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Poulston Post
Land Time
08/26/2015

What a summer we have had. Leaving Ta-b safe in the Rio Dulce whilst we travelled has proved to be an excellent decision. She is being so well looked after in Tortugal Marina and at a third of the price we would normally pay. We recommend the marina to all our cruising friends.

We started our trip in Vancouver celebrating Amy's graduation from UBC, a very special day. Her flatmate Ali was in Toronto for a couple of months so we became Amy's "roomies" subletting Ali's room. It was a treat to spend so much time together and with Edwin just a couple of blocks away it was a perfect place to stay. Russell's sister Jillie also spent a couple of days with us on her way back to NZ from Croatia, a memorable family time.

Within a few weeks Russell flew to New Zealand to see his family and I flew in the opposite direction to England to see mine. In a short space of time we both managed to see a few friends whilst spending as much time as possible with our respective Mothers. Russell's mum Gypsy is 92 and still living on her own (with help) and walks up to the village every day for her daily capaccino. She is still very with it and I look forward to seeing her when we arrive in NZ with Ta-b in November 2016. My mum sadly is in the last stages of alzheimers. It is terribly hard watching someone you love so much go through such a cruel disease, I only hope that they find a cure in the near future.

Back in Vancouver we spent our time around appointments, kids, friends and enjoying all that the summer months have to offer. It was our first summer in Vancouver for eight years and we certainly lucked out with the weather, I think we could count the overcast and/or rainy days on one hand. We even managed some time on the water, sailing with a friend one day and going up towards Deep Cove on a friend's Grand Banks on another.

We took a trip into the interior to visit the Okanagan Lake area and then on up to Sun Peaks to visit friends Ken and Cathy. We love Sun Peaks, however it was our first summer visit and we loved our mountain hiking, lake canoeing, golf and even go carting. It was a busy and fun filled few days.

Another trip was to Sechelt to see friends who we have not seen for a long time, one of them being Amy's godmother. It was soon after the forest fires, when Vancouver suffered quite a few days of smoke filled skies, and you could see the devestation that the fires had caused. Certainly a few days of rain would have been welcome, everyone was praying for them, but while we were around they did not come. It has been the same in Guatemala, the rainy season which normally starts in May has not arrived.

Another trip to the islands was also planned. First we went to Salt Spring Island. Getting off the ferry felt like coming home, as in the past we have spent a lot of time at Scott Point, one of our yacht club outstations. We stayed with Rich and Kim who have just built a house and met their realtor our second night there. Well one thing led to another and the following day we went to look at a house on Old Scott Road. It was love at first sight and although not planned we are now, just over three weeks later, proud owners of a very special waterfront home. Now we are able to look forward to returning to land in a few years time.

After Salt Spring we continued over to Vancouver Island where we spent time in Nanoose Bay, Victoria, Cumberland and Fanny Bay. It was great to catch up with many of our friends who live there, and to know that they will soon be our neighbours.

Our last few days in Vancouver were spent going to Bard on the Beach, A Comedy of Errors an excellent production. Having a party for Amy and Edwin's friends and also another for ours. Lunches here, dinners there and the last appointments to make sure we are in top form for our next adventure. Both our laneway house and condo rentals were excellent and we would recommend airbnb to everyone. If you do think of using airbnb please let us know as we get credit for an introduction ☺

We are currently staying at Atitlan Lake in Guatemala, apparently one of the most beautiful lakes in the world to visit. It certainly is spectacular. We are spending a few weeks traveling before returning to Ta-b. Our upcoming plans are to work on the boat for a couple of months before setting of to Belize in November, weather permitting. We hope to be in Cuba for December and will head down to the San Blas islands via Jamacia/Cayman Islands (always depends on winds) in January.

Then the Panama and South Pacific are on the agenda for next year so that we can arrive in New Zealand before the Cyclone Season in November 2016. We have various friends who may join us, sadly we are never able to say when AND where we will be because of the wind (the weather controls our lives when we are sailing) so it is either where OR when, never both. However, if you are in the area do let us know, as we may be close and it is always fun having friends on board for a week or so.

