Thursday, May 23, 2013


Hasta Luego Mexico

Niki Wiki at anchor Isla Mujeres, Mexico
The sun is setting on our time here on the island of Isla Mujeres in Mexico. Yes, don't let the photo confuse you. We are on the east coast of Mexico and the sun still does set in the west. But, we are on the west side of an island off the coast of the Yucatan so we get to see the sun set over Cancun on the mainland.

We've totally enjoyed the constant sea breezes and lower temperatures up north here (OK, so "north" is relative, but we are 380 miles north of the Rio Dulce in Guatemala). The availability of fresh fruits and vegetables and  filleted fish from the local fisherman's cooperative have been a real treat.

Jonesy on the UltraMar Ferry to Cancun
Speaking of treats...Jonesy and I took the ferry over to Cancun to go shopping for those special items (from the USA) and Mexican foods that can be found in this tourist mecca. The water between the island and the mainland is stunningly beautiful. While Jonesy chatted with a tourist, I was simply mesmerized by the water - trying to visually soak it all up so that I could remember the colors when I need a "happy place" to go to in my head if needed in the future.

Of course we sat up on top of the ferry in the open air seats!
Downstairs and inside were cushy seats, air conditioning and televisions blaring. But up topside we had the breeze and lovely music played by a live guitarist.  Really, I think I could just spend the day riding back and forth on the ferry enjoying the music and scenery while I knit. That could get expensive at $13 US a round trip.

Once in the city of Cancun we grabbed a taxi and headed out to shop. We first hit the Costco - whooo hoooo! They had bags of a dried fruit and nut mixture that had no added sugars or oils. Perfect! We also picked up a bag of "trail mix" that included chocolate pieces for those times that we needed our chocolate fix. Sure, we can get some raisin, peanut, and pepitas mixtures in Guatemala, which are yummy, but not with dried cherries! These treats are for when we are sailing south to Belize and then into Guatemala. During passages we need simple, and easy to grab snacks to keep us going.
Kranky Krank candy bar

And talking about keeping us about some Krank? Especially if you're feeling Kranky - this chocolate and rice crisp candy bar is perfert for when you are just plain mean in the morning and need a little jolt along with your coffee. I haven't tried it yet (it's for the passage) but I'll let you know how it works out.

Transportation on the island of Isla Mujeres is primarily by taxi, golf cart or for the locals, motor bikes.
Motor Bike with Kiddie Seat
We see entire families loaded up on these bikes zipping around the island. Apparently there is a helmet law for the adults as they ALL wear helmets, but not for the kids (?!)

It gives me the shudders when I see moms holding onto their dozing kids while they drive. How do they all fit on a single bike? Here's a photo of the improvised kiddie seat on a motor bike. My guess (and hope) is that in a short time helmets will be required for all riders. These things take time and having access to such luxuries as motorized personal transportation is relatively new in this part of the world for most folks.

Let's see if I can understand the sign in the next photo. Yes, Pensionados are what we understand to be the other retired folks who apply to stay in some of these Latin American countries and live on their pension income. Panama has a lot of pensionados from the USA and other countries.

Cajones, the next word on the sign. Isn't that slang for balls? So now we're confused. What is this sign in Cancun telling us to do? We weren't sure so being the obedient gringos that we are, we stood our Pensionado Cajones right up under the sign. There. Best we could do at the time.

Of course later we researched the words and found that there are alternative meanings. Pensionados also can mean "residents" as in the residents of the building here. and Cajones is a drawer in a piece of furniture, but it is often the way that cojones is mispronounced and spelled in the US. So this is simply resident's parking I guess. Oh well, just one of many language difficulties we experience most every day.

The solution to the mental exhaustion we have at the end of such a day is to find a good place to hang out with friends and have a nice meal. We ran into a knitter friend, Nancy on the sailing vessel Dixsea who was busy with a beverage and knitting up a dishcloth in the pool bar at Marina Pariso.
Nancy knits at the bar
Another knitter was cooling off in the swimming pool at Pariso so I stopped to chat about yarns for the socks we make for the kids in the orphanage in Kazakhstan. Then off we went to meet friends at another marina for dinner.

