Isla Mujeres Mystery ~ Lynda L. Lock

“My only worry – is the tide gonna reach my chair?”

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“is the tide gonna reach my chair?”

Living on the edge of the sweet blue ocean, watching the tide and listening to Zac Brown music – it just doesn’t get any better.

Lawrie and I have had boats of various forms most of our lives: rowboats, speed boats, work boats, and even some beautiful big cruising boats.  

We know about tides and tide tables; that’s the handy-dandy information that tells you when the sea level is due to rise to high tide and six hours later when it will recede to low tide.  In, out, higher, lower; every six hours, every day of every year, into infinity. 

Lawrie on our Sealander in BC
So imagine our surprise when we first discovered that the tides on Isla Mujeres are minimal.  It’s one of the quirks of living closer to the equator where tide-change is almost non-existent.  

In the Vancouver area we frequently experienced dramatic tidal differences of ten, or twelve, or fifteen feet (5 meters) between the high tide and low tide.  Here on Isla, if I look at the tide tables the difference between high tide and low tide is just a few inches. 

In the tropics wharves and docks are stationary, fixed to their pilings.  In Vancouver all the wharves and docks have various mechanisms that allow the floating platforms to rise higher or drop down depending on the tides.  

BC the ramp at mid-tide.  It gets very steep!
Ramps for accessing the docks on some days can be very steep, slippery affairs necessitating a firm grip on the handrails to prevent you from sliding down and landing in an ungainly heap on the dock.  

Here on Isla, things are level.  If there happens to be a slightly higher tide due to a storm surge, well your feet get wet.  Too bad, but at least you won’t slip and spill your beer.

Passenger boats loading for Isla 
In areas of big tidal swings the loading and unloading of cargo takes on new dimensions.  Heavy crates are lugged up the steep ramps.  The cargo going down the ramps has to be controlled otherwise it could slide and tumble, scattering across the docks when it thumps onto the floating dock.  In coastal British Columbia ambulance stretchers take a lot of careful maneuvering to ensure the patient stays on the stretcher and is not deposited in the ocean for an unscheduled swim.  On an icy winter night, with a big tide differential, this can be an exciting adventure.  We know.  We were volunteer ambulance attendants for several years on a similarly-sized Canadian island, Bowen Island.


Tourists heading back from Isla to Cancun

Here in the tropics the ambulance attendants are able to wheel the stretchers directly to the boarding ramp, and hoist the patient across the railings of the boat and into the cabin.  For commercial cargo and tourists’ suitcases the Isla Mujeres bicycle porters “Maleteros” gather dockside, load up the cargo, and then pedal off to their destinations.

British Columbia – skipper made a mistake
A few years ago when we still lived in Vancouver we saw the dramatic results of a commercial fisherman who either hadn’t paid attention to the changing tides, or he fell asleep after an exhausting night of working the nets.  His boat was well and truly jammed up on sharp rocks, awaiting the next high tide.  Embarrassingly for him, the next really high tide, high enough to free the boat was not for another eighteen hours. 

Isla Mujeres – Capt. Nephi sinking.
In the meantime, when boats are run aground here on Isla Mujeres, it is usually for emergencies, or to make repairs.  Two years ago the skipper of the Capt. Nephi had to ground his boat on the west side of the island.  He was taking on water at sea.  The navy cruiser rescued the crew and boat, pulling it to safety and leaving it in shallow waters.  It was a dramatic end to his day, but not nearly as dramatic as the skipper who tried to steer his boat over the rocks in British Columbia. 

Beautiful water of Isla Mujeres

So this whole musing on tides, and water, and boats started because Lawrie has been looking for a small boat, one we could use to poke around in paradise.

Hasta Luego 

Lynda and Lawrie


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