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s/v Always & All Ways
Day 83, A Full Day.
Mark
06/08/2012, Albuquerque Cays, Columbia

Thursday, June 7,We only had 30 nm to go today, so when we left was not important. By 8:30 we had had breakfast, checked in with the SW Caribbean net, and were ready to go. We raised sail before anchor and motorsailed out past the destroyer. The wind was lighter, only ~10 kts and when we shut off engines and unrolled gennie we were only making ~4.5 kts. Even 30 nm is a ways at that speed. Fortunately this was only wind shadow from the island. We were soon seeing 15-17 kts and making 6-7. Seas were moderate, 6-8'. There were a variety of rain clouds that gave us good wind, but we never got wet. When we were about 10 nm out from the entrance to Albuquerque Cays, I heard a snap and felt the boat lurch. Looking about, I saw dink hanging lower than he should. Did the clutch slip? I pulled it tighter and then realized that the bridle that went to both sides of the stern had frayed through and broken on one side. The other didn't look much better. It was where the control arm of the outboard rubbed on the line. Fortunately the bridle had a loop formed by a knot instead of just being continuous, so the port side was still holding – for now. The waves were slapping up and hitting the underside of dink with each passage so I knew I had to do something NOW. I undid the stern lifelines and went down the steps until I could lean and catch a line through the eye bolt on the dinghy starboard stern and ran it up to the back lifeline which is 1” ss tubing. I then did the same for dink's port side knowing that line would not last long. With Deb's help I slowly recovered dink to his normal travel position. I had tied it with a clove hitch (my favorite knot) so I pulled a little slack and Deb took it up. It was heavy going as I usually have a 4:1 purchase to lift dink, but eventually we got dink out of the waves and in a safe position to travel. That was exciting! By noon we were approaching Albuquerque Cays and the wind and waves had dropped considerably. We dropped sail outside the lagoon and motored the 3+ nm into the lagoon, around all the obstructing reefs inside and eventually to our anchorage in 6' of water over pure white sand just off North Cay (where the military base is). It took 45 minutes to wind our way in, but we left breadcrumbs so going out should be easier, though I still wouldn't do it at night. An error of even 20' could put us on a reef – that's only ½ a boat length. Total course turned out to be 26nm, time, 5 hours so we still averaged better than 5 kts even with our slow entry into the lagoon. After we were anchored, I went ashore with our papers, found the commandant, and was officially welcomed to the islands. He was very polite and friendly, as we had experienced last time. We can stay as long as we want. When I returned to the boat, we still had most of the afternoon left, so we loaded the hookah and went out to dive one of the mini atolls behind the boat. The center of the “atoll” is ~5-6' deep, there is a coral rim that breaks in places, but can be crossed by dink in several, and the “wall” on the outside drops to ~30'. Really a miniature of a coral atoll in every way. The structures of the coral were amazing with long arms reaching out in all directions. We started into the wind, of course, and worked our way 360*. Nice coral, lots of sponges and great fish – even three large ocean triggers swimming together. We then swam the inside looking for conch. We only found two, but they were the biggest conch we have seen in ages. Sundowners and FRESH conch salad in the cockpit. And after dinner, the stars were brilliant as we lay in the tramp. That was a full day.

Day 82, Sailing.
Mark
06/07/2012, Rada Cove, San Andres, Columbia

Wednesday, June 6. Originally Eileen Farrell had talked about coming with us to Albuquerque Cays. When Lorenzo looked at the weather forecast, he said, “You call that good? Seven to nine foot seas and 20 kts of wind? I can't go in that!” Well, actually the forecast I looked at had 2.5 meter waves and 15-18 kts wind, but we were going down wind or at least broad reach and the waves would be on our stern quarter, no problem. And it wasn't. I raised the sail before we weighed anchor. We had about 15 kts of wind. Because we had to gybe twice on the way out, I left the main midline and kept the motors running too. We followed the buoys out, gybed the final time, adjusted the main, unfurled gennie and were immediately cruising along at 7 kts nice as can be. By the time we cleared the wind shadow of the island, the wind was up to 20 kts, so I tucked in a reef. We were still topping 7 kts most of the time. The waves were, indeed, 6-8' with occasional 9', but since we were running away from them, the period was longer and they were not bad at all. Our 12 hr sail (at planned speed of 5 kts.) had just turned into a 8 ½ hr sail. By noon the wind and waves had both dropped. Wind was down below 15 consistently so I shook out the reef. We still made 6-7 kts. Tempest who left just behind us was long lost in the haze. We eventually heard them on VHF as they first gained sight of the high rises on San Andres. We had already past the city and were sailing down the West side of the island. As we approached Rada Cove, where we planned to spend the night, we saw one other boat already there – a huge Columbian destroyer! Oh well, at least we'll be safe. We kept what I hoped was a respectful distance from the ship as we worked our way in near the shore. We anchored in 25' over beautiful white sand and went for a swim. Anchor to anchor = 9 hrs, average speed = 6.5 kts including weighing and setting anchor. And now we have a beautiful anchorage for the night with just one other boat (and a couple hundred Columbian sailors!)