So many of the other boats here have already left for the states or to go south to the safety of the Rio Dulce. But we still have a few folks here that we've known for years from other places that we've been. That's how it is with cruisers - we move about and leave our friends but sometimes we even run into them again. In fact, we met up here in Isla Mujeres with a boat that we knew from way back in 2006 when we were working on this boat getting ready to go cruising for the first time. That was in San Diego California! Sailing vessel China Doll has made it's way through the Panama Canal and up to Mexico too!
How do you like THIS chair? I think I could live in it! It has cup holders and places to stash my knitting. Oscar's Marina and Restaurant has many of these chairs on their grounds. It must take a special artisan to create these working from the natural twists of the wood.

OK - gotta go - my internet will shut off in just a few minutes. Then we'll be off the grid for a week while we sail south to Belize. The boat is ready to go, we just checked out with the Port Captain and Immigration so we are ready to go too! Hasta Luego, Mexico!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Rhymes with "Chicken Pizza"

Chichen Itza
Road trip! While Jonesy stayed aboard the boat, I took a LONG one-day road trip with some other cruisers. It was one of those last minute what-the-heck decisions. Our ultimate goal was to tour Chichen Itza (rhymes with chicken pizza) Mayan ruins in the Mexican state of Yucatan.

The day started early with a ride on the 6:30am ferry from where we are anchored here in Isla Mujeres to the mainland city of Cancun. Upon arrival in Cancun, we were met by a tour group van, picked up a few more passengers at a resort and then headed into the "Hotel Zone" of Cancun. Whoa! Cancun is like the Las Vegas strip! Giant hotels line the road combined with all of the big dollar restaurant chains. But, from the road all we really got to see was the back yards of the hotels. On the beach front is where all the action takes place. These hotels are so big that it is really a hike to walk from one to another - guess they want their guests to stay put and just spend all their money at the hotel.
Chichen Itza

The van took us to a big over-priced tourist souvenir store to join up with the other folks going to the same destination. We had to wait about a half hour for our bus at this "aggregate and separate" facility. That was obviously planned by the tour company so that folks would shop while waiting. We boarded our bus and were off to Chichen Itza.

The scenery was...nil. After I made a great effort to get a window seat on the bus, I discovered that - seriously - there was nothing to see. The Yucatan
Chichen Itza Skull Platform
area is flat, flat, flat and the road is lined with what the guide called "savanna" but what I would call "scrub" that was just high enough that it blocked any long-distance viewing. But before we got to Chicken Pizza, we needed to be fed. Included in our $50 per person price, we were fed a Mexican buffet at a large facility. There were literally hundreds of tourists here. Again, we had to wait about a half hour for the buffet to open and, in the meantime, we could shop at the ridiculously priced tourist shop. I had to gasp when a tourist was told the price (no prices were marked) of a nylon string hammock - $95 US!!! These are usually priced at about $12 bucks for tourists and $8 or less for locals. She bought it.
Chichen Itza

Finally we boarded our bus again and continued to Chichen Itza. Admission was included in our tour fee and we were able to quickly get to touring the grounds. Even though there were hoards of tourists, the grounds are large enough to spread everyone about. Interestingly, I'd guess that most of the tourists were Mexican nationals or otherwise Spanish speakers as that's what most of the tour guides were speaking.

Also interesting was the fact that Mexico allows vendors to sell their wares INSIDE of the heritage parks (saw this at Pelenque too). These vendors line the walkways selling just about the same stuff. It's kinda distracting and annoying. But then, after I thought that this city probably had similar vendors doing the same thing in its heyday I relaxed and...went shopping.

I bought a batik cloth with a "Mayan" influenced design and a carved wooden mask. I got a chuckle out of the male vendors sitting by their goods - all with unfinished masks at various stages of carving in their hands. Nope. These guys aren't the carvers. But tourists like to think they are so it makes for good business.

Chichen Itza columns
What I noticed here in Chichen Itza was the unusually high number of gruesome skull carvings compared to other Mayan sites that I've toured. Our guide told us that there was a lot of sacrifice which went on at this site (mostly of enemy warriors historians think).

Even the vendors picked up on the skull thing and featured them on their wares. I thought of my son Brett who likes all the Mexican "Day of the Dead" stuff when I saw this serving platter. Very special. I can just see me serving cupcakes to the
knitting ladies from one of these beauties.

And speaking of KNITTING...I've been hard at work on several new designs mostly for socks and mittens (did you see that segue coming?) That means that I've spent many hours on the computer in Excel and Word charting and writing the knitting tech talk. Frankly, my eyes started to give out and my seat was sore from sitting for too long. But I got them done!