On that note I will sign off. Please see the gallery for all of our pictures, they often tell so much more than words and I do add captions for more information. Stay safe, happy and healthy. Hugs J&R

Rio Dulce
Jane warm and sunny
06/28/2015, Rio Dulce

Our trip from Honduras to Rio Dulce in Guatemala was uneventful - thankfully. The area is known to have pirates so we travelled overnight with two other boats for safety. We had a great sail and checked in at Livingstone with friendly officials coming and seeing us on board. Some boats have a problem getting over the bar at the entrance of the Rio Dulce (sweet river), even at the highest tide some have to be tipped sideways with help, as it is not very deep. Ta-b has a very shallow draft and so luckily we had no problem.

We motored up the winding river through the tropical rainforest rimmed with mountains in the afternoon and got to Texan Bay by happy hour. What an amazing experience. The first part of the river is quite narrow, the steep sides rise up to 300 feet and there is lots of vegetation; then it opens up and becomes a surreal piece of water. There were lots of Mayan Indians fishing in their dug out canoes, thatched homes along the shore and a fabulous amount of wildlife. The water was flat calm and so tranquil we immediately fell in love with the area. This second part of the river, until just before Fronteras is a reserve, I have added a picture from google in the photo gallery.

Texan Bay is one of the first inlets where you can anchor after Livingstone. It is delightful with two marinas, is very peaceful with lilly pads and has lots of mangroves to explore. We were seriously thinking of leaving Ta-b there after meeting Chris, who has the smaller marina, and could fit us in. He specializes in refridgeration, perfect for us with our broken freezer, and is also great at electrics. So far he has been fantastic in helping us look after Ta-b. However, once we got to Fronteras and were able to get a berth at Tortugal Marina (one of 13 marinas in the area as it is such a perfect hurricane hole), at a price we could not refuse; we decided it was easier to stay closer to town, enjoy the marina ambience and spend more time with our friends on s/v Emerald Seas.

After a morning of exploring the mangroves around the bay we set off for Fronteras, the main town of the Rio Dulce 20 miles up the river, where we anchored off San Felipe fort just south of the bridge in Lago de Izabel. We had the place to ourselves and are looking forward to exploring the huge lake more when we get back, I have put a map of the area in our gallery. It is such a incredible place and we enjoyed wizzing around on our tender getting to know the neighbourhood.

Within a few days we were at dock prepping Ta-b for the hurricane season. We are mega careful, pulling everything down, cleaning, checking for damage, etc.. and storing. It sounds like a quick job, but we take our time; especially in the heat, and have found it can take up to a week. This time we got a day behind as when we moved from one berth to another we encountered a swarm of wasps at the top of the mast. This caused great hilarity amongst the marina staff, especially when one by one they went up the mast to try and get rid of them. These guys earn an average of $15 a day and were open to putting on wet weather gear, leather gloves, sailing boots, helmet and netting (which they fried in) as part of their "job" to look after the boats at the marina. It took all day and a few bites (I got three) before we got rid of them.

Fronteras is a real outback town with a lot of character. One of the main roads in Guatemala goes from south to north over one of the biggest bridges in Central America. Mega trucks with cows (apparently you have to be careful as the sides are open and cows go when they want to; which is probably why all the shops have awnings) ramble through the town and when they go over the bridge you can hear them a long way off.

The people of Guatemala are such happy people, always smiling and laughing, even when they do not understand what we are saying as we do not speak Spanish - yet. Because no one earns much money, everything (apart from boat parts) is cheap. We had two meals at the marina before we left, with sundowners, wine, etc.. and the cost ..... $44 for the two. The entire region is not only beautiful, but rich in history and culture, so we are looking forward to spending more time getting to know the place. There is even a hot water waterfall, a must on our bucket list.

The Rio Dulce is a long way from Guatemala city where the airport is. However the bus service (6 hours) is excellent and the roads much better than Columbia. We stayed a night in the city before flying to Vancouver and spent a bit of time looking around, I think the area we were in was very upmarket as it was very different to Fronteras and Livingstone.

Our plan is to go back to Guatemala on the 20th August and we have booked a week in Antigua city and another at Atilan Lake before returning to Ta-b. We are looking forward to spending time with family and friends this summer, the first we have had off the boat in eight years. Carpe Diem

Honduras
Jane warm and sunny
06/14/2015, Honduras

Honduras

We spent a wonderful time exploring the Bay Islands of Honduras. Unlike the mainland they are safe, with a easy laid back energy. We arrived in Guanaja, the most easterly of the three main islands, after a wonderful sail. Checking in was a breeze and for once free. We immediately celebrated with a cold beer at the local hang out where we met Anne and Jim, who had just arrived to spend a month at their waterfront pad on the north part of the island. They quickly became great friends and introduced us to all the local expates who have homes on the island. What fun we had.

