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Cruising with Vida Dulce
Portobello to Cartagena Passage
Susan / morning showers, mostly cloudy, 86 degrees F
10/12/2011, Club Nautico, Cartagena

We concluded a fast 38 hour passage from Portobello to Cartagena this morning at 2am, dropping anchor in our usual place just inside buoy 50 in the Club Nautico anchorage. We had a filtered full moon to assist with seeing where the other boats lay, which helped tremendously. We plan for an average of 5 kts, so the passage would have been 50 hours, with us arriving in Cholon mid-day today, but we had nice south winds abeam and southeast winds aft of beam a little stronger than forecasted and sailed most of the trip. Seas were a mix of nice swell and swell with rolly wind driven chop. Only one squall line and it was during the day. All in all a nice passage on a route & direction known for tough going. In Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes he writes, Reaching the Atlantic coast of Colombia from neighboring Panama is not easily accomplished at any time of the year on account of the contrary wind and strong current. He goes on, A convenient stop en route is the San Blas Islands... During the rainy season there seem to are more calms with reports of cruisers motoring the entire way, and short periods of southern winds, and lots of squalls (which are not forecasted). The dry season winter months bring strong trade winds and accompanying seas. I wouldn't want to do this trip in strong trade conditions, even using the San Blas to get east because you may have to fight the Colombian counter current up the Colombia coast (we've had it both ways between Cartagena & Cholon). Back to this passage, we chose to go direct rather than spend several days in the San Blas to take advantage of the forecasted south and southeast winds and seas, and are pleased with the result.

08:00 Position Report
Jerry Barber / Partially Cloudy / 82 degrees F
10/11/2011, Between the San Blas Islands and Cartagena

Good sailing so far and no need to motor, Yay!

Weather has been good and we maintained 6-8 knots or so all night with a couple of reefs in. We had a beautiful moon and just a few scattered clouds.

But now, as we approach Columbia (94 miles to go) we are surrounded by rain showers and over cast skies. No rain yet but it's going to be hard to avoid.

We are making such good time we decided to go into Cartagena instead of Cholon since we should get in after midnight and the Cholon entrance is very tricky. Cartagena is a lot easier.

10/12/2011 | david burch
did you see the USS Spruance go by?
Back to Columbia
Jerry Barber / Partially Cloudy / 82 degrees F
10/10/2011, East of the San Blas Islands, Panama

We left Portobello for Columbia at noon today.

Not much wind until we were out for a couple of hours and then we got a wind in the high teens on the beam. Vida Dulce's sweet spot. We made great time, most of the afternoon we were doing more that 9 knots.

The wind has died down a bit but we're still doing 7.7 knots at the moment.

Beautiful moonrise of the full moon, it's starting out the be a great sail.

Hasta Luego Portobello
Susan / mostly cloudy, 86 degrees F
10/09/2011, Portobello, Panama

With our Portobello / Pamama City reconnoissance done and Vida Dulce filled with fuel, provisions and supplies it's time to move back to the San Blas / Kuna Yala and then on to Cartagena / Cholon with a good weather window. We'll return to Portobello a few days before our friends arrive in Panama City for their week on Vida Dulce with us in mid-November. I spend the day storing the last of the items from our provisioning trips and making a couple of cook-ahead meals. We'll check out of Panama first thing tomorrow.

Fueling via Jerrycans
Susan / mostly cloudy with periods of rain, 86 degrees F
10/08/2011, Portobello, Panama

Portobello lacks cruiser services like a bank, ATM, chandlery and fuel dock but there is a former cruiser here that can supply fuel via jerrycans. We request 80 gallons of deisel and get sixteen 5-gallon plastic cans delivered to one of the docks late in the afternoon. Two trips with the dingy gets the fuel on-board. The only good thing about this method of fueling is it's slow enough to use our baja filter to insure only clean fuel is added to Vida Dulce's tanks.

Provisioning in Panama City
Susan / mostly cloudy, 86 degrees F
10/07/2011, Portobello, Panama

The freezer is empty, except for ice. In the fridge there's one egg, a few slices of bacon and some leftover sausage/olive pasta sauce. A container of rice, half a bag of dried black beans and two cans of tuna are the sole inhabitants of the pantry. A major provisioning is needed and we're in the right country to do it.

We take buses to Panama City, arriving around 10am, and meet Rogelio, English name Roger, half an hour later. We're both happy to see he drives a small stationwagon. We stop at Abernathy's where we purchase a replacement fishing lure and Thermocell mini-lantern; Farmacias Arrocha for prescription refills and replacement cocktail glasses; Price Mart, where we fill a flat bed cart and a regular cart with fresh meat & produce, liquor & beer, canned, packaged & paper goods; Rey's for the remaining items on my list; and a final stop in Sabanitas for four gallons of oil. Rogelio's car is jam-packed and much heavier for the drive back to Portobello.

A few dock-to-Vida Dulce dingy trips gets everything on-board. I immediately get the still-frozen items into the freezer - the only thing too thawed in spite if the Keep Cold bag was the bag of shrimp so that's what we'll have for dinner tonight - perishable items into the fridge, and re-package the fresh meat into individual meal portions and put them in the freezer. Love my Foodsaver! By the time that's done it's dark and well past Happy Hour.

It was a productive provisioning day. Vida Dulce is now stocked with a month of food and beverages and other supplies. Other than fresh bread and produce we should be able to go from Portobello to Cartagena / Cholon and back again to restock here. We're happy with Rogelio's service and plan to use him again, and when our friends arrive in Panama City for a visit in November.

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