Details and Stats from our Mexico Crossing:
Hola from Mexico!!! Journey served us very well on our crossing. We have heard so much feedback from people so here are more details about this entire experience.
Our Journey to Mexico started last fall as we began trying to decide between the Bahamas in hopes the islands would open (including the Bahamas), and Mexico which is fully open to cruisers. Just as we were leaning toward the Bahamas they once again changed their rules and we heard from cruisers not to come that it was too much of a hassle to move between islands, so back to looking at Mexico. We made contact with Gerardo in Puerto Aventuras in October and continued to connect with him off and on. He felt sure he could accommodate us long term in Puerto Aventuras, as we decide whether to stay 6 months or a year.
Dee's Planning Details:
When we first started thinking about going to Mexico I had no idea where to begin. I knew people went there but I wasn’t sure about any details, as it isn’t talked about like the Bahamas. So where to begin? No not Google, well I guess it could be the google for cruisers Noonsite. Noonsite gave me a lot of good basic information about Mexico and arriving by water. One of the links (this site is not the most user friendly) there was mention of the Isla Mujeres Cruisers Net Facebook page. This gave me a wealth of information by just searching different topics within the group. I was also able to connect with several people who had experience with the crossing and familiar with weather and preferred routes. Note: As we all know social media can spread bad information so use it for information but, verify everything.
While planning the route I learned about how the Gulf Stream and the Yucatan current play major roles in this planning. They are really one in the same as the Yucatan current comes up the coast of Belize and Mexico up into the Gulf then makes hard righthand ¾ turn back down toward Cuba then becomes a little disorganized as it turns under the Dry Tortugas. It then becomes the Gulf Stream and become a lot stronger and organized as it travels the Keys and up the east coast. This means you will cross the current twice even if you leave from Texas. The current also changes intensity and location, so I suggest an App that you can see currents. I used various ones Windy, Predict Wind and my favorite Ventusky.
Now the route, I will focus on the 3 that we were primarily researching. Departing from Marathon, Key West or Dry Tortugas. When Marathon became a non option for staging due to Boot Key becoming more of a full time live aboard community rather than a cruiser destination for a short period of time. Since we landed in Naples area we did look at the route from there to Dry Tortugas 115 NM. Then leaving from there, but wanted to catch up with Salt Wife and Inked Mermaid so we went to Bahia Honda to visit and wait for our window. Cold fronts were relentless this year so this made for a great safe harbor. Check it out if you haven’t.
I was back to where I had really started in route planning 6 months before getting to the Florida Keys. Key West or Dry Tortugas. Leaving from Key West would make the trip a little bit shorter but since the best place to cross the Gulf Stream is near Dry Tortugas, we chose this route for several reasons. We have been trying for awhile to get there, it shortens our trip by at least 50 NM and we could go there during the day, spend the night and time our departure from there to arrive in Isla Mujeres in the morning hours.
To do that I did the best I could to calculate the slowing of our preferred cruise speed of 7.5 to 8 knots, crossing the Gulf Stream roughly 20 NM between Dry Tortugas and Cuba and crossing the Yucatan Current 50 NM off the coast of Mexico all the way to Isla Mujeres. I came up with between 42 and 44 hours total time. Now to figure out when we should leave. It ends up being 2 overnights regardless of how I tried to adjust so we chose to leave in the afternoon between 2-4pm to arrive our second morning between 8-10. I would over estimate the Gulf and under estimate the Yucatan’s strength. They balanced each other out. Note: Mexico is Central time and doesn’t change for Daylight Savings Time. Our route as you can see took a somewhat direct route to the tip of Cuba. We had considered more of a southern route to Cuba then follow the coast of Cuba but our winds favored this route although we did make minor adjustments while in route.
Weather window: Preferred winds would be under 15 knots and have an easterly component and nothing south especially between Cuba and Mexico. I was looking for at least a 4 day window so I had leeway. We got a great window of 5-6 days. Leaving Dry Tortugas we ended up with SE wind until tip of Cuba then a temporary SW wind that made it a little rough but it clocked as predicted to more easterly, and we turned to a more west and direct route, for the last 90 NM. We had planned on going more south after rounding Cuba to ride with the current if weather/winds dictated but they didn’t.