Guanaja is only 11 miles long and three miles wide with one road; which used to be the airport runway (they now have a new one). It is stunning. Everyone gets about by boat which is wild, boats .... everywhere - a little like Venice. The main town Bonacca is based on a wee island just off the south coast, it has lots of character with thatched homes on stilts, perched on reefs and it was decorated for Easter with palms all over the place. Guanaja (we nicknamed it Ganga) suffered horrendously from Hurricane Mitch in 1998. It was the worst hit of the islands with two days of maximum sustained winds of 180 mph; which destroyed nearly all of the plants and trees on the island, uprooting or knocking down almost the entire mangrove forest and most homes. It is estimated that the hurricane produced waves of 44 ft in height and the rains caused further damage and loss of life. Our new friends had many stories to share.

We stayed in Sandy Bay opposite the Manati Bar and Restaurant where most cruisers anchor, although we were one of only four boats. The Manati is a locals hangout, Saturday being a lunchtime ritual where we made more friends including George and Ginger who own the Clearwater Paradise Resort. George invited us to join him and about 20 other locals for a day out on his diving/fishing boat. He took us around the island and we stopped at some of the best places to snorkel. It was a terrific day where we ended up at Anne and Jim's for a lobster dinner and sleepover. We were also invited to Clark's Cay, one of the private reef islands off the coast, for lunch. What a gorgeous home with six guest cabins and a main living area to die for, all rebuilt after Mitch.

We took the tender to Graham's Cay one of the reef islands off the south coast and saw the turtles, quite the resort, and very quickly got to the stage where we did not want to leave. We wanted to spend time at the other islands, so we had to move on, but we know that we will be back to spend more time with Jim and Anne one day.

Our next stop was Roatan the biggest island in the Bay Islands. We started off in French Harbour before moving around to West Bay which was much more sheltered from the high Easterly winds that were coming through. French Harbour is gorgeous and the snorkeling on the marine reef beside the boat was wild. There is a Barracuda called Fred who is huge and way too friendly, plus dozens and dozens of large lobsters fighting over fish carcases that are feed to them. Quite the sight.

We then popped around the corner to West Bay which was a perfect place to chill and we hardly felt the wind. We met lots of other cruisers and I was fortunate to link in and dive a lot with friends from s/v Expectations and s/v Emerald Sea as Russell at that time was having problems with his back. The diving in the islands is comparable to Bonaire with the reef system reported to be the second largest in the world. It certainly was beautiful and I was really upset when my underwater camera broke, so there are not many "fishie" photos on our blog.

We would have liked to have sailed around Roatan and explored it more by water, but we were stuck (again) and so jumped buses and hired cars to look around. We were able to enjoy the annual Garifuna festival; which celebrates the arrival of the first Grifuna people who founded the oldest permanent settlement, Punta Gorda on Roatan in 1797, after escaping slavery from St. Vincent. It was arge and lively with street parades, music, dancing and lots of eating. Yum.

Next stop was Utilia. Probably the smallest island and delightful, we can understand why it is so loved; especially by the younger crowd. Imagine our first night going ashore to the "Rehab" bar with loungers, swinging seats and great happy hour prices. We met three "kids" one from Oz, one from NZ and one from ... Vancouver and soon became friends whilst learning about their different travels.

Everyone who spends time in Utilia dives and for $200 you can get your PADI certification over a week with accommodation included. Can't beat it. We met some fascinating locals, two who were wonderful to us although I forget their names, dash I must write these things down, but even if I did they would be on the boat. Anyways, one guy who calls himself a nerd because he used to work with Steve Jobs, but has lived on the island for over 11 years, tried to help me fix my laptop over three days. He would take no cash, the books I donated to the library he has set up was enough. When he isn't diving, teaching and enjoying the feedback from the younger crowd he takes apart dead computers to make new ones for the locals. Part of his buzz is helping the islanders and on top of the computer services he offers he has set up a library (including kids toys, videos, etc..) a small bar/restaurant and cinema on his property.

Then there was a lovely single mum who used to work for Tony and Guy hairdressers in England who works from her apartment. She also manages one of the small boutique type hotels, the only type to be found on the island. She advertises by word of mouth and a sign that says she can help you if you are having a bad hair day. Well I certainly was and I spent a wonderful morning with her and her son. For less then a third of what I would pay in Vancouver I had a new hairdo that I am thrilled with. The average pay in Honduras is $15 a day, but she was worth a lot more than that so a bit tip was called for.

