Well, it seems that it is always time to travel, so while Hurricane Rina pounds the NE we look for a good weather window to head west. What that usually translates into we have found is, no wind, no waves and very warm temps. So on Wednesday October 26 we depart Bonaire for Curacao, a wopping 38nm trip, with no wind we end up motoring the entire trip at 6 kts and the wind never gets above 8kts (from the wrong direction). We drop our hook in Spanish Water's, Curacao by 2pm and are ready to relax, of course we must clear customs and immigration in Curacao, now there's a story.
Spanish Water's is a very popular location to say the least. Apparently twenty years ago there were very few cruising boats here, however over the years the destination has gained popularity and the boats now flock here. So much so that the locals have had to establish anchoring zones (which we were in violation of our fist day, but we shortly re-anchored without issue). Now, to checking in. First, a visit to customs, which is actually easy, take the bus in to town and look for the large white customs building along the water way. Other than the computers being on strike the process was painless. Then there is immigration. The directions are simple, cross the bridge and follow the walkway until you spot the large yellow building, (make note the week we arrived they were painting the immigration building, it was no longer yellow). Anyway, I (Ed) go in search of the yellow fable, I spot one up the hill and per the map (hah!) it is under the bridge so let's get 'er done. Up the strange road, under the bridge and what do we find, several rabid dogs out for blood, welcome! A brick or two does nothing to deter them, so back down the road with various missiles at the ready. Ah, the immigration office is on the warf, so here we go. Finally, presenting our boat papers along with passports, the officer asks, "Where's the Missus'?"; why she is still on board as is appropriate as we have yet to clear into the country and only the captain is allowed ashore. Dumb! Sorry, you must bring the entire crew to our office for inspection, NEXT!
Back to the boat, cocktail. We'll go in the morning. We do so, both Vicky and I and the wonderful immigration folks do not even look at her, but they stamp us into the country, onto the Port Authority for our anchoring permit (if you want an exercise in bureaucracy, visit the Port Authority office in Curaco), we finally had our permit, of course if we wish to move to another location we have to come back and get another anchor permit and pay another $10 (in discussing this with the Port Authority, authority, we are reminded of Abott and Costello's "Who's on First"). WOW! Suffice it to say upon our departure we simply settled for the customs stamp and forgot about immigration and Port Authority; yep we're pirates, AAARRRGGGGHHH!
Curacao as an island is lovely, for boaters it is a little difficult to get around as the anchorages are very far from town, fortunately the public transport system is excellent, so we avail ourselves and see the sights. Also, we take our daily dinghy ride with Chula and in this fashion we meet Annemieke and Timo.
Let us return for a moment to the Venezulean island Ave de Sotovento, where we encountered the wreck of the "Blue Marlin", washed ashore during a wind reversal and sunk. While we were there the ocean and rocks were finishing what the scavengers had left behind. We managed to salvage what turned out to be a farewell gift given to the crew of "Blue Marlin" upon their departure from Holland. We learned that the "Blue Marlin" was not only owned by Annemieke and Timo but that Timo had also built her, making her loss doubly hard, our deepest sympathies go to them. Upon our arrival in Curacao we went in search of them armed with the knowledge that they lived on a "house" boat somewhere in the middle of Spanish Waters. Luck was with us and as we headed towards the shallow reef in our dinghy, Annemieke came out on the porch to direct us to safer waters. When we inquired as to the owners of "Blue Marlin" she confirmed that was they and we had a dinner invitation, ah hospitality.
Our dinner with Annemieke and Timo is a wonderful evening of good food, good wine and good music (some of which was supplied by Timo on guitar) and as so often happens we discover that our paths have crossed before in the form of mutual friends, Christopher and Geraldine of "Scorch of Essex" as well as Rob and Lauren of "Arita".
