Posts Tagged Colombia

Sapzurro, Colombia - Bitter Sweet

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

As detailed in one of our previous posts we had some difficulty checking in to Colombia. Not from paperwork issues but from knowledge issues.  Since then I’ve sent all the info to Noonsite so they could update their ports of entry in Colombia. Sapzurro wasn’t listed on their site  but we knew from local knowledge that we could enter and exit Colombia here.

Tied to Shore

Tied to Shore

Successfully cleared in now we moved the boat closer to shore and out of the surge. Surge in harbors can end up causing the boat to roll back and forth making living aboard difficult and living with W/ close to impossible. We upped anchor and squeezed in between a local Catamaran and a back packer boat named Esmeralda.  Once we had the anchor down we dug some spare lines out of the bilge, tied them together and ran it to shore tying it to a tree. Thus,  any surge in the harbor would simply make us pitch a bit (bow to stern) and reduce the roll to almost zero.  However there is a downside to this arrangement.

W/and I HATE bugs.  No See Um’s and Mosquitoes are not prone to increasing anyone’s marital harmony. This close to shore we were now needing to fight the bugs with a physical impediment and  so we put up screens which by the way also reduces air flow. A reduced air flow means hotter nights. Yuck! We fought having to put up screens as long as possible; however the No See Um’s were munching on W/ like she was an all night diner.  The bites alone weren’t enough to drive her insane but there seemed to be some left over effect that during the day she was constantly itchy. So we did three things, we switched soaps wondering if the bugs didn’t just like the soap she was washing with and her skin chemistry, we setup the screens up earlier and we lit a Citrenalla candle inside before we put the screens up.  The three pronged attack seemed to be working and we were surviving in this harbor and ready to enjoy the village.

Going ashore caused me constant consternation. I’m not one for walking beaches. The almost  microscopic sand seems to find places in my hairy legs (yes I don’t shave my legs not being that Urbane)  and I simply abhor getting sand on the boat. However, we either rowed the hard dinghy to the town; a long way away, or we walked the beach. We like walking more then rowing so the beach was it. There we met Jorge  who is a local legend; writer and teacher at the cultural center. He is basically retired but one would never know it. He speaks English (lucky us) and was the Colombian Consulate at their embassy in Panama. We shared many visits with him gathering the things to do and the people to see and the places to go; places to get food, and remember this is Dave and Wendy, so principally it was the places to eat. Finally, we would have something more then Coconut Rice and fried something!

Waterfall, Sapzurro, Colombia

Waterfall, Sapzurro, Colombia

Additionally there were four hikes one could take; over the mountain to Capurgana, to a waterfall, to the Western most point of the harbor and over the Western mountain into Panama and the Beach Miel.  As for restaurants there are half a dozen or so and the best is out by the point.  Basic fare is Fried Red Snapper with rice and salad (not much different than in Kuna Yala but it was much tastier) and then shrimp or  Ceviche. We tried most all the restaurants. :)

Ironically; while there are no vehicles in Sapzurro, mostly no roads but wide walk ways, no planes or trains, there is 3G phone service. That means we can communicate with the outside world. After anchoring one of the first things we did was to see about getting a new SIM card. That purchased we then found a place to eat.

Food often being the number one priority; especially of anyone over 30 we sat down at a restaurant where we saw what looked to have some tasty fare. We watched what another customer had just received and when we tried to order we said “That one!”  But as in many small towns we were no longer in a place where service people cater to the

Best Value across from Mystic Roots

Best Value across from Mystic Roots

international tourist. Spanish was the language of the day and discovering what was on the Menu (they didn’t have a physical menu) was tantamount to W/ hitting a 150 mph serve in tennis.  We waited, and tried and waited and finally when the wait staff actually seemed to tire of us we got lucky. The waitress actually asked if someone else in the restaurant could speak English and help. A young college girl (Carolina) offered and she helped make our day. We ordered and Carolina was concerned enough to check and make sure all was well and make sure we knew how much the meal was.  40,000 pesos.  (Rate was 1,750/ US dollar).  We left stuffed. W/ left half her fish.  We left thankful for people like Carolina. We could have easily split one meal. I don’t know if we’re actually eating that much less or if they’re simply serving that much more.

Satisfied we returned to the boat to discover that the SIM card needs to have more money added so we can subscribe to the Data Plan. Back to town… tomorrow. Now we read, rest, read, rest, repeat.

Eventually we get the SIM card working and now have internet only to discover that on the dongle it’s EDGE and the iPhone 3g. So I spend time getting the phone to act as a hotspot; 3g is many times faster then EDGE and eventually I sort it all out. And what we see when the internet is all sorted is we have weather coming.  Specifically rain.  In all the 30 some odd days we hung out here I’m guessing we had half  the days with rain stretching all the way from a drizzle to  a frog strangler.