The tough thing about living onboard is sometimes having to move on, but we had an agenda and needed to get to Guatemala. The weather and moon were perfect for us to leave with our friends from Vancouver Island on s/v Emerald Seas and having a buddy boat was a good idea in the waters off Honduras. We hope one day to return to the Bay Islands as it is a very special area, having no big cruise ships, hotels, etc.. with great hiking, snorkeling and terrific island life living.


Isla Providencia
Jane, warm and sunny
04/02/2015

Isla Providencia is an island where we immediately felt at home. Even though it is part of Colombia it is 475 nm from its mother country, being closer to Nicaragua only 125 nm away. However it is really is isolated being in the middle of nowhere, a place that cruisers stop for a break on their way north or south going along the western Caribbean. It is only 4.5 miles long by 2.25 miles wide, but has a wonderfully protected harbour formed by the big island and its little sister, Santa Catalina island; which is connected by a foot bridge. It is protected by an 18 mile long barrier reef, so fantastic for diving/snorkeling and the land has a rustic beauty with its mountains as a back drop.

There are 6,000 residents and most of them speak English as well as Spanish. There is a small airport flying mainly tourists from San Andres each day, a busier island 54 nm south. Luckily there are no cruise ships or international flights and there are only a few boutique hotels. With ten other sail boats it was our kind of place.

We rented scooters for a day at a cost of $20 and explored the island. The shop was not interested in a driver's license or credit card swipe, just wanted to make sure we had a fun day. The people are all very friendly and helpful. There are very few cars on the island, but thousands of motor bikes; quite often with a whole family of four on board. Helmets? Did not see one. Lunch was at Artoro's in South West Bay where they race horses bareback on Saturdays. We had a massive mixed plate of lobster, prawns, conch and fish that we could not finish for $15. Yes, here we are millionionaires as you get about 40,000 pescos for $20. We were therefore surprised when our agent "Mr. Bush" charged us $100 when we checked out (he started off at $150) especially as we still had our cruising permit from Santa Marta (while we were in the San Blas we were only "in transit"). Apparently if you stop in Providencia you have to have a tourist permit which costs $30 per person, however long you stay, the rest was his fee - not cheap; which is why sadly a lot of boats do not stop.

We only stayed for three days as our weather window showed that the wind was due to disappear. The night before we left we had another excellent meal of prawns and lobster (have never eaten so much lobster before) with two other crusing boats from the US at a restaurant called Sea Storm on Santa Catalina - they specialise in corn ice cream, had to have and very tasty too. Our new friends were heading south, although one of the couples shared that they visit Providencia every year, for about 6 weeks each time, and they have many friends ashore. We can certainly understand why as everyone says "hello" and wants to have a chat with you as you wander through the town.

Our sail to Providencia was amazing. A total of 275 nm and we had to slow the old girl (Ta-b) down as otherwise we would have arrived during the night - this is certainly not an area to arrive in the dark with its many reefs off the coast. To be honest we always plan to arrive in the light, but sometimes the wind plays games with us ☺ Apparently six boats have sunk hitting the reefs in San Blas this year, most by entering at night . We have been using our radar much more than normal, not only does it show boats that may not have AIS, but it is also is great for ear marking reefs and the odd rain squal. A great friend to have on board.

We normally work on a 5-6 kn average, but have upped it to 6-7 kn especially as we have been getting up to half a knot of current with us. The wind to Hondurus was a perfect 15-20 knots with fairly kind seas, but yet again we went too fast and had to slow Ta-b down, sailing with two reefs and pulling some of the geni in to get the perfect speed. It was odd to be sailing a lot of the way in very shallow water off the coast of Nicaragua and then Hondurus. With another 330 nm under our belt in less than a week, we certainly have been chewing up the miles and are looking forward to a slower pace in Hondurus in April.

Happy Easter everyone and enjoy the pictures in the photo gallery. Make sure that you highlight the first to scroll through, so that you get the pictures information.