Usually I wait until a pattern is officially published before I put a photo on my blog but after all that icky talk about skulls I thought y'all would need a little break. So here are my brand new SNOWY KITTENS Toddler Mittens.

Somewhere in my travels on the Internet one day I saw a photo of some hand knit socks that were for sale in Russia that had these kittens on them. I loved the motif so much that I carefully charted it and squeezed it into a pair of little size 2-4 mittens for a small child. The sample pair here is knit with Knit Picks Palette fingering weight wool yarns.The pattern is being tested right now and will be released to the Holiday Mystery Gifts group for the month of June. After that it will be on

So Jonesy has been busy too with boat chores as usual. But this morning he had a bigger adventure! Today, as we were enjoying the local cruisers' net on the VHF radio,  a boat broke into the chat to ask for help. Seems they were sailing north from Providencia (an island owned by Colombia) up to Isla Mujeres here and had engine problems. They had been at sea for six days and were exhausted and needed a tow into a marina.
Iguana at a local marina

Many cruisers volunteered their dinghies and within an hour the boat (s/v Ducks in a Row) was safely tucked into a marina. Jonesy has had quite a bit of experience towing sailboats with our dinghy when we were the Host Vessel at the mooring field in West End, Roatan (Honduras). So he was the perfect guy to be out there to help. I think he's the perfect guy anyway - that's why I have him sail me around in our big boat!

Our open sea cruising season is almost over for another year. Already the weather forecast warns of a low pressure area down in the southern Caribbean which means that the area is heating up for hurricanes. We're planning to hoist the anchor on Friday and sail south to Belize. From Belize we can do a quick dash into the safety of the Rio Dulce in Guatemala should an early hurricane form. But until then, we'll stay out at sea. Life is good.

Friday, May 03, 2013


Stocking Purse Ornament

Christmas Stocking Purse Ornament
Well, I've been having fun knitting up some holiday ornaments lately. I know I'm a little warped...I just love to create colorful little decorations and share the pattern with other knitters. So here's my Stocking Purse Ornament which is a new design for the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo group this month.

This little hanging purse is only 3" wide and about 7" long and is knit with Knit Picks Palette fingering weight wool yarns. Add a ribbon to tie onto the tree or as a package tie. The purse frame was found at a dollar store as a ready-made purse. I simply removed the old (glued in and squeezed into the frame) fabric so that the knit ornament could be glued into the frame instead. I haven't decorated mine yet - but I'm planning to add (sew or glue) colorful seed beads to the Christmas Trees, and perhaps clear seed beads to the snowflakes on the foot.

This little guy is big enough to hold a gift card, or any other special gift. Anyway, the pattern is free only during the month of May to members of the group. After this month, the pattern will be for sale on
Jonesy on the seaside Malacon on Isla Mujeres

We moved the boat yesterday from our great spot in the anchorage in the harbor. We motored through a narrow channel and up into a well-protected lagoon here on Isla Mujeres. The weather forecast is for a storm from the north to sweep through here starting tonight which will bring high winds from the northwest. As the harbor anchorage is open to the sea to the northwest, that means the wind-driven waves will roar through the harbor. Not fun. Usually the winds are from the east where the island protects us from the waves. So, we hoisted the anchor and fled to safety.

A couple of nights ago we experienced the WORST thunderstorm we've ever seen!
The lightning was so fierce that even though it was night, the whole area was lit up like daytime! The light from the flashes was a solid light reflected by the storm clouds and the strikes so brilliant that I had to close my eyes. And it was right on top of us! The squall winds were clocked by another boat at 50 knots! The gusts blew us over first on the starboard side and then over on the port side. The rain was blowing sideways which means that it came right in the ports (windows) on the hull before we scampered to close them and crank down the handles. We were fine - didn't even drag the hook although several boats did and one ended up on the rocks (but he's OK).

Jonesy negotiates the dinghy dock - or what's left of it
Is there a good part of it? Yep, the silver lining is that we got a thorough freshwater wash down of the boat which was still crusted with salt crystals from our rough trip up to Mexico! But I do have to wonder if the little dock that we use to tie up our dinghy when we go to town is even still standing now. This picture was taken before the storm - what do you think? We'll let you know...

