Pacific Cruise 2010-11

December Logs

Sunday, December 19, 2010, Cartagena, Columbia

So here we are in South America.  It seems like it happened rather quickly but I guess it depends on one’s perspective.   If you do most of your traveling by jet plane, two months from Newburyport, MA. to Cartagena seems a bit time consuming.  From a sailing point of view though, it feels rather fast.  Take my word for it.

As we hustled through our chores in Georgetown, Great Exuma a little over two weeks ago our “Christmas in Cartagena” mantra seemed slightly daunting.  We had to keep reminding ourselves that once we got to Great Inagua, Cartagena was only a five day passage away.  And so it was. 

We left Georgetown Saturday, December 4th after a day and a half of laundry, provisioning, email and other needed chores.   Before departure we took a walk over to the Exuma Sound side of Stocking Island  to see if the seas had dropped following the front of the previous day.  All looked good.  We checked in with our friends on Sea Kite to see if they had received the forecast they needed for a shot to St. Marten.  They were a go.  We decided that we’d head out as far as Hog Island on the Back of Long Island and then have a short day to Rum Cay on Sunday.  The wind angle was tight enough that the trip to Hog was a motor sail but at least it was a brief one.  The one troubling moment of the day was when the watermaker’s saltwater feed pump died on our way out of Georgetown.  Hmmm…

After a rolly night behind Hog Cay we were off to Rum Cay for a mid-afternoon arrival.  Once at Rum we headed ashore to see what was happening in one of our favorite stopping places.  It seems that there had been some intrigue at the Marina.  Our friend George was no longer there and in his place was Roderick “Rasta” Smith.  Rasta seems to be the duty cook and bottle washer these days.   He’s a pleasant fellow who makes lovely coral carvings and wonderful Wahoo fingers.   It seemed a curious change.

Sunday night was another bumpy one on the hook.  It was more of a hobby horsing motion as opposed to a rolling one.  This is unusual for Rum which is known for its roll.  Knowing that we had to dismantle the watermaker pump we opted for a trip into the Marina on Monday morning.  We encountered three cruisers already tied up inside.  Toucan Dream, Kaos and Lamb Chop were all headed for the Turks & Caicos.

Roger spent the better part of Monday the 6th working on the feed pump.  It turns out that the pressure switch had failed.  Happily we had a replacement onboard.    Chris on Toucan Dream had taken the one week technical course that Spectra offers.  He was a handy guy to have next door in case of a crisis.  No crisis were had however.  It was a great relief to have the watermaker back up and running.  There would be no joy without it.

The transients got together aboard Kaos Monday evening to swap tales and talk weather windows.  It looked like a go for the Turks  & Caicos crowd for the following day.  It was looking like a Wednesday evening departure for us, the lone Great Inagua-bound boat.

By mid-day Tuesday Kaos and Lamb Chop were underway . Toucan Dream had decided to return to Georgetown to regroup.  Leaving Wednesday morning they would be back in Georgetown before we even left Rum Cay.  Tuesday evening we gathered on a big motor yacht called MacDaddy.  Barbara is a Texan and her husband, Andrew is half Bahamian and half Scottish.  They were great fun to spend time with.

Wednesday morning the 8th we left the marina and dropped the hook out in the harbor. From our anchorage spot we had a clear shot past the reef for our early evening departure for Great Inagua.  The wind as we left was light requiring us to motor for a while.  By morning we had a good breeze of about 10-15 knots out of the NE.  The sailing was good but the forecast for our second night wasn’t ideal.  Scattered showers and squalls.  As predicted, at three a.m. we encountered some nastiness.  We had put the genoa away so it wasn’t as unpleasant as it might have been.  The wind clocked around to the Southeast then to the Southwest and then thankfully back to the North.   The wind blew in the mid to upper twenties all Friday morning.  Lantern Head Harbor, our destination is on the Southeast corner of Great Inagua.  This worked out well for our entrance as all that North wind was now in the form of an offshore breeze.  Perfect.  Much to our amazement there was another boat at anchor.  This was the first time in three visits that we did not have the harbor to ourselves.   Alas…  We napped and had a big salad for dinner.

On Saturday the 11th we downloaded weather files and checked in with Chris Parker to make a decision about a departure timeframe for the passage to Cartagena, 670 miles to the South.  It looked like Sunday afternoon was the beginning of our window.  It was time to make a lasagna+.

