04/14/2012, Swimming Pool, San Blas Islands, Panama
We spent the last 3 days in Cholon relaxing and decompressing from the lovely Cartagena experience. Enjoyed our time with Robert and Carmen who were charming and very helpful to us. Had a nice evening on Miss Gale and then on Manatee on Thursday.
Now anchored in the beautiful location called the Swimming Pool, San Blas Islands, Panama. We haven't gotten to explore much be intend to start tomorrow. No cell, no internet......ah!
Pictures when we get to internet.
Please visit our new Photo Gallery Please visit our new Photo Gallery Please visit our new Photo Gallery I have procrastinated on getting this section of the blog written so it covers the entire time we have been in Cartagena from around June to the present but the trip home is in a separate blog entry. Check out the photo gallery for updated photos of the work. Please visit our new Photo Gallery We really enjoyed our few weeks in Aruba. The weather was fantastic. No rain, warm but breezy days and the evening temperatures were very comfortable. We used a light sheet to sleep almost every night. The island has changed since our last visit about 15 years ago, when Steve and I went to Aruba after a week in Bonaire. Of course, we fell in love with the island of Bonaire and had not returned to Aruba. In the photo gallery there is a picture of the hotel Steve and I stayed at all those 15 years ago. We returned to Curacao, minus our fish catching son, Michael. We will have to make some improvements in the fishing department. Michael is getting close to finishing his first semester of college and doing very well. He is now working at Smoothie King and actually earning a paycheck instead of swapping work time for clothes. Prom is approaching quickly and he is getting excited about attending his first public school dance. Our trip to the Curacao airport on Christmas Eve was an interesting adventure. We did not realize the entire island got off work around noon. The streets were packed with cars, all of them clogging the streets going somewhere. We did make it to the airport in plenty of time and had a nice flight back to Florida. The weather when we left Curacao was warm and somewhat rainy.
During the holidays we returned home for a great time at Christmas. We spent the time running errands, gathering up all the "necessary" items we can't find here (there are differing opinions on what the word necessary actually means), squeezing in a few Dr. appointments and visiting with family and friends. Dad and Linda were able to make the trip down and we had a great time visiting with them, Jen and Victoria and Matt and Seth and Shawn.
While we were home, Michael decided to move back to the house. We were very busy trying to help him get things organized and cleaned up.
When we returned to Cartagena we got the primer Flavit needed ordered and on its way. Flavit realized he wanted to primer the entire boat again two days before we were leaving to come home. Unfortunately, all of the international shippers that we are familiar with shut down mid December till after the first week in January. The primer arrived on the day scheduled and the week was busy getting the boat taped and read to be sprayed. The coachroof was sprayed on Saturday morning and today more sanding has begun. We have had several conversations about not sanding all of the primer off this time. The crew is sanding by hand with a high number sandpaper so we hope we will have a smooth surface with plenty of primer left on the boat. They are really into sanding here. We also had a try in of the hardtop. Steve was pleased with the work. A few hours after test fit the hardtop was back on the ground for some fine tuning.
We have been going to the Wednesday night cruisers pizza at Pacho y Guillos in Manga. It is a fun night and usually very crowded.
We have also been to town a few times and enjoyed the activity and had a few good dinners. We had dinner at the newer restaurant called La Guera Milagrosa Taquera Cantina, owned by the same people as Mila's. (We have not eaten at Mila's yet but have heard good reviews and it seems to always be crowded). Mexican food, loud music and nice surroundings. Steve and Tim had a meal of chicken and steak that comes in a big iron pot with several flat tortillas to wrap around the meat. Also had a great meal at a restaurant called Brangus in the food court at the mall across the street from the fort. This mall is only one year old. Very nice and clean with a movie theater and a bowling alley.
We went to the fort on Sunday. Cost, about $8 US dollars per person. The fort was in very good shape and maintained well. The tunnels below the fort were winding and vast. The sun is very hot right now but the breeze has been great. In the morning there may be a lull in the wind but by early afternoon the breeze has really picked up. This is great for keeping cool but we are hoping for a few days with no wind when it is time to paint. There has not been one day of rain since our return on Jan 4th. Not really even any clouds. The dust is swirling everywhere from the roads and big trucks.
