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s/v Always & All Ways
03/29/2012, San Andres, Columbia, SA

Wednesday, March 28. Deb should really be writing this blog, but I have not been able to prod her into it, so maybe she will add something later. When I got up (I don't get up at dawn, I get up when the sky – through the hatch above my head – turns from gray to blue. That is usually between 0630 and 0700.) Anyway, when I got up, I saw a USCG cutter coming up the channel. It cruised around a little bit (somewhat limited by its draft) and then docked in the same general area that the Columbian war ship had been. It's amazing how small the cutter looks next to the big cargo ships. Rene has arranged to return our laundry about 1000, all nicely washed and folded, a double load for $20 US – not cheap, but reasonable. Shortly after that, Craig took Liz & Deb in and dropped them at Nene's to go shopping for the day. They had a handheld VHF to call when they returned. I spent the morning (and part of the afternoon) fighting with the computer trying to get Skype for Windows installed. The Airmail program that we use for email over SSB, all the navigation programs, and even the booster antenna we have need Windows, so I reluctantly have set up this computer with Windows XP, the only decent version of Windows. For whatever reason, I could not get Skype to install nor would Flash Player. I did all the updates for Windows, ran diagnostics, and finally I installed (successfully) older version of both Flash and Skype. Flash did an auto update to the newest version that worked (go figure). Skype works fine and the version I have is only a few months old so I will stick with that. While I was doing this, I also made a couple loaves of bread. After lunch, Craig came over in the dinghy and we went out to check out the anchorage by Rose Island as a possible staging point for our departure to avoid having to run the whole channel in the dark. The buoys are all lit, but that almost makes it worse as they all flash on different intervals and it is hard to judge the order. I took my handheld GPS and we ran down to the #6 buoy, hung a left and ran towards the island, checking depths and plotting a track. It turns out we can get quite close to the island, very sheltered. We then explored some more, had a beer at The Regatta Bar & Restaurant, checked out some of the big oceanside hotels and marinas and wandered back to our boats. Bill from Orion had invited us for sundowners and so I made some more conch salad which is always a popular app. The women did not return from shopping until 4:00PM. Deb bought a San Andres bag and towel, a short for me and a dress for her, and some shoes. Only spent ~$180,000. At 1700 we went over to Orion. Craig & Liz from Salida were there and a couple from Reveler whose names I have already forgotten. We are the only cruisers left in San Andres at the moment. Reveler is leaving tomorrow, but Orion is staying for another week or two at least until Bill's wife returns from US. Bill gave us a tour of the ship, and “ship” she is. Orion is 70' on deck with another 8' of bowsprit. She is riveted steel and schooner rigged. She spins a 50” prop! Bulwarks are about 30” high and there is more deck space than you can figure what to do with. The interior is furnished mostly from Icea – leather sofas, normal table and chairs, full queen bed, standard 110V refrigerator, 52” TV, etc. We had a great time and once again skipped supper after all the apps. Maybe Deb will write about the shopping later.

Project day
03/29/2012, 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.

Hammock Day.
03/29/2012, San Andres, Columbia, SA

Friday, March 30. Today was a lazy day for me and another shopping day for Deb (but for groceries this time, well at least mostly for groceries). Liz picked Deb up about 10:00 and they did not return until 3:00. They did get quite a bit of groceries, but the shoe stores and dress stores also called them, so they had a good time. Staying behind, I first repaired my weight belt. It has a rapid ditch feature that allows you to dump the weights in an emergency. Little tabs protrude through grommets and are held in place by a heavy plastic cord that is attached to a pull handle. Anyway, the grommets had all corroded to nothing and needed to be replaced. I was down to only 3 of the larger nickel ones, but had several slightly smaller brass ones as well. They worked OK though it was a bit of a tight fit for the tabs. I suspect the weight (I wear 5# per side) would be enough to pull it free if need be. Next I fixed the hookah. The straps were tearing out from the fabric of the tube enclosure, so I got some heavy waxed twice, a sailing needle and my palm and stitched things back together, all four points. My “work” for the day done, I dove off the bow and swam a bit. Then I laid in the hammock, got up and ate lunch, had a short siesta in the hammock while listening to Janis Joplin, went for another swim, read some in the hammock, and generally had a relaxing day. I am reading “Hubba, Hubba” a novel set in Bocas. Many of the characters are very recognizable and it is quite entertaining. We went over to Salida for sundowners joined by Bill from Orion. Returning to our boat, we laid in the tramp for a bit and then had an early bed as Deb was tired from all the shopping.

