Isla Mujeres Mystery ~ Lynda L. Lock

The End of an Era – Magaña scheduled passenger ferry service suspended

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Magaña boats January 2006
Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, is a small island floating in the Caribbean Sea.  Boats have always been an integral part of its history. 

Dating back to the 1550’s the days of the Spanish explorers, and first the settlement on Isla, fishing pangas, and large sailing ships were the main mode of transportation.  Later as technology advanced, and more people discovered Isla Mujeres private yachts, passenger ferries, car ferries and tour boats became part of the rhythm of island life.  So, when the original passenger ferry operators recently announced that they were suspending service it signified the end of an era. 
Magaña boats out of service May 2016

The two passenger ferries are now tied up at their family wharf in the lagoon and the employees have received their final wages.  The bigger party boat the Caribbean Princess is still plying the waters between the mainland and Isla, bringing day-trippers from the hotel zone in Cancun, but the regular hourly departures from Isla and Cancun are finished.  A victim of economics and stiff competition from the newer, sleeker UltraMar flotilla.

Larger and newer UltraMar boats – the competition 
When we first visited the island in 2002, the Magaña boats were the only option, and I must admit even though I don’t typically suffer from seasickness, riding the Caribbean Miss was a smelly, stomach churning experience as the vessel rolled through the waves, while clouds of smoky diesel fumes infiltrated the passenger area.  We gladly switched over to the more stable, catamaran-style UltraMar service when it became available.

Repainted in 2012 – nicked named the Barney-Boats
Over a period of ten years the UltraMar has added more and larger ships to their fleet, while the older Magaña transportation company retained their original vessels.  The once familiar white, blue and red ferry boats were repainted in 2012 with what was light-heartedly referred to as the Barney-Boat colours of purple and green.  It was an attempt to ‘jazz up’ the image of the aging ships, and attract more customers.  Sadly the new colours didn’t improve the ride or the service.

Sultana del Mar from Recuerdeos de Isla Mujeres FB 
But the most fascinating ship owned by the Magaña transportation company is the Sultana del Mar.  

We have written about her before as islanders such as Vivian Reynaldo, Dan Kane, Abby and Neil Fox, and boat captain Javier Velázquez Euan have shared their personal stories about traveling to Isla Mujeres back in the day.

Mario Burgos Sánchez
There are more stories about the Sultana del Mar posted on the Facebook page Recuerdeos de Isla Mujeres.  Islander Cuauhtémoc Zufita Landero in collaboration with our local historian Fidel Villanueva Madrid have been adding fascinating narratives about Isla’s past.  

A Google translation works fairly well translating the Spanish to English, but we still struggle with the finer details of the stories.  

Of particular interest to me is the story about Mario Burgos Sánchez, Carpintero de Ribera, the master carpenter who built the hull of the Sultana del Mar with ‘good wood, the right tools, and his hands.’
The Sultana del Mar was a grand old dame that is currently a sinking wreck.  Slowly, month by month she is sliding further beneath the waves taking a piece of island history with her. 

Sultana del Mar – May 2016  L.Lock photo

It is the end of a simpler time.  

A time when life was slower, unhurried.
Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

One Reply to “The End of an Era – Magaña scheduled passenger ferry service suspended”

  1. In its fleet was introduced the only waterjet and modern with technology from the years 90's, into passenger service of the island, the Caribbean miss Salvage nickname “Salvaje”, was introduced in 1994, he even in operation for several years before the year 2010, I am not sure that year its retired of service by failure of engine parts waterjet and was the flagship of the fleet after Sultana del Mar, even at the company office there is a photo of the caribbean Salvage sailing on a river in Pierre Part, Louisiana, all modern vessels of the Magaña were built in Pierre Part in Louisiana by Network Marine Inc. Even was very safe travel during storms,In their boats if one of the two engines failed during the trip could reach their destination with one engine. Its technology in the fleet was the best during the 90's until the new millennium. Every Christmas was special in their boats. Good Bye Magaña and Thanks You!!!


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