Sunday, 26 February 2017

Cartagena de Indias

We left Bonaire and sailed to Klein Curacao, a sandy island with a shipwrecked freighter from 100 years ago, a lighthouse and little else save a few day trippers who left and then the island was ours. Hein saw a shark under the boat when snorkelling, Nick and hitchhiker Laurens went kite-surfing and the sun went down with a hint of a green flash.

Curacao has the oldest synagogue in South America and lovely old architecture. Spanish Harbour is a fantastic natural harbour.  Our enjoyment of the island only marred by inefficient and duplicative bureaucracy with customs and immigration in different places.
Boutique Hotel Cartagena

So we left on Sunday morning to round the fearsome Colombian headland.  A bright and breezy sail between Aruba and Venezuela had its excitement when the mainsheet block snapped leaving us with a sail thrashing around dangerously.  Good teamwork by Nicky and Nick tamed the beast, and on we went for 3 days and 3 nights.  We ended up going only 30NM off the point and the highest wind we saw was high Force 6, gusting light Force 7 which from the stern was not a problem.

Punta Gallinas and Bahia Honda were deserted miles of beaches and sand dunes and vast bays and inland lagoons.  We tried to put the anchor down unsuccessfully onto a rocky bottom and so sailed on to Cabo de la Vela, catching 2 Spanish mackerel on the way, where we finally saw some people, a mix of local fishermen and kite surfers including the local kids who were doing the most amazing jumps.  Nick had a good kite, Nicky and Alexia bought brightly coloured bags and friendship bracelets from the local Guajira people, and we left after dinner for a second night.  Winds began to drop and the following day we flew the asymmetric, saw two pilot whales followed by the most enormous number of birds, and five minutes later caught a yellow fin tuna.  All fish expertly cleaned and filleted by Nick. Amazing views of the 18000 feet snow capped Sierra Nevada di Santa Marta. 

STOP PRESS - NICKY ATE THE SASHIMI AND WENT BACK FOR MORE. She has also eaten Octopus in a restaurant in Cartagena.

Nick successful!
We thought we would try to find a bay in the national park near Santa Marta, and pushed the VW engine hard to try to get us there in the dying of the light.  However, heading into a poorly charted set of bays after the sun had gone down seemed a bad idea, so off we were again for the 3rd night.  Crossing the mouth of Rio Magdalena and sailing down to Cartagena max wind again was 25 knots, so we managed our passage successfully without the 35 knots and big seas others had experienced 10 days earlier. 
So Alexia, after months of worry about "some of the worst weather in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world", and all of us sailed over 500NM in 3 days in what felt very much like an offshore passage away from it all, well looked after by Calliope.  We are getting the feel of the boat, Nicky is so observant of anything round her and jumps to.  We have now sailed over 1100 NM and have only used 40 hours of engine and the same of generator.
Nick, Alexia, Nicky - Klein Curacao

Cartagena is a jewel.  The walled old city is at the head of a ten mile bay, has narrow streets and shady courtyards.  Buildings have the feel of Moroccan riads, excellent restaurants, boutique hotels and trendy bars abound.  But all this is in a city where you are surrounded by locals, kids going to school, so it is not a tourist ghetto.  The smallest yellow cabs get you anywhere for $2. For excellent sailing the first mate has acquired a stunning emerald necklace and earrings.  The Museo del Oro gives a sense of the civilisations that have lived here for over 2000 years; no one speaks English, but are all amazingly friendly.   Put Colombia on the list, and we have only seen a tiny corner of this beautiful country.  Off to the San Blas islands this week.
Lunch in Cartagena

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