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s/v Always & All Ways
Day 34 Off again.
Mark
04/18/2012, Low Cay, Columbia, SA

Wednesday, April 18. We met with Mr. Bush today @ 10:00 and he had all our paper work completed and our passports to return, stamped. It was very efficient and his $40 fee was well worth all he does for cruisers. We have had on going discussions about this developing low in the Gulf, but what we finally decided was to relocate to Low Cay today (only about 8 nm North and still within the same barrier reef), sail for Vivarillos tomorrow, and decide when we get there what seems to be happening with this low and whether it will be good to stay and enjoy the Vivarillos and Hobbies or if we should go to Guanaja for better protection. Shortly after lunch, I raised the main with a single reef in it and then we pulled anchor and were off. Wind was in the 20-25 kts range and I added a second reef by the time we cleared the harbor buoys. With double reefed main and ¾ gennie, we were making 7-7.5 kts close hauled. The seas were w bit lumpy, but not bad as we still had some protection from the reef even though it was several miles away. When we turned to enter the hook at the Northern end of the reef that is known as Low Cay (there is no real cay here, just enough area of drying reef awash that a light has been erected), we had to drop sails and motor directly to windward. We had to eyeball in to anchor and we left breadcrumbs to assure an easy exit. We anchored in ~16' over bright white sand, though we dropped the anchor in 8'. When I swam the anchor, I discovered we could have gone much closer to the reef as the 8' depth held for quite aways. If we were staying longer, I would move, but for one night we are fine. Salida and Silver Sea were an hour or so behind us and I talked them in following our route. I put the dinghy in the water and went up to the spit of land and the light and then went to Silver Sea to try and help George with his autopilot that had quit working on the way up. It was a chain drive and some links of the chain were frozen. He hit them with WD-40 and worked each one loose while I held the wheel. It looks like it should be tightened a bit, but it does seem to be working again. Hope it holds. Back at Always, I made chili verde for dinner and we will turn in early as tomorrow we get up to leave @ 5:00. The Vivarillos are about 185 nm away, so at 6 kts. we would get there by noon the next day, only one overnight. Yeah!

Day 33, Farewell Providencia.
Mark
04/18/2012, Providencia, Columbia, SA

Tuesday, April 17. The morning was again blustery and it was 1100 before we could all get together to plan our exit strategy. Combining everyone's data, we decided that Quito Sueno was not a good stopping point at this time. It was too directly North and might well require motor sailing and it offered no protection from the SW so would necessitate leaving for Vivarillos almost immediately and therefore have no time to enjoy the area. For those reasons, we have decided to relocated to Low Cay tomorrow and leave early Thursday morning for Vivarillos. That will give us protection when the wind swings SW and time to enjoy the reef before needing to move to the Hobbies when the wind swings NW (Vivarillos has no protection from NW and Hobbies have no protection from S, but combining the two we can ride out the Norther that is coming in the Gulf of Mexico without problems and have time to enjoy both anchorages which are only about 8 nm apart.) To that end we called Mr. Bush on VHF and he said for all boats wanting to leave to meet him in his office @ 2:15 to check out. There were four of us including Salida, Silver Sea, Aleppo, and Always. It took about an hour to do the paperwork for all four and then Immigration came and took our passports to stamp out saying he would return them @ 10:00 tomorrow. I was a bit uncomfortable having the passports not in my hand, but what could I do? The four men stopped at a little bar and had a beer looking out over the harbor while the women finished shopping. Then they joined us and we had another beer. We dinghied back to our boats, I loaded some info from our old website onto a stick for others who were headed to Belize to share, loaded the 10,000 books onto Tony's wallet drive, and then went in for a final happy hour at Bamboo. There were a couple new cruisers arriving from the San Blas as well as the regulars. We all had a great time, bid our farewells, and returned to our boats only a bit tipsy.

