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S/V Rainbowrider
Doing the town
pilott / clear and breezy
02/24/2009, Cartagena, Columbia

People come to Cartagena to see and experience the old world charm and the history. Oh, there is plenty of the new and modern as well, but that can be seen almost anywhere. The heart of Cartagena culture is the old city. A conglomeration of narrow cobbled streets surrounded by ancient buildings with balconies overhanging and festooned with flowering plants. Here you will find museums, shops and restuarants. You can buy anything from the usual tourist crap to beautiful pieces of work by native craftsmen. A little leg work is called for to find the good stuff, but the rewards are worth it. As you approach the main gate you will see the spires of several Cathedrals towering over the city. The architecture is quite lovely and impressive. Street vendors are selling fresh cut fruit (papaya, watermelon, cantalope and others whose names I don't even know). For a few pennies you can have a cup full of sweet refreshment as you stroll the streets. Most of the restuarants have a menu del dia (menu of the day) which includes three or more choices for a very reasonable rate. You can have a delicious full plate lunch for about 3 to 4 dollars. For dollar more add a very cold local beer. There are a number of shady parks scattered around town and they are perfect for taking a break out of the sun and listening to the splash of the water playing in the fountains. At night the streets and plazas fill up with tables and chairs from the restuarants and dinner is served outside. People stroll about with their families taking in the noise and excitement and greeting one another as they pass. There are night culbs and dance imporiums if you are so inclined. It is a vibrant city full of life and happy people. It is easy to understand why so many cruisers make this journey and brave the passage that brings you here. Soon we will be leaving for the San Blas Islands of Panama, but I suspect that there is a good chance we will return to Cartagena in the not too distant future.

The 5th worst passage in the world
pilott / clear and breezy
02/20/2009, Columbia

I will tell you quite candidly that this passage across this particular stretch of water has had me buffaloed for a while now. It is considered one of the 5 most dangerous and difficult passages in the world. The only solution to this trip is to wait and watch for a wx window of sufficient length to make the trip under decent conditions. It is nearly 500 miles from Aruba to Cartagena along a coast that can be most inhospitable during bad wind and wave coditions. The prevailing knowledge is to catch that window during the change of seasons between late Oct and the end of Nov. Failing that there is the change of season during late April to the end of May. Well, we had committed to guests in Curacao and Bonaire during the Oct-Nov window so could not go with the rest of our traveling crew who found a comfortable passsage during that time. However, having no desire to stay in the ABC's till spring I haunted the wx sites on the internet and while in Aruba this amazing 9 day window opened up around us and we launched for Cartagena on the second day of moderating seas and wind. We did the first leg to Cabo de Vela on an overnite that brought us into that bay at 7am as the light was rising. We anchored of the fishing village there till about 2pm and after a short nap we pulled the hook and took of for Santa Marta doing another overnite and getting in there at about 3pm. As we pulled into the bay we were greeted by the Columbian Coast Guard who came aboard to check our papers and welcome us to Columbia. They were polite and professional and it was good to know that they were around if we needed them. We anchored off the beach at Gaira and rested until midnight; then pulled the hook and took off on the long last leg to Cartagena. We had decided that since the conditions were so benign we would not linger and tempt the gods to punish us for our temerity. As you leave Santa Marta Bay you come upon what is undoubtably one of the worst features of this passage. The mighty Rio Magadalena! On a bad day the wind off the sea pushes up large ugly waves against the outflow of this river. On top of that one can often see anything from whole trees to dead cows being carried across ones path as you try to cross. For us the Gods smiled and continued the benign seas and winds we had been experiencing since the start of our passage. By mid morning we were across the rivers influence and on our way down the coast to Cartagena. At about 4pm the city skyline began to appear through the haze and smog. High rise hotels and condos as far as the eye can see. As we closed in on our goal we began to see the opening in the old underwater wall constructed by the early Spanish defenders of the city. It's intent was to rip the bottom out of any marauding pirate or privateer who tried to enter the harbor. The only other usable entrance was protected by fortresses and cannon that would deny passage to all who were unwelcome. We made an easy approach and suddenly found ourselves inside the famous and historical harbor of Cartagena. About 30 to 40 minutes across the harbor was the anchorage where cruisers are allowed to stay. Following the markers and the cruising guide we soon found ourselves among old friends and looking for a place to drop the hook. Once securely anchored we took a moment to look around us and realize we were finally in Cartagena, safe and sound, with the worlds 5th worst strech of water behind us and never having seen a wave over 4 ft or wind above 20 kts. Damned if that doesn't call for a drink!!!!!

