Curacao to Cartagena
Having arrived in Curacao at the end of June, with a break in the UK in July, by mid October we were definitely getting itchy feet, despite having sailed to Bonaire 5 times, a round trip of about 70 nm. Each time we returned we were able to anchor in more or less in the same spot, amongst our friends, even though there were five different anchorage locations, most of them full all the time. The weather had been very mixed, sometimes with settled periods, and then we found the wind boxing the clock, with Pipistrelle swinging in all directions, or there was no wind at all.
We also made friends with Henk and Joke on Zee Vonk, a large bright yellow Dutch catamaran. Henk had been lent a car, and whilst Joke was away in California, he very kindly took us out for a day exploring Curacao. In the afternoon we visited a gallery belonging to Nina Sanchez, a very well known Curacao artist. Here we had magnificent views across a lagoon, and were also able to enjoy her art, and in particular, a room on the 1st floor, inhabited by a large number of pipistrelles!
On our final return to Spanish Water, we found our anchorage spot surrounded by a number of cruisers with seemingly uncontrollable dogs on board that barked every time a dinghy or another boat with dogs on board went by. Unusually the owners were oblivious…….., we were happy to leave.
About 10 days before departing, there was the father and mother of all thunderstorms, which passed right over Spanish Water, and us, at about 23.30. We experienced a blinding flash of lightning, instantaneous deafening thunder, amidst torrential rain. Bob was enjoying the spectacle, Elaine a bit unsure, and the alarms on Pipistrelle were set off. The following morning we discovered that our Sailor VHF had been taken out, and later that the radar set was not receiving signals from the scanner.
The VHF is an important bit of kit, and generally is in daily use talking to friends or services, so having discovered that repair was not an option, it was replaced.
Finally on the 21st October we said our farewells, and sailed north to anchor overnight in a lovely bay called Boca Santa Cruz that we had to ourselves. After Spanish Water, it was a great pleasure to have an afternoon swim in clear water.
Early next morning we set off towards Aruba, where we met our friends Jackie and Adrian on Oceans Dream, a 40 ft catamaran at the anchorage in Oranjestad just at the end of the main runway! We didn’t have time to visit any sights on the island because the weather indicated that we had 24 hours to get the laundry done, refuel and provision, before sailing to Cartagena, some 400 nm to the west.
This stretch of water is reputed to be one of the windiest on the planet, and the last time Pipistrelle had experienced it with her previous owners, part of the passage was spent ‘sailing’ under bare poles. We had decided to sail along the Colombian coast, in company with Oceans Dream and Sanctuary, with a stop at Santa Marta, before continuing our passage. The weather was boisterous, with either pleasant downwind sailing, or winds and squalls that called for a second reef in the main during the night, and either no headsail, or the staysail.
Whilst Columbia has changed from a security point of view, and is now considered to be fairly safe, we decided not to stay at anchor in Santa Marta, and our planned night ashore at Rodadero, a nearby holiday resort, came to nothing as our water transport was otherwise engaged (Oceans Dream had a generator problem!). But after the 48 hour passage, we were glad of a day or two to recover.
From Rodadero we set off before dawn and having taken in the vast sprawling port and city of Barranquilla through binoculars we crossed the mouth of the Rio Magdalena some 10 nm off to avoid strong currents and confused seas. This stretch took us 24 hours with variable winds and much lighter conditions than the first leg.
We arrived at ‘Boca Chica’ the main entrance to Cartagena harbour at 04.15, and finally anchored just off the Club Nautico at 05.45.
Cartagena was founded in 1533, and became an important port from which galleons shipped gold back to Spain. Sir Francis Drake sacked the port in 1586, and agreed not to level the town, in return for a ransom of 10 million pesos, a huge sum in those days. Today the city has an old town, that oozes atmosphere, is vibrant, and is divided into areas of shopping selling textiles, shoes, flowers and jewellery, with emeralds being one of the most sought after stones in the country. 50% of the world’s production is mined in Columbia, and its impact on the country is not so different from cocaine and heroin. The restaurants in the city offer incredible value, and from an enjoyment point of view we rate the city higher than Cadiz which was wonderful. 2000 police patrol the old town alone, and security is good.
More about Halloween, Independence Day and our adventures in the city in the next blog!
Hasta la Vista!