Isla Isabella – Arrival & Snorkeling

Dear F&F;,

2008 April 27

Isla Isabella – Enroute Challenges & Snorkeling

I suppose our early morning on Saturday, to go on the Jungle Cruise,
contributed to our being wide awake at 530 am on Sunday. We knew it would be
about a 6 ½ hour motor from Matenchen Bay (San Blas) to Isla Isabella. So
there was no particular need to get this early of a start. But on the other
hand, we were already up, so why not get going? We had our incoming \”track\”
to follow out that we knew was safe passage on our chart plotter (LCD screen
with charts of everywhere we go). So we didn\’t necessarily need to wait for
sunrise. So we weighed anchor (pulled it up) and off we went.

I was down in our cabin making the bed when I felt Scott make a sharp right
turn and the engines forcefully thrown in reverse. I scurried out to the
cockpit to see what brought us to an abrupt halt. In the pre-dawn light,
Scott had sighted a long fishing net out of a panga just at the last minute.
Running over a fishing net would really ruin our whole day. Not to mention
do serious damage to the boat. We are in their territory & the fishermen
are often very casual with their work and often do not light their boats or
floats. If it had not been for Scott\’s keen lookout and quick reaction it
would have been a mess for us and the fisherman. This is one of the many
reasons we maintain a 24 hour watch at all times.

With that hazard behind us, the sun up and breakfast eaten, it was time to
hang up the wet laundry. Our European combomatic washer/dryer washes great.
Drying not so great. But we have lines strung up in the cockpit & create our
own wind when motoring, so it dries quickly.

The second problem of the day happened when I was on watch and Scott was on
the radio trying to check into the Amigo Net.

(Explanation: This is one of Mexico\’s many networks for boating
communication. The nets you will hear me talk about have names like: Amigo,
Sonrisa, Picante, Chubasco, Southbound, etc. The net controller, person in
charge – running the net, asks for check-ins. A legendary character named
Don Anderson transmits weather reports from Oxnard, California. He devotes
many hours per day and provides regional weather reports for Mexico, by
area, and will take individual questions. Boaters report the weather where
they are so that other boaters can get the on-site report. Boats can relay
messages to each other. If someone needs assistance they can ask for it.
When we are at a dock we don\’t always check in, but when we are \”at sea\” we
always try to. Sometimes they can\’t hear us, or we can\’t hear them, but that
is another topic…)

Anyway…suddenly Scott could not transmit. He pushed the mike button to talk
& nadda, zip, nothin.

Poor guy sinks into the pit of despair. It is very discouraging that boating
equipment is so prone to failure. We have had problems with our ham/single
side band (combo unit) radio before and it was one of the many items that we
thought we had worked the bugs out of. But alas, here it goes poof again. We
can still hear the net, but they cannot hear us. And we also can no longer
connect to Winlink our \”at sea\” email communication. Cannot send. Cannot

But, do not fear. Being that Scott was a Boy Scout, we have a back up plan.
We are able (for $1.10/minute) to use our Iridium satellite phone to send &
receive emails. And that is what we will have to use until we A) Get to a
dock where we have an internet connection & can use our gmail accounts. B)
Troubleshoot the radio / tuner failure which Scott at this point believes
involves being shipped back to the manufacturer in Washington state. The
joys of boating continue.

On a happy note, we are motoring into 2-3 foot swell and I am not seasick
and I do not have a scopalomine patch on. However the no-see-ums saw me just
fine at our last anchorage & I am covered chest, back & arms with red
bites. Thankfully Benadryl staves off the itching.

When we arrive at Isla Isabella we anchor in the recommended area per the
cruising guides near 2 rocks called Islotes Las Monas (little mannequins).
The island is a convenient stop on the passage from San Blas to Mazatlan and
is a bird sanctuary. No one lives here except for seasonal fishermen who
camp in primitive shacks onshore. And students counting, banding and
studying the various nesting birds and fledglings.

Thirty-some years ago, Jacques Cousteau and National Geographic filmed the
\”pristine underwater habitat\”. We know better than to get our hopes up too
high because we can see that the water clarity is still poor. But it is not
as bad as most places, so we jump in with snorkeling gear and our shark

ASIDE: Shark shields are a device we strap around our ankle that delivers an
electrical impulse that repels sharks. For really neat video demo see: There are tiger & bull sharks in Mexico. We think it
would be really lame to get bit by a shark so wear these gizmos every time
we get in the water. I had a hard time bonding with it because it shocked me
like a TENS unit when the antenna hit my leg. But Scott emailed the
manufacturers in Australia & they suggested a keeper loop to my fin to help
the 7 foot x ¾ inch antenna to trail better. Works like a charm.

There were tropical fish and hard coral. It was exciting to see the
potential. However, it was (yet again) disappointing to only have about 6
feet of visibility. The water temperature was a comfy 79 degrees.

The only boat at the anchorage, we took it easy the rest of the day,
deciding to go ashore the next morning. The pangas put out traps all around
us, but since we weren\’t trying to leave it was not problem. They picked
them up in the morning. We suspect they were to catch lobster, but not sure.

Read the next post to read about the islands BIRDS.
Scott & Cindy