San Blas Islands
Jane, warm and sunny
04/02/2015

We feel blessed and privileged to have recently spent some time cruising the San Blas Islands off Panama. A gorgeous archipelago of over 360 islands most are small and uninhabited, with white sandy beaches and swaying palms and are protected by miles and miles of barrier reef. They are home to the Kuna Indians who live on 48 of the islands and have managed to preserve their culture and traditions and are part of the mainland territory called Kuna Yala. Luckily no foreigner is allowed to buy or invest in Kuna land and the untouched virgin rain forests and stunning cruising grounds have managed to escape industrial development.

The Kunas are very friendly and welcoming to visitors, however no Kuna is allowed to intermarry with non Kunas and violation would result in expulsion from the islands. So far we have not seen any albinos, although we understand they are common. The Kunas are also very petite (yes smaller than me) and are known to be the second smallest race after the Pygmies.

We found the energy in the islands wonderfully peaceful, so very different from mainland Columbia. The Kunas are happy and gentle while quietly going about their daily lives and there are no police, no jails and no crime - magic. The men leave the islands at sunup to go ashore in their dugout "ulus" for the morning. They collect coconuts, fruit, water and firewood, some also grow vegtables ashore. They trade the coconuts with Colombian boats for rice and flour. The Kuna also fish and grow cane for their twice a year piss up, apparently it is quite a party, but otherwise they do not drink. We were surprised to see children in school uniforms, they have a large school in Mamitupu, and there are a lot of solar panels generating electricity, with quite a few families having televisions.

The Kuna are a mutrilineal society with the women in control of the money. Most marry young at about 13 when the women gets to choose her husband (now that's a novel idea), he then moves into his wife's family compound. The Kuna women still wear the traditional unique "mola" shirt, wear strings of beads on their arms and legs to ward off evil spirits and some have gold rings in their noses deemed to be a sign of beauty. Most live in family huts made out of bamboo sticks, with a palm frond roof.

We travelled west along the island chain from Islas Pinos, one of the more traditional villages about 80 nm east of the main San Blas anchorages. Apart from our New Zealand friends on s/v Oynas we only saw one other boat whilst cruising the eastern region of the San Blas for a week. It was fun having a buddy boat, and we really enjoyed the company before they had to leave to get to Panama to meet their son. Only in New Zealand would two farmers decide to go on an adventure and buy their first boat in Turkey to sail back home within 16 months.

We visited Bahia Masargandi with its peaceful mangroves, Mamitupu a delightful Kuna village, Aridup with only one family ashore, before we stopped for a while in Coco Bandero Cays; which were stunning. The reefs are everywhere and we followed weigh points from our pilot book religiously, as all of our GPS navigational charts (we have three different sorces) have been putting us on land. We found the best time to travel is between 1000 - 1400 hours when the reefs are easier to see.

It has been difficult not to buy a ton of "Molas" which the Kuna women sell. They are beautiful reverse applique squares that the women wear, intricately made by sewing and cutting different layers of colourful cloth. They take up to three months to make, some being more intricate than others. Most show birds, animals and marine life, and I just LOVE them. We had a Kuna come one day in his ulu asking for magazines - useful apparently to learn English. Russ found him an old sailing one and we were duly presented with three lovely mangoes - what a trade. We also bought LOTS of lobsters, still in season until April, they were delicious and ... cheap. Our fruit and vegtables held out; which is lucky as the Kuna basically live off what they gather and we never saw the vegetable boat.

Each village has up to three chiefs who seem to run everything with the help of their younger interpreters, as it is disrespectful to talk directly to them. We have come across a couple of Kuna who speak English, but otherwise the men understand Spanish, but the women only speak Kuna. It is amazing what one can do with sign language, and a few words of spanish, plus a dictionary.

We left Santa Marta the first opportunity we could, we were told to wait another week, but we had been stuck there for a month with the weather not letting up. Apparently this was unusual as there is normally a break every week or two. Most nights the wind would keep us awake with a constant 40-50 knots in the marina, coming down slightly during the day to 20-25 knots. The coal dust from the refinery got into everything and we were continually hosing down the boat and cleaning. Once in the San Blas we took all our lines down to wash, they were black and horrible to handle. The boat also needed a thorough "spring" clean, so no let up on the work side.

The good news is we did manage to get a little work done while we were stuck at the marina. The Kohler people quickly sorted out our generator with a new battery and also serviced our alternators with no problem. However, our lovely freezer guy was the most frustrating workman to date. He meant well, but he had no idea about time and wondered why we were pissed off when he said he would arrive each day at a certain time and then eventually turned up a week later. He also never managed to fix anything. We thought we had sorted the freezer out by ourselves, but it is not happy again, looks like there might be a leak in the system which we will hopefully sort out in Hondurus. The washing machine? Well the short answer is, it is still not fixed.