Wendy Bailing the Dinghy

Wendy Bailing the Dinghy

Therein we were able to read to our hearts content. After about two weeks here we had two straight days of rain, yeah, it was off and on some but mostly on. This  provided us with a spectacular breach in the beach.  We had had so much rain the night before that the marsh area behind the beach filled up with water leaving the beach to act as a filter and dam, cleaning the fresh water as it made it’s way to the bay and holding back the excess. As we were having breakfast we heard this sudden sound of a waterfall. W/ can’t let any change in noise go unnoticed so she sticks her head out of the companionway and says “Oh my God!”.  She rarely ever say’s something calmly like “Dave, you have to see the water coming across the beach”. Immediately I rise to look and see if we’re alright

Start of the Beach Breach

Start of the Beach Breach

believing that there may well be a wall of water approaching the boat and we have to cut the lines and leave now. Instead I see a break in the beach. The break is close to where we’ve tied the line shore and Jorge has wandered over to take a look. He signals us to move a bit farther off  as the water is pulling a great deal of sand with it and we’re not really interested in being surrounded by sand and stuck aground. I let out some more of the line that holds us to the shore and we move another 50′ away.  The breach continues on for an hour or so and then the following several days water continues to trickle out. The light wave action begins to build the damn back up. Jorge indicated that this actually happens several times a year.

Jorge Checking out the Breach

Jorge Checking out the Breach

We find a break in the weather and decided to stroll to the waterfall. At one time the fall was much more active but now the town plumbs to the lake behind it and removes water for their use. However; we did enjoy the falls; after all the rain there was some activity there and the cool water was pleasant  to walk in,  small fish were swimming in the pools immediately below the falls. I wish I had a net and small bowl. I would  like to have seen the fish, see if I could have identified any of them as similar to those we sold in our pet store years ago. Fighting bugs we quickly made way back to town and to try out a new restaurant.

Carlos Enrique Fish Ceviche

Carlos Enrique Fish Ceviche

A short walk from town  we go to the  Carlos Enrique Giraldo Garbner restaurant. It  is said to be the nicest restaurant there and indeed IMHO it was. We each had a guava drink, and salad, while my main course was  Fish Ceviche and W/ had Snapper in a Mango Sauce.  Our cost was 50,000 Pesos. We were the only ones at the restaurant. Luckily we had waited till after the Easter festivities. There didn’t appear much in the way of

Carlos Enrique's Mango Snapper

Carlos Enrique's Mango Snapper

religious celebrations but the town was hopping with hikers, campers and tourists in general. Mostly during that time we hung on the boat. For us the worst part of the holiday was the constant LOUD music played over any number of the speakers at the waterfront. Fortunately, by midnight and 3 am respectively the music stopped and we were able to find some rest. We found the best value restaurant acroos from the Mystic Roots, a hidden place between town and the beach on the west side. We found the most interesting fare at an new place on the East side of town where you could get Pizza’s, Hamburgers and Lasgana of all things.  The pizza we had twice!

Colombian Pizza

Colombian Pizza

We walked the beach, taste tested many of the restaurants, and did some small boat projects for most of the month. Shortly after we had had enough we went to check out of the country. Jorge had helped arrange a launcha to take us around to Capurgana at 7 am and there we could check out and then make our way back to Panama. What should be easy never is.

We arrived in Capurgana early in the am and went to check out when Immigration opened. The sign said 9 so we found a small place for breakfast and had a bite.  Chasing the bugs, cats and dogs away from our food we finished and then meandered back to Immigration to be informed that they were open but couldn’t do anything, no electricity!  When will they have electricity? Maybe 11 or 12. We walk some more. We cover most of the town’s streets and find a nice Hotel / Restaurant ( Las Mananitas ) on the waterfront where we sit and have a couple of fruit drinks. About noon now we wander back to Immigration and they now say the electric will be on at 2!  Dealing with elastic time in the Caribbean can become quite a challenge.  We wander some more, eat lunch at another restaurant and thankfully they exchange some pesos for dollars as we’re just about out of Colombian money. We hadn’t  planned on being here all day and needed 30,000 pesos to pay for the launch to return to the boat.  Well feed, overstuffed actually, and with a lack of burning any real calories we waited some more  for 2 pm to roll around.  We soon find our selves back at immigration near 2 and are now 3rd and 4th in line.  Ok, wait some more.  Two o’clock rolls around and viola, shortly there after they have power! Finally,  hopefully, we figure we will indeed get the paper work completed and  head back to Panama.

A few minutes later the Immigration Officer comes out and says “The computers are not working, it will be at least another hour!”

As time passes we’re getting more and more depressed. We’re wondering if we’ll have to return another day. Our launch was suppose to leave at 2. We spoke with the owner in our broken Spanish and he understood it should be by 3. He said “No Problem”. Now he wanders by the immigration office, sees us waiting and the  Immigration  Officer tells him it should be by 4. Kindly he indicates that still  it’s no problem and we wait.

By now there are about 20 people waiting for immigration to stamp passports.  We are still 3rd and 4th in line but the rules seem to change. Lines are only for those that believe in them.  Close to 3 somehow, something in the connections for the PC’s seemed to work and a cheer went up as their system finally booted.  The officer motions us forward but me being the dummy, went to let the two that were there before us go, instead, some others ran ahead.  Damn am I dumb.

W/ keeps telling me to quit worrying but I’m afraid their system might crash as well. We’ve gone from being 3 and 4, to about 6 and 7. But as I am big I make a valiant attempt to block anyone else getting in front of me.  Our turn eventually arrives and we sit down in front of the officer, he looks at our papers, scans the passport, and stamps everything related to our leaving. With much “Thanks” we leave relieved.

Back to the launch where we wait again to head back to the boat. This wait is sweet. We know we’ll get there, there is no more worries about delays. We watch as others board their launch to go to Obaldia, Panama and we eventually return to the boat. We check the weather.

