Barracuda's Blog

The adventures of Kate and Graham and our OVNI 395.

25 January 2020 | East Holandes Cays â€" San Blas Islands, Panama
23 January 2020 | Offshore between Colombia and Panama
20 January 2020 | Santa Marta, Colombia
19 January 2020 | Santa Marta, Colombia
17 January 2020 | Santa Marta, Colombia
16 January 2020 | Santa Marta, Colombia
15 January 2020 | Off the coast of Colombia, land just in sight
14 January 2020 | 50 miles north of Curacao
13 January 2020 | 160 miles north of Venezuela
12 January 2020 | 140 miles west of St Lucia
10 January 2020 | Rodney Bay Marina, St Lucia
05 January 2020 | Rodney Bay Marina, St Lucia
03 January 2020 | Rodney Bay Marina, St Lucia
01 January 2020 | Blue Lagoon, St Vincent, SVG
31 December 2019 | Blue Lagoon, St Vincent
29 December 2019 | Bequia, SVG
27 December 2019 | Bequia, SVG
26 December 2019 | Bequia
25 December 2019 | Bequia, SVG
24 December 2019 | Bequia, SVG

Arrived in San Blas

25 January 2020 | East Holandes Cays â€" San Blas Islands, Panama
It was another full day and more before we made it to the San Blas islands, and it was a trip of many parts. After our nice Parasailor run, the wind turned more towards a full beam reach and we blasted along under full sail for a while. On the last day we realised that we needed some more speed to get us in by nightfall, so we motor-sailed for a while to help the cause - although we still arrived after dark.

We enjoyed the company of a wee hitch-hiker for a few hours. A bird landed on the boat and stayed to rest. We tried to feed it and provide it with water but he just needed somewhere to stop for a while. During the night it headed off.

Our arrival into the San Blas Islands was made a bit more interesting as our depth sounder stopped reading �" just when we really needed it. So we worked our way slowly through the shallows and into the lagoon by following closely behind two other ARC boats, who kept us updated on depths as we went. All went well, and we dropped anchor for the night in utter calm in time for a well-earned G&T, and a full night's sleep.

Today we awoke to utter tropical paradise. We are surrounded by tiny palm-covered islands, turquoise blue water and a few other boats at anchor. To the south of us you can see the mountains of the Panamanian coast. We launched the dinghy (which has travelled, deflated, on deck) for a snorkel on a good reef in crystal clear water, and saw some good fish including a couple of barracuda. We have had a couple of local boats come by; one selling mola which are local tapestries �" a speciality of the islands �" and another dugout canoe selling lobsters. So it's lobster for dinner tonight!

There was a fun gathering on one of the islands for sundowners. Recognising that this is Burns night, Alasdair entertained the gathering with an excellent immortal memory, as we passed around a bottle of Johnny Walker.

If you look up the definition of paradise it probably looks a bit like this.

Goodbye Colombia. Underway for Panama

23 January 2020 | Offshore between Colombia and Panama
We came to the end of our stay in Santa Marta with heavy hearts. We have only just scratched the surface of this country and have an appetite for much more. Reflections include great music, smiling people, rain forest, waterfalls, good cheap food and amazing street dancing.

Having completed the final paperwork for our exit, we retrieved our passports and prepared the boat for another short offshore passage. BTW �" Colombia probably has more paperwork for boat entry than anywhere we have been to. But no worries �" we have plenty of time.

We departed yesterday for the San Blas Islands with the Word ARC fleet and sailed over the start line at noon in a fairly light breeze. We soon discovered that we were pushing a totally unexpected 3 knot counter current �" ouch. In the end we motored through the night just to make some progress but it was painfully slow, at under 4 knots over the ground much of the time even with the engine. We want to be careful to preserve fuel for the later part of this trip up to Panama so are reluctant to motor too much. Thankfully dawn came with a little more wind and we now have the lovely colourful Parasailor up pulling us along; however, we will have a day less in the islands than originally expected. Oh, and we caught a good sized tuna at dawn so are looking forward to a nice nicoise salad for lunch.

We are now reading up on the San Blas islands and the Panama Canal. Looks like an interesting couple of weeks ahead.

Exploring Minka

20 January 2020 | Santa Marta, Colombia
Graham Walker
For today’s expedition we had employed the services of Juan Carlos, a local tour guide. The plan was to go and visit the area around the village of Minka.
The day started with a drive inland and up into the mountains of the Siera Nevada. The coastal scenery soon gave way to spectacular mountains and rain forest. Fab drive up. Minka is a small village set in amongst forest. A bit of a mecca for back packers and eco tourists. We switched vehicules to a rugged 4x4 for the drive up to a local coffee plantation. We have been to many chocolate plantations and factories but never a coffee plantation. It was a great insight into how good Colombian coffee is grown and prepared in a very traditional way. Some of the mechanical equipment being used to drive the machines would not have been out of place in the dark satanic mills.

