W/E 8 February 2009

If Knot Y Knot
Patricia Day
Sun 8 Feb 2009 15:10

Monday 2 February

Getting the date right is a good start.


I went to the boatyard.  I was going to try the bus, but a taxi came along so I took that.  It was a good job I did because there was no way I would have got off at the right place.  There is no tourist map that covers this part of Cartegena, it is decidedly not touristy.  On the way we stopped at a garage and I had to get out.  They put air into something under the bonnet, I can only assume that it was for the air-con, unless they have a really clever way of getting it into the tyres.

It is a very industrial area and the last part of the road had craters.  I had not checked the price with the driver and so I handed him a 10,000 note.  He motioned for me to get out of the car, this was a 5-6,000 journey.  I told him seis and he agreed.  Was he happy, probably not, but he hadn’t smiled at any point, so it was a bit hard to tell.

I went to the gate and rang the bell.  A small window opened and luckily I remembered that the manager’s (or is he the boss?) name was Pierre.  The steel door was unbolted and I was shown into the office.  Pierre showed me round the yard and the dock.  There was a lot of debris in the water which did not make the dock look inviting, but the water all around here is uninviting.  The yard was small, but tidy and they keep the stored boats away from the ones being worked on, which is what I wanted.  The travel lift looks small and he says I will have to take my back stays off, but I will wait until I get there, I’m only little I might get away without. 

Pierre wrote up a quote on the computer it came to $5,000,000.00.  They are only Pesos, but even so it was the biggest number I have ever been presented with.  If only I could get a lottery ticket to come up with that.   Then there are the extras, but I will worry about those when I return.  It is very shallow to the marina and there are 12 waypoints to follow, or I could hire a pilot to guide me.

It was a long taxi ride, but I was going to catch the bus back, I knew where to get off.  I have not ventured onto the buses here, nor in Venezuela, so I decided to walk.  The areas are not vast, but the geography is  islands connected by bridges.  You can see where you want to get to, but you can’t get there from here.  I had the towering hotels of Bocagrande to keep on my left and the convent on the hill to keep on my right.  I was walking in a very poor area, derelict vehicles and taxis with wheels up on blocks.  I changed my route to a slightly bigger road.  The trucks are huge and I had to walk into the road to get round the vehicles parked on what would be the pavement if there had been one.

I could see the cruise ship docked on my left, which was good, but I had wandered a bit off course and the convent was now also on my left.  Eventually I came to the far end of the outdoor market and this meant I could get back on course and find the marina.  It was a long way and even though I was wearing my walking sandals my feet are sore.  The dirt gets in your feet and rubs.  It is 2 miles by dinghy, 5 miles by boat and probably 4 by road. 

I checked at the marina for prices to leave the boat, but it is not a marina by European standards.  The one next door is better, but still no finger pontoons and twice the price.


It is dirty here on decks and ropes and the boats have a diver clean the bottom weekly.  I will have been here 2 weeks tomorrow.  I have left the extra rudder on so that I can see how bad it gets – it’s bad.  I will not have the bottom cleaned, but I will have to make sure the engine water intake is clear enough to get me to the yard.  There is no point doing that now and then again later, I am sure once will be quite enough.

The local lads swim here.  I am the nearest boat to the wall where they jump in.  Last week there were 15 big lads swimming for the boat, but they went away when told to.  I am told they only hang onto the anchor chain, yuk, rather them than me. 

There is a weather window for people heading to San Blas and Panama and a lot of boats are expected to leave by Wednesday; including most of the ones near me.


There is always the Navy, they are on the opposite side of the water and nearer to me than I am to the marina, but I can’t see them coming for 2:1 ice cream on Tuesdays.  The Navy have lots of different types of boats here, white ones, grey ones, strange shaped khaki ones, a couple of submarines and at least one helicopter, but they are no problem; it is the water taxis and pirogues darting through the anchorage that causes the wash, as usual.


I had a dinghy problem in the marina as I left.  One of my oars got caught under a rope or another dinghy.  I was sitting where I needed space to move the oar.  You would think I could have moved, but I was rooted to the spot.  The engine was on and I was going along all the dinghies trying to sort myself.  I was nearly done, but someone came rushing to my aid, I did not need help.  He told me 3 times to turn the engine off, it would be easier.  I did, but I think I gave him a look that if it portrayed what I was thinking he will not be talking to me again.  I only needed a push out in the right direction and I would have been away, but now I had to start the engine again and with all the obstacles in the marina I did not want to; the man offered to start it for me, but I rowed off.  If I see him again I should apologise.