Our friends, Manuela and Sid from Paradise, have been here in Manzanillo Marina for a month or so. We have been to Cartagena before but made a trip to town with them. Manuela and Sid have been here before so they are more familiar with what lies behind the small openings on the busy streets of town. The roads are filled with many small doors that lead somewhere behind the old walls of the buildings. Some of the areas we saw are in the photos posted up on the Cartagena 3 gallery. In the evening, we saw several weddings at some beautiful old hotels. Outside there were several brightly painted horse drawn carriages for the bride and groom and the wedding party. We have had several fantastic dinners prepared by Manuela and one evening a fondue dinner in our small apartment. We also have enjoyed dinner at de Oliva several times, one evening a few weeks ago for Steve and Sid's birthdays.
The work on North Star is progressing but the rain has been increasing in amount and frequency. We had bad weather last night with high winds and more rain than I have heard for a sustained period in awhile. Power was out all night and some of the day today. During business hours the yard used a large generator to keep things up and running. The latest photos will show some of the work. The decks have been removed, fiberglass laid down, leveling and fairing almost completed. The stainless steel work is coming along also. The frame for the bimini is ready, the life lines and rails for the back of the boat are completed. The cabinet and the seating below has been finished. We are working on matching the teak below for painting. Some minor varnish work below has been started. Next we have gel coat on the decks and installing the stainless steel work and more painting.
This month is carnival here and the people seem to be in a party mode here. We were told the area outside the gate here can be dangerous at night. We have been told that right down the road is a high drug area. We have had a few incidents since our arrival here. One day in the early afternoon when returning from the mall our taxi drive had some trouble with the local kids. The kids were playing with a soccer ball and as we passed they kicked the ball under the car and it popped. The police were nearby but offered no interaction as the kids surrounded and blocked the car, rocking it from side to side. Yelling ensued and only after the driver paid the kids twice were we allowed to continue. Second incident, when we were heading to the mall on a Saturday afternoon our cab was pulled over, the driver was frisked and we waited in the car for 45 minutes with no explanation of what was happening. The police asked the driver to follow him. We immediately got out of the car, we did not want to go wherever they were taking the driver. Another taxi was called for us. Third incident, nothing to do with us personally but one of the other cruisers here was getting out to the taxi here at the marina and a mugger knocked him down and tried to take his wallet. This was at 11 am on a Saturday. Luckily, someone from the marina was nearby and helped out. The most recent event for us was returning home from dinner for Steve's birthday there was a huge gathering of people down the road from the marina, many flashing lights and police passing us by the minute. The taxi driver said he would not take us to our destination because he did not want to be killed. Thank goodness, Manuela was with us because she is fluent in Spanish. She called the guard at the marina and had him speak with the cab driver. The guard assured the driver the commotion was not in front of the marina. We carefully, took some back streets and made our way safely to the gate.
We have been to the mall for several decent movies lately. We also spent a morning in Boca Grande. This is a tourist area. Similar to Clearwater Beach style with beaches, high rise hotels, places selling tourist items and jewelry. This town is cleaner than some of the places we have seen. We also checked out a jewelry store. I spent some time looking. The stones were in various colors and prices but I could not tell that they were a great bargain. I don't think they are as inexpensive as they were years ago. Although I guess nothing is.
We left the marina in Santa Marta and headed for Punta Hermosa. Lately, the winds have been low to nonexistent but we were able to sail some of the trip. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and the bay was filled with windsurfers and beachcombers. Just before dark we did have a visit from what we believe was the coast guard. Most of the conversations was in Spanish but they were able to inquired about how long we would be there, where we came from and where we were headed or at least that was the answers that Steve gave them and they seemed to be fine with the information. Crossing the Rio Magdalena, which we have heard can be a little ugly, was no problem for us. As we approached the Rio, we noticed a definite line between the normal green brown color of the Colombian water and the dark chocolate milk color where the river was flowing into the ocean. We were about 4-5 miles offshore. It was amazing how delineated the line was between the two sections of water. Although slow, we were able to sail through this area. Steve was not crazy about running the engine in no telling what as we made our way toward Cartagena. We arrived at Manzanillo in the afternoon and had to med-moor which means we got tied up stern to the wall. The power at the dock was supposed to be 120 volts but was not this high and sometimes nowhere near this number. We were not able to run all of the systems we wanted to all the time. Sometimes during the day the voltage would be down to 90.
