Colombia


In June 2013, we sailed from Curacao to Cartagena. Our insurance company would allow us to stop only at Cartagena (with an extra $100 rider), so we skipped by Santa Marta and the new marina at Puerto Velero.


June 29 - Underway to Cartagena

Yesterday we checked out of Curacao, easy and pleasant process, and got a couple rides with a very charming local woman, Charlene, who took us to pick up groceries and laundry, then back to the dinghy dock. This morning the winds are already gusty in the bay, but we are heading out anyway, probably all the way to Cartagena, 4 days away, skipping next door Aruba. The gribs show moderately strong winds mid- to high 20s, and big short interval seas. I am thoroughly tired of passages and having difficulty psyching myself up for this one. I think Dave feels much the same, but is resigned to these being typical conditions - no point in waiting for anything better. At least we can stow here in the flat bay, get the pole rigged, and even raise the main before heading out into the lumpy Caribbean.


June 30 - Not so bad

Made 130 miles since Spanish Waters, Curacao, in the first day, mostly with staysail and double-reefed main as the wind was ahead of the beam until early this morning. Now we are wing-on-wing, poled-out jib. Very lumpy and lurchy seas last night on the windward side of Aruba. Today it has settled down to tolerable. Dave says we are now closer to Colombia's coast than we are to Venezuela. Nice to have that in our rear-view mirror! Though we have seen few fishing boats out this far. One down, three days to go. A bit tired, too rowdy to cook or eat meals so we just snack on apples, crackers, cup of noodles. Bfast is yoghurt and granola. Getting our sealegs again. It gets a bit easier each day.


July 1 - Rolling along

Windy overnight, gone lighter today, still wing-on-wing running downwind. Dave says the flying fish count on deck was 15! including 2 inside the cockpit. Seas laying down today. We are more than halfway to Cartagena. Fair amount of shipping running parallel, all on AIS. We called several to ask that they watch out for us when our CPA (closest point of approach) reads under a mile. Lots of lightning last night over the land to the south, but none coming close. All is well.


July 2 - a mini Hell trip

Last night a squall rolled out of the west, visible on radar. We barely had time to get the jib furled when it hit. We rode it north for an hour, then it passed by, but we had to motor to make any westing for the next few hours. Slow progress against some counter-current. Eventually the winds filled in from the right direction, then built to 30 knots, with large seas knocking us about. Dave saw 2 monsters, back to back, but none broke into the cockpit. This morning a pulley mounted for the windvane separated, and I've jury-rigged a substitute mounting, so the vane continues to do a fair job of steering even in difficult conditions. The winds are supposed to ease later today, though the seas will continue to build, due to a stronger system to the NE. Fair amount of shipping traffic, mostly coming toward us. Now the water is an opaque green from the continental rivers, and chunks of roots and logs float by. We are just off Santa Marta. This is not our ugliest passage, but one more day will be plenty!


July 3 - Cartagena! anchor down

The last day went more smoothly, winds in low 20s, seas moderating. We turned the corner and motored over the Boca Grande (big mouth) seawall, built centuries ago as a defense against pirates. The wall is just underwater, lurking to wreck any ship entering the one mile opening. Today the seawall has a buoyed pass in it. We read 10 feet crossing the wall. We sailed into the busy bay, dodging dugout canoes, cigarette boats, tour boats, tugs, a 10-meter statue of La Virgen guarding a shoal, and a few anchored freighters. At Club Nautico we motored through the crowded anchorage in several loops, trying to find a big enough hole. The winds clock around here, and we hear can blow very strong from the south in the afternoons, so it's anybody's guess which way anchors lie from their respective boats. We eventually found a decent hole. Dinghy in the water, Dave has gone off to discover how we go about clearing in. Apparently we need an agent, who will take care of everything for us. The port captain won't deal directly with small boats.

Nice to finally be here! In 1990 we were next door in Panama, with visas for Colombia, but never made it eastward against the trades.

We round Bocagrande to enter Cartagena Harbor.

The imigration office is in a lovely colonial mansion...

...with stained glass windows...

...and fancy fretwork.


July 6 - Cartagena notes

Baraka is anchored right in front of Club Nautico. Boats are med-moored to their docks. The shore facilities are very slowly being rebuilt. There is a dinghy dock - 58,000 COP per week, with a place to drop garbage and a hose for fresh water. Vladimir and Gladis are taking care of our clearance in and out, $100 USD total since we are staying less than 8 days and don't need the temporary importation permit (which would drive the price to $306). They are handling everything, though apparently we failed to obtain a zarpe from Curacao. All we must do is accompany them to the immigration office, a gorgeous colonial mansion with 30-foot ceiling, doorway fretwork, stained glass and wrought iron.

There was a pungent stink near the companionway all day. Finally discovered a flying fish had flown into the cubby where we keep bungees and rags, and was ripening, souvenir of our rowdy passage.

We walk inland 2 blocks to Carulla for cheap internet and groceries, and to drop laundry. A few blocks further on is an excellent pizza place. A half hour walk past Club de Pesca carries us over a bridge into the lovely old walled colonial city, 3-story buildings with bougainvilla-covered balconies, quite picturesque. It is unrelentingly hot. We walk down the shady side of each street. Everywhere are street vendors with carts heaped with colorful fruit. We stopped in the back of a market to be refreshed by a cold oj and a cup of chopped tropical fruits.

Baraka is a grill joint in a mall.

Cartagena has an Enoteca wine bar.

The anchorage is near an old fort.

A fruit stand sells cups of tropical fruit.

A clocktower gate leads...

...into the old walled city.

I love the tile street signs.

Everywhere vendors sell fresh fruits...

...and beautiful vegetables.

Looking up is a small feast for the eyes.

A colonial church...

...and another.

Doorway to an inviting shady courtyard.

Arcade of tourist craft shops in the old wall.

A single vine shades a block.


July 9 - On our way to Kuna Yala

Sunday we walked to Castillo San Felipe to explore ramparts and tunnels. Yesterday I again wandered through the pretty old town. Then we met Vladimir to visit immigration for our exit clearance, and Vladimir handed us our zarpe. So this morning we said goodbye to Cartagena, motored out Boca Grande, and past Boca Chica, the main shipping entrance to the harbor. A little further on, and the water color changed from muddy opaque brown to deep blue - no murky transition, just a sharp line! We headed to Cienaga de Cholon for a few hours to clean the prop, then will sail this evening toward Kuna Yala, or the San Blas Islands of Panama, 36 hours or 2 nights away.

Castillo San Felipe guarded Cartegana from frequent attacks.

Walls and guard towers are cut from coral blocks.

Bring a flashlight for the tunnels!

Cannons bristle in the crennelations.

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