I could not get back to the boat because they were fishing around it.  They put out a net in a circle, and today mine was the lucky boat in the middle.  Then they go round inside the net a few times thumping the water with a big stick.  After that they pull in the net and see how many fish they have caught.  I wouldn’t like to eat anything they caught in here, who knows what they have been eating, ok we all know.  I visited Southern Cross while I was waiting for them to free my boat.


After such a busy day it was 6pm before I remembered that I had to finish the rest of the fillet mignon because the fridge was only cold by the ice I had bought yesterday and that had long melted.  I was going to have it with chips, but that meant peeling, boiling and frying the potatoes.  It seemed too much effort and I abandoned the idea before I had even got the potatoes out.  I just fried the steak and it was very good.  I could get away with that on the basis that it is good not to mix protein and carbohydrate, but I made rice pudding for afters as the milk was not going to last either.  I am not sure that the chocolate was melting, but it does go mouldy if left too long, so I made a good effort on that too.


Tuesday 3 February

I did the washing and topped up the water tank from the bottles.  At 7.30 Southern Cross asked me to assist them.  They were going in for fuel and also had to pick up two guys who were going to wash the boat down.  The fuel dock was easy to get on to and Dee went and picked up the guys in the dinghy, while I helped Don with fuelling.  I did not want the dinghy job.  They were very lucky that they were allowed to use the water on the fuel dock and have the boat cleaned there.  I was brought back to my boat as this was a change in plan and they could be there some time.  I was back by 9 and felt that I had done a good morning’s work.


I did some internet and then read a book in the hammock until 4.  I roused myself to go in to the dock.  Two of my neighbours left today and Independence came back.  They had mechanical problems and it is better to turn round from the Rosarios, half a day away, than continue to Panama.  Southern Cross are planning to leave tonight when they are ready, so it was time to say goodbye for now.


Wednesday 4 February

Achieved nothing today, finished a book I did not think much of, Russian spy, counter spy stuff.  I cannot decide on the yard or the marina.  I get told it is dangerous to go to Baranquilla and you have to be careful on the bus to Bogata.   I went round the supermarket and can’t find anything to buy to eat.  Even the sweets, cakes and biscuits are not tempting.  I finished the last piece of my liquorice to cheer me up (thanks, Val).  I have to contact my bank as the ATM would not give me any money, security issue again.  It is days like today when the fridge not working is really the last straw, not that I have much to put in it.  

I did go into Happy Hour, luckily I did not have to talk to either the man from the yard or from the marina, they were in the office having a drink.

I got back to the boat at 6.30 as I try to be there before dark.   Hauling the dinghy up is best done in daylight, the effect of the rope caught round anything can be serious.  The wind was gusting strongly,  I got soaked on the way back and then the wind kept getting under the nose of the dinghy and standing it on end as I was trying to winch it up.


Thursday 5 February

Well, yesterday was no much fun, today I had to do better.  I did the washing first and hung it in the relative shelter of the cockpit, but I still lost a t-shirt in the wind. 

I spend a huge amount of time on the internet trying to sort things and I feel like I have got somewhere.  Real or imagined, I felt better.

I was going to start the varnishing, but so once again I put that off until I return. 

I did not want to leave the boat as it was still very windy and there was no real need to go anywhere.

I sat and read a book and chilled.  You have to pick up books where you can and I then read them, when maybe some I should just pass straight on.  I think this book is more suited to my mood than the others were.

Hopefully I have sorted myself out a bit.


Friday 6 February

Another night of gale force winds.  I am missing out on my sleep, just listening to the anchor chain and the snubber rope creaking.

The Port Captain has closed Cartegena because of the gale force conditions; nobody comes in, nobody goes out, including cruise liners and cargo ships.  The strange thing is that this morning it is like a mill pond, but the winds are forecast to continue through the weekend.  I would like to get off the boat, but the wind usually pipes up before noon.

It is still sunny and it hasn’t rained since I arrived.  I know it is not rainy season, but  a little sprinkle now and then would wash the soot off the boat and be refreshing. 