Saturday and Sunday were prep days.  Roger messed with the wind vane and set up fore and aft guys for the whisker pole while I cooked.  At mid-day on Sunday we had a visit from the Bahamian Royal Defense Force.  They arrived in a very large cigarette-type boat.   They didn’t want to see our papers, just to check and see if we were in any trouble.  All is great we said.  “How fast does that thing go?”  Roger asked.  The Bahamians just smiled and said “Fast”.  We had an early dinner of Shrimp & Linguine, tidied up and pulled the anchor.  Cartagena here we come.

This passage provided us with the best wind we’ve had for any passage this year.  Only the first night involved any motoring.  By Monday morning the 13th we had passed gently through the often nasty Windward Passage, coming within six miles of Pte. Maisi, on the eastern coast of Cuba.   There was much shipping to be watched in this relatively slim passage.  Ships heading to and from the Panama Canal often head through this pinch point.  By Monday noon a front was predicted so we were on track to get wind but no nasty Windward Passage seas.  By afternoon the wind had clocked and after a longer than necessary dose of Southwest wind we had 15-20 knots out of the Northwest.  Nice.

Monday night was a windy one with 25 gusting 30 knots.  We went from having the main with one reef plus a genoa on Monday to having a main with two reefs and a staysail on Tuesday.  Tuesday started out sunny but was soon cloud covered.  The seas were eight feet and lumpy but the boat was riding well. 

The wind dropped through the night Tuesday and by Wednesday morning we had all reefs out and 15-20 knots still out of the Northwest.  By noon it was down to 10-15 knots and we poled out the genoa.  We saw a tropic bird in the morning.  By noon we had 276 miles to go.

We were joined Wednesday afternoon by a new crewmember.  Lurch, an egret, proved pleasant enough.  He was a quiet sort but rather skill-free in the sail handling department.  Did he believe we were headed in his direction?  Did he care?  He wasn't saying.

Thursday morning dawned bright and sunny with Lurch still in residence.  The wind clocked as we passed through a trof.  We had hoped that it would remain out of  its recent angle of 060 but sadly it continued to shift to the southeast.  The breeze was 10-15 knots.  With the full main and genoa we were moving along at 5-6 knots.  As of noon Thursday we had 145 miles to go to Cartagena.  Lurch headed off under his own power in early afternoon.  I continued to make headway in The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal by David McCullough.

Thursday night found us sailing downwind off the coast of Columbia.  Sounds easy but it was a long night.  We were making constant adjustments to the sail trim to try to avoid getting too close to nasty coastal things.  Coasts are so troublesome.  Roger managed to stub his toe on something but didn’t realize it till we noticed blood everywhere.   The wind blew 20-25 knots till morning.  By mid-day Friday the 17th we were within ten miles of Cartagena.  We were contacted by the Cartagena Port Control who wanted to tell us we were entering a dangerous pipeline area.  We had some difficulty with the communication of the latitude/longitude particulars but seem to have avoided catastrophe despite ourselves.  Shortly before crossing over the submerged wall that protects the Boca Grande entrance to Cartagena we were joined by an amazing number of dragonflies.  It was the most unusual greeting we have ever received upon entering a port.  We took it as a good sign.  Welcome to Cartagena.


For those of you non-sailors following along, your patience is being rewarded.  This is your log entry free of sailing.  If you are interested in just the sailing bits you might want to wait for the next entry.


Saturday, December 18th, Cartagena de Indias, Columbia

My birthday.   Last year Grenada.  This year Columbia.  I have no complaints.

 We started the day by decanting the dinghy from the foredeck and removing the dead flying fish from its shadow.  After locating the dinghy dock at Club Nautico we chatted with Paola, our “agent” for checking in to Columbia.  All was in process and we were free to move about the Country.

We met John, the dockmaster, and got a rundown of  Marina services.  John is a font of wisdom with the patience of a saint.  According to people we have met, Club Nautico, Cartagena’s cruiser’s central, has gone through many ups and downs over the years.   I gather that it is currently in one of its down periods.    Where the Marina’s restaurant once stood there is now just a concrete pad with the occasional tarp strung above to provide modest shade and  protection from passing rain showers.  There are the ubiquitous resin chairs and several picnic tables.  Women selling fruit make their way around deflated dinghies and mysterious piles of detritus.  You can tie up at the Marina docks for fifty cents per foot, have internet access and get your laundry done for an amazingly good price.    There is a morning net offered by resident cruisers to help you get oriented  as well as frequent cocktail gatherings on the concrete pad.