We have been told it is best to take a taxi from the yard anywhere we want to go so we have followed this advice. We have made several trips to Caribe Plaza. This is a very modern mall with two floors, a movie theater and food court. There is a grocery story and a store similar to Home Depot. We have also seen a few movies in English with Spanish subtitles.
We spent a day looking around the the town inside the old walls of Cartagena. The old town is beautiful and clean. The buildings are nicely kept and statues seem to be everywhere. The street vendors and people trying to give you a tour can be very aggressive and they seem to pick me out of crowd as an easy target. We walked on top of the old wall for a view all the way around the city. Nearby towns are Getsemani and Bocagrande. We can also see the Popa, a monastery on the hill. This can also be seen from the mall mentioned above. Castillo de San Felipe can also be seen from Cartagena and the old wall. The wall has been well maintained and is great shape for its many years of wear and tear.
Since our return from the states, we have ventured outside the gates of Manzanillo to a small family run restaurant called Maicol's (Michael's) The meals are good and the price is very reasonable. Twenty six thousand pesos (13-14 US dollars for three people) for a meat, rice, bean, small salad, soup and a coke or beer.
We felt the photo used for the caption was appropriate for a Cartagena post. We heard stories of how quickly the bottom will foul in these waters. Here is the barnacle growth on North Star after two weeks in Cartagena. The bottom was cleaned the day before we left Santa Marta.
Flavit and his group showed up right at 8 am on Monday morning ready to get started. Some of the crew consists of: Blake, Flavit's brother, Jorge times two (one also Flavit's brother) and Orleng who can fit into any small space. Sanding on the hull sides and removing the teak decks are the first items to be started. Filling all the holes on the deck made by the one million screws, removing all the hardware, windlass, forward stay mount and filling more holes in the toerails. Removing all the hardware and stantions required work below deck. All the cabinets and closets had to be cleaned out to have access to the ceiling liners. The photos show why we are not staying on the boat right now. This process took about two weeks. Now prepping the deck for gelcoat has started. It is a messy process and we are glad to not have to be climbing in and out of the mess every day.
We arrived in Santa Marta, Colombia ready for a full nights rest. We wanted to anchor outside the marina for the first day and night and proceed into the marina the next morning. Before we could find a spot to anchor, the marina contacted us on the VHF and asked if we wanted to come inside the breakwater to a slip. We conveyed to them we would like to anchor out for the first day. They told us we would have to arrange any anchoring with the Coast Guard. About this time, we did notice a small gray boat with several officials on board coming our direction. The marina spoke with them and informed us that we could not anchor anywhere in Santa Marta. If we wanted to anchor, we had to continue on a few miles south to another bay. Somewhat reluctantly, we got all of the fenders ready and headed into our slip. From the beginning, the staff at the marina were very helpful and will help out wherever they could.
Before we could get situated on the dock the agent that is required to clear customs and immigration was on the dock. We used the Romero Agency and dealt with Dino. He is handling all of the paperwork and importing the boat. We have since had a coffee with Dino. He is very eager to provide a good service for his clients. We will post more about this as we continue to Cartagena with hopefully, no problems. After all the formalities, we plugged in the power cords, turned on the ac and hit the sheets for several hours. I had several opportunities to sleep on the way over from Aruba but Steve really needed to catch up as he had been awake most of the trip. The rest of the first day we spent getting things put away and organized.
The first night in the slip, we awoke in the middle of the night to winds gusting down from the Sierra Nevadas. We checked the instruments and 6 knots was average but the gust came out of nowhere and were as high as 30 knots. We heard from our friends that were here in the winter that the gust were up to 60 knots. John, the dock master told us they had several broken dock fingers from these high gusts. The marina here is new and has been adding amenities even while we are here. The restrooms opened just before we arrived, the washing machines and dryers were up and running after we had been here two weeks and hot water in the showers may be here any day. There is a helipad also but I don't believe we will be needing to use it any time soon.
The beach is right next to the marina and on the weekends it is packed with locals. There are almost more street vendors than sunbathers. The vendors are selling everything from sunglasses to watches, fruit, drinks, food. The vendors are very pleasant and with a "no gracias" continue on their way. This is a nice change from some of the other places we have been. The vendor idea is seen all over the town with carts and umbrellas crowding both sides of the street.
