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Thursday, April 22nd, 2010, Puerto Aventuras, Mexico

     It has been a really long time since I wrote anything for  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!

By François Dunoyer

     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, wind permitting.

     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 school.

     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 cruise.

     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 it. 

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 of there.

     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 legend.

     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.


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