Having not been ashore since Rum Cay ten days previously we were ready for a walk.  We made our way into the Marina’s Isla Manga neighborhood, feeling pleasantly overwhelmed by the exotic sights, the heat and the ever present music that fills the air.  We located Carulla, the supermarket mentioned in the  Marina’s handbook and went in to experience its AC.  Ahhh.  We ordered two mystery juices from the café and watched the locals do their grocery shopping. 

Saturday evening found us on the hunt for a restaurant to celebrate my birthday.  The two places in walking distance which had been recommended were both closed for private parties so we decided that it was as good a time as any to make our way into the “Old City.”  The old city of Cartagena, also known as the walled city, is quite spectacular.  It has been around since the sixteenth century and it is a wonderful place to wander.  As the cab sped us toward the old city we frantically scanned our Lonely Planet Guide to find an actual destination.   La Cevicheria, in the San Diego neighborhood, was where we wound up.  The restaurant is located opposite a large church and down the street  from the Plaza de San Diego.  It has a row of tables on the sidewalk and three or four more inside.  As you might suspect it is known for its ceviche.  The atmosphere was wonderful and the food was good, though I’m not sure what we ate.  The street was alive with activity.  A wedding party made its way from the church to the park, a mime was engaging passersby, and hawkers were trying to offload a wide variety of goods. Horse drawn carriages and the ever prevalent taxis squeezed down what was left of the navigable roadway.  It was a terrific way to start our visit to Cartagena.  We were back at the boat by midnight.

Sunday December 19th /Monday December 20th, Cartagena, Columbia

For the next few days it was catch up.  Catch up on chores, log, laundry, etc.  On Sunday we caught up with Morgan who had arrived on Saturday.  We met the crew of Morgan last winter in Dominica.    It was good to have a chance to chat with Sharda & Dave before they (and many other boats) departed for Chalon to spend Christmas.  We spent Sunday evening meeting an array of interesting folks at the weekly Marina BBQ .  All in all a busy few days.  

 Tuesday December21st, Cartagena, Columbia

Tuesday was “Tour the sites of the Old City” day.   First, though, we needed to buy our bus tickets to Medellin.  Since it was the Christmas holidays we thought it made some sense to buy our tickets in advance so we wouldn’t be trapped in Cartagena while our room awaited us in Medellin.  The family on Toucan, a Prout catamaran, had just returned from an inland trip and they had recommended 61 Prado, a guesthouse, which we  booked.  After a long and circuitous round trip to the Terminal de Transporte on the fringes of the City we were equipped with reserved seats for our thirteen hour bus trip the following night.

The “Tour of the sites of the Old City” included, for us, the Naval Museum, the Cathedral, Plaza de la Aduana, Plaza Bolivar, a walk on a portion of Las Murallas, the walls which surround the City, and lots of people watching.  The taxi driver who had taken us to the bus station also drove us up to the Convento de la Popa (convent on a hill overlooking the City) and by the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas (the largest fort ever built by the Spanish in the Americas, never taken). We ate empanadas at a stand up counter in Centro and quenched our thirst under an umbrella overlooking the Plaza de San Diego.  After a full day of wandering around the City we meandered slowly all the way home.

Wednesday, December 22nd, Cartagena, Columbia

Today we moved the boat into the Marina for safekeeping while we travel inland.  The process of tying up at the Club Nautico dock was a new one for us.  I suppose as we make our way further from the floating docks and handy cleats of New England it will seem no more unusual than others we’ll surely encounter.  The first new thing for us was the divers.  You pull into (either bow or stern to) a spot.   The divers appear off the outer end of your boat, be it bow or stern,  and you accept the dripping lines offered from below.  Meanwhile a nice person on the dock takes your two inner lines and secures you to a couple of bollards.  The setup works quite well as long as you remember to offset your mast/rig from the boats abeam of you.  After a REALLY BIG wake reminded us (in the form of several loud bangs we heard/felt)  to offset our mast/rig, we were properly tied up for our time away.   Now it was off to the Terminal de Transporte for our night bus to Medellin.

We arrived at the bus station at seven p.m. for our seven-thirty departure.  At seven-forty-five the waiting passengers were all gently patted down and sent aboard.  We were on the road by eight p.m. 