Tomorrow doesn’t look good, looks like more rain, and from what I can tell it looks like more rain the following day. We prepare anyway. One day we’ll have what looks to be the weather we want.  We understand that Colombia wishes one to leave within 48 hours after receiving their clearance papers but all mariners understand weather can be an issue and to our knowledge no one has been hassled about the time spent waiting. We take the inflatable ashore and clean the bottom. We’ll tow it to our first anchorage so a clean bottom means an easier tow.

That night for some odd reason the music starts up again. It’s Tuesday night. It was loud. Some songs we know, some not. Some Latin songs, some English that are sung in Spanish, but mostly LOUD.  The rains came in the early morn and just about the same time the music shut down. Ahh….. blessed rest.  The following night we end up with the same thing. LOUD music except tonight the music has changed from Latin and POP to TechNO.  And more than that it appears that the tape is an 8 track or something like that playing  over and over and over again.  Too, it was LOUD. So loud I got a decibel meter downloaded to the iPad and found it to be on our boat as loud as the generator, 70-80 decibels. It was LOUD enough that on the other end of the harbor where we were it would rattle some of the locker doors!  Not only that it didn’t stop at 3 am, it went on, till 4, then till 5, then till 6 then…..  . W/ and I decided even if it rained we had to go.

By 7 am the music was still reverberating in  the harbor and we had pulled in our line from shore, upped anchor and were heading out of the harbor. Not till we were around the headlands did we stop hearing the noise. By now it was no longer music for us. Fortunately we had a day without rain but also a day without wind. We motored to Puerto Escoses. There, there was no music, no restaurants, no town and a peaceful night of blessed sleep.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Gordian Knot

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

A Gordian knot is  to be  knot so intricate that there is only one way to untie it and alas that too is next to impossible. Well, we tried for the impossible and we were thwarted.

A Jungle Gym on Sistership

A Jungle Gym on Sistership

W/ had finally persisted enough in saying that we needed to simplify our cruising by making our boat more complex, she persisted so much that I acquiesced. :) Thus we had decided on adding a Jungle Gym (as is the apparatus hanging over the stern that is sometimes affectionately called) or more commonly referred to by sailors as an Arch. To add an Arch the best place we were willing to go was Cartegena. So we set our sites on traveling  back to Cartegena.

We contacted our SSCA resource and wanted / needed  to stay at Club de Pesca where we knew the  marina had standards and we could work with a welder  there that made a similar arch on Brudaire, and a fellow boater that had stayed at  de Pesca told us if we wanted to be there in December we needed to start now. so we set about to secure a reservation now. We emailed the Club and emailed our SSCA contact. There went by about 4 weeks of back and forth communications, information, time lines, etc. We had asked for 2 month figuring that would give us enough time to have the arch built, entertaining any of our fiends or family that wished to visit,  have my eyes checked out and possibly repaired; yeah, I’m not fond of glasses, and continue to enjoy the city.

Eventually Club de Pesca said they couldn’t give us 60 days but possibly 30. Ok, we’ll work to complete what we can, the Arch being numero uno (1)  on the list and so we waited for a confirmation.  None came for a bit  and today we receive it, or lack there of -  No.  They couldn’t confirm a reservation for us.

Well, we’re not going back to Cartegena on a wing and prayer, the bay is dirty (barnacles grow like they are on  steroids on anchor chain & boat bottoms)  and the anchorage is rolly with not the best

San Pedro Claver Church Dome

San Pedro Claver Church Dome

holding and in some places a foul bottom. Getting measurements for the arch and having it installed while at a rolling anchorage isn’t on the bucket list for the boat. The city is lovely; rich in history and beauty, and the people understanding of our attempts at Spanish and pleasant to be around;  but,  with no place to tie the boat for the work to do and what we wished to accomplish we’ve decided that the Gordian Knot in this case wasn’t going to be untied. Ironically this is  most likely the first time in my life I’ve been bummed about NOT spending lots of money.  Weird Huh?

We’ll hang out in Panama longer and maybe go through the Panama Canal earlier then we had been planning and enter the Pacific.  So expect more writing and pictures of Panama and  Kuna Yala. Cause we’ll be here  awhile longer . :)

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Playin

Friday, March 25th, 2011

We’ve left Cartagena. Gone is the breeze filled with greasy dust, gone are the sounds of the city, gone is the constant boat traffic. We had a pleasant sail 15 nm S to Chalon.

Anchored Chalon

Anchored Chalon

We’re anchored here waiting on weather to head to the San Blas Islands, about 150 miles W of here.

So while we wait we play. Robert (an ex - pat) has a house and a converted Shrimp boat that we’ve spent a couple of evenings on telling tales.

We’ve met some more cruisers that are slowly moving to Cartagena or on to the San Blas. We’ve done a little laundry as well as a few of the constant maintenance items all boats require.

And we took a walk to the town of Baru Village (for more pics look at Valentina’s site and scroll 1/2 way down).  About 4 miles distant we went with Sonny and Kay

Main Stree Baru, Colombia

Main Stree Baru, Colombia

(sv Valentina)  as our tour guides,  and two other sets of cruisers.  As we traversed the rutted rock hard road, best called a super wide path or trail; we stopped at all the establishments along the way, a small Tienda (store), two resorts (Sport Baru and Playa Scondida ), met a few of the Colombians that Sonny and Kay know, watched a dog fight (not planned), dodged all the motor cycles and eventually made it to town.

The motor cycles are the principal mode of transportation along this coast, that and boats. Chalon is really an island and to get from the island to the mainland one either takes the ferry or a water taxi. A few cars take the ferry as well as anyone with a great deal of supplies. The water taxi will take individuals for about $8 US one way and if you want to make a return trip from Cartagena you have about 2-3 hours to do your shopping or you stay overnight.

