Cancun Can-Do Water Sports

One grandma's annual adventure takes her and her granddaughter to Cancun, Mexico

By Brenda Fine

"Camp Fine" is one of our Fine family traditions. Every year, we all meet at a different destination, at a time that fits school vacations and work schedules, and — because most of us live in snow country — in a place with guaranteed warm weather and sunshine. This past March, our Camp Fine was at Club Med in Cancun, Mexico.

Among its other natural blessings, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is famous for its spectacular underwater reefs. My 9-year-old granddaughter, Lauren, and I were thrilled that we would finally have a chance to do some great snorkeling together.

During the months leading up to the trip, we lingered over the details of how we would spend our time in the water. We planned to keep records of what we would see with special underwater writing tablets and pencils. We debated whether to rent snorkel gear or bring along our own, and whether we would keep our adventure to ourselves or invite the others to join us.

Soon after we all checked in, our whole group headed down to the waterfront where, according to those in the know, the offshore reef is best.

From what we saw, this must be not only the best reef in all of Mexico — but also the only reef in the immediate area. Dozens of two-passenger speedboats swarmed the water off "our" beach. Daredevil drivers zoomed in from other resorts along the shore, all converging on this one stretch of reef.

Talk about shattered daydreams! Lauren and I stared at the floating traffic jam, and then just looked at each other. Our long-anticipated reef adventure would be about as quiet and relaxing as a stroll through Times Square on New Year's Eve, and risky — what with all the speedboats zipping around. Without saying a word, we decided to skip the snorkeling.

On the Waves

It was just then that we noticed how Cancun's ever-present winds seemed to be blowing even stronger here. Windy? Hmm. Looking out beyond the barrier reef, we could see many little boats with colorful sails skimming the waves like butterflies.

So, while the younger cousins set off on a nature walk in search of crabs, little fish, and other treasures in the small tide pools along the rocky shoreline, Lauren and I wandered over to the water-sports shack.

"Grandma! Look!" shouted Lauren. "I'm old enough for sailing lessons here!"

Sure enough, the rules posted on the board indicated that 9-year-olds may enroll in sailing classes. At Club Med, beginners learn to sail Hobie Waves, sturdy little 13-foot catamarans with joined twin hulls that provide extra stability and lessen the possibility of tipping over.

Lauren was paired with Idan, a G.O. (gentil organisateur, the term for all staff members at Club Med) from Israel. While Idan delivered his beachside intro, Lauren listened intently. Then, securely wrapped in a life jacket, she hopped aboard the boat. With her hand on the rudder, she sailed off with Idan.

She returned so thrilled, she couldn't stop talking.

"I loved it!" said Lauren. "Idan says I'm really good — a natural! I love this so much! Please, please, please can I come back this afternoon for another lesson? Tomorrow? The rest of the time we're here?"

Of course. Yes, yes, and yes!

Shade, Slushies & Sailing

[photo photo2 align=right max-width=100] Every day, most of us would trek over to the sailing beach to watch Lauren hone her nautical know-how. There was a lovely, shaded outdoor bar attached to the nearby restaurant. We Fines would sprawl along the padded banquettes playing games, talking, laughing, and drinking tropical slushies.

When the younger kids had their fill of soaking up sun on nature walks and playing in the sand, they would join us in the shade to work on their pages for this trip's "memories" scrapbook.

Sometimes twice in the same day, Lauren joined her fellow sailors in learning and performing various drills, until one afternoon she came streaking over to our hangout.

"Guess what?" she shouted. "I've passed all the tests! Now, I can take a boat out all by myself. Solo! No instructor. Just me!"

Huge cheers sounded all around. Everyone babbled at once, congratulating her on this impressive achievement.

And then I heard it: "So, Grandma, I want to take you out as my first passenger!"

After a lengthy pause, I finally managed to croak, "Alone? You mean without Idan?"

"Of course without Idan," she responded. "I've passed the tests. So now I can take boats out alone."

"But ... but ..." I stalled. "I don't know how to sail."

"You don't have to, Grandma," said Lauren. "I do!"

"Well, yes, but, what if there's a problem? I wouldn't know how to get us back to shore."

"I know how," she shot back, clearly disappointed with my chicken-hearted reluctance.

In the end, we compromised. Idan came along... but only for the ride.

Lauren — proudly and competently — sailed the boat all by herself. Idan and I were merely passengers, applauding her at every jibe and tack.

Perhaps, at next year's Camp Fine, we'll sail — and snorkel.

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