12 October 2014 Santa Marta - Colombia (Sunday)
We’re finally in Colombia, having made landfall on Thursday afternoon, 9 October. This is a view of the coastline, when we still had about 4 hours to go.
Meet “Vinnie” our pet (I use the term “pet” loosely) gecko. I can’t be positive that he/she is a gecko but he is very small (that’s my brown shoe next to on the right) and he does have little webbed feet (they don’t appear like claws). We try not to frighten him. We first noticed him onboard (never below deck, always outside) in Chaguaramas Trinidad in August 2013. Since then, he has been spotted in Venezuela, Bonaire, Curaçao and now —— we’re waiting to see if he survived the trip to Colombia. He has never been “declared” to Customs and Immigration so I suppose he is a “stow-away”.
Our departure from Curaçao was delayed by a full two weeks. As usual, if we’ve been dockside for several months, in the days prior to departure - all systems are tested. Seals dry up and batteries go flat, so we have to check everything. Despite this, on the morning of our forecasted departure, our Volvo sea water cooling circuit wasn’t working. There was no sea water coming out the exhaust, which only makes the engine usable for a few minutes. Once it starts to heat up it has to be shut down.
I tracked the initial problem down to a broken rubber impeller in the raw water pump. When changing the impeller, I had difficulty reinserting one of the six bolts, the threads were bad - so, I simply swapped out the pump (and got new bolts a few days later). There are currently about 1450 hours on the engine and when I swapped the pump out, I put in “the available spare”, which was the original pump (circa 1993) that had about 1200 hours on it (that I had reconditioned with new shaft seals and a new impeller two years ago). After priming the lines with fresh water from the garden hose, then the testing began. I found that the pump was working, pushing sea water into the cooling circuit (transmission cooler, oil cooler, heat exchanger, exhaust elbow) but not through the circuit to the exhaust. I suspected the problem was a dirty oil cooler and heat exchanger pair and called in Joe’s Boat Worx to remove (I know how to do it now) both components and take them away for muriatic acid flush and ultrasonic cleaning. Joe was busy working on several other boats at the same time, so this took a while - and then we found a leak and had to have it welded, etc.
Finally, on 6 October, we were ready to leave again. The system had been put back together on the previous Friday and I tested the engine, Saturday / Sunday and again on Monday. We left the marina and drove to the fuel dock at the Curaçao Yacht Club ($ 1.08 per litre or $ 4.10 per US gallon) where we accidentally “scrapped” the port side of the hull and broke a stanchion (dragging one of our fenders which I had tied to a stanchion) in the process. For the hull, it is nothing a little buffing compound won’t fix - and I do have several spare stanchions.
We have always made a big deal out of checking the weather for this 349nm passage Curaçao to Santa Marta - as it is known to be one of the most difficult in the world. But, in this case, we were so keen to get out of Curaçao and see a new country that we were willing to accept nearly any conditions. We ended up travelling West on the back side of a tropical wave (which worked out well) and there is one about once every 10 days or so. The result is that we had 15-20 knots on Monday afternoon, 20-25 knots on Tuesday, 15-20 dropping to 5-10 Wednesday night and finally 0-8 knots on Thursday morning. The waves were peanuts, really. We had lots of lightening (cloud to cloud and cloud to water) on Wednesday night and finally a squall that dumped a lot of rain on us for a couple of hours and squall winds only to about 32 knots. From Wednesday night until arrival in the marina we were fighting a 2-3 knot current. It was so strong, on arrival at the marina, I dove down to check on the propellor as I thought it might have become fouled with a fishing line. So, with the motor running, no wind, and an opposing current of 2-3 knots - our arrival time was retarded. 349 miles in 70 hours gives an average of 5 knots, largely influenced by the 3.5-4 knots we were making in the last 18 hours.
The wind and waves were big enough to cause a bit of uncomfortable motion at times and unfortunately the starboard side jib sheet slider block broke. Nothing a good welder can’t fix with a TIG machine - and I seriously doubt I could actually find a replacement anyway. We were able to quickly design an alternative solution while sailing.
Now, we’ve been “on the ground” for three days and have wandered the streets a bit. Here is Diane with our friends Andy and Paul (from the UK) posing in front of the shoreside.
There is quite a nice waterfront here, with both an industrial port and several beaches. Wikipedia describes the history and geography of the area. The salient points are that it is the third largest city in Colombia, having been founded in 1525 - and has a population of about 454,000. The country of Colombia, has a population of over 48 million, which surprised me. There is a lot of history here.
Along the waterfront, we saw many people out enjoying the sunset and fine weather.
I don’t have any concern with security when I see Police forces on Segweys and armed soldiers standing around.
As we were walking around downtown, the most unusual thing I saw was this huge bottle. It was standing in a regular sized doorway, and the bottle was at least 6 feet tall. I have no idea what could be in that bottle or how they move it around.
We’re going to enjoy staying at Marina Santa Marta for “a while”.
To see previous log entries, just use the tab at the top.
SV Joana is listed for sale at this site (in case you're wondering why, we're not planning to give up the cruising lifestyle or our home, but most things are for sale and since we've met many cruisers who have listed their boat, we figured we'd do it too).
Countries Visited: (Departed Canada: May 2009)
Antigua: May 2011
Bermuda: June - August 2009
Bonaire: February - April 2014
Bahamas: December 2009 - March 2010, December 2010 - February 2011
Barbados: March 2012
British Virgin Islands: May 2011
Colombia: Oct 2014 -
Cuba: March - May 2010
Curaçao: May 2014 - September 2014
Dominica: May 2011, April 2013
Dominican Republic: March - April 2011
Grenada: June-November 2011
Guadeloupe: March 2013
Martinique: March 2012, March 2013
Puerto Rico: April 2011
St Lucia: May-June 2011, December 2011 - February 2012, December 2012 - February 2013
St Martin /Netherlands Antilles: May 2011
St Vincent and the Grenadines: June 2011, February 2012, December 2012, April-May 2013
Tobago: March-May 2012
Trinidad: May - December 2012, June - November 2013
USA: August - November 2009, June - November 2010
US Virgin Islands: May 2011
Venezuela: November 2013 - February 2014