“Good morning, this is Isla Mujeres Cruisers Net. It is our purpose to stay connected, exchange information and build the community of cruisers. Your participation is encouraged.,” at exactly 08:00 the familiar voice greets all sailors currently anchored or docked at Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
The voice belongs to Lisa, who is our net controller today. She is from Canada and lives with her husband Ken on board their catamaran S/V Minaki. Her voice has something soothing. Formal but friendly, clear but compassionate. It is the kind of voice you want to hear when you are in distress calling for help.
Sharing a Cell in Corona Jail
Luckily none of the sailboats is in distress so the first question regarding medical and security emergencies remains unanswered. “Nothing heard,” Lisa wraps it up. It is one of the rare occasions this signal has a positive meaning and also puts a positive note to today’s radio conference on VHF channel 13.
What follows is some trivia about this day in history and local weather and tide information. When I first tuned in I thought that was a bit weird but later I understood it really builds the international community when we learn what happened on the same day in all our different countries.
The diversity becomes tangible when the channel is open for general check-ins. “Good morning – Cookie Monster”, “Bonjour – Penelope”, “Bon giorno – Shaula”, “Guten Morgen – Seefalke“, “God morgon – Chibidarra“, “Buenas dias – Donna Dee“ the check-ins are coming in, the various accents only let you guess from which end of the world they found their way into Isla Mujeres. Today’s count is 42 boats. 42 crews from all over the world, sharing a cell in Corona jail.
Which is not too bad after all. The most common phrase you hear these days is „There are worse places to be stuck.“ It is true. We all agree on it. And the Isla Mujeres Cruisers Net is one of the reasons why.
Island of the Blissful vs. Island of the Damned
While the radio conference moves on to new arrivals, my thoughts go to my friends in Mexico’s Eastern neighbour Cuba, locals as well as sailors. Cuba has changed from the Island of the Blissful to the Island of the Damned within days. All ports and marinas are closed. Sailors in ports had to leave the ports and if they were lucky, they were allowed to anchor out. A nationwide curfew is applied, food is rationed, police with sticks is beating everyone, who dares to set a foot on the street, back home. Transport is shut down completely. The supermarkets there are not famous for their abundance in normal times already, I don‘t even want to imagine how they are looking like now. No wonder that sailors there are considering alternatives. I love Cuba, but it is not a good place to be stuck these days.
Isla Mujeres is a great alternative. Of course our freedom is limited. We need to get clearance for every dinghy movement and touristic activities are prohibited. However, arrivals and departures are still being processed, shore visits are still permitted for essential business. Live and let live. This also is an achievement of our Cruisers Net.
Every Tree on the Ocean
Whereas at the beginning of the Mexican Corona countermeasures there was much chaos and everyone came with bits and pieces of information, it was the Isla Mujeres Cruisers Net that put together the mass of orders, rules and regulations for sailors like a mosaic. The complete picture revealed gaps and (contradicting) overlaps that could be addressed with one voice. Soon the Port Captain in whose jurisdiction we fall, discovered the benefit of using the Cruisers Net as effective communication channel. Michelle and Steve from S/V Pili Aloha quickly became our representatives and took on this exhausting yet unthankful task. Much easier for the Port Captain to just talk to them rather than nailing the announcements to every tree on the ocean.
While the restrictions got tougher and tougher the Isla Mujeres Cruisers Net first collected and then raised our concerns with the Port Captain who is very understanding and as accommodating as the situation allows. So trash collection was arranged as well as water delivery. He allows the use of the Port Captain‘s dock for shopping purposes and short daysails to dump black water into the ocean.
So it is not a big surprise that departures from Isla Mujeres are scarce and that part of the radio conference also ends with a “Nothing heard“ from Lisa and we are moving on to “General Announcements“.
“Wind Magic, go!,“ Wind Magic gets acknowledged to go ahead with the transmission. Every morning, I am astonished all over again by the strict radio discipline in this group. As if everyone here is a trained navy radio operator.
“This is Wind Magic. Our yacht club opened its water hose for the general use of the cruisers. You can take your dinghy to the yacht club’s dock and take as much water as you need. Please don‘t get off your dinghy and don‘t leave trash on the dock. Over.“
“Wind Magic this is Minaki. Thank you for this generous offer.“
“This is Starship. We are currently producing masks for 100 pesos each. Money will be donated to a local food bank. Orders will be taken after the net. Over.“
“Starship, this is Minaki. A wonderful idea, thank you!“
The helpfulness is overwhelming. Mark from Cockpit offers to organize propane deliveries, Polaris will bring fresh fruits and vegetables to Penelope whose crew is still in their mandatory 14 day quarantine and Bram from Donna Dee offers a trash collection run.
As the conference moves on to „Boat Problems“ I admit my thoughts drift off a bit. I have been solo sailing quite some time now but I have never felt lonely or lost. It is this wonderful community that makes you feel there is a solution to every problem.
A Solution to Every Problem
Sometimes there is even a solution when there is no problem. I remember, it must have been day two or three after my arrival, when I was still unaware of the Cruisers Net, when, shortly after sunset, I lit up my charcoal grill on the deck of my steel battleship. From Cockpit‘s perspective it must have looked like Seefalke was hit by a torpedo amidst the peacefully anchored fleet. Pearl Harbor 2.0. For Mark to grab his fire extinguisher and jump into his dinghy was one. When he arrived and saw me peacefully having a barbecue rather than manning my anti-air guns, we had a good laugh. This is how I was introduced to the Isla Mujeres Cruisers Net.
With all the diversity we all have one thing in common. We all have time to clean, paint and empty our bilges (eh, reverse order I suppose works better) and it truly is amazing what comes to the surface. So the „Treasures of the Bilge“ item becomes one of the funniest parts of the conference. It so funny what people find, even funnier what they are looking for…
Which is the perfect transition to the „Open Forum“, the room for about anything, birthdays, anniversaries, jokes, anything, a place where we can forget about Corona for a few moments and stop watching our plans, by now C, D and E, getting flushed down the toilet.
„Channel 13 is now open as hailing channel,“ Lisa wraps up today‘s conference. Maybe tomorrow I will jump in and make a distress announcement, asking to change to another but this calamitous channel number. It almost hurts my fingers to tune in to channel 13. I wonder why it is even on the radio. I pray to Neptune each day that Isla Mujeres Cruisers Net will not be broadcasting from Davie Jone‘s Locker one day.
It is the only thing that makes me a little worried these days. But just a little.
If you are inbound Isla Mujeres, Mexico, or consider coming here, please contact Port Captain Isla Mujeres on VHF 16 upon your arrival and wait for instructions. Do not go to shore! Also contact any other sailboat in your vicinity. They will provide you with information about current regulations. Make sure you tune in to VHF 13 each morning (but Sunday) at 08:00. Most boats are on standby on VHF 13 and someone will respond to your call.