Day 82, Sailing.
Mark
06/07/2012, Rada Cove, San Andres, Columbia

Wednesday, June 6. Originally Eileen Farrell had talked about coming with us to Albuquerque Cays. When Lorenzo looked at the weather forecast, he said, “You call that good? Seven to nine foot seas and 20 kts of wind? I can't go in that!” Well, actually the forecast I looked at had 2.5 meter waves and 15-18 kts wind, but we were going down wind or at least broad reach and the waves would be on our stern quarter, no problem. And it wasn't. I raised the sail before we weighed anchor. We had about 15 kts of wind. Because we had to gybe twice on the way out, I left the main midline and kept the motors running too. We followed the buoys out, gybed the final time, adjusted the main, unfurled gennie and were immediately cruising along at 7 kts nice as can be. By the time we cleared the wind shadow of the island, the wind was up to 20 kts, so I tucked in a reef. We were still topping 7 kts most of the time. The waves were, indeed, 6-8' with occasional 9', but since we were running away from them, the period was longer and they were not bad at all. Our 12 hr sail (at planned speed of 5 kts.) had just turned into a 8 ½ hr sail. By noon the wind and waves had both dropped. Wind was down below 15 consistently so I shook out the reef. We still made 6-7 kts. Tempest who left just behind us was long lost in the haze. We eventually heard them on VHF as they first gained sight of the high rises on San Andres. We had already past the city and were sailing down the West side of the island. As we approached Rada Cove, where we planned to spend the night, we saw one other boat already there – a huge Columbian destroyer! Oh well, at least we'll be safe. We kept what I hoped was a respectful distance from the ship as we worked our way in near the shore. We anchored in 25' over beautiful white sand and went for a swim. Anchor to anchor = 9 hrs, average speed = 6.5 kts including weighing and setting anchor. And now we have a beautiful anchorage for the night with just one other boat (and a couple hundred Columbian sailors!)

Day 81, Last Hookah in Providencia.
Mark
06/06/2012, Providencia, Columbia

Tuesday, June 5. I went in to meet with Mr. Bush at 10:00 thinking I would get our zarpe then, but I was wrong. I merely gave him our passports, confirmed the info I had given him about our destination, and was told to return at 5:00 to pick everything up. Oh well, not a big deal. Shortly after I got back to the boat, Lorenzo called to ask if we wanted to try hookahing by the red nun. It was still blowing ~15 kts, but I remembered that last time we sailed out of Providencia, the wind had died right at that buoy. We almost had to start the engines again but eventually the wind filled back in as we drifted forward. Maybe the wind wouldn't be too bad to hookah. Let's try it. So we loaded up the hookah and went out to red #4. we followed the reef back a ways (down wind) and anchored so that we would be swimming against the wind first – always a good idea. Lorenzo & Joyce were using tanks so had no issue with wind. There was no current. The hookah pulled OK, it was like fighting a 1-2 kts current and tugged at times, but if I went slow, it was no big problem. The reef was great. Much less algae and very interesting formations. Lots of fish of all sizes too. We were 2/3s of the way to the buoy when Lorenzo suddenly headed back. I asked Joyce what the problem was and she said he thought his air was bad so he was going back to the boat and would just snorkel there. We should keep going. So we did. It was a really cool dive. When we got to the buoy we turned and followed the other side of a broad ridge back. There was a large eagle ray that swam along the flats just beyond the reef edge. We found several spots with lobster under ledges. Deb found several very nice looking (but dead) conch shells that she decided to keep and bring home. We had been swimming quite a while when Joyce surfaced, looked around, and indicated we should head off across the ridge towards the boats. We did, but she kept surfacing and looking and then suddenly took off a a rapid pace towards the boats. She had run out of air. Since she never carries a snorkel, she had to keep surfacing and gulping air. Lorenzo was snorkeling towards us and helped her back, no problem. Deb & I continued more leisurely but went directly towards the boats. It had been a LONG dive. Deb was exhausted. I think the problem was that Lorenzo was the one who knew this area. When he dropped out, we assumed that Joyce knew it as well (they had snorkeled it before) and so just let her lead. She had no idea how far she was from the boats when her air got low and so we ended up with a longer dive than planned. Oh well, it was our last one here and it certainly was one of the better ones even if a bit too long. We went back in to town at 5:00, got our papers and passport from Mr. Bush, bought grapefruits and a pineapple and then went to Bamboo to have a beer and say good by to Orville and Real. She was not there. She had been called for an interview about teaching something to farmers for the government. We said our good-byes to Orville and to Lorenzo & Joyce who also came in. We will see them soon in Bocas unless they catch up with us at Albuquerque. Tomorrow we are off at first light.