Well, once again it's time to travel, for us that means looking for a weather window to head to Colombia. We stage ourselves off the northwest coast of Curacao to give us a good heading to land at Aruba. Before we depart in the company of John and Darnell aboard "Celtic Dream", we take one more snorkel trip to the caves. There are numerous caves along the coast and we swim into one, barely having to dive below the surface before entering into the inverted fishbowl of the cave. As luck would have it we are pulling up anchor within an hour of this trip, otherwise we would have taken the time to harvest the lobster which were hiding in the depths of the cave; yes, of course they were all five pounders, and yes there were easily a dozen of them. Oh well.
A short six hour day has us arriving at our Aruba anchorage just before sunset, we'll not be checking in here (Aaaarrrrggghhhh Pirate!) as the procedure is tiresome and we are required to tie up at the commercial docks (concrete, not good for fiberglass) and we're only catching a nights sleep before departing. We're sure that Aruba has wonderful things to offer, however from our point of view along the western coast of the island there isn't much. The refinery, airport, cruiseship and commercial docks coupled with the islands landfill site, too sleep we go.
Oops, we depart Aruba on a Friday! The weather forecast for our 140nm trip from Aruba to Colombia is NE/SE winds at 15k with 5 foot seas. The winds will continue to decrease in strength through the weekend as will the seas, as we get closer to the Colombian coast wave height will decrease to 2 to 3 feet. All we can say to this forecast is, LIES, all LIES.
Departing Aruba at 0630 on Friday November 4, 2011, we make our way into the Caribbean Sea and set our course for Colombia. We are lulled into a false sense of security as the winds are gentle and the swell of the ocean is off our starboard quarter we are making 6k of boat speed under sail. Although the sky's are grey we are comfortable, we even hook a Mahi at 0800 although we will not land it as the fish spits the hook after a brief battle. Other than a brief rain shower at sunset we have a nice sail/motorsail into Ensenada Huaitcheru. For those following us on the seas this is a good stopover to break up the 260nm trip to Santa Marta, Colombia or the even further 400nm trip from Aruba to Cartagena, Colombia. We arrive in Colombia at 0700 on 11/5/11, dropping our anchor 10 feet of water off of a fishing village, time for some sleep. Other than a reunion with Alex of "Pacifica" we intend to get some rest as we depart for Santa Marta in the morning. But first a little barter with the locales, we give fishing line, well it wasn't really barter, more like a payoff, here's some fishing line make sure no one bothers us.
Sunday, November 6, 0800 we're off for Santa Marta, the forecast remains optimistic (liars). We sail/motorsail for most of the day, until at 1430 we hook Moby Dick's cousin. After an hours fight and much boat maneuvering we land a 40ish pound Wahoo (we're still eating the last of this fish a month later, thanks to our Engle freezer (shameless product plug)). The nice thing about cleaning a fish while under way is that the "cleaning" brings the dolphins to visit.
We continue under sail until sunset, when the first squall, I mean SQUALL comes through with rain, thunder, lightening and winds gusting to 57k. Oh, visibility is reduced to zero. Lot's of fun this sailing. We're still in the company of "Celtic Dream" who at the onset of the squall is ahead of us, they radio to inform us that they are turning around in order to drop their sails, this means they are heading back towards us and we can't see them. This is fun. Things calm down a bit and we spot "Celtic Dream", this is at 1830 hours. Lest we get too comfy another storm cell whacks us at 1930 hours, then again at 2015 hours once more at 2155 hours (we keep a logbook with all the interesting tidbits in it), oh then again at 2300 hours. Fortunately, all the lightening makes it easy to see the other boats around us as well as the large seas coming from every direction, gosh this is fun. Let's just say that the squalls continue until sunrise, as we make our way into Santa Marta, Colombia and the wonderful comforts of the marina there, by 0700 Monday November 7 we are secured to the dock and ready to crawl into bed. It's hot showers, cold beer and YES airconditioning! We've made it to Colombia with hardly a scratch, more to come. Hey, we're almost up to date!
Disclaimer, as we are posting these updates from the wonderfully remote San Blas Islands in Panama, those of you who long for pictures will have to settle for our words until we reach the next internet connection, until then use your imagination, that's what we do.
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