We had been warned by John, the dockmaster, and the Toucan family that the buses tended to be on the chilly side.  Indeed.  If you have any plans of taking a Columbian bus anytime soon bring a hat and socks.  We had also been warned that the roads had suffered from flooding due to recent heavy rains.  The woman we talked to at the tourist information booth said that we’d undoubtedly make our destination but perhaps it might take longer than advertised…say, sixteen hours instead of thirteen.  Hmm…   

Thursday, December 23rd, Medellin, Columbia

The buses we took played lots of movies.  Much to our amazement the first movie of the trip was called “The Town.” It was about bank robbers from Charlestown, MA., starring Ben Affleck.     What are the odds of that?  We got the gist of the movie despite its being dubbed in Spanish.  The rest of the night we huddled together, snoozing and listening to Spanish music coming from the bus’s stereo system.  The morning movie involved a great deal of fist fighting.  After a stop for breakfast, the bus arrived in Medellin only a half hour late.  We took a taxi to our guesthouse, met the owner, Luc, and headed to our room for a horizontal nap.

Thursday afternoon we roused ourselves for a walk.  We made our way from the guesthouse to Parque de Bolivar (our second Park Bolivar in as many days) and the Catedral Metropolitana.  From there we walked south on Pasaje Junin which is a pedestrian walkway with “shops.”  It’s an “unsanitized” view of the City center according to Lonely Planet.  It was definitely hopping.  After a stop at Parque Berrio where there are sculptures by Betancur and Botero we headed back towards our guesthouse in Prado, passing the Plazoleta de las Esculturas, home to many Botero sculptures, and the Museo de Antioquia on the way.  It was in front of the Museo de Antioquia that we met Victor Moreno, “Tourist Guide”, according to his card.  He had suffered an injury some years ago and had decided to take up English and give tours.  He seems to have memorized a book entitled “Great Cities of the United States.”  He asked us where we were from and proceeded to recite the poem about “Boston, home of the bean and the cod…”  It was absolutely worth a few bucks.

Friday, December 24th, Medellin, Columbia

It was Christmas Eve in Medellin.  We decided to take a bus tour with a company called Turibus.  After finding a tour that had an English speaking guide we were good to go.  Our fellow riders were a friendly lot.  They were mostly from other areas of Columbia with a smattering of Venezuelans.  We chatted with them about the current political situation in Venezuela and about life in Medellin since the demise of Pablo Escobar, drug kingpin.  Jorge, our guide, was a nice fellow who helped us learn about a number of sights.  Our first stop was the Parque de Deseos where there are free concerts and a cool sun dial.  We made a trip to “Barefoot Park” which was rather interesting.  You take your shoes off and walk through a bamboo “forest”, across  a lawn, over some pebbles and finish up by soaking your feet in a bubbling Jacuzzi-like fountain with the rest of the park visitors.   From there we headed to Pueblito Paisa which is a replica of an early settler’s town.  It’s not somewhere we would have gone but for the tour.  There was however, a good overlook to take City photos from.  The tour ended in the neighborhood of El Poblado, the swank southern end of the City.  After a bit of a search we stumbled on a restaurant for an early Christmas Eve dinner.  We had had trouble finding a restaurant near our guesthouse the previous night so we decided we’d better eat while the eating was good.  The restaurant, El Zocalo, on Carrera 43B, was gourmet Mexican.  I have to say it was the best meal I have had in Columbia.  The house specialty is the way to go.  I can’t describe exactly what it was other than meat wrapped in a tortilla of sorts.  It was wonderful, as was the shrimp appetizer.   After a few glasses of wine we were ready to make our first subway trip.  It is a fairly straightforward Metro.  One look at the map and the purchase of two tickets got us home in no time at all.

Saturday, December 25th, Medellin, Columbia

At the suggestion of the folks on Toucan, and Jonathan, an American who lives at the guesthouse, we made our way to the Metro on Christmas morning for a trip to Park Arvi.  This, despite a long and amazing night of “fireworks” on Christmas Eve.  When I say fireworks I actually mean firecrackers for the most part, with the occasional lights thrown in for good measure.  We had been hearing firecrackers intermittently since we arrived in the City on Thursday.  At first we thought they were gunshots.  Silly Americans.  By Christmas Eve it was unceasing sound.  If only half the households in Medellin set off one firecracker, that works out to 1.25 million firecrackers.  I suspect far fewer households participate but each has a whole bucket full.  The noise was amazing.  It went on in earnest from sunset till almost daybreak on Christmas.  No one said “how about them fireworks” the next morning.  Jonathan keeps his overhead fan on and didn’t hear a thing.  It was most amazing. 