After Christmas with our new granddaughter we headed south and the weather was great until January 3. A big blow and cold weather arrived while we were in Georgetown, SC. After the blow, the weather seemed good enough to get outside, so we headed out of Charleston harbor and made our first ever overnight run to Jacksonville, Florida. From here weather kept holding us up. First in New Smyna Beach, West Palm, and finally the Florida Keys. As many cruisers know the Florida Keys do not provide many secure anchorages and marinas were slammed, so we tucked into a favorite in Coco Plum and there found out we might never secure a mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor, so next stop was Bahia Honda State Park for another weather event.
While here we called everywhere looking for an affordable slip, and finally decided to call John, the dockmaster, from Port of the Islands up near Naples. He said I have a slip. So we made the long day run to POI just before more wind. Good news is while we are in POI we can’t feel the wind. One of our neighbors in POI was on an Airbnb boat. Her name was Shara and she was from Mooresville, NC! We had quite a few connections, and we really enjoyed getting to know her, her family, and her dog Higgins. We were also able to reconnect with old friends and make new ones at POI. During this time we began making preparations and researching provisions, paperwork, the best route, and weather window conditions. My research on provisions of what could and could not be brought into Mexico meant we would need to limit certain items and our provisions. Which was a challenge with the way the weather kept hampering our ability to get moving. You are not allowed to bring fresh fruits and veggies into Mexico and very limited meat and alcohol. We just prepared to have very little on board and use these provision up first before check in. We knew we would not officially be processed until Monday and then it ended up being Tuesday. No plants can be on board your vessel. I guess some would say this can depend on who comes to clear your boat from agriculture and customs, but we just didn’t want to see anything thrown away or that would cause problems for our check in process. Another important tip - Mexico loves paperwork! I read that 5 copies was the magic number. This was not always needed, but I had at least 5 copies of everything for checkin and the same for the TIP with multiple photos of the boat. (See below for more about what copies are needed). We spent the month of February in Port of the Islands finally settled, so we could prepare and hoping March would be better weather - as it should - Right!
Wrong! We are ready to head back to the Florida Keys the first week of March and back into Bahia Honda State Park to stage but we ended up there for two long weeks. This is a great park and area to hide from weather but we never thought we would be here that long. We did meet up with Salt Wife and the Inked Mermaid (Kulana in the picture). Rick and Christi had just purchased their 44ft Endeavour and her official name change had not happened. This was a great time! Two weeks later, We finally head to Key West to pick up Zarpe paperwork for our crossing and final prep, like the Key Lime Pie for Gerado his only request to secure our spot. The Zarpe comes from the border patrol office. One is located in Marathon and another in Key West. It is easy and simple to get just do not go until the day before you plan to leave for Mexico. It is dated and Mexico expects your arrival to be within a doable time frame. We are glad we got the Zarpe paperwork. There are work arounds like receipts for fuel, marinas, etc at your last stops in the United States. We also saw Rick and Christi on the new Inked Mermaid one last time while in Key West. We initially anchored north of the mooring field in Key West, but made our way to the other side of Wysteria island to prepare for departure the morning of March 17th (Happy St. Patrick's Day) for the Dry Tortugas. Another thing I decided to do before we left was prep food. Sometimes I can not be below for extended periods of time, so I prepared meals and sandwiches. I did not know at the time what a blessing this would be.
Left Key West 7am on the 17th 63nm 9.5hrs traveling a little slower trying to stay with SaltShaker. Arrived 4:30 anchored in Dry Tortugas. The water of the Dry Tortugas is breathtaking and the most beautiful I have seen in the United States. Don’t ever miss an opportunity to go out to the fort and get a peek at that beautiful water. We finally got to meet and chat with the Seddon’s on Fine-a-Lee. We had anchored with them when we saw the rocket launch last April and been in contact with each other on Facebook. They told us to go snorkel which we were planning to do the next morning.
