Greetings from Colombia

Sun 15 Mar 2009 01:26
Position 10:24.54N 75:32.50W

Dear all,

After spending 2 weeks in Prickly Bay in Grenada getting the generator and
autohelm fixed we left on 28 February for a leisurely 360NM trip to Bonaire
: the first island of the ABC’s (Dutch Antilles). For this trip we had
gentle 10-15 knots of breeze from behind and ran the spinnaker during the
day and just white sails at night.

Bonaire is a diving mecca and is surrounded by pristine coral reefs.
Accordingly anchoring is prohibited and you must either use a mooring bouy
(USD $10 per night) or go into the marina. We chose a mooring bouy just off
the main township of Kralendijk that was a convenient dinghy trip to the
shops and restaurants.

The waters around the island are spectacular and we regularly had divers
swimming under the yacht : even at night! A lot of big cruising ships come
here and there were always 2 at the commercial docks just up from us; often
staying for only a day and then replaced by another in the morning. The kids
were able to snorkel amongst tropical fish just off the back of the yacht
and I was able to clean the hull of Mikado. We also hired a car for a day to
do some sightseeing around the island and stock up on provisions. Jenny was
delighted to find a real dutch supermarket with nice delicatessen items.
We caught up with some friends Bertis and Greta on “Blues” at the island
and decided to cruise with them down to Curacao; about 40 NM and a short day
sail away. Here we anchored at a place called Spanish Waters, which is a
well protected lagoon and popular holiday destination with a few resorts
around the water’s edge. We spent our time going into the main city,
Willemstad, and checking out the local markets. The wind picked up whilst we
were there so we spent 3 days waiting it out before doing a short 76 NM sail
down to Aruba where we caught up with some other yachts that we had met
along the way : Finn and Raki on the yacht Hilde plus Daniel and Andrea on
the yacht Rea. As the weather was looking fine for the 400 NM trip to
Cartegena in Colombia we decided to go as a group and left at first light
the next morning.

The sail down the Colombian coast from Aruba to Cartegena is rated as one of
the top 5 toughest passages in the world : it is where the Atlantic trade
winds collide and accelerate as they hit the Colombian coast. Although the
Grib (weather) files we downloaded suggested 25 knot winds for the passage
and moderate 2-3m seas; however we got “hammered” on the second night with
winds of 40-45 knots and 5-6 metre seas. This made for interesting sailing
and we had to put the 3rd reef in the main and only a “hankerchief” of genoa
poled-out. At 3am in the morning we got hit with a big roller over the deck
and gusts over 50 knots so we decided to put the sea anchor out – this
calmed the yacht down and let us coast along at a steady 5-6 knots until we
got into the lee of the mainland near the coast.

We made it into Cartegena aroung midday on Thursday 12 March (a 51 hour trip
helped by a 1-2 knot current in our favour) and caught up with our fellow
cruisers at the Club Nautico to exchange stories of our heavy weather
sailing the beers flowed the stories of the winds and waves
increased as well....

We also caught up with fellow Australians, Peter and Donna on Orono 1 who we
first met in Gaudelope – they had been here for a fortnight and had the
yacht repainted and antifouled. The prices of most things here are half that
in the Caribbean : the supermarket prices are about the same, or a bit less
than, Australia. So a good place to stock up.

Cartegena is one of the most beautiful cities in South America – a mix of
modern “Miami” style highrises with a beautiful old “Spanish” style old
city. It is one of the safest cities in Colombia, as apparently all the
countries “warlords” have agreed that it is a no-go/neutral zone...probably
because they all have holiday homes here???

We are planning to spend another couple of days here to explore the city and
will then head towards the beautiful San Blas islands : arguably one of the
prettiest group of islands on this side of the Atlantic. We will spend about
a week exploring the islands there and then plan our transit through the
Panama Canal.

Regards to all back home and keep sending us updates on what is happening
there – we only get limited news here when we have internet access.

Ian, Jenny, Nicholas and Georgina
S/Y Mikado