Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hostel Playa in Playa Del Carmen

I'm now back in Minnesota.. although at my Mom's in Minnetonka where I'd left my vehicle. I plan to stay here awhile so I don't have to go up then come right down again for my dear old mom's 93rd birthday on March 20.... I suppose getting by a couple 3 more weeks without turning the heat on in my attic apartment is also partly why. After all prior to jumping ship.. I was not planning to return to Minnesota until later in March or even early April.

Now...about the hostel I stayed at in Playa Del Carmen. I just looked online for a hostel in Playa while in Punta Allen. There were about 5 other options with even lower base prices like $10 US for a bed in a dorm room. I chose a hostel that had a base price of $13 as it had some stars on trip advisor..3 out of 5 I think it was. I think it was the first one listed going lower to higher price that had any rating stars. A nice enough place located just 3 blocks from the ADO bus station with direct runs to the Cancun Aerupuerto and just 5 to the beach. A big grocery store was just across the street. I did notice a few no-see-ums and skeeters but not to bad. As usual in a hostel an interesting clientele and lots of smokers at this one I thought? Good WiFi, a basic breakfast and bedding included.

I ended up not finding a flight before 2/26 without paying a much higher fare? This meant a stay of 3 nights. Days earlier there were some but I guess they sold out?
Some photos follow.

My bunk and a view from the room. There was one other guy from the US in the room the first night, a couple from Australia the second night and 4 German dudes the last.
The place has numerous other dorm and private rooms so generally there were about 15 people in the common area at times?

There was a rooftop seating area which I never checked out. You can see the Walmart has come to the Maya Riviera : ( wow this city has changed since 20 years ago. Nice hot shower .. Too hot really I never thought adding cold water to the heated shower water made since?.. Unless it's about adequate hot water for heavy shower use...which was not the case that I could see.

5th Avenue which is pedestrian only services the beach front lodging and restaurant businesses. This place was so much more pleasant 20 years ago. For my tastes anyway.

The core area of the beach scene...between the 2 ferry docks out to Cozumel.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Meeting nice people

Yeah .. Maybe I've ranted about the negative vibe that finally came to a head concerning crewing for the captain. Time to post about the positive feelings I experienced once I'd said my piece and made the decision to go my separate way.
Actually I've already described that feeling of being dropped on the dock and my walk up the beach.
I wanted to blog how grateful I feel to have met Norma sitting in her VW Westfalia Van. I've thought about getting a VW camper van and going on adventures like her and regularly check online for used Westies. How cool to meet a solo traveler of a similar age who'd driven from B.C. Canada to Punta Allen less than 50 steps from getting out of the dinghy! Sure I was relieved of concerns of catching a ride north but she was really fun and interesting to talk to. This we did quite a bit the following 60th birthday.
... Then as I was walking about looking for a place that might except credit cards I ran into Rose and Ross a cool young couple from England. As it turned out the place they were staying was perhaps one of only two businesses in Punta Allen that took credit cards.? I stopped looking so don't really know but with no mobile coverage or phone or power I'm sure it's a rarity in this end of the road town. Next thing you know I was wondering who I might be catching a ride with? Rose and Ross were heading up to Playa Del Carmen in a couple days so I caught a ride.
I feel very lucky to have crossed paths with these lovely travelers! Thanks so much!

Norma, Rose and Ross in Punta Allen. A brief stop in the Tulum area where Rose and Ross had stayed earlier

Monday, February 24, 2014


As I write this recap, I'm still in Playa Del Carmen another couple nights.