Of course, in hindsight we should have jumped in Shelby and gone just after arrival as the waters were smooth and calm. We woke to rougher waters the next morning but still headed out. We snorkeled around Loggerhead Lighthouse in the area known as Little Africa. We were headed back in some really rough seas for Shelby and I hurt my back. Something must have pulled. It felt like I heard a pop in my back. I dropped straight down into Shelby. I sat in the dinghy floor the rest of the way back which took forever in the waters going slow. Dee got me out and on the bed. We were trying to decide what to do and I said lets give it an hour. I got some meds. He rubbed me down with Icy Hot and we improvised a back brace. We were pretty sure nothing was broke and I was doing ok just very sore. So I said let’s Go! Neither of us knew if it was the right decision but we committed to crossing. Now was when I was very thankful that I had prepped food for our crossing.
Didn’t leave Dry Tortugas till 3:30pm to arrive in the morning hours in Mexico. Little rough leaving but 2 hrs in a SE wind quartered our stern and first night was peaceful with a mostly full moon. Maybe the Gulf Stream helped settle the seas some for us.
Day 2 was more of the same only a little better. We cruised through the calm waters about 25 miles off the coast of Cuba which probably helped some with the wind and wave block coming out of the east. We saw hundreds of Portuguese Man of War. After we arrived, Dee did some research on Portuguese Man of Wars and the little fin across the top actually acts as a sail and these creatures are actually on course somewhere not just floating around in the sea. Very interesting sea creatures but obviously not ones you want to tangle with (literally speaking).
Just as we passed the tip of Cuba (San Antonio) a SW wind rolled up the seas for a couple hours giving us a bronco ride in 6 footers. Just before dark we made a more westerly turn and as predicted the winds started laying down and the seas more following and we were thankful for this better ride as the sunset on our last night. Tomorrow we would be in Mexico. My back is still very sore and some movements cause a lot more pain than others, but I have almost completed the crossing, although it was not as I expected with the injury. Night was again all we could ask for and moon gave us some visibility. Around 3am we hit the Yucatán current and slowed to 4-5kts at times then periods of 6kts. Up till now we had been averaging 7 to 8kts. This slow travel would stay with us till arriving.
Morning sunrise and big swells but well spaced following. 15nm out we get our first glimpses of land after 40 plus hours. We arrive in Isla at 11 am our time - 10 am in Mexico.
Engine hours from Dry Tortugas to Isla Mujeres 43.9 hrs.
Key West to Isla Mujeres 145 gallons of fuel burn 2.68 gal per hour.
Dry Tortugas to Isla Mujeres 306nm 43.5 clock hours.
We arrive and dock in at the Marina of Isla Mujeres where we are allowed to use the resort facilities while we wait for the check in process to begin. I realized that throwing lines was not what my back ordered, but I would have to dock in PA one more time and throw lines before putting this back injury behind me. I enjoyed soaking in the pool at the resort in Isla Mujeres and although the wait to check in was a little long. First, we arrived on a Sunday and second, Monday was a holiday - Benito Juarez Birthday. Benito Juarez was the 26th President of Mexico and the first of indigenous origin.
So it was Tuesday morning before our check in began and we were able to leave by mid afternoon to see Isla Mujeres. The marina gave us access to an agent to help us through the check in process. Herman arranged everything and this made our check in go smoother and quicker, but it still had its hiccups. We saw a doctor first for health clearnace, Then Dee went to immigration and cleared us with a stop at the Port Captains office. He came back to the boat where we had to wait on agriculture and customs. The agriculture lady just went through the refrigerator and freezer and the galley. The customs guy asked about alcohol and I showed him what little we had and he walked through the boat doing random checks. Then welcomed us to Mexico! Overall it was a fairly easy process. We explored a few more days, but by Friday it was time to get to Puerto Aventures while we had decent weather. The North winds made getting off the dock quite the challenge and it was sad to leave Vera, Jerome, and Bruno behind.
