Panama (1)

Arrived!

It took two days from Cartagena to San Blas, Panama. We had wind for 24 hours then the iron horse had to do its work. More or less for the first time on our journey we were without wind for more than six hours. Suddenly at 5 kn with the help of our engine, the intermediate shroud attachment on the mast on starboard side went off. We secured the mast with an extra backstay on the starboard middle cleat just to be safe. Going by engine did not pose any significant risk but, well, just to be safe. We arrived in San Blas at first light and were welcomed by three turtles. Well anchored we replaced the shroud with a spare. According to a rigging expert we have talked to, and after he had looked at the faulty shroud attachment, he said it was clearly a material error. We’ll see.

We had set course for San Blas, Isla Porvenir when we had been told that clearance and cruising permit could be done there. Wrong, we got a stamp in our passport which is most important when there are often passport-checks by the Police. The immigration officer on the island recommended that we get a cruising permit at Puerto Lindo, 37 nm away. We had 5 days to do this he said although the legislation seems to talk about 72 hours. Anyway, we started our engine (no wind) and set course for Puerto Lindo. Stopped for the night and anchored in a very nice place, Turtle Bay, where we were visited by a family of small whales called “false orcha”. Very nice indeed but no turtles.

Day two we anchored in the bay outside Puerto Lindo and planned to get the cruising permit the day after. Well, not possible we were told by someone, we have to take the bus to Portobelo why we started to plan for that. Before we went, we met a Swedish sailor with his yacht TAO with which we spent (and spend) time with who said that it is no problem to get the permit at Linton marina located in the same bay. Correct, we went there and finally got our permit for one year, $185 US and it took 10 minutes. Perfect, all is set, we have all the necessary papers and are free to cruise in Panama waters for one year if we wish.

Currently we are at anchor in Puerto Lindo which is well protected from all absent winds…except from westerly winds, well away from the hurricane tracks but not from all monkeys in the nearby jungle who are very noisy from time to time. Seems to us that they scream the most when they try to agree on who sleeps where. Suppose it is a matter of getting the best tree branch. From time to time there are thunder storms, lightning and heavy rain, it is indeed the rain season here. So far we have not had heavy winds, the pilot talks about as much as 45 to 60 knots from SE only for approx. half an hour or so. Regardless, we can do without such winds. There are many other boats anchored here but only crews on half of them, people seems to have left their yachts at anchor while they probably have gone back home for a while.

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Planning for San Blas

Planning for the San Blas Archipelago

We have been staying in Colombia for three weeks by now.

Our last week we have been docked at Club Pesca just north of Club Nautico. We really wish to recommend this private marina which has excellent security and friendly staff. Actually, the guards were packing that is, carrying guns. Whether this is beacause high criminality or just the way it is in this country, we never figured out.

Anyway, we have finally got all our papers from our agent for leaving the country. Totally, it was not as expensive as we have feared. The total sum we paid for in and out clearance went up to approx. 150 US dollar. Our agent, David Arroyo Romero took care of us nicely. In our Zarpe (the clearance document) it is stated that we go to Isla Porvenir in Panama for the next port of clearance.

Currently we are doing the necessary shopping and fixing a few things before we leave. Among other things we are mounting a board for cleaning fish we hope to catch. We got the idea for such a board from the movie “Adrift”. A very clever solution we immediately took on. We have ordered NOA holders for the board from Hjertmans in Sweden as well as a reducing valve for our propane tank. No problems with the NOA holders but we got the wrong valve due to that Hjertmans unfortunately had mixed up the article numbers on their web page. The cost for the shipment from Sweden was 120 US dollar.

Isla Grande of Isla Rosarios, a favorite anchor spot

Moreover, the autopilot has been calibrated for the Southern hemisphere and our extra 25 kg log anchor, well super anchor, we have carried all the way from Sweden has been looked over and is ready for use. It was a gift from a sailing friend who is not among us anymore.

It is still the rainy season, until November, in Panama and why we simply wish to move on, we just have to cope with all the rain they say we will encounter. Possibly the real annoyance will be the thunderstorms with strong winds that will hit us from SouthEast. Up to 45 – 60 knots some people say, thankfully during short periods of time. We’ll see. Provided we get a good holding for our anchor, we do not expect any major problems. We can always seek shelter in Shelter Bay Marina if the weather turns out to be disappointing.

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Towards Colombia

Header: Sea view, Cartagena

Bonaire to Curacao

Finally time to leave Bonaire for Curacao. We left early in the morning and had a nice sailing for about six to seven hours in 15-20 kn with tailwind of course. The choices we had when arriving were to go directly to Spanish Bay or to the main city, Willemstad. We went to Spanish Bay when we had info saying that we could do our clearance there. Well, we did not succeed to get any reply on the VHF except from Willemstad Port Control who said it is meant to carry out clearance in the city. Funny how info can be wrong and to be honest, we have experienced before that info given to us has been wrong. The lesson is “Always trust your own judgement”.