In the meantime, we'll hang out on the boat and for now, enjoy the much cooler air temperatures (78 degrees this morning) that the latest front has brought down from the north.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


Isla Mujeres Mexico and Knitting

Mono-hull sailboats are tippy
YES. We made it north up to Isla Mujeres, Mexico which is offshore from Cancun. It was a long passage of 2-nights (38 hours) that was both heavenly and hellish at different times.

We managed to really sail! I mean  we actually turned off the engine and let the two sails do all of the work. We had a 2 knot gulfstream  current running north (the right direction) so we were hauling buns at 9 knots! Our tropical-sun-fried faces were wearing big grins as we experienced one of the best sails of our cruising life. Of course it also meant that this mono-hull sailboat was heeling hard (leaning) with the port side down. Everything that wasn't nailed, glued, or velco'd on the starboard side of the boat went crashing down to the floor. There it all slid around on the floor for a day or so until it was safe for us to be down below and clean it up. In the photo above that's all my gear from my knitting workplace playing on the floor. Oh, and yes, I did find some things that I had been missing after they popped out from their hiding places behind my knitting chair.

Stowaway Squid - in too much tropical sun
At the same time, both doors on our refrigerator/freezer unit (which is mounted on the starboard side of the galley) came flying open and our food went for rides back and forth across the galley floor. Both Jonesy and I, at various times, tried to capture the traveling food and get it back into the approriate section of the refrigerator without injuring ourselves in the process. Did you know that those cheap Glad and Rubbermade storage containers actually shatter into sharp bits if they hit the floor when frozen?

Our usual bungie cord closure system for the fridge was inadequate for the first time in many seasons of cruising. I managed to work out a "system"; put a folding beach chair backed by a pillow across the hallway to keep the lower door closed.
Yaneris Socks
Of course this meant that Jonesy had to step over this to use his head (toilet) up in the forward stateroom, but we (he) put up with this because the fast sailing was just way too much fun.

Then the winds picked up and the seas got rough. Actually, the seas off of the coast of Cozumel had waves coming from all directions like a washing machine. We had to reef in the sails and power up the engine as we were "in irons" and couldn't make headway in the direction we needed to go to avoid running into land (never a good thing). Upon arrival in Isla Mujeres, we were able to go out on the aft deck and we found a squid up on deck - how had it gotten there? Probably was thrown up by a wave!

Since we've arrived we have quickly adjusted to the laid back yet full lifestyle here in Mexico! We love Isla Mujeres! The food is fabulous and I get to buy fresh, thin Mexican-style tortillas. Many of our old friends and some new ones are here so we have been social butterflies eating out in little cafes and riding the ferry over to Cancun for shopping. Every other day or so we take our dinghy to the white sand beach lined with palm trees, beach chairs, and open air restaurants to get in the warm water. It's lovely to be able to simply "bob" about in the sea. Plus strolling along in the wet sand gives our feet free and natural pedicures!
Vivian (s/v B and B), Terry and Jonesy
Toddler Mittens

Besides beach entertainment, I've been doing a lot of knitting of course. Above are another pair of socks from my Yaneris Socks pattern only this time I used twisted stitches for the cables instead of real 1x1 cable crosses. This made the knitting so much faster! But this method also makes a tighter sock. So I made them shorter so that they will fit about a pre-teen size kid at the orphanages in Kazakhstan.

Below are some toddler sized mittens which were requested from the baby house (orphanage).   I used a self-striping sock yarn combined with a solid green sock yarn for this pair. I love how fast a toddler mitten knits up! Mittens are fun (except for the final thumb knitting which is futzy).

Then I designed another pair of toddler mittens with kitty-cats on them. So far the palms are knit and all I have to do is add the thumbs (sigh).

Of course, there have been socks on the needles too. I finished up this pair of pre-teen sized socks (foot length 8") with some Regia self-striping yarn. I always need some brainless knitting going on.

The real work has been the research for my Level one TKGA
Regia sock yarn 20cm socks
Knitting Master program. Good grief! I've had to haul out all of my knitting reference books and document every technique I have to use in the swatches that get knitted. The actual knitting is a piece of cake...the finding of references and documenting them is time consuming!! It feels like I'm back in school ...s.h.u.d.d.e.r. Once I finish this Level 1 (and pass or do the resubmittals), I get to go on to Level 2 and finally Level 3 which I'm really looking forward to working. There's always something new to learn in knitting.

That said...check out Arenda Holladay's blog for excellent tutorials on knitting skills. Her videos on YouTube are very clear and her tips are priceless!

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