And then along came the big black rib filled with rather young, good looking Columbians.  They were the Navy and a man from the port authority.  Very polite, very nice.  They wanted to take my photo, were they smitten, no, it probably helps them identify the bodies.  The man in charge was presumably chosen for this job because of his good English and his wonderful smile.  It is a PR exercise and may there be many more.  We shook hands and I kissed him, how many chances like this would I get.  Usually someone this good would come under the category of ‘have it wrapped and delivered to the boat’.  This was more ‘don’t bother to wrap it, I’ll wear it now’.  He was not just good looking, he seemed really nice..  Can you make such a judgement in a few minutes, yep, well, it certainly improved my day – even if I am 25 years too old to even be thinking such thoughts.


They left me some stickers and a poster.

 I translated  the poster – Pelicans float, you don’t.  Passengers require a lifejacket. 

This is ably described by one pelican floating and one in a lifejacket, but we just established that pelicans don’t need one.  I do not have many places to put this, do they expect me to put it over my charcoal drawing?  Those of you who have seen it will know what I am talking about, perhaps maybe I should.

There is another sheet in English, addressed to Dear Seaside Visitor, it is a good attempt, but I am still working on ‘delincuential’ .  Delinquents? well, bad people anyway.

What I thought were stickers aren’t they are two sided.  They gave me two so I will put them side by side.   Each point has a letter highlighted – SEGURIDAD.  Most are obvious, one side is pictures so I know I need a boathook, but the kiddies spades in the sand stumped me, until I guessed they were trying for ‘firebucket’


I had a few pages to finish in my book, I seem to get through one a day, unless they are boring.  Then they may take longer if I have to keep going back to it; or shorter if I just skim through, and then I might not quite understand the ending, but did I care anyway?

I launched the dinghy and went to the dock.  My boat had sat for three days in 35knot winds, so  it should be ok for the afternoon.

When I got to the dock a couple asked me whether my outboard worked, it was the same model as theirs and they had problems.

There are no gears; yes.  The carburetor keeps needing cleaning and is unbelievably rusty; yes.  It only goes full throttle, with no idle; well, mine actually does from uncontrollable start up to scary full throttle.  They usually see me rowing.  That is because I do not use the engine in confined spaces like the marina and I have a deal with the engine that I row in and it motors back into wind.  It might get stroppy if I expected it to do both ways.   


I was going to the bank to try and get lots of pesos, but instead showed some new people how to get to the mall with the big hardware store and the many ice cream stands.  We had iced coffee first and then the shops, I like people with such good priorities. 

I can do the bank on Monday, or Tuesday or whenever.

It was nearly 5 by the time I got back to the boat and I gave it another wash down, just seawater not a thorough wash, but hopefully dislodged the top layer of soot.  Time to haul the dinghy up.


Saturday 7 February

A sunny , calm start to the day.  There are 2 maybe 3 cruise ships in today, so I guess Cartegena is open for business again.  It certainly wasn’t as windy last night as it has been, hopefully the winds are on their way down for a few days. 

Judy is the cruiser ‘what’s on’ lady and I said that I would like to visit the Carnival in Baranquilla, so would she.  Usually people sign up and then drop out of events, but an announcement on the Net produced zero response.  This is supposed to be a great event, what is it with these cruisers.


I am determined to find out where the water in the bilge comes from.  It is not a lot, but it is annoying.  I usually blame the bolts in the windvane brackets, these need sealing all the way through the 4” thread.  I have tried 3 times, but maybe one more attempt is necessary.  I will have to pull out everything in the transom to check.  The whole boat drain down into a cup sized indent over the keel, but there is an inner hull with drainage holes and the water arrives in the middle but I can’t tell where it comes from.


My neighbours left this morning, but they came back; it wasn’t very nice out there.   I did notice that they were anchored a little close, but they called and asked if I was OK with it, which was considerate. 


I walked into town, I haven’t been that way for a week.  I was on my feet from 1pm and was hoping to watch the Horse Parade.  This has been postponed twice already and should have started at 3.  At 5.45 I gave up, it was going to get dark and crowded and my feet ached.  I got back to the boat just in time before dark.


Sunday 8 February

I get complaints (no names, no packdrills) that there is too much maintenance in my blog, but I have tried to keep it to a minimum. 
Evidently, I am supposed to be sailing, diving and fishing – I wish.  I am stuck here in Cartegena awaiting my return to work, nothing exciting is happening.  Just think yourself lucky that you are still out there still enjoying all those things, Jimmy.


It is Sunday and it will come as no surprise that I am going to head in and play dominoes.  I will send this before I just get too excited.