Anyway, Willemstad is a lovely city and reminded us of Amsterdam. It was easy to do the clearance at customs as well as at immigration. We just docked with Peach nearby and it was done in lesser time than 1 hour by really nice officials who welcomed us to Curacao. It had become rather late in the afternoon why Port Control helped us to get in contact with Curacao Marine where we stayed for almost a week. We did not consider Spanish Waters when we did not like the quality of the water we saw on our quick stay the first day we arrived. Instead, we spent several days in the beautiful city Willemstad and loved every minute. While being there we went to, among a lot of other places, Budget Marine and purchased more 12V fans. We now have on-board seven fans strategically placed. You might think it’s too much but believe me, they are needed.

We decided not to visit Aruba when the fees for Peach was outrageous. No-way we were ready to pay those fees.

Next leg – Colombia

After this very nice stay in Curacao we were eager to move on to Colombia and our final destination Cartagena, so far. We expected at least a week of sailing including some stops on the way. From friends back home as well as from pilots we had to be prepare for strong winds and large waves especially when passing the Northern tip of Colombia, Punta Gallinas. We tried to wait for a good weather forecast for at least two days period. We did not have such luck. The weather was continuously changing why we took off anyway and hoped for the forecast promising decent weather during the night we planned to pass Punta Gallinas before we could anchor in Cabo de la Vela on the west side below Punta Gallinas.

We sailed about 8 nm from the coast line and when we finally turned south, the wind and the waves came. At 10 pm we turned port towards the sheltered area, Cabo de la Vela, we though, but no, we had 35 kn during anchoring which went on all night as well as the coming day. Sand bottom and good holding why this was not a problem but annoying of course. One problem though, when we tried to bring down our foresail attached to the whisker pole! The could not be furled when the genua sheet had got stucked on the pole somehow and we had 35 kn, maybe that was the reason (!). The only solution was to use a knife which solved the problem. During the next day a couple of fishermen came along and we trade two lobsters for a knife and a potato peeler. Good business for all of us. The lobsters were really fine. Cabo de la Vela at position 12o 12.399 N 072o 09.375 W is sheltered from swell but not from strong wind coming from the North East.

You may wonder why we had to cut two genua sheet. We always use two sheets when using the whisker pole. The reason is that it is very easy to set and remove the pole even in difficult weather when the tension from the sheet attached to the pole is removed by using the other sheet during the process. The idea to use two sheets when convenient was given to us by a sailing Norwegian friend, Jan, we met in Puerto Mogan. Jan was full of smart ideas!

After two night rest we took off for our next waypoint, Santa Marta where we planned to anchor just south of the city before our final leg to Cartagena via Puerto Velero. We started early in the morning and arrived late in the evening. On the way we had a lot of wind and large waves. The wind at the most, about 20 nm from Punta Chengue increased to 42 kn for a while and when we passed Punta Chengue the waves just outside (5 nm) increased to between 5-7 m. We have never experienced such waves anywhere before. The autopilot could not handle this why we steered manually. Thankfully it was just for an hour before we could steer south and enter sheltered water just north of Santa Marta. On our way to the place we planned to anchor, just south of the city, we were hailed by Santa Marta Port Control about our intentions. Well, to make it short, it was not allowed to anchor were we had planned and we had to get into the marina anchor place where we were allowed to stay for 24 hours before we had to leave or do the clearence in Santa Marta. We moved into the marina, which was a good one with air conditioning in the shower and toilet facilities and in all clean and well maintained marina, but expensive. They did the clearance for us without us being forced to get an agent for the job. Unfortunately, it took some time why we were stucked in the marina for a week before we could get on our way to Cartagena.

This required some planning when we wished to pass the large
river, River Magdalena, 38 nm from Santa Marta, during daytime. After heavy rain further up the river a lot of debris might end up in the Estuary including big logs which we had to look out for. We passed the river at approx. 7 nm to be on the safe side. No logs but the colour of the water was brown and the water had a strange smell. We turned south and headed for Puerto Velers for our night anchoring before Cartagena the next day. No swell but a wind of 26 kn during the night but good holding in mud. After arrival to Puerto Velero we were hailed by the coast guard who wished to come onboard for an inspection. They asked us to contact them after we had done our anchoring which we did and they came and did their paperwork as well as visual check inside Peach. Polite officials and we had a nice shat when one of them spoke excellent English.

We have had some heavy wind for a number of days and hoped to reach an area where we could have some nice leasure sailing. Our wish came through the next day when we set course for Cartagena. A journey of 50 nm. Good weather and perfect wind. The closer to Cartagena we came the weaker was the wind.