So far in our stay here we have only come across approximately five people that speak English. John, the dock master, Maria in the marina office, one server in the mall, which we later found out only speaks English in relation to the food items on his menu, a tour guide named Claudia, and Dino the agent used for clearing in. This has been our biggest challenge here. I thought my four years of high school Spanish would have been more useful. But, I am finding that because it was never used in a real setting we are not able to communicate like I hoped. The people here are very patient and we do what we can with my Spanish, pointing and some writing. It took several tries to get a local sim card with time on it and we still have not figured out how to set up the voice mail because all prompts are in Spanish. We have managed to get to and from the places we wanted to go. In just a few weeks there has been some improvement. I am starting to learn what I want to say but it is still very difficult to understand the answers we get from the locals because it may be too fast or a word I have never heard. Even going to the movie was a challenge until we figured out how to be sure we were seeing a movie in English or at least with English sub titles. We were told the dock hands at the marina are having English classes and at a local restaurant. They had a short conversation with us in English and we tried Spanish.
We took our first taxi ride to one of the two local malls. Horn blowing is continuous and driving looks like some kind of crazy dance where the car in front leads. There are two lanes on most of the roads we have been on and cars, bikes coming the right way and the wrong way, horse and donkey driven carts and many motorcycles compete to be in the front. It seems like the object of the game is to be the car in the lead, never use your breaks and see how close you can come to other traffic without actually hitting anything. When you step from the curb, you better be sure you can make it to the other side because the same rules apply to adult, children and animals. The two malls are very nice. One called Buena Vista and the other Oceans. They both have movie theaters in them and a food court. We have seen a movie or two in English with Spanish subtitles. One of the malls has a haircut shop for children (photo in gallery). The shop is brightly colored and each child has a large tv's with movies and cartoons in front of their station. The children sit in little race cars for their haircut. We have the pedodontist and pediatric health care in the states. I can't believe we don't have one of these somewhere for those willing to pay a little extra for the "experience" of having you child's hair cut.
The food here has been great and at a reasonable price. We have eaten at several restaurants and in the food court. The portions even for lunch are all very large and we can sometimes eat several meals off of one order. Fruit drinks seem to be very popular and we have found several we like. Cherry lemonade is one of them. Frozen strawberries and raspberries are found in huge frozen carts at the grocery store. There are several grocery stores, two in town and one at each mall. I am sure there are more but these are the ones we have found so far. We also heard of a large membership store across from the mall called Makro we hope to check out. At the Exito grocery store we had a slice of tres leches dessert. This is translated three milk and is a cake that is very moist, sweet and very good. A cream is poured on top and runs down into the cake. There are several of these type sauce that can be added to fruit on the fruit bar. I read before we came to Colombia that the people here have a sweet tooth and I tend to agree.
We took and inland trip to Tyronaka with Claudia, a bilingual tourist guide. Cell number (57) 311 546-4727 and email email@example.com. She also works with the cruise ship that arrives on Sunday at this time of the year. The price of the tour was not inexpensive but fair. She provided a very nice, organized and private trip for us with a taxi driver named Louis for the day. (see photo gallery) We left Santa Marta and headed out of town. We went through a toll booth and passed several armed police and military check points, The drive was about an hour and a half to an unmarked turn off in the road. We drove through a small village that seemed to be more pool tables than homes and arrived at a river. We took a boat up the river to the facility. Amazingly, there were not any mosquitoes or other biting bugs. We had a tour of the small museum that contained arrows, artifacts, pictures, jewelry and some pottery. Afterward, we looked in the huts that were built on round plateaus with stones to line the edges. The husband and wife entered through different doors. The husband through the front and the wife in the back. There was a place for a fire right in the middle and a hammock to one side. Guess who this was for. Right, the husband. The wife slept on a mat on the floor next to the hammock. The guide told us this was because the woman was to sleep closest to terra or the earth for fertility reasons. We were fortunate enough to see two poisonous dart frogs. I asked it this was a regular occurrence and we were told no. They found the frogs the day before on another tour and they were still there when we arrived but they have not seen them before. We finished the tour by spending a few minutes with a pet raccoon. Tim got to go inside the cage and the raccoon climbed all over him. It was more like a dog than a raccoon. It loved attention and did not want us to leave. We had lunch and then dipped our feet in the river. We were encouraged to go for a swim but our legs were numb from the knees down where we were wading so we decided against a full body dip. We were introduced to a little girl that looked to be about 6 years old that lived in the area. She was a full blood Kogui Indian. She was very pretty and had very distinct features. We made our return trip down the Buritaca River. We passed an area on the bank of the river that had some of these round huts we had seen on the tour right at the rivers edge. Claudia told us this was the film site of a movie that was being made. There were also a handful of children on the opposite bank enjoying the water. They gave a a eager wave as we passed.
