20 March 2019 | Caya Holande, San Blas
18 March 2019 | Caya Holande, San Blas
17 March 2019 | Spanish Harbour
07 March 2019 | Spanish Harbour
03 March 2019 | Approaching Curacao
27 February 2019 | Depart from Grenada
19 February 2019 | Grenada Marine St David's Grenada
06 February 2019 | Marin Martinique
30 January 2019 | Dominica
27 January 2019 | Iles des Saintes
22 January 2019 | Falmouth Harbour
21 January 2019 | 4 men in a boat
20 January 2019 | 4 men in a boat
18 January 2019 | 4 men in a boat
17 January 2019 | 4 men in a boat
16 January 2019 | 4 men in a boat
14 January 2019 | 4 men in a boat
Is this heaven?
20 March 2019 | Caya Holande, San Blas
For the last two nights we have had BBQs off the back of the boat - partly because we are very low on gas and will definitely not get any more for a week until we arrive in Panama. We spent 36 hours in Cayo Hollande - apparently we were in the "hot Tub". Not sure what that meant - but lots of room and a very secure anchorage. As Grace we preparing for yoga on the deck at 0645, she was scooped up by our neighbours (susanne & susan) to join a class on an old attractive steel motor boat. The day simply got better and better. We joined the Panama net - so we know our radio works and have got lots of helpful advice. After that we got out the snorkelling gear and anchored the dinghy off the various reefs and swam for what seemed like hours in the most stunning coral. Turtles, fish of all shapes and sizes abound.
Today we dodged through a series of reefs - completely ignoring our electronic charts (which currently has us on a small hilltop) as they are so inaccurate and covered a monstrous 7 Nm in the day to get to Coco Banderos - another series of uninhabited islands. We have now bought a lobster for dinner tonight and about to bbq again.
Tomorrow we plan on similar (huge!) distances.......
Hot, humid and happy!
18 March 2019 | Caya Holande, San Blas
Grace & Stephen left Cartegena after a wonderful stay in the beautiful old town and even had a visit from friends from Overton, Catherine and Olivia Nunn - Olivia who is teaching English at a university in Columbia! . We managed to slip the boat and she now has smart new black anti fouling and so Stephen was raring to go. Our destination would be the San Blas Islands, part of Panama but an independent series of some 350 islands between Columbia and the Canal. Fortunately, Santiago (aka James Cock, an old university friend of Jay & Gillian and, literally, our saviour in Cartagena) introduced us to Gilbert Thierry in Cartagena - who has sailed these waters over many years and he pointed us in the right direction. The less good news was that his recommendation for a first port of call was some 200Nm from Cartegena and not the 130 Nm we were expecting. That meant an early start and all thoughts of leaving at 1100 or 1200 were quickly banished as we would end up arriving in the dark. The slight problem was that we didnt have our passports and the promised return - scheduled for Saturday afternoon didnt happen. Nothwithstanding this minor technical issue we had a lovely farewell dinner with Gillian, Jay and James in which James had his phone with him all night awaiting contact from the agent with our passports. Fortunately they were delivered back to the boat at 0715 on Sunday morning. We left Cartegena at 0730.
The winds were initially light, but steadily built through the afternoon and stayed with us overnight - so we were sailing in 20-25knots of wind and a sea of 2-3m. Occasionally we had one come on board and so we were constantly being soaked. We also collected more flying fish in the scuppers than i have seen before. We must have scooped 15- 20 from on deck and a good handful that found their way down below in the galley, in the heads and several on the floor some as large as a big sardine and others tiny babies. Some were definitely still alive when they went back - others had been trodden on in the dark and their fate was not as fortunate. It was a very uncomfortable sea and Grace felt quite queasy for the first time on this trip, probably due to tiredness and also anxiety of doing quite a meaty night passage with just two. Very much wishing ANW was on the boat with us as it was just the kind of crossing he would have loved!
We have arrived in San Blas and entered an anchorage through a channel about 10 yards wide (I think we need to get used to this) between reefs and are now happily anchored with the BBQ lit and a chicken waiting for us to eat.
A lot has happened!
17 March 2019 | Spanish Harbour
It is now 10 days since we last updated the blog and a lot has happened in that time. We didnt want to update the blog until such time as the situation dhad settled down and hence the long pause. So this blog is set out in four parts.
1. The journey from Curacao 2. The accident and consequences 3. the journey on from Santa Marta to Cartagena 4. Cartegena and where we are now.
