Archive for: ‘November 2012’

The Santa Marta Regatta

November 27, 2012 Posted by Deb

We were underachievers at racing 18 years ago and it looks like we’re continuing that tradition. The leg injury was a convenient excuse to not enter the regatta but I would have liked to crew. The conditions were bright, sunny, and 25 knots of wind at the start. You can see in the photos that everyone has a double or triple reef in and the seas were very rough though they only look rough in the shot where Marmalua is burying their bows.

Winning Crew

Winning Crew

Our Neighbors on Both Sides on One World

Our Neighbors on Both Sides on One World

Tail End of the Fleet Heading Upwind to Taganga

Tail End of the Fleet Heading Upwind to Taganga

One World and Marmalua Head-to-Head (Lagoon 50 and an FP Venezia 42)

One World and Marmalua Head-to-Head (Lagoon 50 and an FP Venezia 42)

Cats in a Tacking Duel?

Cats in a Tacking Duel?

FP Venezia 42 Burying Its Nose

FP Venezia 42 Burying Its Nose

Neytiri Sitting This One Out

Neytiri Sitting This One Out

It was great fun and there were great prizes but there was a flip side. The winds built to over 40 kts during the upwind leg and in those conditions most sailors think more about keeping stress off the boat rather than racing. Oh … and most don’t go upwind at all in those conditions. These were mostly cruising class boats divided into under 40 and over 40 feet. Some even had local Columbians aboard as guests. As a result, there was a long list of “things” that happened out there. Several boats turned back due to a seasick crew. Chaotic Harmony came back early with a shredded headsail. Our neighbor, One World (a 50-foot Lagoon) knocked their radar off during a tack and shredded their main halyard to the extent that it had to be partially repaired in order to even drop the main after the race. A number of boats forgot to inspect all the hatches and absolutely flooded their boats with salt water … everyone is usually on deck during a race and when things happen below … well s…t happens. We heard that one boat lost most of their glassware and had other damage from things slamming around.

The results were not that big a deal since some of the awards were lottery based. But there was one racing monohull in the group with full crew and no sign of an anchor system anywhere. They finished first of all monohulls but got beat by a 60+-foot catamaran with only a husband, wife, and baby aboard (see photo). The monohull guys said the cat could point as high as they could and was going a couple knots faster. And then the cat really took off on the downwind leg. That’s amazing and I want one.

A Hike, a Hurt Leg, and a House Call

November 23, 2012 Posted by Deb

Tayrona National Park:  Columbia

We took a day trip to Tayrona Park with Bright Ayes and Wildest Dream. Their boats were Caliber 47’s and we had a lot in common besides hiking, including a bit of Iowa and even Iowa State in their backgrounds. We were Columbia bus virgins, having traveled all over in taxis. The buses are not a bad way to go but there is always the lingering suspicion that lousy Spanish skills on our part (to be fair, mostly lousy for Deb and me) and the ready thumbs up from the bus packers could land us on the wrong side of the country. Not a problem, in fact, they looked out for us pretty well. Deb sat next to a lady that drove her crazy by standing up at every stop. Deb would get up to let her out and she sat back down.

Tayrona Park has everything from rooms at $250 US per night to hammocks at $6 US per night. It has great trails and miles of empty beaches. There is a pretty healthy collection of young Euro travelers and a fair representation from the U.S. They were mostly camping in little tent cities under thatched huts.

Lunch with Bright Ayes and Wildest Dreams

Deb on the Rocks

Taking a Break

Camping at Tayrona

Tayrona National Park Beach Hike

We had a little beach river to cross and a nice 20 foot log about 12 inches in diameter waiting for us. I went first with full back pack even though we should have noticed that the young Euro’s were throwing theirs across. They were on the opposite side and did point out (not in English) that the log had a big chunk missing toward their end. That missing chunk took me out. The river was surprisingly deep so when I went down, I went all the way to my upper thigh before I hit the log. Deb made it across by going very slow and I was able to grab her hand for the last part. The rest of the group did some rock climbing to avoid the log. For me, old football injuries soon took over and I could feel the leg swelling and stiffening as we finished about an hour long walk out of the park.

The bus ride back was punctuated by a military inspection and we all had to get out and stand around. By the time we reached the marina, the leg was pretty useless; and we bought ice, got me horizontal, and used moderate pressure. Unknown to me at the time, Deb arranged for a doctor to make a house call the next morning because she knew the implications of that injury being a hematoma. The doctor came, poked, prescribed, and pronounced the injury as “not a hematoma” which meant the recovery would be about seven weeks quicker. He was right and we’re back on schedule. Bright Ayes, Wildest Dream, Amelit and others left for Panama a few days later and we’re starting to get that “last one left in port” feeling. It’s time to move.