Our next excursion was not as pleasant. We took a taxi with some friends we made in the marina, on sailing vessel Taz, to the small fishing village to the north of Santa Marta called Taganga. We read on line that this was the place to snorkel. Snorkel gear in hand we arrived and were immediately asked if we wanted a boat ride to the "best" place to snorkel. I had read this was the place to snorkel so after some negotiations and a nice lunch in town we headed off for a 15 minute or so ride to the location. The water was cold as we started our snorkel. The bottom in this area is seaweed. Very little coral or sponge growth. There were a few fish, mostly juveniles hiding in the weed. We returned to the shore and some of the group played paddle ball. Here there were some annoying little yellow bees. We thought at first they did not sting but later found out they can. We headed back to the town and had a time of renegotiating of the price. Initially, we were told that if we were not happy with the fish we would not have to pay anything. Luckily, the crew aboard Taz is fluent in Spanish so they were able to reduce the price some. This tour I would not recommend at all.
Our next excursion was to Minca and San Lorenzo. Our friends on Taz also wanted to go to Minca so we planned a trip together. We went to the tourism office and got all of the information we could. Actually, Tamara got all the information and translated it for us. We did not want to end up with another expensive tour of nothing like the one we had in Taganga. We had to pay some park fees before we left town. You do this by going to the bank and depositing the money in an account. The next day we took two taxis up to Minca. We heard from our friends that were here in December that it is cooler in Minca than Santa Marta. Today it was warm and humid. We found a hostel up the hill from town to stay in for the night. We went back to town and got a few supplies and had hand made pasta for lunch at Sierra Sound. Steve and I were a little nervous about the hike up the mountain after all, we have not had real shoes on our feet in over a year. It is around 15 miles up and we did not know how straight up the hike would be to San Lorenzo Research Center. We inquired about alternative ways up the mountain. You could be the passenger on the back of a motorcycle. Thank goodness we did not pick that way. After seeing the dirt, gully washed road, I am sure we would have been bounced off at some point on the way up, maybe more than once. We chose to go up the mountain the next morning in the back Willys jeep. We returned to our cabin, had a pizza delivered and got ready for bed. Tim had a prize in his bed. He started to put his head on his pillow and he saw a few very large black ants. He killed them and then the search was on. Out came more and more. He thew the pillow on the floor and the entire nest came out all carrying eggs in their mouth. We finally got all the ants killed and went to bed. We were told it usually rains around noon here and rarely at night. About 10 pm the bottom fell out and the rains let loose. The power went off so no lights and no fan. Tim was obviously a little jumpy about bugs in his bed from the ant experience. Not long after the power went out he sprang out of the bed with his i pod for a light and said a giant scorpion was trying to kill him. There was a pretty big scorpion heading out under the crack in the door. During the night we were awakened by a loud noise that sounded like a gun shot. The next morning we discovered the repeated noise was a mangoes falling out of the trees onto the roof when the wind would blow. The hostel had a great view, a swimming pool, ping pong table and 4 baby kittens to play with.
