09:36.737N 79:35.257W - Bye Bye Carty

Hamble Warrior
Jamie Hickman
Thu 23 Mar 2023 23:19

15th - 17th January
Linton Bay, Panama

The remainder of our time in Cartagena flew by far too quickly. The festivities extended well into January with religious holidays and bank holidays for the Three Kings Day or "Epiphany" as we tend to call it back home.

We took a few more trips out to the mall and treated ourselves to a few more clothes and a good supply of flip flops for our upcoming Pacific adventures; we also tracked down several items of hardware on Warrior's shopping list and these trips out of town often finished with a few cold drinks at our little corner bar on the way home. We heard that Colombia was much cheaper for groceries than Panama so we did some pretty serious provisioning before we left too. This involved lugging heavy bags from the local supermarkets but we also did one very big online shop of tinned and packet goods from the big "Jumbo" supermarket at the mall. We knew taxis were very cheap but when we saw that we could get free delivery to the Marina from Jumbo we decided that would be an efficient way to get a big provision on-board. We spent most of a day going through the webpage picking items and debating how many of each to chose from; we picked a delivery slot for 
9am to 12pm the following day. That night we had a big night out in Getsemani and returned to the boat as the sun started to come up. We rowed ashore feeling very much worse for wear in time for a 9am delivery and sat in the waiting area with the day trippers looking out at the marina for the next four hours until the delivery finally arrived at about 1 o'clock. We loaded the dinghy up twice to get everything back to Hamble Warrior and it was late in the afternoon before we had everything in any kind of stowed positions. Overall the whole process probably took far longer than a trip round the supermarket and a taxi back but at least it got it all done... and we never did take a taxi the whole time we were in Cartagena!!

We enjoyed several more trips to Plaza Trinidad/Getsemani and La Nina cocktail bar and it was with great sadness that we said goodbye to the friends we had made there. When we parted from La Nina we took with us a 
200ml bottle of the "Jack Iron" 70% rum that we'd brought from Carriacou and as we left we poured a shot for all our friends - their reactions on downing the shots were priceless and there was much hugging and fist bumping to follow. They had made us so welcome and become good friends to us. I'm glad that we spent New Years Eve at bar La Nina and I will treasure the baseball cap Isabelle-Marie gifted me that night as we watched her husband light the fireworks outside the bar. I will never forget her reaction when I told her in Spanish that night that we had sailed nearly 10 thousand miles to celebrate in their bar that night. It was a very special New Years Eve and a very special place.

We celebrated my birthday a few days later and Jamie treated me to dinner at the sushi restaurant just across from the marina. I had been eyeing this place up since we arrived as sushi is my absolute favourite. We had a delicious meal of salmon sashimi and an elaborate house special roll with a few side dishes before taking a late evening stroll over the bridge to finish the night with Cuba Libras and dancing at La Nina of course! We have made sure that we make a note of all our favourite Cartagena dance classics to add to our on-board playlist that we started in the West Indies; the two cuts we added in Colombia were "Arrebatao el pepo" and "Tragg bizzy" both will remind us of our ass-shaking days in Carty!

It was one of these very last night's out that we had our first and only encounter with the Colombian Police. Despite our regular late nights out we never had any trouble. We never took taxis and walked around without ever feeling unsafe. We were regularly offered drugs; especially as we walked through the area from the bridge towards Getsemani. This was so frequent and done so openly that I would assume European visitors are considered likely customers. This night I think was the night we'd had a lock-in at bar La Nina; Isabelle Marie had made us cocktails and turned the music over to us and one other couple long after the street had been cleared and the front door closed. We'd drank and danced and stayed out until long into the following morning. As we stumbled our way back over the bridge towards home the sky was already starting to lighten and a police motorbike pulled over and two officers climbed off. They asked to search my handbag and then proceeded to spend the next 5 minutes thoroughly searching every pocket of my small shoulder bag disappointedly turning out my motley collection of tissues, lip balm, sunscreen and other rubbish. The more they searched the more they seemed convinced there must be something more interesting in there. Eventually they reluctantly handed my bag back and went on their way. I'm sure they were hoping to find drugs and I imagine they weren't interested in arresting us; just taking a little backhand for turning a blind eye. We saw them off with a jolly "buenos noches" and wondered why anyone would carry drugs in their handbag when the police had no interest in checking our pockets!

All too soon we were arranging our checking out formalities with the lovely Nicole and once again making our final preparations to leave.

We stalled for one further night before departing checking weather and getting Warrior ship shape. Eventually we lifted anchor on 15th January and headed out into the harbour cruising past Boca Grande and along the beaches at the end of that spit of land; we never did visit them but our time in Cartagena had not been about beaches; we had spent a year surrounded by beaches, it was nice to have had a few weeks of city life.

We sailed out of the main harbour entrance into very steep seas and winds gusting in the mid 30s. As we got away from the harbour entrance the seas moderated as we had hoped they would although the waves remained on our beam most of the way which made for plenty of motion on board! We watched Cartagena shrink away behind us with both sails deeply reefed down. We were several miles clear of the harbour entrance when we had a call up on the radio from the coastguard. Apparently he wasn't very happy that we hadn't radioed for clearance to depart. Oops! He asked Jamie a few questions and then went off to check our papers. When he came back on the radio he was satisfied with everything and wished us a safe journey. We apologised for the oversight and thanked him for a wonderful stay. No harm done. I suspect if we'd had to go back for further formalities we'd have been in Cartagena for another week!

