|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.
Lynda & Lawrie