Finally in Cartagena

The sight of the Skyline when we got close was impressing. Not many cities that can compete with that view! Currently we are at anchor outside Club Nautico almost in the middle of the city and are exploring the city before it is time to set course for the San Blas archipelago in Panama. We left our anchor place once to get out and produce fresh water and at the same time stay the night in some nice bay or at Rosalio Islands. We stayed, this time at Playa Blanca in position 10o 14.529 N and 075o 36.671 W. Crystal clear water and good snorkelling. Let see where we go next time it’s time to fill our tank with fresh water.

Peach at anchor

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, it is good to say that all our electronic equipment is working the way it is supposed!

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Bonaire

Bonaire – a step on the way

Position: 120 09.87 N / 680 17.09 W

It took three and a half day and night to sail from Grenada to Bonaire. We had practically no wind the first day which was unexpected but we were still under sail though. The wind picked up and for two days we had great sailing at 20 kn. The last night however it really started to get windy with large waves. We had 35 kn as the most. We «surfed» around the Southern tip of the island early in the morning, just before daylight, and Peach arrived in Kralendijk soon after. It was still easy sailing with the help of the lights from the island and good wind angle. We moved pretty fast though.

Harbour Village Marina

Unfortunately all mooring buoys were occupied in Bonaire and had been so for the last five weeks we were told by the Harbor Master. According to the Marina Office we could not expect to get a buoy why we had to berth in one of the two marinas. We decided to dock in Harbour Village Marina when the wind was still strong and the marina was fairly sheltered. We would have loved to anchor but that is forbidden around the island which we knew about but annoying of course. All sailors on-route to Bonaire should be aware of the difficulties to get a buoy and take note of that a buoy cannot be reserved, “first come first serve” according to the Harbor Villages Marinas rules and regulations.

Peach safely mooredWe hitchhiked to and from the city center several times due to some problems with the local sim-card which did not work properly. The walk to the city center was approx. 30 minutes. Those who stopped and took us on board were very kind and gave us lot of information on practical issues. We have also had nice talks with people around here and everybody has been very helpful.

The evenings in the marina offered a lot of mosquitos why we had to cover all openings very carefully to avoid getting bitten during our sleep. At the same time, good preparation for coming mosquito areas in other places.

Wildlife in BonaireThe island has a strong environmental legislation and we assume the prohibition to anchor is for the protection of the coral reefs. Bonaire is known for excellent diving and snorkeling. Be aware of that diving as well as snorkeling requires a special permit which can be obtained in a dive shop. It is not permitted to dive on your own, only in company with a guide.

The town, we was told, has been really developed the last five years and is now a very charming place especially along the waterfront. It is easy to understand the large number of cruising ships visiting Bonaire which also goes for those who decide to stop here and make a living.

Right now we are making bread and preparing food. We have decided to
keep the freezer on, 18 liter only, for some more time. It seems that we have enough electricity via the solar panels and the wind turbine. Ice cubes are otherwise a luxury here!

We think that next stop might be Curacao, 42 nm from Bonaire, and if so, we plan to anchor in Spanish Bay if possible. But no decision taken so far.

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Back to Grenada

Back to Grenada awaiting further sailing

A view from Grenada yacht Club

After maintenance, repair and just a wish to see Trinidad we are back in Grenada. Focus was whether Sweden will advance in the WC soccer game. Well, they reached the quarter final but lost to England. The Swedish team was not to be recognized and England did a better job.

The trip to Grenada was easy even if the risk for piracy was there. No such thing happened and we arrived safely to the anchor place in Martins Bay just outside ST Georges. Anchoring may be somewhat difficult in the Bay due to a rocky ground. Although, to get good holding is possible but remember to use a long chain, at least 5 x the depth. Look out for heavy rolling at some places in the Bay.

We have learned that things break and this time it was the charge controller to our wind turbine, Aerogen-4. The controller could not handle a period of very strong winds during one of the nights at the anchor berth. We had 42 kn for a short while together with heavy rain. A number of yachts went drifting as well and we were happy not to be in their way. The day after we were involved in a rescue operation when a French Cat went drifting and would have disappeared into the Caribbean Sea if not a sailing friend from New Zealand and Peach had acted. Next evening we were offered a lovely gathering at the Cat with French snacks and good wine.

Back to the turbine, when the device is no longer manufactured and the charge controller cannot be found anywhere, we had to invest in a new one. The choice was an Air-X, Silent version. A lot of work installing the device. By the way, we also received a new electrical motor from Echo Marine for our water-maker which still did not work properly. The system has been up and running for a couple of hours and finally everything seems to be ok. We produce 65 L/hour which is good.

After a small hurricane, Beryl, has passed us, well far north of us, we will cast off for the ABC Islands, finally. Actually, Beryl has been reduced to a tropical storm as we speak. While the hurricane was moving towards the Islands we took a berth at Grenada Yacht Club which is a place we recommend. Now we are doing route planning and preparations.

 

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