Aruba to Cartagena
04 September 2010
ARUBA TO CARTAGENA 26th August 2010
We left Oranjestad at first light 6.00am to Monjes Del Sur 54 nm away which is a Coast Guard station. The guys are sent here for a year at a time and their supplies come in by boat. This rock ( and rock is all it is ) is part of Venezuela and the thought was to rest overnight as the rest of the journey to Cartagena is a 3 plus overnighter. Boats tie onto a rope which has been added from the old dock across the small bay to rocks on the other side. After achieving this feat with the help of Bob, we relaxed. A very pleasant young man came to check us in and only Spanish is spoken. Later we had Bob and Debbie over to enjoy the small tuna on the braai that Bob had caught on the trip and an early night for a planned for an early departure the next morning. At about 00.45 hours a squall came over and Vossie got up to check if all was ok, which it was. At 4.00am we were woken with a bang and rushed outside realizing that we must be on the rocks, which we were. We had obviously slipped along the rope when the wind shifted and had been pushed to the rocks. Vossie used the boat hook to push the bow off and to pull ourselves forward to release the boat line from the rope and in reversing, the keel once again hit underwater rocks. Now really worried as to what damage has occurred and whether there might be a hole in the boat, we alerted Bob and Debbie on Passat with lots of nervous shouting . We picked up a rope from Passat and hung off her stern until first light.
Having picked up the stern line, there was enough time to check the bilges and other compartments for any leaks . Thank goodness, nothing spotted. First light brought MORE problems. A big thunderstorm approaching. Counted the seconds, eight miles away. What is happening now? The wind is shifting again and Talacam, hanging off the back of Passat is being pushed towards the dock. Stern now very vulnerable but also, Passat is being pulled parallel with the ROPE and into very shallow water.
Lots and lots of different maneuver's later, Vossie managed to climb off the stern and onto the dock where he managed to secure first a stern line and then a line off the bow. Lightning bolts now very close 2 seconds later thunder. Passat gave a floating line off her stern and Vosssie managed to get it around a bollard and Bob was able to winch himself off the rope into a more favourable position. Lightning and thunder now virtually instantaneous. It is right on top of us, pouring rain with Vossie out there on the dock. Terrible surging on the dock, first one line then the second spring line breaks. This is not a good situation to be in. Pop goes one of the bigger mooring buoys. Man, this is really a lot of hassle.
To cut a longer story short, we were eventually successful in getting off the dock and tied back onto the rope "properly" this time at about 11.30. Consensus reached, we are GETTING THE HELL OUT OF HERE now, before more drama hits the fan. 12.30 Bob released from the rope and Vossie released Passat from Talacam and we followed suite seconds later. Another very good lesson learned...
In complete contrast to the early morning squally weather we motored out of Monjes del Sur into flat seas with no wind. This continued for the next two nights and days with us alternately motoring and motor sailing in light winds. Saw dolphins and a sight of Bonnitas jumping to feed off the surface on what we presume to be insects being washed out with the flow from the Rio Magdalena, as we have an invasion of them on Talacam, even though we are about 20 miles off shore. The water has turned from blue to green as we get closer to land.
SUNDAY 29th AUGUST
We approach the 3rd night out surrounded by gathering dark clouds and what promises to be a squally night. Vossie goes down to rest, very briefly, as the lightening lights up the sea for brief moments and he is called up to keep me company as this is not my forte. Wind picks up and the autopilot stalls, 360 degree turn and mad scramble before we get her back on track again. We suspect that this band of squalls are the same that Passat had to deal with a short while later, but being further ahead of us they were in the thick of it. There was no rest this night as the waves grew monstrous and the squalls kept coming bringing strong winds. We were obviously in the area where the river and the sea converge and it is renowned for rough seas when the wind is up. In hindsight we would have been better off another 20 miles out, but you live and learn. With me huddled in the corner of the cockpit hanging on for dear life, Vossie and Talacam dealt very well with the buffeting we were getting.
The dawn brings slightly quieter seas as we try to make our way further out to sea to avoid the floating debris coming down the river. This turned out not to be as bad as we were expecting, although there was a fair amount of floating plant life and wood. We had a good sail and thought to make Cartagena by the end of the day. Unfortunately the wind again drops and with the current against us on our last leg we decide to motor to try and make landfall. Beautiful day and Vossie catches a nice size barracuda.the first fish caught since we started sailing. We ran out of daylight on approaching the city of Cartagena and came in on GPS alone in the pitch dark and with the city lights as a back drop, making one totally blind when approaching the entrance. We came through the small entrance successfully and made our way slowly to the anchorage, slowly because again the city lights make it very difficult to pick up the navigation lights in an unknown harbour. We are very proud of ourselves for getting this right even though it was nerve wracking at the time. Anchoring turned out to be a bit frustrating as we were tired and the anchor would not set properly. Eventually put our heads down at 3.30am. In the morning we had to scramble awake to re-anchor again, as we were drifting around and got too close to Pacific Bliss. This encounter resulted in a light kiss but fortunately no big damage. We are properly anchored now and hopefully it remains that way as the squalls bring 30-35knot winds from the south when they come through.
We have cleared in with our agent at a cost of 150,000 pesos ( US$82.50 ) allowing us 10 days to explore Cartagena. Decision has also been made to take haul Talacam in the Manzanillo Marina to fix our waterline and check for any damage caused by our encounter with the rocks.