This was the second winter in a row of seeking volunteer crew positions and while quite different experiences neither ended up being the kind of thing a sane person would volunteer for. Certainly I've gained new insights and perspectives on spending an extended amount of time living on a sailboat of a size I'd likely end up getting to live aboard for my near future. One thing that keeps me interested despite the negative aspects is what I hear time and again from various other people cruising and living aboard.... "Don't base what you decide on being volunteer crew, it's a whole other world and far better experience when you're on your own boat". No doubt.
Anyway I chose the captain seeking crew to help sail from the Florida Keys to Rio Dulce Guatemala. At the time I had emailed interest but passed on another boat heading from North Carolina to Puerto Rica. That was a larger boat of maybe 45 feet and was sounding like there might be 4 or even 5 aboard. However, that boat was sharing all costs including fuel and country entry fees for the boat. More people would have been more fun I think.
Looking back as the days and weeks passed waiting in Marathon, Florida for a weather window suitable to the captain I got the impression he was timid and wanted a very calm, benign crossing of the Gulf Stream. I was fine with that as cautious is better than reckless. When we finally did leave after 5 weeks and had the issue with the rudder I quickly took to the notion we'd be towed back to Marathon and repairs would take who knows how much longer. I even got to the point of being relieved I might be heading home as hanging with the captain was not pleasant. Only my desire to check out Rio Dulce kept me onboard.
I don't really like to slam people while blogging or in general but considering his attitude, impatience and arrogance toward so many people we encountered leaves me quite certain I'm being very much referred to negatively to folks he meets and even those I've previously spent time with. So.. my feeling is the captain is the biggest asshole I've ever met!
The situation that finally had me decide to jump ship began with another problem with the rudder as we were heading south in the Bahia De La Ascension Friday, 2/21. It was not the kind of thing you want to set sail with before it's repaired. I admit I was wondering what sort of delay this might cause or if the captain would choose to 'go for it' and repair it once in Guatemala? After finding the frayed cable situation and tightening things as best we could we motored across the bay about 5 miles north to anchor on the inside of the Punta that gives Punta Allen it's name. We hoisted the dinghy over the side with a halyard. The captain got in the dinghy and moved around until he was at the stern. I was stowing the long line we'd used to tie the dinghy on the bow. I moved to stand at the outboard motor mount on the sailboat looking for a line to tie on to lower it down. At the instant I spotted the perfect length line laying in a stern storage area I heard the captain tell me.... "Just untie the green and white mooring line from the stern rail, tie it to the outboard and lower it down". Now that in and of itself is not a problem..what was a problem is that it was said in a manner I'd become quite accustomed to over the previous way too many weeks. It was said as if he was talking to a brainless moron who couldn't do anything without slow drawn out descriptions of the simplest tasks? Needless to say with my recent thoughts about the duration of repair delays concerning the rudder I'd had my fill and as if to include the many other similar comments I'd let slide to keep the peace over the weeks I said... "Fvck you (his name), Ive had about enough of your belittling, condescending comments!" He answered sarcastically with "Well if you don't like it you can get off the boat in Belize!" To which I answered "I can get off the boat here in Punta Allen!" ..with a smile on my face and a feeling of tremendous relief! He had a kind of shocked look but in no way would he back down and ask if I'd please help him sail to Belize. He barked get your gear and let's go... By then I'd lowered the outboard down to the dinghy doing a loop pass as the line had a loop tied on the end.. All the other times we'd lowered the outboard to the dinghy (as is only logical) we didn't undo the safety line until the motor was secured to the dinghy transom...this time the captain angrily tugged the line out of my hands upset I'd not tied a bowline but rather had done a loop pass through. He then struggled to get the outboard set on the transom with no security line attached? Yep...he was a bit stressed : ) I was feeling awesome!
I took a while to pack but by using the insulated shopping bag they handed out to everyone in Marathon (which I had intended to leave with him) I got it done pretty fast. I grabbed a large plastic bag that I had from having laundry done. It was choppy and I knew how wet the front of the dinghy is in even the smallest waves. I was able to put that bag over my duffel and protect the shopping bag as well. It was over a mile to the village from where we'd anchored. He pulled up to the first of 3 docks on the beach and stood up holding on.. I got out with my 3 parcels and asked if he wanted me to tie it up.. the usual routine. He said simply "No". I tossed the bowline into the dinghy and told him "I sincerely wish you the best of luck on the rest of your travels". He did answer back.."You too" and off he went. I was being sincere as I knew he would need luck and as much as he's a jerk I do wish him well. I'd bet my name was cursed over the next few hours and days..
There I was with 40 pesos, the equivalent of about $3 US dollars in a small end of the road village not knowing but hoping I'd find a place to stay and eat and secure a ride north that took credit cards... My luck proved to be awesome as I mentioned in a previous post.... Jumped ship in Punta Allen