Then it was off to a waterfall for a cool swim. Within the high hills and rain forest there are plenty of fine waterfalls to choose in these parts. After cooling off it was time for lunch at a stunning eco-lodge up on the hill with views down the valley over the tree canopy. A drive back down the hill finished the day. Thanks to Juan Carlos for a great tour and excellent insights into Colombia, its people and its history.

Out and about

19 January 2020 | Santa Marta, Colombia
Graham Walker
Now feeling suitably recovered from our travels so ready to go explore. Today’s challenge was to try and get to the national park to the north of us. There are various ways to do this, which seem to involve a long and hot trek in if you go by road (not appealing in this heat). It also sounds like it can get busy at the weekends (which it is). On-line we discovered that you can go in by boat from Taganga, a small village to the north. This sounded much more appealing.

So off we set for Taganga. The taxi ride over the hill gave us some pretty spectacular views of Santa Marta and surrounding area. Arriving in Taganga we discovered it full of back packers and dive shops. Apparently Colombia has some of the cheapest diving in the world and is a real draw for divers. The arrangements for getting to the Tayrona national park were well organised and we thought we had it in the bag until we heard that the port officer had decided that the weather conditions were too rough and no boats were allowed round the headland today. It has been blowing ‘dogs off chains’ for days so not unexpected.

But not defeated, our expedition evolved into a boat trip up the coast to a couple of snorkelling sites including a long drift snorkel along the coast on the way back with the current.

A lunch on the beach of grilled fish followed under a thatched roof. Absolutely delicious and totally local. And finally back to Taganga by boat and another taxi ride home.

Not quite the day we had planned but a good outing all the same and a chance to get to see more of Colombia and Colombians.

Taking a break

17 January 2020 | Santa Marta, Colombia
Graham Walker
So, here we are tied up safely in Santa Marta. Not surprisingly, we all had a great night’s sleep last night. It is still howling, with just a couple of hours respite around dawn but otherwise, anything from 25-40 knots of wind carrying mists of fine grey dust which gets everywhere.

Last night saw the dream team of Barracuda and Cloud Shadow hit the town together. Just a few streets from the marina there is a web of alleyways of bars and restaurants with tables spilling onto the streets, just perfect to absorb atmosphere and watch the world go by. Fabulous painted murals, crumbling balconies over lit doorways, street musicians, hawkers selling ocarinas, woven hats and Cuban cigars at the tables, the tourist police patrolling on segways, ice cream sellers jangling their barrows… And a happy hour that lasts till 9pm. Best of all was a group of six or seven break dancers, young men who launched into their amazingly energetic, skilful set in the middle of our alley, right by our table. Hard to describe just how breathtaking they were.

This afternoon we’re been for a city tour, organised by the ARC people. Very interesting to be driven through the richer and then the poorer parts of the city, as we headed to a quinta dating from the 1600s, where they had a sugar refinery and rum distillery (within yards of the house), and where the liberator, Simon Bolivar, died. There were many paintings of Bolivar and his relations; we saw his death mask, his memorial building, a lock of his hair and his bathroom. On to the cathedral where Bolivar was buried; now they only have his heart as Venezuela demanded the body. Then on through the old town and we were back within minutes of the marina, somewhat Bolivared out.

Lovely to have so much to do, and such a buzz, just on our doorstep. There’s the constant backdrop of music from the beach, the bells of the fruit sellers, children squealing on the breakwater to hide the howling of the wind in the shrouds.


16 January 2020 | Santa Marta, Colombia
Graham Walker
As the sun rose today we saw the mountains of South America for the first time – gosh – stunning! And covered in clouds. The wind had dropped overnight so we had gone to full sail main and poled out genoa. This gave us an extra turn of speed, enough indeed to pass our ‘friendly rival’ boat Accomplice. We had been sitting on their tail for a while and thought we needed to do the decent thing before the end of the rally. But it’s not a race.

As we approached the final headland before our turn south into Santa Marta the wind started to kick off (not unexpected) up to about 40 kts. We reefed down and crossed the finish line off Santa Marta with three reefs in the main and a few feet of Genoa out. Job done. All present and correct, no issues. Well done, Barracuda and team. That was one fast passage.

We fairly immediately got out to enjoy some of Santa Marta – this is one fun town. Good food and great music.

