Sailing in Cancun

Here’s part III of our Cancun trip taken last November (part I: wedding and part II: island).

Our last full day in Cancun was my mom’s 60th birthday. She wanted to go snorkeling; it’s her favorite thing to do. During our bareboat charter in Australia six years ago she went snorkeling five separate times in one day. (It’s not enough that California has beautiful weather and coastline, it needs coral reefs for my parents to visit me more than once every couple years ;).

We chartered a sailboat to get to the better reefs that lie in between mainland Cancun and Isla Mujeres, the island a few miles off the coast on which we were staying. Our boat’s captain told us the reefs were mere fractions of their former selves since hurricane Wilma hit in 2005, hammering Cancun with 95-130 mph winds for 36 hours. But even so, he knows a good spot, he said.

When planning our trip, I told my mom we’d love to do a bareboat charter — it’s more of an adventure when you’re in charge of your own boat. Finding a boat that didn’t already have a captain proved tough, especially a sailboat. Since we weren’t willing to give up sails just to be able to skipper our own vessel, we ended up chartering the 40′ monohull Xanadu, captained by Luis Alonso Nieto, who told us as we stepped aboard that his boat was our boat for the day.

Captain Luis’ knowledge of the area was invaluable. The reef he took us to spanned a few hundred feet in the middle of a 5-mile channel between Cancun and Isla Mujeres — needle in a haystack. Once we arrived at the reef, we jumped off the stern, hung onto lines behind the boat, donned snorkels, and dove to swim with the fish. (See the video at the end of this post!) My lungs felt new levels of exhaustion afterward.

Back on Xanadu, Captain Luis’ crew trimmed the sails, and we were off on a tack toward the southern end of Isla Mujeres. The wind was a bit touch and go, letting the boat bob more than my dad’s and sister’s stomachs cared for. Nausea is half in your head; the more you succumb to it the worse it gets. Occupy your mind otherwise and you can usually make it disappear. I told Kelly to get to the helm. “You want me to steer?” She thought I had water in between my ears. “Get yourself up there, you’ll feel better. Promise.” After ten minutes of steering, she was looking spritely.

At the southern tip of Isla Mujeres, we turned back north to sail along its coast. The afternoon melted into early evening, and by twilight Captain Luis dropped us back on the dock. Salty and sun-weary, we thanked him and his crew for the fun day, and wonderful 60th birthday for Mom. ☼

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Isla Mujeres, Mexico

This is another throwback to last November; it’s part II of our trip to Cancun we took for my cousin’s wedding. My mom’s 60th happened to fall a few days after the wedding, and since the whole family (my parents, my sister, Kirk and Chris) would all be in the same locale, convincing us to stay a few more days in the tropics to celebrate her birthday wasn’t a hard task.

After the wedding, we left the Rivera Maya and headed north to Cancun, where we hopped a ferry for the 5-mile trip to Isla Mujeres. My mom couldn’t have picked a better hotel: Cabanas Maria del Mar sat right on Playa Norte, a beach with sand so soft walking across it your feet squeaked. Breakfast was served at a restaurant under a huge thatched roof, its tables in the sand. For three days we hung out in hammocks, stalked lizards, rode around town in a golf cart, and went sailing (boat photos to follow ;). ☼

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Playa Norte.

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On Kirk’s kindle: How to Inexpensively and Safely BUY, OUTFIT, and SAIL a Small Vessel Around the World.

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Exploring town on foot.

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Kelz.

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Primary island transportation: scooters and golf carts.

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A cart of our own.

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Bummer we didn’t pack our boards.

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One of these days, we’ll be out there looking back this way.

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A handful of shots from Mom:

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Island retailers know their target market.

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Lindsey & Tom’s Wedding

Back in November, my cousin Lindsey and her husband Tom got married at the Hard Rock in the Riviera Maya, a beautiful stretch of coastline along the Caribbean side of the Yucatán Peninsula. The region, known for its all-inclusive resorts, is dotted with palm trees, lounge chairs, and trimmed with white sand beaches. For three days we concerned ourselves not with how much we ate or drank, but wondering if we were taking enough advantage.

One morning I was lying on a chaise lounge under a palapa when a server came by with a tray of drinks. “Daiquiri?”

It was barely 10 a.m.

“Well, since you’re here…” I said. “Kirk? You want another before lunch?”

We grinned. Ridiculous.

In fact, that was the biggest question all weekend. “Another drink for you, señorita? Señor?”

Sure, why not.

Cheers, Lindsey and Tom! ☼

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Kelly.

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Mom & Dad.

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Sisters, undoubtedly.

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Kirk & me.

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Kelly & Chris.

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My cousin Kristin’s son, Harrison.

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Kirk, and my cousin-in-law, Ryan.

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Mom & Kelly.

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Maid of Honor, Kristin, fulfilling duties.

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Dad.

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Bride & Mother of the Bride, my aunt Karin.

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Dad, what…

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Harrison, loving limes.

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Checking out grandma’s iPhone.

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Four generations.

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Unofficial wedding photog.

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En route to the reception.

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My grandma, Omi. Believe she’s 90?

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Mr. & Mrs. BenGera!

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Dance party.

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Student Debt Free

“I did it.”

It was Wednesday morning. Kirk and I were sitting at our desks in our home office.

“Did what?” said Kirk, looking up from his computer.

I spun my desk chair to face him. “I paid off my loans.”

“Just now?”

“Just now. $1296.82. Last principle payment.”

“Are you serious?” He cracked a big smile.

– – –

I graduated college in 2008 with $55,000 in debt. For a few years I floated from job to job, and bounced back and forth between global hemispheres. I wasn’t making much money, and could barely afford to make the minimum payments on my loans. I was so discouraged by the amount I owed that I avoided checking my accounts — it was too depressing. The task of repayment seemed insurmountable. After a call to my loan administrator, I found out if I kept making only minimum payments, it would take me 18 years to pay off my debt.

Drag around that baggage until I’m 40? No thanks.

In 2011, Kirk and I made our way to California in search of sunshine and surf. After about a year of getting settled and starting our own business, things started happening. San Diego Home Photography heated up. I scored some writing and photography work with Carlsbad Magazine. I pulled evening shifts at a wine bar.

After four years of making minimum payments, I was able to make my first extra principle payment. I was so excited I wrote this and danced in my kitchen. At this point, my debt was at $45,000.

For the next three and a half years, I worked my ass off and kept spending to a minimum. Going out to eat and buying new clothes were low priorities, as was shopping in general. Travel was my weakness. If I would’ve stayed put for a while I would’ve paid my debt off sooner. (In 2014 alone, we took nine trips.) Oh well, I’m a sucker for seeing new places, and my family during the holidays.

No matter. It’s 2015, and I’m student loan free. And just before the big 3-0. That feels pretty damn good.

– – –

“Aw, I wanted to prepare! Champagne and confetti…” said Kirk.

I smiled. “It doesn’t matter.”

“We have to celebrate,” he insisted.

What would be nice, actually, is a little fanfare from the loan companies. Send Ed McMahon over with some balloons. Or mail a certificate of congratulations. At least something on the payment received page, like this.

“Come on,” said Kirk.

A minute later I was standing in the front yard holding a room-temp bottle of André. We hardly ever have sparkling on hand, but thanks to the previous weekend’s festivities (mimosas + morning MSU football), we had an extra bottle. How serendipitous.




Cheers. ☼