Exotic Food, Baru, Colombia

Exotic Food, Baru, Colombia

In Baru we had  a palatable dinner for W and I along with drinks for approx 11 bucks US. Then we strolled some more till we found a house that sold ice cream for 50 cents US.  We passed the school,

Chicken Arena, Baru, Colombia

Chicken Arena, Baru, Colombia

strolled by the new Chicken Fighting arena, observed that everyone does have a job in the community,  and met another local who runs a large water taxi that moves goods from and to the Rosarios (a tourist island -park) , Cartagena, Chalon, and Baru. He’s having new planks put in his boat and expects to be up and running again this month.

Lunch or Dinner?

Lunch or Dinner?

We stroll back the same road, tell more tales, we travel a little slower and I actually ended up with a blister on my right foot!  I’m not really use to wearing shoes, even tennis shoes for that long or that far.

We ended up at Jaime’s (Himey’s). He’s the caretaker of some property that a reputed drug (note: reputed) lord owned. The owner hasn’t been seen in almost a year and a half. How properties continue then to be cared for, taxes paid, and caretakers paid is beyond me. I’m guessing that the rent is free and what ever they earn off the property is theirs right now.  But Jaime and his family are pleasant and cruiser friendly. They even do laundry for cruisers should one need that service. If we stay long enough we’ll have them do our towels and sheets.

Hopefully we’ll be heading to the San Blas in a day or so. Our internet connection will be no more when we leave so blog updates will not be as frequent as they’ve been. I know I can set up the blog to read an email act that I have,  but I confess I’ve been too lazy to do that. For you and  I, I’m thinking the break will be good. I’ll write next in the San Blas if all goes to plan.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Nothing is Permanent

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

We had waited a couple of weeks to come into the marina “Club Nautico” (For a contrasting

Club Nautico Docks

Club Nautico Docks

view)  to be in what we felt was a private, quiet spot. Kite (a Valiant 42) had the spot and they were about to head out to the San Blas so we had asked John, the dock master, if we

Club Nautico - Where we don't want to be!

Club Nautico - Where we don't want to be!

could have their old spot. Sure! The following day we brought Elysium in to do some projects that were on our bottomless list.

About a week ago John had been told by Pablo (the owner’s son)  to move boats, pointing them into the wake and the Summer winds.  As we were only here for a month we had asked to remain in the slip we were in and that we had waited for and we chose. Well, we had about 4 more days there. Saturday am John said he really, really, really, needed to move us. Damn!  We didn’t want to cause as I said,  now we had less then 2 weeks left but alas he is the dock master so we moved. The new position is a little more bouncy, out on a busier dock and actually has a little more shade with our awnings.

The caveat too was that the electric was going to be out for the day as they were upgrading some wiring and so the move would be less disruptive.  Our batteries were down ( I was massaging them with a deep discharge), our refrigeration was just vacuumed and recharged - we were ready to run the DC5000 to put the chill back in and this would set us back another day. However, move we did.  Power would be restored by 4 pm; we hoped.

Yeah, Right. At about noon, John left. The rumor mill was abuzz that  he was fired, he quit, he

A typical shower at Club Nautico

A typical shower at Club Nautico

took his stuff; he owned the computer that ran the DHCP server (where you get the number from to actually get information from the internet)  and fed the AP (access points) for the internet. Very quickly things went from a pain to a persistent sore spot.

We ran or shall I say walked some errands in the afternoon and when we returned about 4 pm there was; you guessed it,  no electricity.  At six still no electricity. We went out  to grab a pizza and when we got back at 9 there was still no electricity.  There was however work still being done on the wiring so we held out hope and were blessed with power somewhere shy of 10 pm! Tomorrow we can cool things down. Hurray!

Sunday came and went and the marina didn’t care about the internet. At least those that had spoken with the owners son had discovered the indifferent attitude of youth and heard the common refrain that many of  today’s kids use “So”!

We spoke with those that had spent more time here then us. One simply suggested a wait and see attitude; one that I’m not really good at showing and others had in the past gone and purchased a USB modem from Tigo (one of the Colombian cell providers) and that works quite well. New job added to the list for Tuesday, go buy a modem.  While here in paradise amidst 1.3 million people we didn’t feel like we wanted to be disconnected from our electronic  circulatory system. We do have a cell phone but calls to friends and family from one continent to another are prohibitively expensive while Skype and email fits well within our budget. It is hard for me to imagine why the price is so different when all the technologies use the same information highway.

By Tuesday we now have the cool back in the refrigerator and the cold back in the freezer so we began our trek to the various errand destinations. We stopped at Sven’s Labratorio Electrical (Sven is a genius when it comes to component level repair) to find out what’s happening with our Xantrax Prosine 2.0 (POS that it is). The unit is not yet ready and when it is I’ll report on Sven’s comments on the product, and we walked to the mall. Yep, malls are everywhere nowadays, how can we think that a good idea will only stay in the USA.  This one is filled with stores similar to any mall in the US; a food court several cell phone kiosks, as well at the major players, a grocery store; a Home Depot style store, huge bookstore,  and a parking garage. So we find TIGO and purchase a modem, then shop a little more and we finally choose to stroll back home. On the way back we stopped at a delightful Ice Cream lunch place that has an enormous  variety of fruit Sundays. There we shower ourselves with a decadent meal and arrive back home in the early afternoon.

