In the footsteps of the Maya

We spent yet another night sailing from Cozumel to Tulum… it’s not our choice, it’s just that the tricky thing is always needing to arrive with plenty of daylight in order to navigate the next hazardous entry into a new place without navigational aids like the ones we’re used to in the US and UK. And in places like Tulum, where there is so much reef, even the daylight isn’t always enough…

Mexican sunrise

It wasn’t a bad night on the water, and Tadd finally got his first sighting of the Southern Cross, faint though it was. By early in the afternoon the next day, we finally came around a bend and spotted the ruins (also Tadd’s first sighting of Mayan ruins). Tulum truly is a spectacular sight, even from a couple of miles offshore… and to think that the Mayan traders would have sailed in to the majestic town just like we were doing.

While we continued south, past the waves crashing on the white sand beach below El Castillo, in search of the tiny gap in the reef, we spotted a sea turtle swimming along, rolling on his side and eyeing us up as we went by.

We reached the coordinates according our trusty cruising guide and tried to line up the heading to get in. The current was pushing us south and the waves were pushing us in towards the reef… there was no sign of the gap… no sign of the exposed rock … and the waves didn’t seem to be breaking anywhere in particular… we kept going, but when we reached 9 feet of water we balked and turned around.

Tulum coastline

We headed back out and regrouped… the next attempt was no less scary, and again, at 9 feet we turned tail and headed back out for deeper water.

As we were only a couple of hours from sunset, we started to weigh our options and were just about to give up and miss out on visiting the ruins, kill some time, and then head out for a second night at sea to reach the next stop, when a fishing boat came along. Tadd grabbed the brightest thing at hand… his yellow foulies (sailing rain jacket), ran to the bow and started waving for all his worth.

After some discussion, a call to see if there was enough depth for us to make it in to the beach and a lot of driving around in circles (and avoiding the rock splashing out of the water nearby that we had completely failed to see as the book had us looking in the completely wrong spot) we nervously followed the fishing boat in… woohoo! We made it!

Tadd snorkel face

We anchored and congratulated ourselves over a celebratory beer… but perhaps a little too soon… the anchors were dragging… ugh… another snorkeling trip to the anchors. It took a couple of tries, during which we managed to bend the stem of one of them (it still works fine) but we felt fairly sure we were set… but going nowhere that evening and I can’t say it was the best night sleep I’ve had… gotta love waking up convinced you’re drifting into the beach!

Tadd and Lindsay at Tulum

The next day we enjoyed a visit to the ruins, though it was unpleasantly hot, so we didn’t hang out long, and headed back to the beach for a beer and a dip. After a trip into town for lunch (yummy arroz con mariscos and fish tacos) and to stock up on big beers, we headed back to the boat to relax before heading out, only a little less nervously, through the channel, just before sunset… Yup! You got it! Another night of sailing ahead! Ugh!