We headed up the mountain the next morning. The ride was bumpy but nice with great views. It took about 3-4 hours. As we headed up the mountain we could feel the temperature changing. When we arrived at San Lorenzo we checked out our cabin and headed out for a hike to a waterfall. We returned to the cabin and played some games. The challenge was staring a fire. Zsolte worked hard to get a fire going but all of the wood was wet from the recent rain and only a small fire would stay lit. Any warmth was welcomed. At night it was very cold and we all slept with our faces under the blankets. The wind was howling through the trees all night. We were planning on going up the mountain further in the morning to the Ciero Kennedy then hike back down to Minca. We were told the hike up took two hours. We were all up very early but the North Star group decided to not make the trip to Ciero Kennedy, where you can see the snow capped mountains. It was dark, cold and we were afraid if we went to the top and all the way back down we would not make it to Minca in daylight. The crew from Taz headed up and were back in no time. They took some photos of the snow covered Sierra Nevadas. I will try to get a copy before we leave. As we packed up and headed down the mountain a large open party bus arrive at the research center with about 30-40 older teenagers inside. We planned our timing just right. The trip down was scenic. It did rain for about an hour. We were passed by a small herd of Brahman cattle. We got way off of the dirt road for them. There are only a few houses and one or two very small stores the size of a broom closet with mostly drinks, small candies and a few necessities like flour and toilet paper on the way down. There were a few four wheel drive vehicles going up and several motorcycles. We were most of the way down when Taz put their teenager, Amaury, on a motorcycle to the bottom because his legs had given out. Not long after that we were asked if we wanted a ride to Minca or Santa Marta in the back of a big 4 wheel drive truck that had the remnants of corn in the back of it. We paid the reasonable fair and went back to Santa Marta. Taz stayed one more night in Minca.
When we arrived back at North Star, got some take out, a shower and slept great.
Blisters, bruised toenails and we all had a great time.
Returning this time as a cruiser was very different. In order to clear customs and immigration, we were told, you have to bring the boat to Barcaddera or possibly Orenjastad. The port authority told us we needed to clear at Barcaddera. We tied up at the black tire lined commercial dock. We heard that sometimes the dock can be full of small fishing boats and very crowed but today there was a spot for North Star. After about an hour of paper work we motored up to the anchorage. After several attempts to get the anchor to hold we found a spot on the sandy bottom and anchored just north of the airport runway not far from the beach. The landing pattern for incoming planes was almost straight over our mast.
We were a short, but potentially wet dinghy ride from the main town and the marina. The Renaissance Hotel has what seems like a constant line of ferries that bring hotel guests from the mainland to an island just across from the airport. These ferries met each other coming and going with loads of people. This constant traffic kept our boat moving pretty regularly and could make for a wet situation with anything concerning the dinghy. There were never more than 3-4 boats anchored in this area with us.
The town was brightly colored, clean and the people very friendly. We noticed quickly that cars would stop on a dime to allow pedestrians to cross the street. Aruba has many restaurant from home: Wendy's, Taco Bell, Subway, Hooters, Hard Rock Cafe, McDonald's. Dunkin Doughnuts, Starbucks, Dominos. There may be more, but that is what I remember off the top of my head. And of course we tried a few of them. Right there by the marina were many restaurants, several hotels, casinos and a movie theater. There is also a movie in the hotel area. We tried both. Very nice and modern. There were at least two and sometimes three cruise ships in an any given day except Easter weekend when there were none.
The bus terminal was located at the end of town not far from the cruise ship docks. We utilized the public bus system several times for trips heading north on the island. The price to get anywhere you wanted to go was about 1.50 pp each way. We made several trips to the grocery stores and several trip to the beach and hotel area. There were three grocery stores a short bus ride from town. The newest looking one being Ling and Son. It was very nice and looked like a large grocery store from the states.
We rented a car for two days and drove around the island. The hotel area has grown since our last visit here. Only the beach side of the road had buildings on it then, but now both sides of the road were filled with hotels, shops and restaurants. While we had the car we dropped off our laundry at a mat not far from the grocery stores. What a bargain! We had a huge bag of laundry washed, dried and folded in the same day for 15 US. On our drive up to the north end of the island, we enjoyed the view of the beautiful beaches, the California Light House, and the rugged terrain on the windward side of the island. The natural bridge located on this side of the island was a rock formation between two protrusions of land that formed a bridge over the ocean. It was intact when we were here before but has since fallen into the ocean. The southern end of the island was much more industrial and reminded me of Curacao.
While driving on the windward side of the island we stopped at several rock formations, there are photos in the gallery of these boulders in the middle of nowhere. We also got a photo of the blue lizard called a Bloblo in papiamento, the local indian dialect. In Aruba this lizard is from a separate species from the other islands and has a brighter blue color.
We also saw a dead boa on the road in the park. We had to do a little research on this but this snake is not native to Aruba and has become a problem because of its eating habits. We read on one site there may be some kind of reward for dead or alive captures.