I ice my eyes (still participating in the therapy needed from eye surgery) and we install  the modem. Although everything (instruction and screen dialogs) are in Spanish we work our way through the screens and Whalla! We’re part of the virtual universe again.  IB and Becca stopped by for a bit to discuss the evenings planned  adventures and we lounge in the cockpit. They leave to secure a customs extension for their boat and for themselves while we hang tight.

As most cruisers are by nature nosy people, we’re not really any different. W/ likes to keep the VHF radio on and I’m not fond of all the chatter but for the most part I acquiesce. We hear on the radio that John is back!  That the differences between Pablo and him have now been ironed  out. Hurray!  All’s well with the world. There will be some order maintained here; the internet will be set back up for cruisers   (oh - now we’ll have two connections), sanity is restored and we’ll all sleep better tonight.

2,500 years ago Heraclitus said “There is nothing permanent except change”. We often forget how intelligent the philosophers of old were yet his observation still bears fruit as we travel and observe the world on the South American Continent.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Changes in (L)Atitude

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Sometimes I wonder how much effect my formative years have had on me.  Our generations  parents hated the music we  listened to. Did the music represent us or did it effect us? The song 59th Street Bridge by Simon and Garfunkel comes to mind:


Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last
Just kickin’ down the cobble-stones, lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy…

While offshore W/ and I were discussing our cruise. We were making tracks and yet the tracks were not what we had expected.  I figure  in the last year I’ve spent almost one month completing paper work for entering and leaving the various countries we’ve been to. We had planned on entering the Panama Canal this April and hitting the Pacific. At that time we would be late for the Pacific transit so we had considered the Las Perlas for a bit then moving down to Ecuador for the Hurricane Season.

But that too felt like we were rushing again. So we talked about another alternative. Staying in this area for a year and then early next year, heading through the Canal and into the Pacific. We can still hang in the Perlas Islands and still head to Ecuador if we want or we can get on the big Pacific Conveyor belt and start our trek across. Either way; we’ve decided to hang in this area till next late next winter ‘12, enjoy Colombia, Panama including the San Blas Islands. Dive, eat fish and Lobster till we get sick of them, spend time in some of the Cities, learn to speak some Spanish, and basically…Slow down…. look  for fun  - life is gro0vy.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

I’m Ready!

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

GQ (Gentlemans Quarterly) can contact me anytime. I’m ready. I’ve had my moment in cosmetic surgery and all went well.  I can’t yet show any pics, W/ won’t let me. Don’t know who she’s protecting. :)

The surgery (Upper Blepharoplasty)  was Monday.  I arrived at 8 am and had 4 attendants taking care of  me. Laying on the table with only a local anesthetic wasn’t a problem. I didn’t really feel anything. Well maybe when the Dr. peeled some of the extra skin away I felt a sting. But I don’t know if it was from the Dr.  peeling a sliver of skin from my upper eyelid  or from a local anesthetic being injected. Roughly an hour later I was up, off the table, and moving. First thing was ice. I sat in recovery for some time; how long I don’t know, and then ended up in a wheel chair on the street. W/ hailed a Taxi and home we came. I was home by about 11:30 am.

Total cost for the job  $2.3 million pesos or roughly #1,285.00 US. This fee covered the cost of the Dr., the Anesthesiologist, Nurses, any medications, a fancy pair of sunglasses (which I opted out of) and the Surgery Center. I had to get some blood work which cost roughly $55.00.  Five trips by taxi (both of us) cost $22 US.  I know a similar job in the US a few years ago cost close to 4k!  I’ll submit the cost to my insurance carrier in the US but I doubt I’ll recoup anything. Funny!  I might have been able to get something back from the insurance in the US but the cost would have been more and I’m figuring my out of pocket would have too.  And when you look at world health care rankings; the US is 37th and Colombia is 22nd (the lower the score the better the ranking) it makes for an interesting puzzle -  the cost for poorer health care (US) is greater then the cost for better health care (Colombia) !  Choosing where to take care of ourselves is I guess one of the benefits of cruising!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

20-20

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Yeah. Not anymore. When we’re at the most important stage of our life we want to be older. We want freedom. We want to go where we want and do what we want. When we get older we want to to retire. We want freedom. We want to go where we want and do what we want. We forget that our body may want to also but it too has aged. My eyes betray me. I don’t really feel any different than when I was 20. I think I can run as far, jump as high, sing as badly as I did then. But my eyes, they tell me a different story.

They were at one time 20-13 and 20- 15.  Yep, in general I could see 25% better then my those with “normal” eyes. I could walk by a student’s desk and just standing nearby read what they had written. It kept me in the loop.  My eyes could witness bad calls in tennis from across the court. I could read a bo0k of any size print from a few centimeters in front of me to arms length. My eyes adjusted. Not anymore. They’re winning the race by various parts of my anatomy  to be the  first to show real signs of  age. Some might argue my hair was a give away 30 years ago. But I don’t see my hair. I don’t feel my hair. And my hair has so little effect on what or how I do anything so I don’t count it.