1. The journey from Curacao
Well we knew that sailing into the "Hole" - albeit the Southern end of the Hole would lead to some bumpy seas and strong winds and with this in mind we thought we had fared reasonably well. Passing Aruba at night - some 30Nm off the Venezuelan coast was interesting - with plenty of parked ships and many others gilling around - presumably waiting to get into the port. On the very first afternoon our fishing efforts were rewarded by a double strike of Yellow Fin Tuna. We landed both of them (one about 25Lb and the second one about 20Lb) and chucked the smaller one back. That did put an end to our fishing - but did rather change the menu options for the next few days!. By the morning of our second day we were abeam of Punta Gallinas - which meant that we had left the Venezuelan coastline - not that we were ever in their waters - and so we could concentrate on sailing the boat and not whether small fishing boats were friendly or not. The rest of the journey passed pretty much without incident until we arrived at our destination. we had 15-18knots of wind and 2m seas - so very comfortable.
We had been told that the 5 Bays just short of Santa Marta were well worth a stopover and that Columbian authorities were pretty relaxed about yachts doing exactly that and so in mid afternoon we entered this large and deep bay that was surrounded on all sides by high hills. As we entered Ensenada Gayraca it looked a great place to stop and we we felt it would offer good protection from any seas building from the East, a nice spot for a swim and an opportunity to eat our tuna steaks on the BBQ. Just as we came into the bay and as we were about to drop the main we had a massive squall, combined with a huge windshift and this caused an involuntarily, crash, gybe. That meant the boom swung uncontrallably across the boat. Unfortunately the main sheet hit Gilly in the middle of the forehead. This immediately knocked her out amidst much blood. Our plans for a gentle afternoon were changed in a flash.
2. The accident and the consequences.
Grace put out a MayDay as we continued into the bay to seek assistance and we dropped the mainsail. Have secured the boat and got Gilly into as comfortable a position as possible - she was breathing and slowly regaining some consciousness - we attracted the attention of what looked like local fisherman in the bay. As soon as they were on their way, we dropped the anchor and attended fully to Gilly. Having stemmed the bleeding we managed to transfer her into the fisherman's dinghy and jay and Gillian went ashore for medical support. We did think to thrust their passports into Jay's hands before he went - but didnt have time to get any money or credit cards for them. This turned out not to be necessary as the fishermen turned out to be part of the safety support for the local sailing club and so, fortunately, we had delivered Gilly into as good hands as could be hoped for. They were bundled into the back of a car and driven at alarmingly high speeds (even by the standards of the Grenada dollar buses) to a medical clinic in Santa Marta - about 40 minutes away, where they put 35 stitches into the wound and took scans of her head to check for more serious symptoms. The locals then found the two of them a taxi to take them to Cartagena - where their University friend James Cock lived. All this was done with no money and no credit cards. The locals paid for all of the medical expenses and, by the time they arrived in Cartagena, James was at his apartment and could sort out the taxi. On subsequent investigations, it transpired that the wound was more than a flesh wound and there was a hair line fracture of the skull and there as some bleeding into poor Gilly's sinuses and so this was contributing to her headaches.
As I write this blog the stitches are due to come out tomorrow and. at that point, they are hoping that they will know when Gilly will be able to fly again. It has been a very hard time - particularly for Gilly and we are all so lucky that James had his apartment in Cartagena - where Gilly could start her recovery as doing that on the boat would have been impossible. As at last night, some of the twinkle is coming back and we can only hope for a continued and speedy recovery. Their original plans now lie in tatters as they were supposed to be sailing with us through the San Blas islands and leaving us in Panama at end of March before flying to Costa Rica for 10 days and then coming home. It is particularly galling that they had done most of the hard yards and were all set for some gentle sailing and beautiful beaches, snorkelling and so on in the San Blas. None of the could now happen.
