Ironman Cozumel: How NOT to Get to the Island

9 12 2014

It’s hard to believe that this time last week I was a newly minted “Ironman” lounging by the pool of our super plush beachfront villa in Cozumel.



Coming back to reality is hard. I probably shouldn’t use the word “hard” though. What’s hard is an Ironman. So let me tell you about my race… Let’s rewind to Thanksgiving, when I started the final leg of this Ironman journey.

Thursday, Thanksgiving: 3 days before the race

Getting to Mexico was a breeze. Bill and I were on the same Delta flights to Cancun through Atlanta, set to arrive around 11:30. I got an upgrade to first class for the ATL-CUN flight, and yes, I took it. Sorry Bill 🙂


When we arrived, we met up with Jess, Felipe, and Courtney who arrived a little before 11, and we would wait for Chris, set to arrive close to noon. We also had tentative plans to meet up with my friends Charity and Tommy, who had arrived much earlier. However, we never finalized our plans before leaving, and my cell phone didn’t work once I got to Cancun. Sorry Charity! They ended up going to the island on an earlier ferry and waited for us there- thankfully, Bill had service and I had given Charity his number. Crisis averted. When the whole gang was together, we set in motion our original plan to get to Cozumel: catch the bus to the ferry, take the ferry over to the island, catch a cab to the rental agency on island, and pick up the car we had reserved. When traveling with a large group, things never go as planned…

It must be noted at this time that Felipe is the master of searching for (and getting) the best deal on anything and everything. He loves the thrill of the negotiation. If you’re willing to spend a little time waiting for him to work his magic, you can walk away with a rock bottom price. This skill definitely came in handy over the course of the week.


He also makes a mean brigadero

After getting through customs in Cancun, you walk past all the rental agencies, a super shuttle booth, and on the right side, tons of people in matching beige and blue suits clamoring for your attention to help you plan your Mexican vacation. To be honest, we weren’t entirely sure where we needed to go to catch the bus to the ferry, and thought it might be cheaper (and faster) to stop at the Super Shuttle and get a quote for a chartered ride to the ferry. Initially, they said $8 per person but when we started making plans, they changed their tune and now said $18 per person. This got us wondering if the best plan is to switch our rental car from Cozumel to Cancun and take the ferry over. After much back and forth, that’s what we decided to do.


Waiting for our car in Cancun…

After being shuttled over to the car lot and then waiting for a better deal to be negotiated there (we didn’t get one), we finally got our mom mobile. Yay mini van!

We piled in and Bill mapped us to the ferry port. When we arrived close to 1:30, the sign at the gate said that the next ferry was at 18:00 (6pm). Um, how could that be? It’s supposed to be every hour, on the hour. We drove in and saw several lines of cargo trucks, 18 wheelers and flatbeds, parked and waiting to load on to the ferry. Confused, we thought that we must be in the wrong place- this must be for transporting cargo, but there must be another ferry for people and personal vehicles. We asked the security guard if this was the only ferry, and he wasn’t much help, so we mapped ourselves to the other ferry terminal about 10 minutes away. This port was a flurry of activity- tiny streets, lots of people and vendors. Plenty of people to ask for information.

We sent Bill and Courtney out to ask different people about the ferry, and they both came back with the same answer. There are two ferries: the people ferry, which runs every hour between 6am-10pm (between two different companies), takes about 45 minutes, and leaves from where we currently were. Then there’s the cargo ferry, which is much more infrequent, making it’s way across the channel to Cozumel only 4 times per day. That’s down at Calica (where we had just come from) and this ride takes about an hour and a half. We were told that trucks line up early because space is limited, and if we missed the 6pm ferry, that was the last one until tomorrow morning. By this time, it was 2 something and we got real nervous about missing the last boat, so we grabbed food at a local spot (YUM!) and hopped back in the car and went to Calica, where we waited, and waited, and waited.


Manicures to help pass the time…

Finally, right around 6pm, the lights and engines of the cars in front of us started turning on. We were finally BOARDING! Well, we thought we were. We drove up, close enough to see the ship through the trees, and watched as the boat was unloaded. Come on, I just want to get to Cozumel!! Finally, after another 20 minutes or so of unloading, it was our turn to board! Felipe parked the car and we all met up at the snack bar, where they had set up a screen for a movie.

It should be noted that a few days before we had arrived, a cold front came through that brought in some winds. The wind was strong enough to have already canceled Friday’s practice swim, but they were expected to calm down by race morning. And we were about to cross the channel on a large boat that had I don’t know how many tons of vehicles on it. Great.

4643444861_e56a82718f_z(picture borrowed from Alex x)

The ride started out just fine. In fact, I didn’t even realize we had started to move. But then, we started to rock. Hard. I’m getting nauseous just thinking about it. I tried to focus on the movie- Speed 2 if you’re wondering. That’s right, the movie where someone takes hostage of a cruise ship, and the ship nearly sinks on numerous occasions. Exactly what I wanted to watch as we bobbed like a toy boat in the tub of an overweight infant. I desperately tried to keep the contents of my stomach inside my stomach.


Up, down, up, down. I’ve never been on a boat that has rocked this hard in my life. At one point we were rocking so hard that items in the snack bar started to fall over. I heard a woman scream. Everyone around me was green or yellow or grey. I was regretting not buying that Dramamine before I left.

Bill, having more than his fair share of travel on large ships, convinced Jess and I that we should eat something- a full stomach helps. So, we snacked on these little delicious crackers (Globolitos!) and it actually helped! I started watching my clock at the hour, hoping that we’d soon be out of there. Eventually I saw lights from shore! We were close!

When we finally parked at the dock, I don’t think we could have been any happier. We also were completely OVER this travel day. We practically ran to the car, only to sit and wait. And wait. And wait. Unloading this ferry took a long time! By the time we finally got off, it was close to 9pm. Poor Charity and Tommy made their way over to Cozumel hours ago, and were waiting for us at a restaurant near the ferry. We told them that we had made it, finally, so they grabbed a cab and met us at the house.

With a huge sigh of relief, we pulled into the drive way. We had arrived. Let’s get this party started!

To be continued…