Day 32, Catboats and Squalls.
Mark
04/17/2012, Providencia, Columbia, SA

Monday, April 16. Today and tomorrow's forecast is for squalls with rain and winds up to 30 kts. We will stay hunkered down until Wednesday when it is supposed to clear. The morning, however, was clear with about 15-18 kts of wind. I was determined to learn more about the catboats before we left Providencia, so I called Elvis the taxi driver. His father owned one of the boats and I was hoping I could get to see and hear about it. Unfortunately, Elvis said, No, he had an appointment that day to take someone around the island and could not take me to his father, but if I talked to Orville, he could introduce me to Elijah who was another boat owner. I knew Orville, he was the owner of Bamboo, the local cruisers' hangout for happy hour. He was also a very friendly man and helpful to everyone. When I asked about Elijah, he said, yes, I could go see him. He runs “Sandra's Boutique” in the mall. (The mall being a two story building with a half dozen shops on the second floor.) Hopeful, I packed my camera in the dry bag and took the dinghy in to town and went up to Sandra's Boutique. Elijah was the only one in the store. He said, yes, I could see his boat. He couldn't leave the shop, but he would get someone to show me. We went next door to another shop where he introduced me to another man whose name I never did understand. He was the man who built the boat and also raced it for Elijah. (Elijah was probably in his 80's and didn't race any more, but he had the money to build the boat.) I followed the new fellow down the stairs where he got on his motorcycle and said, “Hop on and I take you to see the boat.” Now this guy is at least 6'3” tall and had to weigh 250+. With both of us on his motorcycle ( a “big” 125cc bike), the tires are nearly squashed flat, but off we go, me hanging on for dear life. Although I had a similar bike, I don't think I have ever ridden on the back of such a small bike. It is a unique experience and not for the faint hearted. We went about half way around the island and down a gravel path to the shore. There was a shed with three boats inside. “Sea Rider” was the boat he had built and raced last Saturday. The one with the red and white sail that came in second. He told me about the boat -27' long by 4' wide, all wood with cedar frames and some kind of native Columbian wood for planks, all about 2” thick. The shape was beautiful – fine entry then rapidly flaring sides with a wine glass mid section tapering to an equally fine stern. The widest beam was about 40% back from the bow giving it the traditional “codfish head and mackerel tail” appearance of old English and New England work boats, from which it was probably derived. (Much of the population of Providencia came from Jamaica originally.) There was a huge “barn door” rudder hung on the stern post and controlled by a cross arm and two lines running forward. This avoided a long tiller sweeping the aft part of the hull. The mast was two sections of aluminum tubing, untapered, but with the upper smaller then the lower. The end of the smaller section was built up with fiberglass so it was a jam fit in the lower. Each section had to be about 15-16' long. The final mast length was determined by a wooden top section jammed into the aluminum. The top section was varied depending on the sail they were going to use. Final length, ~38'. It is stepped, unstayed, in the short foredeck and sits in a socket on the stem/keel – a lever arm of only about 3' to support all that mast and sail! . The boom featured the same aluminum tubing and wooden extension and was about 18'. Sails range from 24 to 34 sq. yds. I learned a lot more about the boats that fascinated me, but I won't bore you with it all. (Like one member of the crew is dedicated to bailing full time as the freeboard is so low that the leeward rail is constantly awash.) When returned to the shop, I thanked them for the tour and gave them an 8x10 photo that I had printed from the picture that is the cover of the races album in the gallery. They were very pleased. I asked when the next race was and learned that it would be in mid-June. We might be back by then. If we were, I said (jokingly) that I wanted to crew for them. “Yah man, we put you to use.” What a thrill that would be! The afternoon, indeed, turned to squalls. Rain and 30kt. winds as predicted. We remained very comfortable at anchor. I made some bread and worked on doing some watercolor. I have started painting again, but it seems I forgot everything I knew. Very frustrating. I'll just have to waste a few sheets of paper as Al (my teacher) used to say. There had been talk about everybody going in to Bamboo for happy hour to celebrate Craig's healthy return, but it seems everyone is just hunkered down so I made guacamole (finally a perfect avocado), nachos and margaritas for dinner.