A Day on the Island.
03/28/2012, San Andres, Columbia, SA

Tuesday, March 27. After a lazy morning, we went in to Nene's about 1100 and got signed up for internet. We then walked a few blocks to the rental company and rented a vehicle to tour the island. We had been warned against the really low power "Club Car" golf carts and instead rented the more expensive Kawasaki "Mule". If it was stronger and faster, I'm sure glad we didn't get the other! It had a top speed of maybe 25- 30 mph. Fortunately the roads around the island are quite flat. We motored along, stopping at tourist traps and artisan shops, taking pictures here and there. For luch we stopped at West View Restaurant and Water Park. We had a delicious lunch - I had fried conch and Deb had beef steak both with paticones, salad and a delicious rice that was made with coconut milk but something else as well. Craig had garlic conch and Liz had a different beef steak. After lunch we went across the street to the water park. There was a water slide that appeared to be fairly standard molded fiberglass pieces bolted together to make a tortuous route to the lip, but it was supported by a rather rickety appearing framework of random sticks and branches. It did not collapse when a rather large tourist tried it. (I later learned that he and his family were from Bogata, Columbia, and we had a pleasant if halting conversation in Spanish.) Craig went first, then me. After we survived we got both women to try it, reluctantly. Sitting up it was really quite slow and you had to push along at the top, but laying on your stomach, you zipped right along. The lip was about 10' above the ocean and you splashed into crystal clear water plenty deep enough. There was also a spring board mounted about 15' above the water. Craig did an excellent dive from it, but the rest of us deferred. One of the highlights of the park was the "feeding frenzy." While we were snorkeling, the guides released bits of breadcrumbs and fish - mostly Sargent Majors and Chub - swarmed all around us in a true feeding frenzy. It was cool and for the most part, the fish ate the breadcrumbs and not the tourists. After changing, we continued our circumnavigation of the island, ending up back at the North point where the white sandy beaches are and all the resort hotels. They have a great boardwalk called the "malicon" which we walked stopping for ice cream. Lots of liquor stores, T-shirt shops and sunburned tourists. We didn't buy anything. We returned to Nene's to fill up the gas tank (about 2 gallons) and dropped off the women. Trying to return to the rental agency was like driving in Boston - all one way streets and non of them really parallel, but winding and intersecting where they shouldn't. We finally made it but not until we had reached the malicon once and passed the marina and several other landmarks twice or more. Back at the boat, I got the computer set up and we used Skype to call the kids, reassuring them that we were really OK and that even though this island is owned by Columbia, it is not NEAR Columbia and is very safe.

The $19,000 lunch.
03/27/2012, San Andres, Columbia, SA

Monday, March 26. After the morning net, we contacted Rene and met him at Nene's Marina to clear in. He handled all the paperwork for us, going to the Port Capt. and Customs. Immigration he had come to us. Total cost including his fee was $122, not bad compared to other countries, about average. His wife also does laundry so we gave him a bag full which he will return tomorrow. After the formalities, friends from Sunny-side Up took us on a walking tour of the town. Lunch in a little local open air restaurant was great – soup, frijole for me and vegetable for Deb, was followed by fish filet for me and fried chicken for Deb, both with rice salad and plantain. They were out of cerveces so we had Agualente which was ice tea with ginger and lime sweetened with “sugar cane honey.” The bill came to $17,500 before tip. Apparently locals do not tip at all, so the girl was very pleased with my $2000 tip. I had just withdrawn over half a million from the ATM so paying it was no problem. It also helps that the exchange rate is 1750 Columbian pesos to 1 US dollar. Hey, it's easy being a millionaire here, but it doesn't last long. After some more sightseeing, we returned to Nene's where we had a beer (only $2,000 each) before taking the dinghies back to our boats. I refilled my fuel tank and took the jerry jugs in to refill and then Deb & I took dink out to the pure white sand over 5' of crystal clear water and just floated for a while to cool off. Apps for dinner after that huge lunch and then some reading before bed. Still don't have internet, but should be able to get it tomorrow.

03/27/2012 | Janis
The solar panals are in the mail. Looks like you will have the internet at home before you get back. Have fun and stay safe.

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