We went to the Optometrist last week. She is the sweetest, nicest, cutest Dr. I’ve ever been to. Her name she said is  “Linda”  and in Spanish that means beautiful!  Aptly named. She asked me to read the eye chart putting different lenses in front of me till we came up with the right combination. Now I know my eyes are  20-30 and 20-60. She helped me pick out some glasses. They say you can look into ones soul by looking in the eyes. That gave her an advantage. She picked out some frames that the bows could be bent back 90 degrees from their correct  position. She knew how hard I was on glasses. :) Hopefully, even I won’t be able to break them!  I bought two pair with the progressive lenses.  Total cost $20 USD for the exam, and about  $420 for two pair of unbreakable glasses with progressive lens. I hear tell glasses may be a better price in Panama, but I’m feeling like I need them now.

While there we picked up a referral to another Dr. that could maybe correct a droopy eyelid.  Yeah, I hear tell I have one to0 that is finding gravity difficult to fight. Gravity seems to be winning. So I’ll look into what it takes to fight back. We’ll see.

Having good vision  is more then just knowing what you did right or wrong. More then seeing clearly. Those with vision have an obligation to provide others an opportunity to see the future. When the road ahead is full of obstacles one must warn others. When bicycling in groups we would yell “Car Up” or “Car Back” whereever one was closer to the action. In cruising we do much of that simply by chatting on the VHF, sharing stories during the evening happy hour and on the net.

Aruba was an interesting cruising place. It was a great stop over, not a great place to hang out. We spent too long there, almost a month. Getting parts in was a snap if one used Fed Ex.  Seems that in most all the islands Fed Ex is the way to go. Talking to islanders they say they don’t have any losses and Fed Ex sees to have all the paper work figured out for getting supplies through Customs.

We anchored first N of the Airport off the capital Oranjastad. It was a long dinghy ride to the Marina where there was a dinghy dock and shopping. We were partially protected by the reefs and the holding wasn’t the best. We stayed there till a N swell came around the top of the island. Then it curved all the way in to the harbor and we ended up with some breaking waves less then 100 feet in front of us ! YUCK! Time to move.

I had been watching boats move between the capital and the customs dock the last couple of days and even though there was no bouyage and the charts said “Unsurveyed” I figured there was good water there. The locals had a Yacht Club down in the area, there was a boat yard down there, and the sub that took tourists out was

A Jumbo Jet in Aruba

A Jumbo Jet in Aruba

always towed that way. So we pulled up anchor and moved to a calmer spot. After moving another 1/2 dozen boats followed us. There we were now S of the Airport (about 300 m).  The jets all day would rattle our bones and there was even one jumbo that would come once or twice a week. They never seemed to worry about yachts crossing so close to the end of the runway but with our stick flying 60′ up in the air we did. Just as we were crossing the  runway end a jet appeared overhead. We don’t move all that fast. While we looked at the path of the jets as we began our approach we didn’t see a one. But still coming in at 300 kts they cover a lotta distance while we cover very little. Fortunately for all concerned they crossed overhead without issue. We ended up anchored without issue. And we were quite relieved.

Although we now had the noise from jets daily we had given up the club noise nightly we figured that was a win. And luckily a couple of days the wind or shall I say breeze changed to out of the S and the jets switched directions and we had a quiet anchorage. But a far dinghy ride.

A dive shop just N of the airport was quite friendly (Fly and Dive) and they allowed cruisers to use their dock (on the inside) to tie up. The walk to town was boring but the savings in our dinghy fuel and time was considerable. They we so courteous that when we asked about tying up there (never assume anything - always ask) they said if we had any problems without dinghy or engine they would loan us theirs!  And since we like walking we accepted their gift many days.

The Renaissance on the other hand was not so nice. I would say; they were full of themselves. Well I need to say, the hotel / management part wasn’t. The marina staff was exceptional.  They were the drop off for our Fed Ex packages and always on the ball. They helped docking for fuel, they helped with directions, they looked for products that we needed.  When friends Passport went to stay while their family was in, the Marina put a dinghy in water to move a bow mooring ball and then assisted them getting their boat docked.  The marina staff were great. But the Renaissance proper IMHO was not.  Most marinas have showers. Here,  the showers were  the employee’s showers in the Hotel. The showers were like those found in a  primitive campground. Most marinas have a laundry. Not here. Other cruisers said you could do laundry at the Renaissance on the Time Share floors but that wasn’t really being above board. Not that we’re always above board. With Passport staying we had guest passes to the hotel and facilities so W/,  IB,  and Becca went to the Renaissance’s  Private Island.  On the island W/ had asked 2 of the personnel if I could bring our dinghy over and come to the island. They said “Yeah- as long as I had a guest pass”.  45 minutes later a security guard came by and said / asked me to leave. How did they know?  Everywhere in the Renaissance there are cameras. You don’t go anywhere without someone watching (I hope their not so invasive as to be in the restrooms!) .  So they found me; not like I was hiding; as far as I knew I was following the rules. Even with a guest pass I had to leave. The security personnel said that the only way they allowed guests to go to the island was by “their boat”. Ok,  I left. Then the security had

An Aruba Local

An Aruba Local

watched where we went, complained to the marina staff and at the marina they too said something. Hell, W/  had asked! If they had said no and I had gone then I would say shame on me, instead SHAME ON THE RENAISSANCE. The marina too (after the fact)  said “only by their boat”. OK I get it. I wish they would have let their staff know. I wouldn’t have gone then. And BTW the “private island”  isn’t anything “special”.  On the N end of Aruba there is mostly

Aruba Resort Beach

Aruba Resort Beach

beach. I think all the beaches in Aruba are splendid. But then, most all the beaches in the Caribbean have been “splendid”.