We caught a Cerro Mackeral on the way down to PA and arrived mid afternoon. Finally secured to the dock thanks to the crew of Sum Beach down the dock - remember my line throwing is pretty bad right now. We deliver a Key Lime Pie to Gerado and take the fish to Latitudes for dinner with Bill and Angie! We made it to PA at last. We made the decision to pay the marina for 6 months. Now, we are thinking of staying for a year, but because the boat would be here for more than 14 days we needed that TIP (Temporary Import Permit). While in Isla Mujeres we got mixed information, so we decided since the weather window was available to make the trip down to Puerto Aventuras and then get back to Cancun for the TIP after we were settled. This was a good decision because Gerado was able to make phone calls and also set us up with another boat which needed a TIP. So the trip to Cancun was successful and easy and we have our TIP paperwork which clears the boat for ten years. This allows us to bring parts for the boat back into the country without paying custom fees.
One other piece of information that everyone should know who plans to stay long term in Mexico or fly out. Just a reminder you can only stay for 180 days (Six months) in Mexico before needing to leave and return again. When you come in by boat and pay your immigration fees you get a receipt. At the airport you will need to go to the immigration window to show your receipt and immigration card for a stamp. Just carry the receipt and a copy until everyone has flown out and back into the Mexico. This was just a piece of information given to me by someone in Isla Mujures we met on the facebook group who stopped by the boat. Saved me when I flew home the next week since Puerto Aventuras is about an hour from Cancun.
- Our Mexico Crossing is complete! Now it is time to enjoy Paradise!
Paperwork for Checkin to Mexico: (5 copies) - It is hard to get copies in Mexico if you need any so come prepared or over prepared
TIP (Temporary Import Permit): I did 5 to 7 copies of paperwork and photos. Some were not needed but again be over prepared. I read multiple websites and cruisers facebook pages, etc. Once again, my advice is be over prepared.
Margarita Time and Tequila Shots!
Memorial Day weekend is over and we are headed out of Beaufort, NC and up Adams Creek to the Neuse River. Of course, we don’t get very far before we are joined by our dolphin friends. I am always amazed where we find dolphins. Now were are headed inland to the Neuse River, but actually we aren't that far from the coast when the dolphins found us. We always saw bright homes along the waterway, helicopters and yes that it at someone’s house, and play areas along the creek. I just want to jump on that rope swing and enjoy the creek brings back some childhood memories. Before making it up the Neuse to Northwest Creek Marina. We welcomed by baby osprey and a perfect sunset. We are finally here! Before we can explore New Bern we must head back to Mooresville to get Willys ( our jeep) so we have some transportation. And that means sunset on Lake Norman for a few weeks. It was so much fun to be home and get some much needed time in with friends and family and watch the sun go down where our days on the water days began.
A few highlights were Brad and Cindy visited Mooresville and we had a big turn out to see them for some Wednesday night fun and one beautiful Saturday in June we all got together to celebrate Chelsea and Garrett who would very soon welcome little Brody to their family. It is hard to believe he is now almost 2 as I write this. We will celebrate his first birthday in July.
Right before the end of June we head back to Journey ……. To celebrate my birthday with the girls on board. Jesse and Harley joined us on board for a long weekend and Hannah and Aldo came out on my birthday for a Birthday cruise. I think it might have been too much for Harley. See pictures below.
Now it is almost time to head to Pensacola for July 4th and to watch the Blue Angels fly but first on a perfect June evening, Dee got out Chicken Hawk and got some spectacular footage of the marina and the area we are located in aboard Journey. Northwest Creek Marina is located in Fairfield Harbor across the Neuse River and just south of New Bern. David was the dock master and as I write this he has passed away just after New Year’s 2022 from a massive stroke. He was welcoming from day one. As the crow flies it is not that far from New Bern, but in Willys it is about 12 to 13 miles to get downtown. This area is beautiful and the pace of life is slower. People are just not in a big hurry. That was one thing I would grow to love about this area. Well that and the spectacular sunsets from Journey’s front deck.