Los Cocos Beach Clean-Up: Santa Marta Colombia

November 21, 2012 Posted by Deb

One of the boats in the marina, Sinan, started the idea of a beach clean-up day. By the time the idea was fully developed, we had local television coverage, the newspapers, over 20 cruisers, the coast guard, the cops, the fire department and the local street cleaners involved along with two huge dumpsters, a front end loader, and several hundred garbage bags.

Beach CleanUp

Beach CleanUp Deb

Beach CleanUp Chuck

Beach CleanUp Group Shot

The next morning we looked at the local paper and we used up a few seconds of our 15 minutes of fame.

La Cuidad Articl

Minca: Now Open for Business

November 19, 2012 Posted by Deb

We grabbed a cab for Minca and the driver kind of hesitated for a minute before he gave us a price. We found out why later, the road had potholes big enough to swallow his little city-only car. Both car and passengers took a beating. The little town (population 500) is up in the rainforest about 660 meters with cool temperatures and a grab bag of weather. The “now open for business” is a reference to the fact that Minca was heavily engaged in the drug wars not too long ago and they proudly show off all the bullet holes in the buildings.

Town of Minca

Minca started out good for us and just got better as the day went on. We had no clue what we would do in town and drifted over to the local tourist shack (about a meter square). We were informed that we were just in time for a full-day tour they were putting on for nine mostly Canadians but a few Swedes. He asked if we were sure we could handle a four-hour hike … a polite way to ask if maybe we weren’t a tad old. He would have freaked if he knew Deb was 2+ months into a new knee. We did better than most of the young crowd thanks to our prior power hiking with Hunter and Devi and Hashes with Wayne and Jean.

Minca River Crossing

That’s Deb’s water bottle tucked into her pants

Deb Climbing Boulders

The Big Falls

Hiking In A Salad

Arimaca Waterfall Minca

Minca Bridge

No lawyers

Chuck at Minca Falls

After the hike, we were dragging, hungry, and a couple of the girls were getting very cold. Food was part of the package and the local restaurant did a fair job. The food was good and view was phenomenal but we had a bit high of a body count for them and our one vegetarian threw them a curve.

We split up for bird watching or a tubing trip and our guide looked a long time at us again kind of hinting we should maybe do the bird watching. Six of us chose tubing and we girded up with helmets and knee pads. We have done a lot of tubing and Minca was significantly more challenging than any tubing we’ve done before. Maybe challenging isn’t the right word because there isn’t a lot of skill. It’s a good idea to stay on the tube, keep your butt up high, and to go down feet first. Good luck with any of that at Minca. The speed we achieved and the drops in some areas got my attention and some loud yelling from Deb. The score was river 6, tubers 0; but no major injuries. One Canadian hit a rock going backwards very hard with his head and had a nice deep bruise on his leg but mostly it was small bruises and some bloody elbows. Deb bashed her left knee once but the pad saved her and was otherwise unscratched. She took most of the rapids backwards, not intentionally. We were all smiles from ear to ear after that one.

Minca River

We finished up with a hike to a coffee plantation that grows a special variety for Juan Valdez. We aren’t coffee drinkers but can appreciate the fine art of growing coffee beans. It was starting to get dark and there are no regular looking cabs in Minca. Our guide arranged for a “shared cab” and we rode back down the mountain with one cheek on the metal over the wheel well and one cheek on the seat. Deb was able to shove her now slightly stiff knee up between the seats in front. It was home, shower, drink, and almost instantly asleep for us.

Lightening

Rodadero, Revenge, Root Canals, Rug Rats and a Really Pretty Town

November 16, 2012 Posted by Deb

We never got to travel outside Cartegena 18 years ago because the bad guys were hosing down the odd bus with machine gun fire. Cartegena is fine but Columbia is way too pretty of a country to be the sole province of those who supply our recreational drugs. We have a bucket list for this area and we’re attacking it more each week.

Rodadero

As advertised, a vacation spot for mostly Columbians that has a forever beach and the longest collection of for-hire portable beach shelters I’ve seen. We liked it but the vendors and restaurant packers were very aggressive. Our wimpy little polite “Gracias, no” did not cut it at all. We tried a few other butchered phrases but the best results were to keep on walking. By the time we did a lap, we had a complete collection of mini menus from a bunch of restaurants and they all looked remarkably similar.

