Saint Lucia to Santa Marta, Colombia

John & Susan Simpson
Sun 26 Feb 2023 21:29
The twenty eight boats making up the World ARC Pacific 2023 fleet left St Lucia under cloudy skies at noon on 18th February.  The start line just off St Lucia was great fun as we all piled along close together towards the buoy marking our first turn a few miles from the start line.  After that it was an 815 nautical mile westbound course across the Caribbean Sea to Santa Marta in Colombia.  
Jostling for position on the start line - did someone say this is a rally, not a race?

We were soon into our on-passage rhythm of the watch system, each person on board taking their turn on watch for four hours during the day and three hours at night.  The movement of the boat was quite uncomfortable for the first couple of days as we drew away from St Lucia and the weather brought squally showers and bursts of strong wind.  It never ceases to amaze me that Casamara’s 33 tons can be tossed about so easily!  However, we settled into a more comfortable motion and had some fabulous days and nights sailing along the coast of Venezuela and past the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

We saw beautiful sunrises and sunsets, dolphins, seabirds and many flying fish.  

At one point we had a flying fish leap straight through an open hatch and land on the table in the galley down below.  William valiantly dashed down to scoop it up and throw it back overboard again!

Most of the boats in the fleet are fitted with Single Side Band radios so we can communicate with each other whilst at sea.  At 0900 and 1800 each day the radio net controller for the day opens the conversation, checking the positions of all the boats participating and that all is OK on board.  The net is an invaluable source of information should things go wrong, as they inevitably do.  One of the boats had a problem with their engine and skippers on other boats gave their advice over the airwaves to try to help them fix the problem.  We were touched to learn that when this boat finally arrived in the marina at Santa Marta they were greeted by the skipper of one of the other boats in the fleet handing them the spare part they needed to repair the engine.  The chances of finding that spare part easily in Santa Marta would otherwise have been slim.  It’s a privilege to be part of such a caring community looking out for each other.

All the instructions given before we left St Lucia warned of strong winds off the headland near Santa Marta.  There are a number of headlands approaching Santa Marta and we nervously rounded the first one expecting to be blown flat by the wind.  A gentle wind bore us along the coast of Columbia and all the boats on the SSB radio net were asking what happened to the strong wind.  We finally found out in the last 20 miles or so into Santa Marta when the wind rose to 30 knots plus.  We arrived in Santa Marta in the dark at 0200 in winds blowing up to 44 knots.  We had been sailing under a tiny amount of sail with both the Genoa and the Mainsail well reefed down but just at the most critical point the Genoa furling line gave up and let out the full sail.  It was a struggle to get the sail back under control but we did it and it was with relief that we finally crossed the finish line and were able to take our sails down to enter the marina. After five days at sea we all enjoyed the sensation of sleeping in a bed that was mercifully still and without waiting for the call to wake up to come on watch!