Day 80, Preparing to go.
Mark
06/05/2012, Providencia, Columbia

Monday, June 4. I called Mr. Bush this morning on the VHF and told him that we wanted a zarpe to leave “early early” Wednesday. He asked what our destination would be and I told him “Bocas del Toro, Panama.” “OK,” he said, “You be at my office tomorrow at 10:00 and I will have everything ready for you. Just bring your passports to stamp. You don't need anything else. I have it all ready.” Although I have enjoyed meeting the Port Captains and Migracion officials in other countries we have visited – especially fighting (in Spanish) with the Port Captain in Guanaja about my zarpe and winning – I must admit that having an agent, as Columbia requires, sure makes it quicker and easier. And Mr. Bush is much more than just an agent. He really is an ambassador for the cruisers. He helps them in any way possible, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The other day he called me on the VHF to say that a women was down at the dinghy dock with my laundry waiting for me to pick it up. When I said it was not mine (We take ours to Miss Barbara and pick it up at her house.), he said that the women only knew that the man's name was Mark and he thought that had to be me. I told him that one of the other boats also had a Mark, but I couldn't remember which one. He put out a general call over VHF and eventually united owner and laundry. That is the kind of thing he just does – because it needs to be done, not for pay or tips. He considers helping the cruisers in any way possible as part of his official job. It is what he does and who he is. Would that there were more “Mr. Bush” in the world! Although we did not have to go in to town to meet with Mr. Bush, we did go in and try to buy more fruit. The selection was pretty bad, but we did get another melon, some limes and a couple mangoes. We met Lorenzo & Joyce in town and agreed to go hookahing after lunch. It is still blowing 15-18 so we will need to stay in the lee of the mountain, but there are a couple small patches there that we have not explored. Too shallow to really be worth a tank, but they can use the hookah with us. At first it looked like it was going to be a boring dive – lots of algae on the coral and quite shallow, but as we progressed around the patch, it got deeper with more interesting architecture to the coral and better fish. We saw several very large midnight parrot fish and a couple other large parrots that were not midnights but I'm not sure what. There was a very large scrolled file fish - 2 ½ ' which is about as large as they get. Then we saw the sea snake! It was about 3' long and maybe 1 1/2” diameter and rather than swimming, it crawled along the sea bed like a snake. Its mouth opened and closed like a moray and its gill pouches bulged with each gulp. None of us had ever seen anything quite like it. It didn't seem very concerned about us, but for some reason we all kept our distance from him. He eventually slithered across the sand and into a hole. Later I learned that it was a “Gold Spotted Eel” and quite harmless. The coral patches were not all that big so we circled back and forth over them a bit. When I saw another eel I thought it was the same one, but, no, this one was bigger and when I surfaced to determine our location, it was on a totally different patch of coral. Strange. Two examples of an eel I have never seen before on the same little patch of ocean. We also saw a lobster – one of the very few we have seen here. After the dive, Lorenzo & Joyce invited s over for pizza. We brought our own beer and wine (they do not drink) and brownies for desert. It was a very enjoyable evening and we ended up showing them lots of things about Bocas – approaches, anchorages, restaurants, etc. They are going to wait for calmer weather to leave (they don't want the wind we need), but may catch up with us in Albuquerque or certainly in Bocas.

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