Now I want to add an oddity between the captain and I on our crossing of the Yucatan Channel.. I did a post on the Yucatan Channel back when we were at the Marina Paraiso in Isla Mujeres. I still shake my head on the way it played out...
I'd learned the captain had no interest in me even trying to have an interest in the navigation.. So much for the aspect of volunteering to learn. I'd already surmised captain was no teacher. I've got plenty to learn but I'm no novice when it comes to sailing or even navigation with technology like chart plotters as I had to pretty much take over that aspect on my volunteer gig last year. With captain this year, I learned to sit back and just do my shift and not question anything.
We had done our sailing south about 50 miles, which was actually the only pure sailing we did on the crossing. As usual we had a waypoint set to the south and worked generally to keep on the course-line using the appropriate compass heading.. The wind had changed for the final 1/3rd of the heading south so we'd been sailing more SSW.. Still not experiencing any noticeable 3 to 4 knot northerly current the Yucatan Channel is known for. Once to the point 50 miles south we finally were to head west. This was during the captains 3 hour shift.. When it was my turn he showed me his new waypoint and the course-line heading due west...apparently 270 degrees true. I immediately said we can't follow a due west course line as we cross a 3-4 knot current running at perpendicular, it won't work. I said the whole reason to head south 50 miles was so we could then head accross due west and between that and the current carrying us north we reach the other side of the channel in the vicinity of Isla Mujeres. I had, a few days before asked Rick the Canadian back on the forbidden island about kind of heading SW when crossing rather than that heading 50 miles south first. He answered in a slow moving sailboat it's more efficient to sail south first and then make the crossing as fast as you can heading straight west. Power yachts might choose to do more of an angle crossing...ferrying across a current as is common on the river when whitewater paddling. Anyway, back to my discussion with the captain.. As I continued, I said we need to quit the waypoint and course line as it would only distract us and be untenable once we get into the real current. I mentioned if he wanted to set a waypoint for our actual destination to use the course line as a reference of our progress between our sail/motoring west and the current carrying us north...I was interrupted with "ONE THING YOU NEED TO REMEMBER IS I'M THE CAPTAIN AND YOU ARE THE CREW AND YOU DO AS YOU'RE TOLD...!!" .!? .. I sat in silence trying to understand how he could be so ignorant on the situation or so closed minded as to immediately stop hearing anything I was trying to say? Could he simply not handle being wrong about something? I was the peon after all and he'd already decided I didn't know a thing about...basically anything by the way he'd comment. Soon my shift was over and I spent 3 hours trying to sleep and wondering if he'd notice at some point during his shift that maintaining his course line was not going to work once we got into the current.
When it was my turn at the helm again he said keep it on a compass heading of 255. Kind of south of west. I noticed right off his set waypoint and course line were gone.. I asked if 255 magnetic was true 270? ...he answered just keep it at 255. During my shift I tried to read on the chart plotter where it showed degrees true and it looked to me that true 270 was more like magnetic 262 at our location so I took the liberty to compromise and head roughly between 255 and 262. I decided I would not comment on the discontinued use of his previous westerly waypoint. When it was his shift again I mentioned I'd been heading at about 258... He just said ok.. After his shift and another of mine it had become the next day. What happened next was just bizaar. Suddenly he started trying to tell me that thanks to my insisting on heading on a magnetic heading of 270 rather than 255 which he claimed was true west we were going to miss the island, Isla Mujeres. I asked to see the chart plotter zoomed out but was forbidden as he went on and on? I told him I never said we should head magnetic 270 but true 270 which we pretty much had been. He ignored me and muttered about having to make some adjustments?? in the hopes we might still make the island. I had in my mind us being located up north of the island and having a real tough time heading south against a 3.5 knot current which is our motoring cruising speed more or less.. I added comments like well you can try angling such as you'd have had to do if trying to stay on a westerly course line in the current.. He only said.. "You've really screwed this crossing up and it's just not working out having you as might have to get off the boat in Isla Mujeres." Still wondering what had gone wrong and how we could have gotten so far my mind??. I answered "fine!" Despite my real desire to check out Rio Dulce a subtle feeling of relief was flowing into me. On my next turn at helm I could finally see the island Isla Mujeres on the chart plotter and we are actually approaching the south end not hopelessly too far to the north. I should also mention according to the cruising guide most people shoot for the north end as the town and harbor or just inside on that end. It gives waypoints and compass headings to sail around the end into the harbor. It's referenced to as the northern approach. It gave only a few paragraphs of description with no headings or way points for the southern approach? In my mind I'd always assumed we'd go around the north end? I said "I thought we had missed the island". He blatantly claimed we would have had he not made some adjustments.?? I was in disbelief and insulted that he'd even attempt such a claim...he truly feels I am an idiot I guess to fall for such BS.. Or is it just his insane limiting inability to come clean on being mistaken? Anyway I was already planning my jumping ship reading in the cruising guide about the ferry service to Puerto Jurarez from Isla Mujeres and figured bus service from there to Cancun Airport would be a snap. Suddenly captain says we need to talk which leads to this odd thing where we list what bothers us about each other and then says if I still want to I can crew the rest of the way. I say sure why not and the week in Isla Mujeres at the marina was kind of nice especially meeting the folks on the Endeavor 40 center cockpit.. Rich and Margaret....also bound for Rio Dulce.
I can't wait to talk to my sailing friends back home about this bizaar story.
I'd be home now if I'd jumped ship then.. I really can't think of any thing in that extra time I am glad to have experienced... Oh well. I'm heading back to Minnesota soon.

Sunrise on the Yucatan Channel crossing...just before I was yelled at for causing us to 'miss the island!'.... Hahaha