Santa Marta turned out to be a lively, bustling seaside town. The marina is modern and clean and the staff very helpful. Diana, who speaks English, is an absolute gem. Away from the seafront, down the rather dusty streets, is a very long and very noisy main street lined with stalls selling all manner of things. There are also two huge Exito supermarkets similar to our Asda, selling electronic and household stuff as well as an excellent range of food. Jump into a taxi and for £1.30 it will take you to one of two modern shopping malls with a Carrefour, a Homeware hardware store and an even bigger Exito as well as endless clothes and shoe shops. Walk the length of the noisy main street (don't even try to talk to each other on the way - you can't hear anything other than the din!) and you come to the market which seems to cover several streets, each with its own type of merchandise. The meat and fish areas are a bit too pongy for my liking, and with perhaps a little too much of the necessary butchery in evidence for my pathetically weak stomach, so we didn't linger there. The fruit and veg market is excellent though, and we happened upon some hardware stores where it looked like you could buy anything, and indeed we were able to buy a length of netting to make a sunshade. Photos will follow when we have wifi.
As always there were boat jobs to do. The fresh water pump on the engine had sprung a leak on the way here, so we enquired at the marina for a mechanic to fit the spare we carry on board. This was done within a few days and at a reasonable price.
We signed up for the first ever Santa Marta Regatta - a fun event with prizes for everyone, including half price mooring fees for our stay. This seemed too good to miss, but when the day of the regatta dawned with winds blowing 25-30 knots in the marina, we decided to withdraw. We don't choose to go out in those conditions when we have to go somewhere, we certainly weren't going out in it for fun. A wise decision, as several boats came back in early with damage to sails and one had its radar dome knocked off the mast by a sail. Apparently they had 48 knots of wind out in the bay. We attended the prize giving in the evening and were happy to receive our 'prizes' of two bottles of local rum - very nice according to Skipper.
The checking in arrangements here are lengthy, difficult and expensive. We had to employ an agent, they will not let you do it yourself. Our agent was Dino, and we were less than impressed by him. He charged US$100 for his services, even though there are no charges from either Immigration or Customs. He also then tried to get more of our money by saying he could arrange a bus trip to Cartagena for 60,000 Colombian pesos each, which turned out to be a 42,000 pesos fare (around £14). Diana booked our seats through a quick phone call free of charge and we paid on the bus. He also said he could get us a Zarpe with 'Puntos intermedios' (which meant we could stay anywhere else on the Colombian coast once we left Santa Marta, except Cartagena) but did not do so, and when Diana phoned the Port Captain to find out why, he told her they are not available anymore. Customs eventually came to check the boat in five days after we arrived. What a palaver. Lets hope they don't take so long to check us out!
If we take the boat to Cartagena, we have to pay another agent to check us back in again, so we have decided to make the trip by land, around four hours by bus. So we are off tomorrow to Cartagena by bus for a few days, with Rod & Mary, staying in a posada in the old walled city.