Ft Lauderdale south
pilott / clear and breezy
02/19/2009, Aruba

As we rounded the south end of Aruba the very first thing to be seen was a large and very ugly oil refinery. Not a very auspicious start to our visit as far as I was concerned. As we sailed past the stink became a bit overwhelming. Fortunately the breeze was strong enough to get us past the odiferous area in short time. After passing that particular blight on the land the scenery became a little more pleasant. It is about 12 miles on up to Barcadero where we planned to check in and we had good wind on the beam with flat seas and were running about 8 kts. That's a real good sail for us and we enjoyed it all the way. Arriving off Barcadero we called Aruba Port Control and asked permission to enter and check in. It was granted immediately and we turned into the channel with coral reef visible on both sides. There were several Venezuelan vegetable boats already tied to the dock so eased around the corner and Linda prepared to do her cowgirl act with the dock lines. Just then 2 crewmen from the Ven boats hurried over to catch our lines and make life so much easier. In a couple of minutes we were secure to the dock with an offshore breeze holding us off the BIG ugly black tires used as permanent fenders on many docks. While they are no problem for large steel hulled power boats, they are hell on fiberglass yachts. I thanked the lads with smile and a cold beer. A customs officer eventually wandered out to the boat to approve our arrival and send us up to the office to complete the paperwork. Then over to immigration and we're done. We motored another 2 miles up the coast to the north airport anchorage and dropped the hook among 5 other boats. To the north about half a mile was the cruise ship docks and downtown Oranjestad. Towering over us, even at half a mile, were 3 crise ships. On the other side of us was the west end of the main runway at the international airport. There are an amazing number of arrivals and departures each day. One plane every 10 to 15 minutes. Still, the holding was good and the location convenient. Besides we had no intention of staying any longer than it took to get a wx window for the run to Cartagena. We met some new friends in this anchorage, Mike and Ineka on Conari, and were invited to tour the island with them in their rental car. Naturally we accepted and of we went to see the wizard. Aruba is the smallest of the ABC's and it didn't take long to see most of what there is to see. The southeast end is where most local people live, however most work in Orajestad and the hotel strip north of there. This is where Ft Lauderdale south comes in to the picture. As you drive thru the hotel strip you begin to see familiar names on the hotels and restuarants. Care to stop at Hooters for calamari strips? How about Tony Romas for ribs? In a hur? There's always Mc Donalds or Burger King. There are 50 more familiar names, but I think you get the idea. There is an excellent IGA supermarket where almost anything you could buy in the states is available. Not cheap, but available. We did some serious provisioning there. Never got out the door for less than $300!!! Anyway, it was very much like driving the east coast of FL near Ft Lauderdale. We got very lucky soon after this drive as a long comfortable wx window suddenly appeared around us and it was time to go while we still had a couple of bucks in the bank!

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Tara Vana 
 
These are stories of the travels of Rainbowrider and her intrepid crew We have been out for almost 4 years now and will remain out here until it's no longer fun. We have found a community of boaters and friends who will always come to the rescue if needed. Otherwise they will just be there to help with whatever you may need help with. When help is not needed they will leave you in peace with the sure and certain knowledge that assistance is only a radio call away
 
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