January 3, 2011

1997: Twenty Days on the Colombian Coast

Every so often I try to organize my “desk.” It’s defined as a corner of the dinette, but over time spreads out: a file box here, accordion folder there, slim cardboard box covered with adhesive paper, a few books restricted by the distance between the wall and the window, stacks of AAA books and State Welcome Center brochures. And various containers stuffed with ‘to do’ notes on different colored paper scraps. It’s ugly, or I’d show you. At long intervals I say, “Enough!” go through it all, pitch and rearrange. It’s day three, and I’m just about done.

Along the way I found a few pages torn from a tiny 1997 pocket calendar and covered with very small pencil notes! I decided to type it up pretty much as is. Ah, memories of life on the hook…

Cartagena Club Nautico, and a group of cruisers planning their spring exodus. 

269 Carag G&C Club Nautico

269 Cartag Club Nautico 1196 






299 Col Cart Chart Pty 95

Fri, April 18 1997: Depart Cartagena to Playa Blanca anchorage. It’s wonderfully relaxed and calming to have the hook down in an anchorage again. Schedules, chore list & stress disappear! It’s limpid clear, brain corals below are mustard gold. An hour later the wind is up, in another hour we drag! Lifting and resetting the hook is automatic…but we have to set it a second time! We drag back yet again and the chain catches in coral. It’s secure. We feel guilty.

301 Islas del RosarioSat, April 19: We move to Isla Cebolita, in Islas Rosarios. It’s just a two hour early morning hop, the anchorage is pretty and calm, not far off the low island in white sand. By 11:00 the breeze is 15 knots; 1:00 18 knots, 2:00 21 knots. It’s steady, though, and calm in the lee of the island in spite of a light chop, and comfortably cool. It blows steady till 3 am!



Sun, April 20: To west side Isla Grande. Anchor in sand patch among rocks. I dive to check the hook and discover the rocks are HUGE brain coral heads! We didn’t realize how deep it was! [note: our depth sounder works only intermittently…no place to get it fixed] Lazy day, kitchen work, ate cake.

Mon April 21 to Aquarium (Oceanareo) anchorage in flat seas, occasional sprinkle, creeping between stakes marking narrow passage between rocks to “bay.” The size surprises us! Circle to examine depths and pick 30’ area, scattered islets/houses around. We mistook the Aquarium building at first. Reconnoitered after 3:30 – a wonderful place, Nancy from Florida visiting to arrange release of two porpoise in Gulf of Darien. Saw nurse sharks being fed.

302 Col Rosarios Oceanario

303 Nurse Shark






Tuesday, April 22. Drizzle all day. Scrub boat and chain, reduce dirt from Cartagena. Very cool, comfy, even needed hot tea toddy after working in the rain.

Wed, April 23. Chores from list – glorious day, flat, light breeze, blue with clouds – SUMMER! After a.m. sprinkle to Aquarium – watch show, see animals again. Sunset drink on deck, a nice time.

Thurs, April 24. Halyards, misc. cook, sew lee cloths, check bottom. Rain in the night, lovely day.

Fri, April 25. Breeze last night 14-18. Run watermaker, change oil, check transmission, lee cloths, misc. Lovely day. [We were getting ready for a two day passage to Isla Providencia]

Sat, April 26. Check rigging, finish lee cloths, last visit to Aquarium. Looked for Raphael, couldn’t find him.

Sun, April 27. To Isla Palma Resort in San Bernardo Islands. Bumped bottom leaving Rosarios anchorage! Motored in light W. breeze. Anchored S. side island, scattered rocks/coral bits over thin sand.

[We’re here to visit our friends Cindy and Reed (s/v Sea Fever), first met when Chuck helped them install their radio before we left San Diego in 1993! We’ve stayed in touch, and now they’re spending a season working at a Columbian resort.]

305 Colombia Reed & Cindy Tues, April 29. Visit Reed, Cindy and Mike with their work as video photographers for the resort – what a weird mix! Includes a palatial home in tropic/African motif – was residence of enforcer for a drug lord! Aquatic park funky and neglected. Neat path through mangroves, odd assortment of birds in aviary, several types of macaws free.

Wed, April 30. Herb [expert weatherman, “Southbound II,” who advises cruisers on HAM radio net from Canada] tells us we missed the 3-day weather window, not good to leave Thurs! Winds to build for weekend. Weather very pretty in mornings especially. Afternoons sometimes breezy, often westerly. By tonite tho it’s strongly N. Moved a bit closer to land after dingy exploration of depths.

Fri, May 3. NWS [National Weather Service] finally mentions winds will rise as Herb warned! We wait for window… I actually got the news with a sense of relaxing as we were hustling to complete last chores before departure. Now maybe we’ll have a chance to achieve the ideal…be ready to go 24 hours early!!

Entry written across two squares, May 6 & 7: This anchorage OK for a few days but this is too long! Hotel guards make going ashore too problematic to attempt. Antsy to go! We decide to head out for Isla Providencia on Thursday, based on improved NWS forecast, tho Herb on Southbound II says wait a bit more. We stow, I cook and seal all the meals ahead – if I didn’t we wouldn’t be eating much!

What happened next? We left in the morning – a beautiful day! But by nightfall, we realized that Herb was RIGHT! We should have waited for better weather.

Providencia postcard and anchorage (that’s not us, a neighbor boat!). And a fine neighborhood band.

310 1 Providencia Card 96

310 Providencia Anchorage








312 Col Provi Musicians

312 Col Provi Musicians 2