radar installed, or the....... (insert name of endless boat project here). We decided to make a push and try to have Storyville ready to sail the Harvest Moon Regatta in early October. Let's see if we can get it all done!

I'm also in the process of editing about 500 photos that I took in Mexico and sorting through another 200 or so taken by Patrick and Colleen. After I sort and edit I'll make some new posts sharing our adventures on Isla Mujeres.

In between all this boat work and other fun we're still working our real jobs and also both officers of TMCA (Texas Mariners Cruising Association). Never a dull moment. Stay tuned for Historias de Isla!

Patrick, Steve, Colleen, Ted, Deana, Troy