So while Aruba was a good place to get supplies, and we had a fair anchorage, it was generally an expensive touristy place that I would be wiling to visit but I just wouldn’t want to live there. Even though Aruba’s groceries were the only place since Dominica that had Diet Caffiene Free Coke !

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Dos Dia

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

The day’s going smoothly, at least it was at first. I commented to W/ that this is “Rather Pleasant”.  She likes to use that phrase and I like to joke with it. It was rather plesaant. We were moving well, ahead of our schedule and the seas were not too bad. About 2 - 3 meters. There was enough of a breeze out that the sail didn’t bang back and forth. We were able to get some small things done in keeping us alive and in keeping all things working well.

Somehow, although we’ve had some good passages, we’ve not yet had the “perfect” passage.  When we needed to make a course correction I moved back to adjust the Sail o Mat  and saw that the piece I had just installed had began to slide out. This time it would NOT have permanently entered Davie Jones’ Locker as we did have the safety line on. Time to fix.  We disconnected the wind vane and W/ took the helm. I turned the windvane sail so the oar came up the way I could work on it, using the safety line, lifted it out of the water up to horizontal and then tied it off. There I went in search of the correct Allen Wrench and set about to put the oar back in the correct spot. Since it was horizontal it was easy to slide but lining up the hole in the oar tube with the hole for the set screw was going to be more problematic.  As I had lubricated the opening the oar tube slides in, as the tube moved a little in and out the lubricant was now smeared about 3 cm up and down the tube. I couldn’t find the hole.  Luckily to align the oar tube the first time I had marked on the bottom of the tube with permanent maker where the tube sat and the center. Finding that and placing it just so; all the while I was hanging out the stern of the boat with my harness clipped in, I was able to get the set screw snugged back down.  In the manual for the sail o mat there is no mention of how much torque to apply to the set screw. Also in the manual they say to “lubricate” the set screw! IMHO this is part of the issue.  Maybe someday I should remove the lubrication, clean the threads and use a thread locking sealant.  Right now though I won’t try that. Get the screw tightened down and get the wind vane back steering the boat.  I snugged the bolt down about as much as I could hanging over the stern of the boat.  That done I lowered the oar back  into the water and we set about connecting the lines again.  W/ and I discussed now that it would be best if I checked the screw  every 4 - 6 hours. Then I could tighten the screw if it needed to be.  If it wouldn’t move after two checks then I had good confidence that it would be fine.

Back on course we’re truckin.  Things are working well and we’re beginning to settle in for the night. Just as I retire we hear a “pop”.  One of the safety doubling  lines holding the block to the windvane let go.  We use a smallish line and it’s set in the Sun all year so I figure “ok”, just replace it.  The line is the small twisted nylon line you can buy in any hardware store. I cut some more line, weaved it around the block and the control line  and hook it up. Viola!  Again the Wind vane is steering. “Pop”!  It breaks. Damn!  Ok, do it again. “Pop”! DAMN! Investigate. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me!  I discover the knots are sliding on the line and letting go. It’s hard to tie a good knot in this line. The third time I tied a square knot and immediately behind the square knot tied another square knot, hoping that if the line slid, one knot would back the other up and tighten the first.   We reconnected  the vane gear and the boat is sailing itself.  5 minute, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, good!  Looks like I’ll be able to retire; sleep, again.

Overall the night went without further event.  At midnight  I turned on our aft nav light to light up the windvane and checked the set screw at our watch change. It hadn’t moved anymore. Great.  W/ went below for some shut eye and I took over the deck.  The worst thing about the wx now was that every so often we would get slapped up the side of the boat by a wave and the spray would cover a great part of the cockpit. All things outside were getting a salt water wash. This was by no means a good thing. Salt seems to encroach on anything near by and we endeavor to keep salt off our bodies and out of the boat as much as possible.

During our passage we had been keeping a SSB contact schedule with Passport and via the grapevine;  Wind Whisperer and Kiaja’sSong,  Mostly the signal has been best with Wind Whisperer and Kiaja’sSong as Aruba is open to the direction of our trip. Passport was in Santa Marta surrounded by mountains. Gary on Kaija’sSong had said we could expect some small showers and we did get a couple of fresh water rinses. Ironically they didn’t do much to remove the salt from the boat and they didn’t seem to flatten the seas. But with our foul weather gear on they didn’t do much to either of us. We just hid in the corner by the dodger and let the showers pass.

The following day I downloaded the new GRIBs.  Each morning I download a new set of them. The forecasters are quite good at 24 hours and beyond that we’re probably better off throwing the dice.  So far each days set of GRIB’s has shown us that we would have a good passage. This morning I downloaded them to see. Oh-Oh.  The forecast for the rest of the day is 30 kts or what Meteorologist say is “Windy”.  35 mph and about 55 kph.  We were in for quite a ride.

The day wore on. As the wind would push up to the 30 kts (Force 7 ) range the seas would built to about 5 meters

They grow em big down here!

They grow em big down here!

or 15 feet. Some would roll through quite large as different wave trains would combine. The wind and the seas and the green water from Río Magdalena are what sailors call hearabouts “Green Monsters”. Some would just be awesome to watch. And W/ would say some would be down right “scary”!  The large ones would roll us first down the hill then up the back side we would go. We’d watch the water boil at the top of the waves. The wind was blowing hard enough that as the wavelets would break the wind would blow the water right off the wave.  As exciting as it was it was wearing on us. The waves were closer together and the motion was a lot of work The only really good things were that the waves weren’t associated with the explosive wind gusts found in squalls and we would be making land fall tomorrow.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Day O, Daaaay Uno

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

As we began to pull the anchor W/ said the engine sounded funny when she put the boat into gear. Up to this point she (Elysium) had purred like a kitten! We had added fuel about a week ago and when we moved her to the fuel dock and back she purred then too. How things on a boat can literally fall apart when not in use of beyond me.