The winds remained strong for most of our first day but they dropped a little on the second day out and we had wind mostly in the low 20s that day which was a little less exciting! On that second day I wrote in an email to our families;

"We have been enjoying our time though and spent a lot of it talking about our highlights of the last few weeks and looking ahead to Panama and what we will find when we get there. We have enjoyed the meals we prepared before leaving and Jamie collected about 6 flying fish from the deck this morning so Meep is very happy.... well he's like a cat with 6 fish!!!! We are metering them out for him and storing them in the fridge; I suspect he'd have just attempted to eat all 6 at once if he'd found them himself! One is so huge Jamie reckons it's big enough for us to eat.. I'm not so sure; there's still a bit of chili left over I might just have that instead!!

There have been a few ships around but nothing had passed close to us since we were still very close to Cartagena; but there's a few about. We had some gannets traveling with us yesterday which was nice; I was lying watching them soaring along managing to just about stay out of the rigging for hours on end. They seem to have left us now. Last night we had an amazing starry sky above us. I'm sure I could see more satellites than usual; Elon Musk's starlink fleet presumably... The moon rose very late and was just a banana shaped sliver when it arrived but was still very bright which was nice"

Overall we had a good passage to Panama in the end; the conditions we had experienced outside the harbour entrance eased and we had a pretty comfortable trip. We had two days at sea and arrived on the morning of the third day having both had plenty of rest and nothing too exciting to deal with despite the windy conditions. At daybreak on the third day we could make out the lush green hills of Panama up ahead and as night turned to day a large pod of dolphins came alongside and accompanied us towards our destination. It was very magical waking up to a new landfall on the horizon and surrounded by these beautiful creatures. At 
0830hrs we dropped anchor in Linton Bay, Panama; surrounded by the luscious green hills rolling off to one side of us; the mangroves in the distance and the beautiful palm-tree lined beaches of "monkey island" off our port beam. The next few days we would go to bed each night with the sounds of the jungle ringing in our ears as the wildlife of Panama came to life each evening. Some of it easy to recognise; birds, monkeys, dogs... some of it mysterious and unknown.

Over the next few days we completed most of our clearing in formalities which involved seeing an agent in Linton Bay and then taking a bus to the neighbouring town of Portobelo to get our passports stamped and show our boat documents. We managed to catch the bus on our second attempt on the third day in Linton Bay and it was quite an enjoyable experience when it finally showed up. The buses are called "chicken buses" and are old converted American school buses. Most are very brightly decorated each with their own individual designs and often with huge chrome exhaust pipes mounted on the back; and all with music blaring away inside, very reminiscent of the "SOCA buses" we loved so much in Grenada.

We spent a week in Linton Bay lying at anchor in that beautiful spot surrounded by nature. I was a little nervous about swimming at first but I spoke to one of the neighboring boats who was a liveaboard that had been in this area for years and established that in all that time he had never heard of a crocodile attack in this spot... there was an incident in another area a long time back that everyone still talks of but I didn't mind those odds. Everything I have read is that the crocodiles are generally not interested in humans. Nevertheless I generally kept my evening swims short and sweet but we did both spend quite a bit of time one afternoon scrubbing the boat's waterline to try and clear off some of the horrendous fouling we had picked up in the harbour in Cartagena.

We paid the marina at Linton bay a fee of $15 for the week and this allowed us to land our dinghy there and access their Wi-Fi; bins, water supply and some very luxurious shower facilities which was a bit of a treat. We occasionally drank in the marina bar which was a lovely spot overlooking the marina and anchorage. The marina had a small boatyard attached to it and there was the usual assortment of stray dogs milling around and a beautiful kitten too. The grounds were stunning sloping down to a small palm-tree lined beach and we enjoyed an inexpensive meal at the little restaurant (the "blue house") in the boat yard grounds. Adjacent to the anchorage was a small island with a beautiful little beach that looked so tempting to row out to and walk along. However we were warned not to land on the island because the monkeys that lived there could be rather thuggish. Apparently they would be very friendly when you arrived and even sit on your lap and take food from your hand; but would become extremely aggressive when you then tried to leave! Having narrowly escaped being mugged by the Barbary Apes in Gibraltar in recent years we knew better than to ignore these warnings and reluctantly stayed off the island. At night we would listen to the chilling cries of the howler monkeys from the anchorage; later we would hear the same sounds each night in the anchorage in Portobelo - although actually seeing monkeys during daylight was very rare, they made themselves known come sundown.

We attempted to dinghy to the village of Linton but having rowed the short distance there we couldn't find anywhere obvious or convenient to land our dinghy. The bay is littered with reefs and ominous looking wrecks and in the end we decided to leave before it got to dark to navigate our way back out. After that we visited the Village a couple of times on foot which was a short and pleasant walk along the main road no more than 20 minutes and with nice views along the way. Each time we passed through Linton village there seemed to be a baseball game on the village green. The first time we passed through on the bus it was small children playing "little league" baseball, despite this there were huge crowds gathered to watch. Later we walked up to the village at the weekend and it was Ladies Baseball; again playing to a huge crowd. It appeared to be a local tournament with various teams from the area competing and then field was marked right across the road with out-fielders literally holding up the traffic to field balls. We found a small establishment selling chicken and chips and took our food and some cold drinks and sat on the edge of the road watching the game.

Something our trips to both Portobelo and Linton yielded were a rekindled love of the little steamed "Siu Mai" dumplings that the many Chinese supermarkets of this area always seem to have on their counters. We have enjoyed them in Thailand before but not had them for a long time. They are absolutely delicious and make a great lunch, dinner or snack depending on what quantity you buy!

After a week it was time to move on and we lifted our anchor and set sail along the coast to the historic town of Portobelo.