A Cross Ocean Experience

Seven thousand miles of outstanding cruising since November 2008 means it's time to do a little renovation and more planning for the future. Find out what ...

20 February 2013 | Fishtail, Montana, USA
15 March 2011 | Swallow Falls State Park, Garrett County, MD
07 January 2011 | Deep Creek, MD
01 January 2011 | Tacoma, WA
17 December 2010 | Sierra Madre, CA
12 December 2010 | Leucadia, CA
12 December 2010 | Leucadia, Ca
12 December 2010 | Ramona, CA
06 December 2010 | Ramona, CA
06 December 2010 | Ramona, CA
20 November 2010 | New Orleans, LA
13 November 2010 | Lexington, KY
09 November 2010 | Louiville, KY
05 November 2010 | Lexington. KY
01 November 2010 | Deltaville, VA
29 October 2010 | Deltaville, VA
22 October 2010 | Deltaville, VA
08 October 2010 | Deltaville, VA

Our longest leg yet.

13 November 2009 | Cartagena, Colombia
We have been steadily preparing for our crossing of the central Caribbean since our return from New Orleans. This now is a a well rehearsed process for us that starts slowly and builds to a busy pre-departure day.
Firstly we ensure that we have as much information as possible for our proposed destination along with that for a couple of Plan B and C destinations in the event things don't go as planned. This means gathering charts, cruising guides, waypoints, etc from other cruisers, either by trade, gift or purchase. Since we are limited in storage space on Mandy the old goes out as the new comes in.
About ten days prior to our anticipated departure we start to look at the weather patterns, either by e-mail or if not available by short wave radio. As we get closer to leaving we update our weather watch more frequently.
For this passage we had initially planned on a 465 mile run almost directly north to Jamaica, but some time spent analyzing Grib files and current predictions using MaxSea, lent and tutored by a very patient David Kane of the ultra fast Atlantic 42 catamaran "Lightspeed", is beginning to make it look that we would be better served by the current conditions by heading to the Cayman Islands. These are to the north and west of Jamaica, making for a passage of nearly 650 miles, but the better wind angle and opportunity to pick up possibly 1 knot of favorable current could make this Plan A. 1 knot of current for a boat averaging 4 knots makes a tremendous difference in speed over the ground. We will decide within the next 24 hours.
Provisioning is next and with an eight day passage and some remote locations in our future this one has to be pretty complete. Luckily here in Cartagena we can walk to the store so it is not a great effort. Virginia usually pre-cooks meals for the first few days, so this is done at this time. Then fuel and water must be topped off, usually by ferrying jerry cans back and forth in the dinghy.
Meanwhile all exit paperwork with immigration, the port authorities and customs must be completed and all fees paid. This can often take a day of running around in taxis, but here it is obligatory to use an agent so the process is simpler, if more costly.
The day before we leave we try to stay on the boat if possible. Awning down, lightning rods in, some chain up and scrubbed, dinghy up on the cabin roof, everything on deck lashed down, lifelines deployed, oil lights filled, sail covers off, final mechanical checks on engine, auto pilot and batteries, everything stowed below for sea, charts out and DR plotted .. It all takes most of the day. Then a good meal and as much sleep as possible before an a.m. departure.
For this leg the weather looks promising for a Saturday departure (the day before is not only a Friday but also the 13th .. I for one am not that brave!). The hurricane season technically does not end until Nov. 30th but there is nothing showing in the immediate future. The N.W. coast of Colombia is notorious for high winds and big seas and Cartagena annually greets many returnees who do not make it away from here. The gribs are predicting 15 to 25 knots from the NE and 6 to 12 foot seas. With this we should be able to clear the first 150 miles in a day and a half to two days and from there conditions are usually less boisterous. It will be an eight day passage to the Caymans so next posting from there.

We are hoping this is a good weather god for us!

Clueless in Colombia

11 November 2009 | Cartagena, Colombia
I am always stupefied by the amount I don't know. For some months we have been planning to visit Colombia, but over and above its drug history I could not name one other thing abut it. So for those whose view is similarly obscured here's some facts to put Colombia within a frame of reference.
With a population of 45 million it is larger than all the Central American countries we have visited combined. Its land mass is as large as the UK, France and Germany combined.
It straddles the top of the continent, with long coastlines on both the Pacific side and the Caribbean and land borders with Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Panama. The Andes originate in its towering center with peaks to 17,000 ft, whilst to the east the land descends to the Amazon headwaters basin.
Bogota, the capital and at 2,640 m the third highest such in the world, is today a huge cosmopolitan city of 8.5 million ranked as one of the most important in the world for economic, political and cultural development.
The economy is far from third world with banking accounting for 16% of GDP and 40% of all exports being manufactured goods. This in spite of the fact that it is a major exporter of oil, coal, coffee, chemicals, bananas and emeralds (90% of the world supply).
Cartagena (in the photograph above the anchorage is in the foreground) is a sprawling city of more than a million, built around a spectacular natural harbor. Secluded behind well preserved 16 century walls is the old city, founded in 1533 and for many years the major South American port for the transport of riches from Peru back to Spain. Here leafy squares, winding cobbled streets and beautiful churches provide some quiet amongst the hubbub.

The people of Colombia, a mixture of Caribe Indians, European settlers and African slaves are truly fine looking. Nowhere have I seen so many, beautifully made and featured. For the single sailor ... a paradise!

Here we have been watching the weeklong celebrations of Cartagena's independence from Spain in 1810. Colorful, sweet, aggressive, loud, threatening and vibrant, the celebrations seem to be a refection of Colombia itself.

Music - again

20 October 2009 | Cartagena, Colombia
It has been interesting to see the varying importance of music, particularly public music, in the countries we have visited.
Mexico bursts with sound. Every street, square, store and open window booms with sound. It is normal to be sung to by your taxi driver. In contrast Central America seemed strangely quiet. With no home grown musical genre, music here seemed to be an extra not an integral part of life. One evening in Leon, Nicaragua we went to an advertised "music festival". It rained and less than two dozen people showed up. It is strange that in the land of poetry, music did not seem so important.
Now, in Caribbean Colombia public music is again prevalent. Here in Plaza Bolivar, these beautiful people gather nightly to put on this wonderful show for a few hours.

We're here

19 October 2009 | Cartagena, Colombia
We're here in Cartagena, the oldest colonial city in the New World. (painting by Enrique Grau)
Vessel Name: Mandy
Vessel Make/Model: Bristol Channel Cutter 28 - http://www.capegeorgecutters.com/BCC28/index.html
Hailing Port: San Diego, CA USA
Crew: Richard & Virginia Cross
Having spent 30 years in the racehorse business we felt it was time for a different kind of adventure. Both originally from England we have sailed for fun for over 30 years. We have owned MANDY for five of those and are planning to head south for Mexico etc. in November 2008 - ready or not. [...]

There Goes Mandy!

Who: Richard & Virginia Cross
Port: San Diego, CA USA