Santa Marta does not leave me warm and fussy, in part because I came down with not one, but three stomach bugs while I was there. How come I ask myself as I did not get tempted to buy any lovely goodies from any vendors. On top of that (weakened system I suppose) I also suffered from all the coal I was breathing in and my glands and throat were sore for weeks. I felt dirty the whole time we were there and treasured my daily showers, although the clean feeling only lasted a short time. We were very happy to eventually "escape" from Santa Marta when at last a very short slightly better weather window presented itself.

The sail to the San Blas took us three days. We stopped after a long bumpy, windy day 50 Nm south of Santa Marta in a bay with a marina, well protected from the wind and great sand holding. We began the next day at sunrise to get to the Rosario Islands off Cartagena before nightfall. On our arrival the wind was still up at 30 knots and we did not feel the anchorage was safe, so with our Kiwi friends we carried on through the night arriving at Isla Pinos late afternoon the following day. The swells on the way were very uncomfortable even for us, apparently it was horrid in a monohull. However we were able to sail most of the way, unlike our friends who did a lot of motor sailing.

The weather since our arrival has been pretty cloudy, with the occasional rain (great for cleaning Ta-b), but a perfect temperature. The sea has been murky because of the swells that have been here for over a month, but are becoming clearer and I had one of my best snorkels ever in the Hollandes Cays. Saw a huge amount of marine life, including a couple of large nurse sharks, one of which I nearly swam into ☺ Stayed in two anchorages in Hollandes Cays commonly known as the "Hot Tub" and the "Swimming Pool" both beautiful although the "Hot Tub" was our favorite. We plan to return to the San Blas again before we go through the Panama canal, but needed to move onto Providencia 275 nm away while the weather was in our favour.

Curacao to Colombia
Jane, warm and sunny
03/01/2015, Colombia

Columbia, a country of many extremes. A photo is worth a thousand words, so we hope our gallery will help give you a glimpse of our time here. The pictures are in two groups, we hope you enjoy.

Leaving Williamstead, in Curacao, we headed south (against the wind) as we needed to pick up fuel in Spanse Waters at the marina, there being nowhere in the main city to get it. Luckily it was not far as the wind was still blowing a tad and it was a bumpy ride. Then we proceeded to have a lovely sail up the coast to a bay at the northern part of the island, where we spent the weekend having a much deserved chill out. We picked a perfect weather window for our trip to Santa Marta and had a fabulous 3 day/night sail. For the first time we flew our parasail (called big red) for nearly 32 hours keeping her up overnight as the wind was steady and under 10 knots. We made great time and decided to stop just before Santa Marta, in the third bay (there are five), in the national park for our last afternoon and night. A beautiful area, but it was lucky we only spent one night there as the weather was changing. Two nights later in the marina we were getting 35 knots at night at dock, it's very windy here, with 55 knots forecast for tonight. These are not the notorious Chocosanos winds, a local phenomenon that also occur in the San Blas Islands; which normally only last about 30 minutes and come with rain during the end of the hurricane season.

They say it is easy to get stuck in Santa Marta, we now know why. At the moment every 10 - 14 days there is a day or two where one can safely leave. We were hoping to head for the San Blas Islands this week, but the weather is still not looking great . All the cruisers here are patiently waiting, some are due in Panama - yikes.

Santa Marta for us has been very frustrating, although it has slowly helped us to become more patient - not an easy lesson. We arrived on Friday 13 Feb (okay, not the best day) hoping to get some work done at the beginning of the following week. Our generator had died on us again (luckily proved to be only the old battery) and our freezer as snuffed it as well. What a saga, especially as the electrician decided our compressor was stuffed. He said he would get us a new one, but luckily it was a four day weekend (always is when you need work done) and Russ started double checking their work with the help of a supplier in the US. Compressors are supposed to be bullet proof ..... well seems ours is okay, thankfully the guy was not able to get a new one - phew! However, the controller (and maybe the thermostat) was the culprit so we are now waiting for parts from the US (can't get here) which are due tomorrow. Fingers crossed that all will be well, thank goodness Russell is such a handy man. Don't need a "professional" electrician.