At any rate the trip to Park Arvi was very enjoyable.  The most enjoyable part of the trip was the Metrocable ride.  In 2004 the City opened a set of cable cars that ascend the hills in the very poor neighborhoods northeast of town.  Prior to the cable cars, it took residents several hours to get from the hills into the city to their jobs.  Now they can make the trip in forty-five minutes.   The ride is very dramatic.  You are suspended just above some very poor places.  Also added recently to this neighborhood, Santo Domingo, is a spectacular library called “The Spanish Library”  It offers access to books and computers where there was no access previously.  Once you reach Santo Domingo you transfer to the Park Arvi Cable Cars.  The view of the forest below is such a change from the Santo Domingo neighborhood it’s amazing.  We didn’t spend long at the park since we were both nursing blisters but it was well worth the trip.  After our tour we took the Metro back south to find Christmas dinner.  Since El Poblado seemed to be where tourists would hang out we thought it was our best bet.  After a false start at a Mexican chain restaurant  we stumbled on a Steak House.  Just the ticket.  We waddled back to the Metro by five p.m.

Sunday December 26th, Medellin, Columbia

We spent the morning exploring the Museo de Antioquia.  They provide English audio tours which was great for us.  The museum is really quite good.  They offer a broad overview of the history and development of Columbian art,  housed in a wonderful art deco building.  The artist Fernando Botero, famous for his “voluminous” (some say fat) subjects is a native of Medellin.  He has done a lot for the City in the form of sculpture and painting donations.  When he offered the Museum a huge donation of works in the early 21st century the Museum had to relocate to its current space to accommodate it all.  In addition to his own works, Botero donated a variety of works from his personal collection of modern art.    It was a great visit.  Sunday night we didn’t have the energy to truck out for dinner so we ate cheese and bread and drank wine on the roof of our guesthouse.  It’s back to Cartagena in the morning.

Monday, December 27th, Cartagena, Columbia

We left 61 Prado at five-thirty a.m.  and found a taxi just outside our door. We were at the Terminal de Transporte del Norte by five-forty-five.  We had wonderful, freshly squeezed orange juice and a scary pastry for breakfast.  The bus left on time at six- thirty.  We had decided that if we were going to see the countryside it made sense to take the day bus.  And see the countryside we did.  We went from the  Mountains down to riverside villages and on to Brahma bull- covered ranchlands.  It was amazingly diverse and worth the trip.  The down side about the day bus, at least to me, is that there is a never ending series of movies.  It was almost better that they were all dubbed in Spanish so you could at least ignore them.  The trip started with an Adam Sandler movie called “Grown-ups”, filmed in Essex MA.  From there we went on to Morgan Freeman and Antonio Banderas in jewelry heist film.  Next up was Renee Zellweger (sp?) in a horror movie about a tormented social worker.  The fourth film was horrid and involved people I didn’t know exploding left and right.  It was followed by what may have been a Cuban comedy film.  At any rate, after a stop for lunch  (where they thought you might be interested in buying a dozen fish on a string) we made it back to Cartagena, some fifteen hours later.   We were ready to be sailors again.

So there you have it, our vacation travelogue.  Stay tuned for our next entry which should include significantly more sailing.

Tuesday, December 28th, Cartagena

Today we moved out of the Marina and back to the anchorage.  This involved two divers untying lines and a guy in a dinghy hauling us backwards out of the fairway.  This towing feature avoids your having to put the engine in gear till you are clear of all the lurking mooring lines.  A pretty smart approach all in all.  It was good to be back out in the open with the breezes.

Thursday, December 30th, Cartagena

This morning I cranked Roger up the mast (twice) so he could free the halyard we managed to jam at the masthead sheave the previous evening as we lifted the dinghy out of harm’s way.   A full complement of tools was required to free the clog but success was gained in the end.  There was very little bloodshed and only moderate bruising sustained by the Captain as he thrashed back and forth with each passing wake.   At noon we brought our paperwork in to Paola to start our Columbian checkout process.  With luck we can leave Cartagena by Saturday.

Friday, December 31st, Cartagena

 As I walked around the Old City this morning I watched as luxurious outdoor dining arrangements were being set up in many of the Plazas.  New Years Eve would be celebrated in style by a number of the locals.  This was my first all girl outing in a while so I made the most of it.  I wandered through several boutiques and had lunch (with a glass of wine) while watching people wander by.  For some reason it took an hour and a half for the lunch process so I was very glad Roger wasn’t in attendance.  I ambled back to the boat by mid-afternoon with yet another souvenir bathing suit.  We made a trip to the supermarket to procure the makings for New Years Eve dinner and came away with filet mignon and cauliflower. Paola turned up shortly before the bewitching hour bearing our Zarpe.  Talk about service.  At midnight there were fireworks over the Old City, accompanied by the bellow of ship’s horns and police sirens.   Welcome to 2011.

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