July 4th weekend is upon us so we are headed to Pensacola. First stop is Brad and Cindy’s house where every night was a good time. We started on the back deck with Chicken Hawk in the air. This area was hit hard by Sally and is still recovering. Notice the new stairs leading to their back porch area if you watch the video. We have missed them and Shade. We were looking forward to this week catching up with both Brad and Cindy and Chris and Michele friends.
First few days are out on Brad’s Boat for some beach time and some rough weather added in for extra fun! We all dressed in our Best Red White and Blue for the July 4th to catch some fireworks with and added bonus of a marine corps fly over. A beautiful rainbow greeted us one morning before we headed to Pensacola Beach for Breakfast with the Blues. This is a local event on the Wednesday morning before their big event on Saturday after the 4th where the Blue Angels practice maneuvers over the beach. Dee and I met Michele and Heather on the beach to watch….
Now it is time to take Chris’s Boat out the last half of the week, as we prepare for the blue angels to fly. When Fat Albert flies the Blue Angels are right behind. For some great shots see below or watch the video. This was a massive party and I can’t really tell you how we got in or out! So much fun!
Before our time comes to an end in Pensacola, Chicken Hawk needs to fly over Chris and Michele’s house and get a peek at Pensacola before we head back to North Carolina.
We arrive in Beaufort, NC several days before the Memorial Day weekend to get a spot to anchor, but it was already crowded and we actually had to move 3 times before we found our happy place. We did end up close to The Rachel Carson preserve in Taylor’s Creek - almost too shallow but not as shallow as some found as you can see in the video, but I will share below. This was a full anchorage that continued to grow to around 25 boats mostly sailing catamarans so they take up lots of room. The ferry boats did not like all the boats in the anchorage and would sometimes blast through all the anchored boats . But of course when I was recording, He was behaving….
We enjoyed exploring the waterfront here in Beaufort. So many old homes with stories that we enjoyed reading about on our walks. A beer at the Fishtowne brewery was great but our favorite little spot was the Port James Cafe. Checkout that chalkboard and the prices! We wondered through a local museum mostly about Blackbeard and bought our new pirate flag. After visiting the local farmer’s market we found the Old Burying Ground and spent some time exploring the history in the cemetery. While on shore we got some great shots of Journey
Memorial Day weekend we spent on our front deck. One of our favorites was watching the pirate ship cruise that so many tourist to Beaufort enjoyed. It looked like those guys were having lots of fun! Part of the fun was the little Scallywag that followed the big boat around, and was somehow part of the act.
Sunday morning was dreary and we woke to boats around us stuck on bottom. Thankfully, We had stayed just shy of the shallows. Blown Away was one of the not so lucky boats. Blown Away anchored really close to us and since they were stuck and did not turn it seemed we were even closer to them. They were Youtubers that had visitors all weekend, but even that fame does not keep you from making mistakes. Memorial Day came and went with beautiful sunsets each night we were here.
We had heard and read about the wild horses on this island - The Rachel Carson preserve, but WE had not seen any from the boat yet, so we needed to do some exploring. We started at the little beach closest to us, but this is where the ferry drops tourist for the day, so as expected we saw signs but no horses. But we enjoyed the hike and the scenery of the preserve. Once again we got some shots of Journey with Beaufort in the background. After reading about the preserve and doing some investigating and research of google maps, I was pretty sure their was a walkway further up Taylor Creek where we could try and see if we could find some horses. So we took Shelby up the creek catching a few sights and then finally HORSES along the shore even before we find the walkway. Finally, we see the walkway and find a place for Shelby and since it was low tide when we start into the preserve we catch sight of the ground moving with some active little crabs. And the birds did not want to be left out. As we make our way out the boardwalk we find a stunning view of horses with the ocean in the background.
On our way back down the creek we see more interesting sights and end our stay with a spectacular sunset. It is finally time to head to New Bern and our final destination for the next 6 months. The horses decided to show themselves from the shore as we left this morning. Beaufort was a great stop but New Bern here we come!
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