SV Accomplice Blog week 13 16/1/20 to 22/1/20
Mon 27 Jan 2020 01:42
This leg down to Santa Marta in the end proved to be ok but seemed to have that edginess about it given the persistent strong winds forecasts.
As we closed in on the Columbian coastline the winds moved up a notch. The coast very rugged with mountains as the backdrop, very picture postcard. There was talk amongst the fleet that katabatic winds may be experienced which would produce winds in excess of 50 knots. These are winds that accelerate as they flow down the side of mountains. So with that in mind we headed for our first waypoint, a port turn around a headland. As we did so we were hit with wind of 40 knots on the quarter, reduced the headsail further and proceeded actually quite calmly. Always seems less dramatic when the sun is shinning and the wind is warm and the wind from behind!
The headline rounded, the course adjusted to counter a cross current we passed the finish line between a headland and small island and Santa Marta lay before us. A mixture of commercial port, high rise buildings, beaches, marina with the mountainous backdrop.
Our thoughts were wow, we have sailed this small boat from the UK and here we are in South America, quite amazing.
We hovered around the marina entrance for awhile awaiting berthing instructions, the wind temporarily abated and went in and berthed tidily. Job done!
We had about a week in port before the start of the next leg to the Panama Canal via the San Blas Islands on 22nd January.
Our first job was to clear Customs and immigration which was handled well by the marina but they were in the hands of the officials. It was great that everything was conducted at the marina but time was wasted waiting around for officials to turn up. It got done in the end.
Boat tidied and washed off, we explored our part of the city. Apparently Santa Marta is a tourist destination for Columbians and was heaving with people enjoying the beaches and strolling through the streets. People were bustling everywhere, street food vendors selling anything from barrows of fruit to fresh orange drinks to lollipops.
Security was a question of ours however it was apparently safe to walk around after dark as long as the usual city precautions were taken. And it was safe and felt safe. It was shabby but had a vibrancy and colour to it which I guess is Latin America. There were some amazing street performers, young children doing a turn beating drums and singing, teenagers doing amazing dancing and acrobatics. It is clearly a poor country by UK standards but Santa Marta looked relatively prosperous and you could see it had old money. I don’t know whether a lot of drug money was spent here but probably was.
Unfortunately you think of Columbia and the first thing that comes to mind is the drugs trade and secondly coffee. We spent an interesting day walking to a site in the mountains occupied by an indigenous people, a bit of a living museum. The trek there was hot and humid, led by our guide, a former cocaine worker. Janet caused a little stir by feeling faint and needing to lay down to recover herself, we thought of getting a helicopter in but thought no, probably just attention seeking lol.
It turned out we were walking through a former drug growing area which had been shut done by the Government in an attempt to turn the tide on the industry. I suppose the men standing around at the entrance to the area with machine guns was a deterrent to the trade restarting. All the narcotic plants had been removed and replanted with appropriate forest vegetation. The guide sounded very sincere, and was a lovely chap, when explaining how things were changing in his country and that he was now involved in turning the tide on the industry. He talked about how the youngsters were affected and the impact on the families. You somehow think though without the drug trade there are no other real forms of income, maybe a bit of tourism, fruits but no much else, so not sure.
This particular trip was ended with a rubber inner tube ride down a beautifully clean cool river, through the forest and finally lunch. It was lovely just lazing in the tubes and floating down stream with the current. Perfect. Apparently the river wasn’t so clean when drugs were harvested and processed there.
We also spent a morning at a charitable school that supports children that have been affected by the drugs trade. It was very sobering but at the same time uplifting that these decent people were trying to heal the scars and turn the trauma these children have suffered into a brighter future for them. The school put on music and dance performed by the pupils with their parents looking on proudly and ourselves honoured as their special guests. It was a great thing to have experienced.
The rest of the time was spent being fed and watered by World Cruising at different venues and getting to know better our fellow sailors. Sundowners, Paella night and a full meal and drinks for the prize giving evening in a lovely hotel. We also managed to find a hotel with a pool on the 4th floor overlooking the sea which was the perfect spot to enjoy some time.
The day following our arrival the winds did in fact reach the forecast speeds of 50 knots. Luckily we were tied up snugly in our berth. The wind was a nice release from the heat and humidity, the downside being the sand that it whipped up from the beach covered everything in its path. It got into boat, in the beds, on the floor , everywhere.
It was time to move on, the routine now being getting the boat ready, topping up with diesel, checking the amount of gas, washing down and the dreaded trip to the supermarket for food and bottled water/juices, this time for about 2 weeks. The next provisioning place being Panama City.
As the time progressed in Santa Marta one by one we, together with other boats in the fleet, got struck down with sickness and diarrhoea bugs. The night before departure for the second leg Janet and Diane were ill and in bed closely followed by Mike. We took the decision to let 24 hours pass before leaving thereby missing the start. All in all there were 4 boats unable to leave on time due to sickness. I don’t want to remember Columbia for the bugs, as it was a great place, but there clearly was a hygiene problem somewhere.
We let the remainder of the fleet leave and the crew recovered in bed.
We look forward to new adventures now.
Andrew, Mike, Diane and Janet
San Blas, Panama