Rodadero Beach

Rodadero Jugos Stand

We hit a beach shack for jugos. Deb is into a strange fruit that is a cross between and apple, an orange and a pineapple; I’m a straight pineapple fan. Tasted great going down and it made a return engagement later that night.

We struggled badly ordering food at our chosen restaurant because the waiter was trying to work on his English and we were trying to order in Spanish. I’m not even sure he knew we were ordering in Spanish. Right next to us was a Woods Hole marine biologist named Bill down here for a conference and chilling after giving a presentation. We really like talking shop with marine biologists. It is a bit depressing because we’re losing the ocean battle so quickly. He married a Columbian woman, is almost a professional painter of underwater scenes, and overachieves in general. Made our day.

Rodadero at Night

Revenge and Root Canals

Deb got hit twice with street food disease and it was my turn after Rodadero. I need to get stronger abs because I was very sore from the workout. We both recovered after a day or two but life on board was boring.

My Columbian dental expedition has progressed through a new provisional bridge and two root canals. My total cost here was $350. My share of one root canal in the US would be more than the total down here. I’m getting a new porcelain permanent bridge in about a week and that will run up the tab a bit.

Rug Rats

Santa Marta Marina Gang

We argue about whether there are more kids out here than 18 years ago. I maintain that there are a lot more catamarans and that catamarans generate kids, a lot more kids. The verdict is still out but we are in kid heaven here. We snapped a dock shot of one of the gaggles. As they went by, the leadership type kid was saying “Let’s make a movie today and everybody bring your own snacks.” We didn’t quite get the connection but it seemed to make sense to them. Of course, we can’t make a movie either.

 Taganga – A  Really Pretty Town

This little fishing village has a high Euro tourist count and is absolutely our favorite so far. There is a nice hotel up the hill above Taganga. There must also be a hostel or some kind of cheap living quarters somewhere because of the mixture of tourists we saw. We saw the pasty white, low mobility crowd pounding down the calories and the rail thin, heavily tanned, Euro types with everything they owned on their backs. The town also has dueling dive shops on every corner and we’re going to be doing some diving with Poseidon next week at Tayrona National Park. That is, assuming we don’t get attacked by the beach food again.

Taganga Beach

Taganga Bahia Hotel

Taganga Diving Board

A dive board off the patio. Either the home of Columbia’s diving champ or Johnny Depp’s house. Actually, it could be the latrine.

Boarders, Birthdays and Birds – Santa Marta Columbia

November 3, 2012 Posted by Deb

We finally finished boat projects and gave Curacao a reluctant goodbye. Reluctant because we worked too much and didn’t enjoy the island like we should have. We finally rigged the gennaker (a cross between a genoa and a spinnaker) and thought we’d try it out for the first time on a 350-mile trip through the roughest seas we ever encountered in our three-year prior sailing hiatus. That prior sailing trip included about a week out in the Atlantic and we never saw seas and wind like we saw in the waters off Columbia back in 1995. Those waters were precisely our destination and we still had the same old charts and desperate waypoints painfully marked on those charts. Imagine trying to log GPS coordinates inside a clothes drier. I wasn’t worried, I was truly afraid of that trip.

The night before we left was the most impressive display of lightening we’ve seen since the Mona Passage in 94. I was convinced we would call the trip off and offered a trip to Bonaire and diving for Deb’s birthday as an enticement. Deb was sad about any alternative but a full roll of the dice. Bottom line, we cast off, worked our way out of Spanish Waters by 9:30 a.m. and were off at the blistering pace of 5 knots with the new and old headsails both flying.

Two Sails

Boarding

Passage memories for both of us usually involve the times when we were awakened out of a deep two-hour sleep with some desperate emergency in the process of playing itself out. For us, it is usually weather. This time it was real panic as Deb kicked my butt out of the salon with the dreaded, “Someone’s trying to board us.”  By the way, the photo is from Deb’s internet research … we were far too busy crapping our pants to take pictures.

Dutch Coast Guard

“We’re being boarded” will get your attention and is close to the worst nightmare most sailors have. We all wonder how we’ll behave when confronted with the various scenarios of bad guys approaching your boat when there are no “cops,” no help, and no good guys but you and your partner. Even if you’re armed, what good is a shotgun against a boatload of guys with rifles. What good is a rifle against a boatload of guys where one had an RPG. Basically you’re going to be outnumbered and out gunned in most scenarios.  Oh … and you’ll be dead too.

