Making landfall is always exciting. In our case it was a mixture of relief, anxiety and humor.
Being without significant wind for the last day, we had just finished motoring through the night at a very slow rate in order to make landfall at dawn. It’s just good seamanship to arrive in the day at a new location. It is challenging enough to distinguish between the flashing lights in familiar waters. Can you imagine trying to fix your position using lights, buoys, and towers when you don’t trust the charts? Right! So, we planned to arrive in the shallow water right at sunrise. However, I forgot to check the GPS clock and it did not automatically adjust to the new time zone, so we had another hour to wait until dawn. We took the time to tidy up inside the boat, and I had a long overdue shave, in case we were boarded by any officials. The local fisherman were already heading out to sea in their multi-colored pangas as the eastern sky started to glow pale blue.
I can’t imagine sailing into a new harbor without an electronic depth sounder. I constantly shift my eyes between my beloved GPS, the compass, then the shoreline, and then take a glance at the depth before starting all over again in the next minute. Lindsay held the guidebook in her lap and repeatedly confirmed that my pilotage made sense to her and she also assumed our location was safe. We crawled in at about one knot ( ~1.1 miles per hour), with no problems. Lindsay hoisted the yellow quarantine flag and the Mexican courtesy flag up the starboard halyard, while I hailed the port captain to formally announce our arrival. It was too early – no response.
We had set our sights on a specific marina that our Key West sailor acquaintance, Terry, had enjoyed two years ago, and was also recommended by Rauscher’s guidebook. We were about fifty feet from the end of the docks, squinting and drifting along when I heard someone in English hailing us, and Lindsay noticed some men wandering down the dock next to us waving their arms in greeting. The happy voice introduced himself as Eric, and proceeded to offer his marina services to us. Three Mexican men in blue shirts were waiting in the wing. This marina was called El Milagro and was listed in the book, but we were supposed to go Paraiso Marina next door, so I told him no thanks, we were going to a different marina. I saw the blue shoulders slump, and Lindsay said, “There’s something to be said for a crew standing by at the dock this early, maybe we should consider them.” Eric gave it one more try and said over the radio in slow salesmanship fashion, “Clean showers…. shore power….fresh water…free wifi….” Okay, we had to get a price out of him before we tied up, so I asked him. “I’ll make you a deal you can’t refuse” said Eric. Too funny, we both laughed loud enough for everyone on the dock to hear us. In we came, and what a great place. Only a hundred bucks for a week, and they took very good care of us.
This was our first landfall in a foreign country. The Rauscher’s guidebook and Reed’s almanac gave us a general understanding of the different governmental departments that would be interested in our being there, but there’s nothing that takes the place of experience. We planned to use a local agent to assist us, and we are glad we did. It would have taken most of a day to do what Jaime and Julio did for us in two hours and forty USD. I kept my mouth shut and asked Lindsay what the papers said that I had to sign. Different agents came to the marina and filled out forms and stamped papers and Voila! We were in Mexico!
We met some other live-aboard sailors: Chic, an old timer from Key West; Storm, a delivery captain from Australia; Gary and Niki, catamaran sailors from California; Steve, the handy guy who knows chiropractic methods; and Michael, a power boater with cool Hindu artwork on the stern of his boat.
We looked in at the Paraiso marina next door, and it was a dump. It looked like it hadn’t been maintained for two or three years. We found out that some investors bought the property and intended to make big improvements for a profit. Apparently, the local authorities gave them too much trouble with their permits and nothing has been done since the process started.
That was close… rundown paradise marina?? Or the miracle marina…. Brilliant!