Heading southwest for Santa Marta

15 January 2020 | Off the coast of Colombia, land just in sight
Today's scores on the doors:
Distance run last 24 hours: 186 nautical miles (a Barracuda record)
Best hour: 10 miles run
Total distance covered 704 miles (115 to go)

Well, we've been going like a train here, with a combination of strong winds, following seas and a decent bit of tide all playing their part. Various sail combinations tried out - each major change takes about 25 minutes. Most of yesterday was run under poled out jib to starboard and staysail to port, but as we rounded the corner at Peninsula de Guajira at breakfast time we went back to reaching and then goose-winging with reefed main and poled out jib, until 32 knots of wind had us doing another sail change, with poled out jib to port and staysail to starboard for a change. Mr Windy P is still working his magic on the helm, the sun is shining, and the sea has turned a rather lovely shade of green. In a slightly surreal way, we have just been sitting on deck watching a downloaded BBC programme on Colombia on Alasdair's iPad, as the ocean waves roll up and crash behind us.

We've also come within sight of another of the World ARC fleet, for the first time since Saturday night -Accomplice is the next smallest boat in the fleet and they are just four miles ahead, giving us a target to beat.

Statistic for fun - how many lines (ropes) are in service on the sails and rig at the moment for safe downwind sailing? Answer - about 16.

Still heading west

14 January 2020 | 50 miles north of Curacao
Today's scores on the doors:

Distance run last 24 hours: 164 nautical miles
Fastest boat speed: 14.4 kts (surfing)
First Barracuda bread made
Winds easing to around 20 kts.
Deck covered in flying fish and one squid! (Note to G: NEVER EVER throw a dead squid at your wife again)
Midnight maintenance on Mr Windy P when a bolt came loose! Note to self - listen to Alasdair and check the bolts before nightfall.

For today's blog we will discuss two new useful gadgets on board.

The Muggi looks like a simple carrying holder for four mugs but is amazingly well-designed for moving drinks between the galley and the deck - spillages dramatically reduced (thank you Sarah and Gus).

And then there is Mr D's thermal cooker, which is coming into its own in these lumpy seas. It's got an inner pan and an outer insulated body. Bring your food (curry, casserole, a chicken, whatever) to the boil in the inner pan, pop said pan into the insulated body, and it will just continue to cook gently away and stay hot for hours and hours. It's even got a separate inner pan for cooking rice or veg at the same time (thanks for the recommendation to Leda and Mercury).

Enjoying the sleigh ride

13 January 2020 | 160 miles north of Venezuela
So, we decided we were getting pushed too far north yesterday running goose-winged (genoa and main, one sail out each side). You can't run dead down wind like that, which is really what we would like to do to make our course. So we changed our sail- plan, taking our main sail down and putting up a stay sail (another jib) on the port side to balance our reefed, poled-out genoa on starboard. We also lifted our centreboard (a relatively unique OVNI feature) which means that we can now just point dead down wind and run down with the waves. Wind speeds are about 25-30 kts from the east, but we have seen gusts up to 42 kts in one squall. Wave heights are about 10-15 feet. Our highest boat speed (surfing down a wave) was 13 kts (did not know Barracuda could go that fast). And the wind pilot is gently steering us on westwards.

We are enjoying chatting to other boats on the SSB radio in the past we have only had VHF radio which has a range of perhaps 10-15 miles. Now with the SSB we can talk over hundreds or even thousands of miles. There is a World ARC Rally group check in each morning and evening when people report their positions and comment on what winds they are getting, so you get a sense for where the fleet are and how they (and we) are doing. Feels like a proper rally!

Much better sleep for the crew of the good ship last night, as we all start to settle in to life at sea.

Nautical miles run in last 24 hours (midday to midday) 157 (compared with 163 day before)

Underway for Colombia

12 January 2020 | 140 miles west of St Lucia
We started with World ARC yesterday from St Lucia for the passage to Santa Marta, Colombia. About 35 boats crossed the line and headed down the coast past Castries Bay before turning west for the long haul through the Caribbean Sea. We have enjoyed good winds from the east, and good boat speed so far. We are steering with our Wind Pilot, which saves on power but likely means that we are sailing slightly further away from the dead run than other boats in the fleet. For now we are letting Barracuda drift slightly north of the course line in a comfortable groove. It's not a race.

The first night at sea is always a bit disturbed but the body quickly gets used to the noise and the motion. Usually by about night three you start to sleep properly during the off-watches. It wasn't helped by a couple of short but intense squalls - leaving those on deck drenched to the skin!

Kate had pre-prepared for lunch and dinner to minimise the amount of time spent at the galley until we get our sea legs.

We enjoyed the sight of some passing pilot whales and some dolphins but they did not stay with us for long. We're back to the world of the shoals of flying fish which is always a joy.

There is a really annoying clonk from the panel just behind the chart table when the boat rolls. We think this is a screwdriver that G dropped down there when doing some electrical work but could never retrieve. Mmm….
Vessel Name: Barracuda
Vessel Make/Model: OVNI 395
Crew: Graham and Kate
About: Learning as we go....
Extra: Look to this day for it is life...
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