It has been a really
long time since I wrote anything for zialater.com. By way
of apology, I offer François' excellent account of our "express"
vacation together on Zia. We had a little bit of everything, all
jumbled up into a quick, ridiculous, fantastic, utterly
unbelievably drenched period of time. Thank God it was
François, because I don't know anyone else who could have pulled
that one off!
In retrospect, the
few raindrops that fell on my rental’s windshield during the
90-minute the drive from Cancun should have been an omen. I
only dismissed them as the occasional two-minute shower that
makes the sun-drenched Caribbean so attractive: rain never
lasts, how quaint.
My destination was
Joe and Christy’s new land-based accommodations in Puerto
Aventuras, where I was scheduled to stay Monday through Friday,
for some R&R and hopefully some extended hours of kitesurfing,
I arrive at
destination, where Joe and Christy greet me with big hugs and
quickly lay out a dream plan: the wind will be up Wednesday, so
we’ll set out on Zia early in the day to Cozumel, anchor at an
ideal kiting location on the north end of the island for an
overnight stay. I am ecstatic that I am getting my cake and
eating it too: cruise on Zia AND go kiting. Double whammy.
This whole plan is feasible thanks to newly-made friends in
Puerto Aventuras who have gracefully offered to take in Cassie
and Juliana while we are away, so they continue to attend
My first afternoon
in Mexico is spent eating scrumptious home-made lasagna
accompanied by French rose, followed by a visit to the local
watering hole, Gringo Dave’s, where many an unsuspecting guest
of Joe and Christy’s have been put through the treatment of
merciless bartender Tarzan. I am no exception. By the time we
leave, the weather has turned to a steady rainfall, we comment
on how odd it is for this time of the year and leave it at that.
The next day is
spent preparing for Wednesday’s sail, gathering food and gear.
Tentative plans to go snorkeling in the cenotes are scrapped due
to the rain which comes back in the middle of the afternoon.
We set sail early
Wednesday on an easterly course to Cozumel, under low clouds.
The 15-20 knot wind that we had all been counting on is up, and
we are grateful. We are on engines heading straight into it
which makes for a pretty bumpy ride. A stowaway bee comes
along, stings my finger and takes my mind off the potential
seasickness. Christy’s awesome breakfast burritos complete the
We arrive at our
pristine destination on the north end of Cozumel, where the
first order of business is to find the right location for
anchoring, one where the bottom is reliable soft sand, not rigid
coral. Joe goes snorkeling and finds the spot he’s looking for,
Christy leads Zia there. Anchor dropped, no time is wasted
gathering all the kiting gear and loading up the dinghy. We
zip down to the sandbar which will be our launching pad
(pictured here on a sunnier day).
A couple of “legend” kiters are there doing
aerial tricks while their buddy shoots pictures.
Our gear is
quickly put together, and Joe leads me to the optimal area where
I can get to work on improving my kiting skills. It’s like
bicycling - somehow you always end up remembering where you left
off and build on those skills. What an absolute blast, climbing
that learning curve. One hour or so into it the low clouds have
grown darker and a squall is rapidly approaching. Time to get
off the water, just as rain, thunder and lightning close in. On
the sandbar, the three of us huddle under a kite to stay out of
the driving rain, it’s the right time for a beer break.
Soon the wind stabilizes
again, and the rain becomes lighter, time to get back out on the
water. Another good session, then another squalls moves in,
stronger this time. Huddle under kite. Sit out the rain and
have a beer. By the time things quiet down, the temperature has
dropped some and it is getting darker. Time to call it a day.
The kiting has been good.
Back on board we
are now completely alone in this beautiful cove. Cocktails,
crosswords, dry clothes, can’t beat that. The rain gathers
strength and we retreat in the cabin for another go at Christy’s
fabulous lasagna accompanied by a hearty French red wine. I am
oddly reminded of past mountaineering expeditions, when during
the day we would go up against the elements, then wrap up the
day with similar dinner fare, with the winds howling outside.
Re-living the day’s exploits and looking to tomorrow’s adventure
would always bring big grins to us all, and it does now.
It’s now 3 AM and
nobody’s grinning. The storm is now blowing well about 32 knots
and the sea has kicked up to the extent that Zia is essentially
anchored amidst the surf. All night my bed has felt more like a
swinging hammock, with the added sound effect of rushing water.
I am amazed that I am not seasick. Captain Joe is trying to not
be too amazed that the anchor is holding. Alarms go off to
signal that we are drifting from our initial anchor point, but
that is due to the ever shifting winds – the anchor is holding
solid, and Joe is keeping his cool. I go back to bed.
Morning comes, a
little sun, a lot of rain. With the morning’s second band of
dark clouds now past us, Christy and I realize that this is all
we’re going to get, so we better get to it. We load up the
dinghy with kiting gear and hurry out to the sandbar amidst the
rain. Joe declines – “it sounds really cold”. Once on the
sandbar, the wind is a little light and Christy helps me sail
the bigger 14-meter kite. We get a good one-hour session, more
progress, and Christy even manages a couple of photos to prove
Then a squall and stronger winds. “Let’s
go check on Joe, maybe he wants to come out kiting.” We zip the
dinghy back to Zia and ask Joe what he would like to do.
Answer: “Get the fu@# out of here”. That’s when I notice that
the waves around us have now grown to 4 or 5 feet high, sending
Zia in a crazy fit every time they hit. “You should hear the
glass shattering inside the cupboards”, says Joe. With this
dose of reality, Christy and I zip back to the sandbar to
collect our gear - surfing down the waves on our way there – and
make it back to Zia in no time.
As we sail Zia out
the cove, the sun finally comes out in earnest. The sea turns
turquoise and it is a beautiful moment. I feel so fortunate to
be on this boat.
A few minutes into
it, Joe tells me that we now have 5 feet of depth “which is a
ton compared to the 2 feet we had just moments ago”. He shares
with me that he cannot remember a more treacherous anchor spot
in his entire Zia career: in the surf with almost no depth, 32
knot winds, two anchors in the sand, all hell potentially
breaking loose at any moment. He is a happy Captain to be out
The sail back to
Puerto Aventuras is spectacular. We are sailing with the wind
at our back. We occasionally surf down a swell. Flying fish
are all about us, small ones and larger ones. Though we get more
rain on and off, it is still Zia at its best. How bittersweet
to think it could be the last time I cruise on this ocean-going
Once we are safely
back at the condo, with Zia parked out back, the skies open up
yet again with torrential downpours
We resolve to get
one more kiting session in the morning, before my afternoon
flight back to the US. We are out the door and in the dinghy by
8:30 AM, puttering out of the canals to the main beach of Puerto
Aventuras. The area is far less forgiving than the open-ended
sandbar of Cozumel. Joe and Christy devise elaborate plans
using the dinghy – and even Christy valet-ing my kite upwind for
me - so I that I can kite in safe areas, making sure this
Mexican vacation does not end up with me and my kite shredded
over sharp rocks.
For good measure,
we endure one more band of dark clouds and heavy rain, just so
the three of us can huddle under a kite one last time.
After a quick
lunch at the Pub, I am on my way back to Cancun airport -
through the driving rain.
WHAT A WILD, WACKY, WET, WONDERFUL WEEK,
THANK YOU SO MUCH JOE AND CHRISTY!!