We were 2 miles off Aruba in the middle of our first night and moving at 6 to 7 knots with Deb on watch and me totally crashed. Deb said that they came out of nowhere, a massively overpowered inflated hull (rubberized and like a dinghy on steroids) power boat with four black guys dressed completely in black. My first reaction was to get dressed and go out and fend them off. Deb’s first reaction was to lock herself into the boat. I suspect from a longevity standpoint, Deb’s reaction would give her a bit more time and options.

I stood on the top step of the starboard sugar scoop with nothing in either hand, ready to do something but clueless as to what that might be. They came crashing forward again and the noise of the waves, their engines and the two boats coming together made it almost impossible to hear. I had a strange feeling about what I was seeing … the boat was a bit sophisticated for bad guys and attacking us in the bright lights of Aruba would not be well thought out. So I yelled “Who are you guys”. The yelled back “Dutch Coast Guard” and I could see that label on their boat (the only thing not black). I immediately relaxed but Deb was still adding more chain to the main solon doors and thinking “What the h… is he doing out there”.

They asked permission to come aboard and my official response was “You gotta be kidding”. They said no and started jumping. These were no small people either. Full black military gear, one with a backpack. They got up to the cockpit and asked for our boat documentation and passports. I turned around to get them and I saw Deb’s handywork with the door and her behind them figuring I had lost my mind to let these guys on board.

In the end, they were very polite, they scanned our documents, searched the boat (again while we were bouncing along at a pretty good clip), took a bunch of pictures, filled out pages of forms, and left like they came, flying from our sugar scoops to this noisy dark boat. Two of them landed on their chest/stomachs as they kind of fell from one boat to another. They said they split the corridor between VZ and Aruba and each country takes eight miles and they stop and check out every vessel. We talked to many who have made that trip and they were never stopped. Deb continued on her watch through sixteen freighters and off into the dark of the Caribbean.

Birthdays

We dodged squalls and lightening shows (got lucky) each night and the days were positively gorgeous for sailing. The gennaker added a whole new downwind dimension. Deb had a birthday on day three of this trip, almost exactly in sync with the same trip 18 years earlier. Nothing like being able to set a wine bottle and two wine glasses on a table in the middle of the Caribbean Sea going sort of fast (for downwind). What a difference 18 years makes. The only way we could have had wine on that trip would have been with an IV.

Birthday at Sea

Birds

Bird rescue is a well trodden story with cruising sailors. The tropical storms that blast giant anvil heads high into the sky also can apparently scoop up or confuse land based birds and take them well out to sea like a Star Trek transporter. They stumble onto our boats just shy of exhaustion and are too tired to be worried about humans, boat motion, and the crazy noise of storms and waves. Sometimes they leave after a brief rest and come back. This guy came back three or four times and hung out just behind the dodger. We’ve never seen any land-based rescued bird take food or water and we offered two Fritos and a bowl of water to this guy. They eventually huddle in a comatose state and leave when we get near land.

Bird Passenger

We picked up this little guy about 30 miles off shore as a monster storm system formed in front of us as the sun was going down. After two and a half days our destination was just beyond that system and we’re a bit bumbed that we were going to get clobbered in our last few miles. It almost ate us as it expanded but we did a 180 and waited it out for about an hour, dodged a bit, and we’re able to make Santa Marta at 2:00 a.m. on the third day. By morning, Deb was well into cleaning up after our little passenger who rewarded our rescue effort by crapping all over Deb’s new salon upholstery and her purse.

Leaving Curacao

Stocking Up on Important Supplies

M'Dew

The Curacao Anchorage in Spanish Waters

Spanish Waters Anchorage

235 milliliters … What’s The Point

Amsdel Beer Can

Traffic

The Curacao to Columbia leg is full of freighter traffic. The freighter Spuigracht, travelling at 15.9 knots, came out of our port quarter and came close  Here’s what a close encounter looks like on AIS radar.

AIS

We’re the cross hairs in the middle and the dot is the freighter with a small line indicating direction. We felt in the cross hairs the entire three days. The next shot shows him going by. Who knows if he bothered to look at his radar and even knew if we were out there. The camera makes him look farther away than it feels.

Tanker

And finally, Santa Marta

Doing what Chuck Does Best

Cafe in Santa Marta

Deb Ready for Boat Cleaning in Santa Marta

Deb in Santa Marta