Day 31, Craig is Pronounced Well.
Mark
04/16/2012, Providencia, Columbia, SA

Sunday, April 15. This morning at about 0800, I heard, “Buenas Dias, Always” over the VHF. Craig & Liz had arrived from San Andres on the morning plane and were now at the dinghy dock. I jumped in The Dink and went to get them and take them to their boat. They were pretty tired from their experience and wanted to rest before we got together, but all was well and they are ready to go forward. It turned out that Mr. Bush had given them the name of a taxi driver who helped immensely. He got them a special rate at the hotel, stayed with them at the hospital and translated whenever the doctor or nurse did not speak English, and finally got them “promotional” tickets on the airplane that ended up being cheaper than the ferry. The Cardiologist had had them come to his home to take the Holter off and read it as the clinic was closed. They remarked how different their experience was then what a Columbian might experience in the USA under similar circumstances! I told them I would be happy to review everything tomorrow, but just to relax and enjoy being back today. Around 4:00, George & Pixie and Deb & I went over for champagne and hors 'douves that turned into dinner. Everyone was happy all was well. It looks like we may get a couple days of squalls, but then we should be ready to head North.

Day 30, Back on-line.
Mark
04/14/2012, Providencia, Columbia, SA

Saturday, April 14. After trying every “expert” in town trying to get my modem recharged yesterday, I decided to take a different tack today. I borrowed Silver Sea's modem and went to the Comcel website. (I was in the process of doing that yesterday when my time expired.) With little difficulty, I found my answers. You can only recharge for 1 hr., 1 day, 1 week, 15 days, or 30 days. No other choices. In addition, you must recharge your SIM card with the exact amount required and then IMMEDIATELY send a text message with the numeral for the desired recharge. Otherwise, the money is credited to voice minutes and when you try to recharge data, it tells you that you don't have the money. Oh well, another $20,000 and I have internet for another week, which is cheaper and far easier than doing one day x five days. While I was doing this, Deb finally found some veggies and fruit. The boat came Wednesday and Thursday, but they didn't put the new produce out as they wanted to sell the old stuff first. Anyway, it was a fruitful trip to town all the way around (I know, bad pun.) After lunch we went for another hookah. This time we went quite a ways out past Morgan's Head up to the Northern tip of the island. We anchored in what looked like a promising spot, launched the hookah, and dove in – into a million jelly fish. These were the little clear ones that look like X-wing fighters from Star Wars. Their sting is annoying but not disabling. Nonetheless, we had no desire to acquire 20-30 of them in the course of a dive, so out of the water, pack up the hookah and try again. Twice more we anchored at likely looking spots and I dove in (with just snorkel gear this time) and found tons of jelly fish. Damn! The last site we tried was absolutely gorgeous, too. Maybe another day. I wonder if the lack of wind has anything to do with it? It has been calm for a couple days now. Discouraged, we motored back around Morgan's Head and anchored in its lee hoping that it might shelter us from the jellies. Sure enough it did. And what a fantastic site it turned out to be. The depth was only ~20', but the coral was so heaped up that it rose right to the surface and there were millions of “nooks and crannies” with fish hiding in them. We even found one big cave. Big enough for me to stand in and it went maybe 20-30' and then opened to the top. I couldn't go through because of the hookah hose, but it sure was neat. The fish were similar to the other sites – fantastic – but the real star of this dive was the coral formations themselves. It was such fun to be absolutely neutral and swim up to the surface and then glide down a narrow canyon to the bottom and then back up the other side. My ears got a good work-out. As we were nearing the end of our dive, we noticed it getting darker and when we emerged, it was raining – only lightly and only briefly, but it did rain. First time since we arrived. After returning to the boat and getting hookah all rinsed and put away, I had one of my 90' home brews and lounged in the hammock listening to Doors and Beatles. This is getting to be a pattern: go diving after lunch, have a beer and time in the hammock, then shower, sundowners, and supper.. Not a bad way t end the day. We finally heard from Craig and everything has checked out OK. His monitor only showed a couple episodes of slow pulse and lower blood pressure that may well have correlated with his symptoms due to being dehydrated, but the doctor felt he just needed to drink more juice and water and eat more salt. They will be back on the morning plane and I'll pick them up at the dinghy dock by 8:30 or so. Then we just have to wait for a weather window again.

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