3. Santa Marta to Cartagena.
Knowing that Gilly was in as good a set of hands as we could hope to find that left us with Grace and Stephen on the boat. We were advised by the locals that we needed to re-anchor as we were too close to the beach (a good thing we did for what was about to come) and about an hour later we were visited by the Columbian Coastguard - following up on our MayDay - since cancelled. They were very helpful and reported us into the Santa Marta coastguard - who then kept a close track of us the following day. The night turned out to be a nightmare as we had wave after wave of really strong blasts of winds that appeared to come from totally random directions. Whilst the wind at the top of the mast was recording 10-15 knots at deck level we have bullets of 50-60 knots and coming from NE one minute and SW the next minute. We doubled up on the anchor snubber and then stood anchor watches until dawn, when we left to go to Puerto Valero - some 70Nm in the direction of Cartegena and reported to be "one of the safest harbours in N Columbia. It would also mean us crossing the Magdalena River and all of the shipping traffic going into Baranquilla. We knew exactly what sort of sail we would be in for as we set out into 45knots on leaving Ensenada Gayraca. We put up a small amount of Jib and turned downwind - making sure we would be at least 10Nm off Baranquilla, which should take us North of the worst of the seas and debris piling up at the mouth of the Magdalena. Even so we had continuous winds of 30 knots and seas of 3-4m throughout the day.
Puerto Valero turned out to be very sheltered from the seas - but is is not well charted and the sands around the bay are continuously shifting and the channel markers are all but invisible. Going into the wind for the first time, albeit now under engine reminded us of how much there had been and how wet it would be to go upwnid. After what seemed like aeons we arrived in a small marina where we were expertly helped onto the hammerhead pontoon on the marina - without that help we woudl simply have been blown off. There was nothing ashore and the wind was howling all night and so, having secured double mooring lines at front, back and middle, we had a bowl of pasta and went to bed. Another fitful night's sleep followed as we wondered whether the entire pontoon might get blown away and we awoke at dawn ready to do then second, shorter, leg to re-join Jay and Gillian in Cartagena.
I am pleased to note that the further we got from Santa Marta and Baranquilla, the more the breeze dropped and the calmer the seas became. As we came into as full a shelter as possible from the land at Punta Canoas, the breeze dropped to about 25 knots and down to 2-3 m swells. What all this meant was that we had a fast passage downwind to Cartagena and we arrived at the Boca Grande (the Northern entrance) at lunchtime - to be strongly advised to go the extra 10 miles and pass through the big ship channel - the Boca Chica. Apparently we have Francis drake to blame for that as the Spaniards decided to block the man channel to stop marauding pirates. It certainly added a coulple of hours to our journey.but we had a lovely sail through the forts. Cartagena looked a beautiful city from the ocean as we sailed past the white skyscrapers and then motored through pelicans fishing in the rich waters of the bay. We were not disappointed when we moored up in Marina de Pesce, just outside the city walls.
There we met up with Gilly and Jay and were introduced to James - who by that stage had well and truly earned his nickname and Sant-iago. Given the uncertainty over Gillian's recovery, we decided to lift the boat out of the water in cartagena, redoing anti-fouling and replacing anodes. we knew we would need to do this before Galapagos and so it seemed a good alternative to having the same things done in Panama Grace and Stephen moved into a small "boutique hotel".
Grace - small boutique hotel bit of an overstatement! more of a youth hostel still in a great atmospheric area with lovely staff, very Columbian but room incredibly dark damp and dingy! However it has been great to spend some days in this fantastic city and have James as a guide. Love the live music everywhere - although sometimes at supper even I found it a bit too much! Great street artists and buskers buzzing with young. As well as the normal tourists sites the old city, the castle (tales of English Admirals - Drake took the town the Columbians don't mention him much the Spanish paid him off, Vernon with 27000 troops was beaten back by the Spanish led by Blas (who had one eye, one leg and one arm) and 300 troops - lots of mentions of this battle! We also got to see parts of the town hidden to the tourists particularly the area around the boatyard, the local markets etc..
Now just setting off for San Blas wth at the moment a pleasant 15 knots of wind pretty much on the beam - 180 miles to go and we are heading for the eastern end of Holland Cays known as 'the swimming pool' which is according to James' very charming and knowledgeable French/Columbian friend Gilbert the safest place in the islands ...... Sadly Gillian and Jay were unable to make this part of the trip and Santiago has stayed in Cartagena to look after his guests. Not quite what anyone had expected, but we are all relieved that it could have been so much worse.
Into the Hole
07 March 2019 | Spanish Harbour
After 3 days in Curacao, it is now time to move on - having got the mainsail repaired yesterday afternoon by Rolf Harms.
