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Group picture of the entire ceviche tours team
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Est. 2006


ON THE LAST DAY of March 2007, as the sun began to dip in the sky, a group of 6 Isleño fishermen, their wives, and a few American friends waited anxiously on a small beach of Isla Mujeres Bay as the artist’s steady hand finished painting the name, CEVICHE II, on Cuco Sanchez’s brand new 29-foot fishing boat.


THE LAUNCHING had to take place before sunset because Cuco’s friend and collaborator, John Vater of New York, was leaving the next day after months of planning the transformation of a bare hull into a first-rate fishing excursion boat. “We simply cannot put the boat in the water without the name on it: that would be bad luck,” John explained. Finally, as the picture-perfect, pink and orange sunset glowed on the horizon, friends heaved the bright yellow craft into the sea amidst splashing champagne and cheers of good luck. In some ways, this was a typical Isleño fishing scenario, but the story behind it is anything but typical because this launching was only a chapter in the 19-year friendship between two men who say they are bound by “a shared passion for the sea and the marine environment around Isla Mujeres.”


LUIS REFUGIO “CUCO” SANCHEZ has acquired an intimate appreciation for the sea by earning his livelihood as a scuba diving guide, commercial lobster fisherman, and sport fishing operator since he arrived on Isla at age twelve. John Vater also learned to love the sea while growing up in Massachusetts, the bayous of Louisiana, and later serving in the U.S. Navy. Even now, as a busy fashion photographer and entrepreneur in New York, he keeps his boat close by, the Ceviche I (named for John’s favorite Isla Mujeres seafood specialty). The two seamen met by chance during John’s first sport fishing excursion to the Yucatan in 1988, and both men agreed, “We clicked immediately.” Unfortunately, Hurricane Gilberto struck the very next day, separating the friends for two years. Since then, they have fished together several times a year, enjoying the abundant resources in the waters of Isla Mujeres. John also studied Spanish so he and his wife Adriana, a native of Colombia, could enjoy days with Cuco and his wife Elena among their close-knit family and the vibrant community of Isla Mujeres.


WHEN JOHN RETURNED to Isla Mujeres after Hurricane Wilma in 2005, he saw the damage Cuco’s boat had suffered, and the two friends began dreaming about building a better-equipped boat that would allow Cuco to compete for a share of the sport fishing and whale shark tourism. In November 2006, Cuco picked up his 29-foot bare fiberglass hull in Cancun, plus two new 60-hp motors. During the following three months, Cuco and twelve talented Isleño craftsmen proved their ingenuity acquired from years of working within the limited resources of a tiny island. Meanwhile, John helped from New York by sending innovative design suggestions. Their creative collaboration results in a beautiful, 100% original craft custom-made right on Isla Mujeres.


IN MARCH, JOHN AND ADRIANA arrived to join Cuco and friends for the finishing touches and to be on board for the launching. “Science proves that destructive hurricanes are also known to generate new life beneficial to the marine habitat,” John reflects. “It was auspicious that our friendship began just before hurricane Gilberto in 1988, and our collaboration on the Ceviche II was born out of the damage caused by hurricane Wilma seventeen years later. I am pleased to report that our friendship is stronger than ever. So, no more hurricanes, please!”

As seen in

Long Island Business News

National Geographic

3 News NZ / Newshub.

San Francisco Chronicle 

Village Connection Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine

Terra Brasil

Huffington Post Travel

Dove Viaggi


Ceviche Tours was founded to provide Sustainable Eco-Tourism Services. We have a real Love for the Marine Environment that surrounds Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy. This fragile Reef environment is part of the second-largest barrier reef on the planet. Through Education and Photo Identification efforts, it is our goal to be part of a World Wide effort to protect and Preserve the Whale Sharks.

Fishing and the friendship made in Isla Mujeres La historia de dos pescadores: la amistad de Luis Refugio “Cuco“ Sanchez y John Vater en Isla Mujeres


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