While we were at anchor the military ship, Ms. Rotterdam, from Holland came into port. From shore a twenty one gun salute announce their arrival and the crew were on deck in their white uniforms. They made a mock docking unassisted and then went back out of the port area and made the real docking with the assistance of a tug boat.
We waited for a good weather window to head to Columbia and made our plans. This time of year is good for this passage. The only problem is we were trying to get a few days with enough winds to sail. We picked a good few days and made the sail from Aruba to Santa Marta ,with only a few lulls in the wind, in about 36 hours with no problems.
We spent most of the time after we returned to Curacao sitting on the hard at Curacao Marine waiting for a quote, some work, or any sign of movement toward getting anything on our list completed. After five weeks of waiting and trying to arrange service we gave up and decided to move on toward Columbia. We did have a car most of the time and were able to see the island. We spent one day driving around the north end of the island and stopping at most of the beaches to have a look around. The water in this area is very beautiful and looks to be very clear. The beaches were very nice and have small cabanas set up for the locals or tourists to use. We stopped for a drink at a restaurant on the top of what I guess you could call a cliff. Some of the local boys were talking the young tourists into jumping off of the cliff and into the water below. This was quite entertaining and somehow it seemed easier for the girls to make the jump with their tops off instead of on. Not sure what difference that made but somehow courage was gathered with a bare top. On our way back toward Punda and Otrabanda still up in the northern end of the island the sides of the street were starting to crowd with people getting their spot to watch the horse parade for Carnival. This parade was not on the calendar of the major parades but must have been something the town put together. We headed back to town so we would not be caught when the road closed down. We did get to experience two of the Carnival Parades. One was the daytime parade. I thought this was amazing and the costumes were beautiful.(you can check the costumes out in the photos) The parade lasted at least 4 hours and we left so I am not sure how long it actually ran. I was amazed at the ages of the people that participated in the parade. The walk had to be 5 miles or more and these people were not just walking they were performing and dancing, some of them with full heads of gray hair. We also went to the night time parade. I believe it is the same parade with the same participants but at night. They have a huge puppet called a Rey Momo that they believe is the bad king. While the parade is going on a few streets up on the main street in Otrobanda, the puppet is lit on fire and the tradition is that all of the bad spirits for the year will be burned up. There are fireworks all around the Momo also so that is what the people watching the parade see in the distance. There was cheering and excitement when the fireworks started. The parade was running behind and it did not reach us in town until after 11:30 pm we did not stay for the entire parade because as I mentioned it was at least 4 hours long two days before and we did not see the end of that parade either.
We found a restaurant called Larry's that is located in an old Applebee's. Everything is exactly the same, except the menu. The ribs seems to be a favorite and the local live entertainment was very good. We also spent a fair amount of time enjoying the A/C in the McCafe not far from Curacao Marine. We also ate at Laldea, a Brazilian restaurant almost on the windward side of the island. There are a few photos of the restaurant in the photos section. They have a salad bar and the servers bring by skewers of 10-15 different kinds of meats and you pick if you would like some or not. It was very good to try different cuts of meat within a few minutes of each other and decide which ones you may like the best. It must be low season because we were one of only 3 tables of customers. It was very early on a Sunday so not sure if later in the evening a bigger crowd shows up. We found a great place called Seaside Restaurant located on the beach by some of the hotels. It is small and serves only a few items but they had pan grilled fish, fries, salad and beans and rice that seemed to be one of the best tasting and best bargains on the island, that we found anyway. The sunset view was great.
We heard that after Carnival the winds are blowing at their strongest here for about 40 days. Kite surfing, wind boarding and kite flying are all very popular during this time and we have seen kites in the air every day. We will wait for the winds to die down some to make the trip to Aruba. We may have waited too long because the trip from Curacao to Aruba was not as nice as we had hoped. We sailed at night and the wind died down to less than 7 knots. The seas were still a little confused and waves were coming from different directions. We had to motor sail most of the way. We Arrived in Aruba a few days ago. Tied up to the commercial dock in Barcadera, cleared customs and immigration and anchored within sight of Orenjastad, the main town. We are sitting right at the north end of the runway for the airport. The landing light are in the water just in front of us so we have had some beautiful views of planes over head. The flights don't seem to be to early in the morning or to late at night. We have made several trips to town to look around and today we took a bus to the resort area and to get a few groceries. The cost is $1.30 each US each way. It is not to far of a ride and most of the large buses have ac. We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe here right across the street from where Steve and I came for vacation almost 15 years ago. We walked through the hotel for a stroll down memory lane. I will post some photos in the gallery of some of these places.