Before that we had something of a nightmare checking in with Customs and immigration - who are not only in different buildings, but on different sides of the main river that runs through Willemstad - inaccessible without a car. Fortunately we were rescued by Charles the taxi driver who was able to manoeuvre the back streets of Willemstad with the majority of the roads closed in anticipation of the annual carnival that took place on Tuesday night. First he took the crew in to register and then a second trip for the skipper to do exactly the same thing. he then arranged a hire car for us to use around the island for the following day. we took full advantage of it and drove from top to bottom of the island - including through the shrubland of the National Park up as far as NoordPunt. The traffic going into Willemstad for the carnival was so heavy that we decided against going into town for the evening. It was clearly quite an event - but one that most Curacaons watch on television anyway.
On Wednesday morning, we were rather pleased that we were able to clear out in less than three hours (with the aid of the hire car) and so after that a visit to the Slave Museum and one further trip to a chandlery was order of the day. Some bit of boat maintenance - including repairs to the table before moving to a small anchorage in Spanish water that would allow us to swim, barbeque etc.
We will leave from Spanish Water at 1100 local time for the 320 mile trip round the top of Venezuela and on to Santa Marta for an overnight stop in the bays before completing the trip to Cartagena. Weather looks fair and forecast is for 15-20 knots from east - so a dead run almost all the way. We are always told that on the corner (we'll be there early tomorrow morning) there will be 5-10 knots more wind and a confused sea. After that we'll be sailing along in Caribbean waters with snow capped mountains to our South (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta) - which will be pretty special.
Moving on again
03 March 2019 | Approaching Curacao
Well, we knew that the gentle fast passage was probably too good to last and so it proved to be on our approach to Bonaire. The good news is that we did arrive on Bonaire at 1700 on Thursday evening - so well before dark. The less good news is that when we gybed to start our run in to SE corner of Bonaire we split the main from leech to luff (ie all the way across). Fortunately it was below the third reef point - so we can still fly something. Grace is quite happy with this arrangement as it inevitably limits the amount of sail we can put up!
We then spent two great days in Bonaire. On the first day, we hired e bikes and cycled round the S side of the island - visiting Flamingos, wind surf beaches, kite surfers etc before returning to the main harbour for delicious dinner at "Its raining Fish" - where most of us enjoyed the wonderful Sirloin steak. (that was after some Tuna as a starter). On Saturday, we hired a car - ostensibly from Budget - but they were rather inept and had forgotten to arrange something for us and so we ended up borrowing a pick up from the tourist office. With that we set off round the N end of the island - including a visit to the Washington Slaagbi reserve. Very interesting and i dont think we have seen so many different cacti growing anywhere. Wonderful snorkelling at 1000 Steps and then at Wayaka II inside the National Park. OUr return trip took us through Rincon and there we stopped. There was a huge parade taking through this small town with 5 large floats and the bass coming from each of them was enough to make the pavements vibrate. All had dancers behind and a high old time for all. After that it was back to base.
An early start was somewhat frustrated by Immigration at Bonaire - who insisted on seeing all crew members in person before we left. It all seemed a little odd as they certainly dont do that for the daily cruise ships that arrive in this tiny port and they didnt want to see the crew as we checked in!
After a gentle sail down we arrived in Spanish Harbour - about 5 miles to East of the main town in Curacao and (apparently) the suitable place for yachts to go to. It ends up as an enormous inland lake - with lots of shallow patches and many contradictions in the various different electronic charts we have - the paper ones we have are hopelessly inaccurate and probably better to use the infallible echo sounder (the keel) to determine water depth. Anchored in a quiet bay and had the whole thing to ourselves. We were feeling rather pleased with ourselves for finding this until a kindly American told us that it was the only unsafe part of the bay. Happy for the evening - but re-anchored the following day to allow the crew to head off to Willemstad, leaving the skipper to make contact with the sailmaker and (heopfully get the Mainsail repaired on Tuesday as Monday is Carnival and so no one is working. Lots of long term cruising yachts in the bays and they seem to be populated by very friendly and helpful people throughout.
Once we have done that, we can do our sightseeing and head on to Cartagena.
A very windy trip!
01 March 2019 | BONAIRE
Grace Foot | Windy!
We have arrived in Bonaire in the Dutch Antilles but my goodness was it a windy trip and not without a few dramas ! A midnight jibe resulted in a ripped maintain and a broken vsng so our two day trip had more damage than the whole of the Atlantic crossing! At least it meant we could not have much mainsail up as there is not much mainsail left! Obviously the skippers wife preferred that! Good 30 knot gusts and big confused seas Mrs Foot was longing to be under an apple tree FAR INLAND!
We are now in Bonaire and have exhausted ourselves bicycling and snokling today and now having delicious dinner ashore!