You are probably wondering why we always have boat projects, maybe this is a good time to explain. If you can imagine your house being sprayed with "salt" water on a regular basis, then a mass of "fine" sand (and coal here), then being shaken around big time for four days I am sure you would have some "projects". These may only be loose wires, but they can certainly take some time to find. Here in a third world country the workman are also different to what we are used to. They "think" they know what they are doing, say they are going to arrive at 4pm and arrive (after a lot of pressure) maybe five days later. Then there is the language problem as hardly anyone speaks English, and sadly our Spanish is the same. It took us ages to find a dictionary. We were amazed in Santa Marta to find that there is only one, very small, book shop in town with no dictionaries. Did I mention parts? Well of course that is another issue, they are good at fixing things, because there are no parts. Sometimes however "things" can't be fixed and that is when we have to ship items (at great cost). We have a ton of spares on board, but occasionally not quite the one we need.

Anyway the upshot is that we have spent a ton more time in Santa Marta than planned. Not a bad thing as the longer we are here the more we learn about the country. It is warm and sunny, and we have found the people pleasant. Before Adrian left last week we went for a walk to Taganga Bay, about 5km away, with some other fellow cruisers. On the way we had to pass the refinery that sends out 50 trains a day with coal (our boat is filthy even though we hose it down every few days - keeps me busy). There was a shanty village by the rail tracks with so much garbage/rubbish the smell made me gag (dead dogs did not help). Did I mention that there is rubbish everywhere, except in the "tourist" spots? Lots of starving stray dogs too. Horrendous. Anyway past the town, as we went up the hill to get to our destination, we noticed two policemen on a bike were passing us and then stopping to check out the view. When we got to the top they confirmed that they were escorting us as we were not in a "safe" area. To be honest, Colombia although a lot better than it was, still for me has an "unsafe" energy about it. There are a LOT of police everywhere, even in the "safe" areas.

We have just come back from 3 nights in Cartagena. It is four hours away by bus and the journey was an education in itself. The Colombians are very industrious and many walk/ride around selling their wares. On our trip we had about 20 people jump on and off the bus when it was stopped because of traffic, check points, etc.. to sell their wares. Everything from water/pop, food/chips, homemade enchiladas, sweets, we even had a guy who serenaded us for about half an hour. How he managed to play the guitar on the bumpy, pot holed roads I'll never know. It was impossible to read a book and you certainly would not want to suffer from car sickness.

Cartagena was wonderful, although we found the rich and poor living side by side in Getsemani, where we stayed, difficult. There are 1.8 million people in Cartagena with under 200 thousand living in the five "wealthy" districts. We passed houses where people were sleeping on the dirt cement floors, with maybe a plastic chair or two, next to a plush hotel. Further out they live hand to mouth and there is a lot of crime we were told. Families are close, often three generations living in one room, kids playing happily with no technology. It was interesting to observe.

The history of Cartagena is fascinating and the old town great to explore, people watch and enjoy. We had a wonderful free tour around the walled city (worth the big tip given) and learnt a ton. Visited the Fort of San Felipe, good for the view, but otherwise we have seen a lot better. The navel museum was impressive, though sadly without any English so an English speaking guide/friend would have made a huge difference. There was a video explaining how the natives had devised a canal and drainage system thousands of years ago that tamed the great flooding that occurs in certain areas of Colombia each year. Their drainage system was amazingly effective. But when the Spanish arrived they filled in this wonderful drainage system, causing flooding to begin again, and which
continues annually to this day. We did not visit the House of Pain, sounded like the Tower of London and is where the Spanish Inquisition was carried out in the name of the Catholic Church. You certainly would not want to upset anyone back then, as the priests sounded evil.

Colombia is thankfully cheap. Stuck here at the marina it is costing us $350 per week, including electricity and water. Not that cheap, but we would have had to pay that for a night in some parts of Europe. Being at anchor is not an option in these winds. Colombia is a bargain for restaurants compared to the Eastern Caribbean. We have splashed out a lot and have enjoyed the 2 for 1 happy hour (normally all night) where Mojitos cost $7 for two and have become a favourite. The food is also excellent with a main course costing around $10, I have told Russell I can't cook a meal for that cost (he believes me - yeah).

Not sure now what we are going to get up to. Latest weather says we are here for another week - yet again we are thankful we have no agenda. We are thinking that once we have sorted out the freezer we might take to the hills and/or the national parks to experience the waterfalls, hiking, birds, etc... Our next blog will tell all. Keep safe, smiling and .... Slow down (our new motto).


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