We landed in the chaos and confusion of Miami International with thousands of others arriving for the Christmas holiday. After stepping out of the airport, we had to immediately don whatever cold weather attire we could find and turn on heaters. Our wardrobe for the last year has been shorts, tank tops and flip flops. On a dressy day we may find ourselves in a pair of jeans and a shirt with a collar. My sister picked us up at the airport and we spent several days with my Mother, Sister and Niece in Ft Lauderdale. It was nice to be with them for Christmas.
On the first night back in Wesley Chapel the thermometer plunged to below freezing. We had the heater humming and electric blankets plugged in to warm the freezing sheets. A few weeks later we got the $300+ power bill. We enjoyed visiting family and friends while we have been home. We have been able to attend our local church, Idlewild Baptist Church, every Sunday and catch up with our church family.
The doctor appointments kept us busy for the first few weeks. We are glad to have everything checked out and have a clean bill of health for the next year or so.
I think Steve was ready to head back to North Star after a few weeks of being back in the fast paced lifestyle on land. The cold temperatures did not help. If it is below 60, outside activities are not going to happen.
The kids have been busy with friends and school. Michael started college classes a few weeks ago and is settling in to the routine. He also found a job at Hollister, a clothing store for young people. He has only worked a week or so but enjoys the job.
We will be heading back to North Star soon to start some boat projects and get the boat back in the water. We are looking forward to being on the move again and enjoying the cruising lifestyle.
Please visit our new Photo Gallery Please visit our new Photo Gallery I have procrastinated on getting this section of the blog written so it covers the entire time we have been in Cartagena from around June to the present but the trip home is in a separate blog entry. Check out the photo gallery for updated photos of the work. Please visit our new Photo Gallery We really enjoyed our few weeks in Aruba. The weather was fantastic. No rain, warm but breezy days and the evening temperatures were very comfortable. We used a light sheet to sleep almost every night. The island has changed since our last visit about 15 years ago, when Steve and I went to Aruba after a week in Bonaire. Of course, we fell in love with the island of Bonaire and had not returned to Aruba. In the photo gallery there is a picture of the hotel Steve and I stayed at all those 15 years ago. We returned to Curacao, minus our fish catching son, Michael. We will have to make some improvements in the fishing department. Michael is getting close to finishing his first semester of college and doing very well. He is now working at Smoothie King and actually earning a paycheck instead of swapping work time for clothes. Prom is approaching quickly and he is getting excited about attending his first public school dance. Our trip to the Curacao airport on Christmas Eve was an interesting adventure. We did not realize the entire island got off work around noon. The streets were packed with cars, all of them clogging the streets going somewhere. We did make it to the airport in plenty of time and had a nice flight back to Florida. The weather when we left Curacao was warm and somewhat rainy.
Please visit our new Photo Gallery I have procrastinated on getting this section of the blog written so it covers the entire time we have been in Cartagena from around June to the present but the trip home is in a separate blog entry. Check out the photo gallery for updated photos of the work. Please visit our new Photo Gallery We really enjoyed our few weeks in Aruba. The weather was fantastic. No rain, warm but breezy days and the evening temperatures were very comfortable. We used a light sheet to sleep almost every night. The island has changed since our last visit about 15 years ago, when Steve and I went to Aruba after a week in Bonaire. Of course, we fell in love with the island of Bonaire and had not returned to Aruba. In the photo gallery there is a picture of the hotel Steve and I stayed at all those 15 years ago. We returned to Curacao, minus our fish catching son, Michael. We will have to make some improvements in the fishing department. Michael is getting close to finishing his first semester of college and doing very well. He is now working at Smoothie King and actually earning a paycheck instead of swapping work time for clothes. Prom is approaching quickly and he is getting excited about attending his first public school dance. Our trip to the Curacao airport on Christmas Eve was an interesting adventure. We did not realize the entire island got off work around noon. The streets were packed with cars, all of them clogging the streets going somewhere. We did make it to the airport in plenty of time and had a nice flight back to Florida. The weather when we left Curacao was warm and somewhat rainy.