Ok!  I had only pulled up half of the chain and we had been stuck for 10 days with quite a breeze blowing through the anchorage. So; feeling that we would still be stuck for 30 minutes or so I left the bow and went to investigate.  After listening  to the drive train and W/ putting the engine in gear then back out of gear I discovered that the noise was from the Shaft Lok.  I figured the set screws had worked their way loose. Find the right Allen Wrench and tighten them up (there are two) and we’ll be on our way.

Elysium, Elysium, Elysium …. you’re moving” we heard on the VHF as Kaija’sSong called us. I stuck my head up the companionway and indeed we had moved 100 m downwind. I ran forward and let out some more chain till we stopped moving.  Thanks for good cruising friends. Good, now back to the Shaft Lok.

I struggled to find the right size Allen Wrench. Although we put the lock in an  accessable place that

Is it there or is it not?

Is it there or is it not?

doesn’t mean all parts of the unit are easy to get to. After 10 minutes of struggle I came to doubt that the set screws actually were in the holes. Holding a mirror there, it was next to impossible  to twist and see so I did what any 21st century man would do; I took a picture of it. I held a camera over the spot and viola! I had the info I needed.  Oh how lucky I was, the set screws were still in the hole. Now to find the correct Allen Wrench, then get the wrench to drop into the socket to set the screws, tighten and we’ll  be on our way.

We ended up having to get the Shaft Lok manual out to find the correct size Allen Wrench. I couldn’t see the set screws and trying to feel upside down, reaching aft with one hand and trying to get the wrench to drop in was proving more difficult then ever. (Note to self:  Write on the unit the size of the Allen Wrench needed).

With the manual out we found the correct size Allen Wrench and I proceeded to match the wrench to the hole, tighten for all my twisted up mite, then switch to the other screw. The manual says to tighten to 28 ft lbs. That will have to wait till Colombia. We started the engine, checked for the noise - gone - time to go.

An hour later then when we initially started the anchor is  now up and we’re on our way out of the harbor. After saying goodbye to our friends in the anchorage we motored slowly offshore. When we hit deep water and lost our soundings we turned to about 290 degrees magnetic and rolled out the Yankee. The boat soon reached her stride and we went screaming away at about 8 - 9 kts.  Finally the water and the wind will both be at with us for this trip.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Preparation

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

We were ready. That’s what we had thought. This passage is to be one of the most difficult in the world. One circumnavigator said it was the worst passage they had had in their two entire cruises around the world.  Others report broken booms, torn sails, busted engine mounts, etc.  You can listen to all

Aruba in Protected Airport Anchorage

Aruba's Protected Airport Anchorage

the bad stories and eventually you’ll end up paralyzed with fear.  But we have a good boat for any weather and a crew that has time offshore. The boat by all accounts is ready. We received our Sailomat part in Aruba and installed it. We’ve been looking at the weather, downloading GRIB files 2 x’s / day,  downloading rain files, and looking at the satellite files of the area.  We thought we had one opportunity a few days ago but something made W/ and I not take that one.

I’ve put our track on the chart and walked through the wx each time we download a new GRIB.  Even when it’s blowing 30 kts a 100 miles out it may very well be blowing 20 kts where we’re at. For downwind sailing our boat loves 15 - 20 kts of wind. 25 isn’t all too bad and 30 isn’t much to our liking. Obviously with the more wind we have greater seas and that’s been often what other cruisers on this route talk about “Green Monsters”.

The water from the Rio Magdalena  exits on the N shore of Colombia  and turns the water green. Then with the wind and all the water piling up  against Central America you can end up with some big seas with short wave periods.  Popular literature calls these the “Green Monsters”.  Finally with the GRIBS showing us as having a good trip we planned on pulling the anchor and leaving today. I was getting concerned that we could actually get stuck in Aruba!

We missed our great opportunity of a weather window because we had to wait for our Wind Vane part that had been stuck in US Customs for 20 days!  November - early December the trades are to lighten up a bit. After that the Trade Winds are there and they’re called the “Christmas Winds”.  Trades of 30-35 kts. The Bermuda High slips S in the Winter time and squishes the normal trades between the High and the Coast of S. America narrowing the gap the trades go through. Like putting your finger on the end of a hose to increase the speed of water past your thumb, the Trade Winds now squirt through the smaller opening at a faster speed.

But the GRIB’s show the wind we want for the duration of the trip. However;  Ma Nature doesn’t read the GRIBs and with all of the meteorologists  knowledge we know that forecasting is relatively accurate for 24 hours, a little accurate for 48 and pretty hazy at 72 hours and beyond. Lets hope that the 3 days goes in our favor.

I hitched a ride to Customs and Immigration with Gary on KaijasSong. A little wet but we made it and the clearance for Cartagena, Colombia was painless. Thankfully.  While I was at the office’s  doing paper work W/ was in the boat making sure things were stowed, and the boat is ready for the sea.  When I return we’ll put the Dyer Dinghy up wait till our time and then haul up the anchor. We were looking to get under way about 1500. This would give us plenty of time to clear the island and be well at sea before the dark of day. There was no moon out on this trip.