10:24.90N 075:32.73W Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
On Thursday morning we finally received an email from the marina in Cartagena confirming that they could accommodate us. We left the San Blas around midday for the 185nm trip.
Just after midnight we ran into a nasty storm – not too much wind, but lots of thunder and lightning. We used our radar as best we could to try to avoid the worst parts of the storm, but still endured about 4 hours of the worst of it. A lightning strike on our boat like ours would be a disaster – worst scenario would be having all the electronics & navigation systems fried, and it could stop the main engine. Not a pleasant prospect! However, luck was on our side and we made it into Cartagena by midday.
Cartagena was the major port in South America for the Spanish in their gold plundering days. There was a fair amount of pirate activity here in the 16th century with Francis Drake doing some serious damage. However the most famous battle was against the English in 1741. Edward Vernon, with his fleet of 186 ships attacked Cartagena expecting to conquer it quickly. So arrogant were the English, that they had pre-struck some medals celebrating their victory! What they were unprepared for, was the unstoppable Don Blas de Lezo a military leader who had already lost an eye, an arm and a leg! After 6 weeks of bloody battles and disease, the English retreated to Jamaica… sadly de Leza died shortly thereafter of an injury to his remaining leg.
We had heard that the anchorage was pretty dirty and there has been theft off the boats at night, so were happy to check into the lovely Club de Pesca. This is a very attractive private yacht club built on the site of an old fort and it caters to the local boaters, rather than visitors. It is a hive of activity, with the local sports fishing boats and racing yachts being used regularly. Many of the boats seem to have permanent cleaning crews, and there is a section at the side of the club with storage rooms, one per yacht! Very nice indeed!
We are on a berth that faces the harbor and we happily sit in our wheel house watching the passing parade, which includes many tourist boats and a lot of naval and coastguard activity.
On Saturday we took a taxi down to the Old City, which fairly close, but with the heat and humidity, walking too far is not really an option. The old city is surrounded by a thick wall and many of the buildings have been beautifully restored. The streets are very narrow and it would seem that only taxis (tiny little yellow Hyundai Atos cars) and very limited delivery vehicles are allowed. So walking around is easy.
We enjoyed looking at the beautiful architecture and visited two museums. The first was the Museum of The Inquisition – with the highlight being the rather gruesome display of the old torturing equipment. (Spine-snapping racks, bone saws, breast pincers, hand-crushers, head-squeezers, etc, etc!! The mind boggles how in the name of religion the Holy Office managed to torture many and kill over 800 people (witches & herectics) until independence in 1821. We also visited the gold museum which has examples of some of the original delicate gold pieces that the Spanish stole from the natives, and also some gold fishing hooks! Tomorrow we will tour a little more.