Tuatara

Alan and Jean sharing our cruising news with friends, family.

20 July 2015 | Rabi Island Fiji
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Weather watching

11 February 2013 | Cartagena de Indias
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Loo with a view, dog loo on the walkway near Club Nautico, looking across the harbour to Boca Grande.

Buenos Dias from Cartagena de Indias, Columbia.

I was thinking I had written a blog update while in Curacao but today I realized no, must have been all in my mind!!! So I need a catch up. Let’s see, last time I wrote we were about to leave Bonaire.

We had a lovely down wind sail across to Curacao, just 36 miles from Kralendijke to Spanish Harbour. The wind was piping a bit by the time we approached the narrow entrance to Spanish Harbour. After a heart stopping couple of minutes entering the very narrow channel, reef on the north and sand bank on the south with no marking buoys, we were in flat calm waters. Luckily a big motor boat whizzed through the entrance in front of us so we had some idea which way to head. We motored up the calm channel and popped out into the wide expanse of the harbour. Spanish harbour is a huge expanse of landlocked safe anchorages. The wind did sweep across the bay at up to 25 knots some days but the thick mud kept us well in place. As with many places we have been where there is a good combination of anchorage, boating and shopping facilities there is a community of cruisers who have sailed in and stayed. These people are always a huge help with information for those of us who visit. In Spanish Waters the internet was exceptionally good because of this group of people. The harbour was not great for making water so Bridget, with the water boat came once a week if needed. The morning net was there to answer questions and solve problems. The happy hour at Normans was another source of information as well as cruising stories, tall and short.

We spent 10 days at Curacao sightseeing in the Amsterdam look a like town of Willemstad and watching the weather maps, looking for that weather window we needed to get around the humpy windy bit of Columbia, supposedly the fifth roughest piece of sea in the world. We just needed 3 or 4 days of reasonable weather to get to Cartagena. Gradually the bright orange spot on the map off Santa Marta looked like it was going to turn green for a few days meaning we would get 25 to 30 knots instead of the usual 30 to 40 knots. We listened at 7am on the SSB to Chris Parker the weather man all the Americans follow avidly,( some won’t shift to the next bay without his advice). At 7.45 am we switched channels and talked to Dennis another American meteorologist cruiser who gave us his take on the weather, then we looked on the internet at passageweather.com. In fact our mornings on the SSB with various nets keeps us busy. After Dennis finishes at 8am we switch over to the Mossie Net, mainly Aussies but hey we are not proud we will talk to any one! One morning we got a call from Koza, a nice surprise we didn’t know that they had crossed the pond this year. We were in Finike Marina together. Then at 10 am we switch on to the Magellan Net which was set up for the Atlantic crossing boats last year and was kept going by the boats that went up and down the American east coast. It was easier to talk to Sue from Yindee Plus on the SSB while they were in Cuba than get an email from them.

Eventually we decided that by about the Saturday all the weather oracles would be aligned, it was time to checkout and head to Columbia. I don’t think we have looked at and analyzed weather maps so much before. This piece of water and all the discussion about it had made us a little more cautious. I had read somewhere that about every 10 to 12 days a good weather window comes about, the winds ease and the seas “lay down” as Dennis put it. It seems that that 12 day theory has some merit. The seas in this part of the Caribbean can get quite big with all that wind and water coming across the Atlantic and ending up in this corner of the Caribbean.
We wanted to arrive off Cartagena in day light hours, preferably the morning, so we sailed 20 miles up the coast of Curacao and anchored for a few hours at a lovely bay called Santa Cruz. We planned to go to bed early and up anchor at 1 am. Alan, the mathematician, had worked out the early start would get us to Cartagena in the morning in 3 days. The guide we used said the bay had good holding in sand, I must write to that man! Alan went for a snorkel over the anchor to see it ever so slowly moving across the thin layer of sand, he wedged it behind a rock and thanks to the very light breeze we stayed put, just. For safety we decided to take turns on anchor watch, I chose the sunset watch and watched little fishing boats coming and going.

Within 20 minutes of leaving Santa Cruz the wind had filled in nicely and we hoisted our two head sails, wind in the ENE for most of the time meant leaving the main covered for the whole trip. The shipping around Curacao and Aruba is quite busy and we had to dodge a couple of ships. Thank goodness for AIS , this system makes life less stressful when it comes to shipping at night. Once past Aruba the shipping decreased until approaching Cartagena which is Columbia’s largest port.

Just before sunset on our second day the seas and wind between Cabo de la Vela and Santa Marta were building, the wind was constantly over 25,touching 30 and wave crests on the 3 metre seas were beginning to crumble. Time to decrease sails, we took down our big drifter and furled in the genoa to about half. We were still comfortable although with only one headsail we weren’t quite as stable in the following sea and wind. Midday the next day we reduced down to the staysail and tried to slow down a bit to arrive at daylight.

We had checked in each day with Dennis and he reassured us, what we had weather wise was not going to change. He was spot on and Alan was spot on with his mathematical workings we arrived as the sun rose. The skyscrapers appeared out of the haze along with several ships waiting to enter the port. One of which had given me a fright an hour earlier. I had been tracking him on the AIS coming up behind us he was going to pass us to port at about 1.3 miles which is fine, close enough but ok. I felt comfortable enough to go below and make a cup of tea, his lights were getting closer and I could see his bow and stern lights. I nearly dropped my tea as I came back on deck because his lights had changed now I could only see his bow lights, he was coming straight for us. A 123metre ship doing 10 knots only a few miles away, his CPA was wavering between 0.0nm and 0.3nm, that is he was either just going to scape past us or run us over. I moved 10 deg to starboard but at his speed we would take some time to get out of his way.

“Good morning sir, this is the sailing vessel Tuatara, we are on your starboard bow, our CPA is now only 0.3. Do you see us?”

“Good morning ma’am, yes I can see you I will move more to port”

“Thank you for your help.”

As a precaution I move a little more to starboard.
I looked out, no change in his lights, no change on the computer. I decide to go even more to starboard. Then ever so slowly he turns a few degrees and eventually slides past us in the murky pre dawn light just 0.7 of a mile away from us. Close enough to hear his motors. Thankfully we were not entering Cartagena through the main channel at Boca Chica. Too many ships to deal with. Instead we went over the wall at Boca Grande.

Cartagena was the main Spanish port in the Caribbean, shipping gold and treasure, plundered from the people of South America, back to Europe in the 16th Century. The city became a target for pirates and and other semi pirates like Frances Drake. The Spanish built walls around the city and several forts. Part of this fortification was an underwater wall between Isla Tierra Bomba and Boca Grande to stop the raiding ships. These days, there is a 70 metre wide entrance marked by red and green buoys which takes you over the wall into the harbour. This small opening saves about 2 hours when going up to Club Nautico where yachts anchor. We decided to go over the wall, the sea in the lee of Cartagena was flat, the wind had died to a peaceful 15knots and the tide was high. The way point we had found from the Pizazz guide was spot on so with just a little breath holding we crossed into the harbour. We had plenty of water, we just got to 1 metre under us for a blink of an eye.

As we motored up the channel I took photos of the white skyscrapers that line the narrow isthmus of Boca Grande as well as the imitation galleon taking tourists down the harbour past the seemingly floating statue of Christ. The thump of their engine spoiled the scene a little. Unfortunately the SD card decided to mal function and all was lost. Ah well something to do on the way out.

Comments
Vessel Name: Tuatara
Vessel Make/Model: Alan Wright 51
Hailing Port: Opua NZ
Crew: Alan and Jean Ward

Sailing in the Pacific

Who: Alan and Jean Ward
Port: Opua NZ