29 March 2012 | San Andres, Columbia, SA
Thursday, March 29. I had two goals for today: fix the rope ladder for the dinghy and get the telephone modem working. The dinghy ladder was one my brother, Dave, had made from rope and PVC. It hooked on to the handles of the dinghy and hung in the water. It worked great. The only problem was that the stainless steel carabiners were now stain-more. They were rusted to oblivion and had to be replaced. I hoped the ferreteria (hardware store) in town would have some new ones. Then I remembered that I had at least one new one in my rigging bag. I dug it out and found not one but two. They didn't quite match, but would work just fine. The only question was: could I get the rusted ones out and the new ones in without undoing the whole thing? The originals had been spliced into the three strand nylon line, and I wasn't sure I could replace them without undoing the splices and re-splicing., but as it turned out, working carefully, I was able to twist the old ones out and the new ones in. Now we have a nice dinghy ladder again. For those of you who might be interested, using ~12 lengths of 2 schedule 40 PVC gives the rope ladder enough weight to hang down into the water nicely instead of floating and also gives a good purchase for your foot, making it much easier to get back into the dinghy after diving. For the next project, I had to go into town and find the Comcel store. Liz & Deb gave me directions, but none of the streets have street markers and all of them twist and turn so you never know where you are really going. I ended up thoroughly lost in the not so good part of town. The buildings were all run down, the streets were torn up with construction and it generally looked like a place you wouldn't want to be at night. But the people were still friendly and I never felt threatened. Since we are on the Northern tip of the island, there is water on three sides so it is pretty hard to get REALLY lost. I headed North and soon found familiar territory. I stopped in a local open front tienda and got directions to Comcel only 1 ½ blocks away at that point. I am not sure what it is with phone stores in Central America. They all seem to be the same: guard at the door (for what?), stand in line for receptionist, tell them what you want, get a number, wait for someone to call your number and go to a counter, tell them what you need (again), you or they fill out several forms in triplicate, you take the forms to the cashier, stand in line again, pay, take your receipt back to the counter and finally get your product. I've done it now in Panama City, Bocas, and now San Andres; always the same - it takes you an hour to accomplish what you could have done in three minutes at Rosa Blanca (the pharmacy in Bocas that also sells cell phones). The one bright spot in all this was that the woman who waited on me spoke very good English and was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. If I had to stand around so long at least the scenery was good. We finally determined that the SIM card in the modem I had bought in Bocas especially for San Andres & Providencia had expired and I had to buy a new one ($7,000). I did that and added 15 days of data service ($35,000) and was on my way. Getting back to the marina was much easier as I just paralleled the coast heading South. When I got back to the boat, I plugged the modem into my computer. The program came up and told me I was connected to the internet, but nothing happened web pages would not open, nothing. Hmmm. Just then Liz came over in her dinghy with something for Deb and I asked her (she had a Comcel chip in her smart phone and was using it for internet). She said it had been up and down all morning. Sure enough, by the time I got back to the computer, Gmail had loaded. OK, so everything works, but it is S-L-O-W. No Skype on this modem. Of course we still have the high speed Wi-Fi from Nene's until we leave here, but I wanted to be sure everything was working on the modem before we left for Providencia as I doubt we will get Wi-Fi from the boat there. At 1700 we were to meet Rene to get our exit Zarpe. Deb & Liz went in earlier to do some more shopping (Deb got another dress) and Craig and I came in for 5:00 to meet Rene. After all the paper work, we walked down to the Regatta Restaurant to meet the women for dinner. We, of course, beat them, but chose a table by the water and had a drink I had an excellent mojito with lots of mint. We had a great meal. Deb & I shared mussels for an app while Craig & Liz shared a shrimp dish. I had fish filet with black crab sauce and the other three had variations of steak. It was, however, the most expensive meal we have had in the Caribbean - $178.000, which is still expensive after the exchange rate. We had a nice leisurely stroll back to the dinghies, though I fear it was a bit long for Deb who was walked out for the day. Craig & Liz came aboard for another drink and to review weather predictions. It looks like we will leave Saturday night/ Sunday morning for Providencia. Provision tomorrow, play and relax Saturday, then leave after some early sleep. We have enjoyed San Andres, but I am anxious to get to Providencia where we can do more diving.