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Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 27, 2013-Culture in Cartagena

Cartagena De Indias

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Cartagena by Night

Culture in Cartagena

Cartagena:History and Culture. They go together.

To see and experience those things are the reasons we came to Cartagena so it should come to no surprise that we've been getting out quite a lot already. Walking to Old Town from the marina is pleasant especially after the oppressive heat of the midday is replaced by the evening's coolness, so we have been there at night several times.

Woman in Doorway

A flyer from the tourism office turned us onto the music and dance performance staged in the historic Teatro Heredia. This was terrific.

On the same day as the dance performance, in the morning, we toured the city in an air conditioned van and walked through the convent at Cerro La Popa, built on the highest hill in Cartagena by the Spanish in 1611, and we saw the fort of San Felipe (Castillo San Felipe de Barajas) built by the Spanish in 1536 to repel the British.


Castle San Felipe

We'll be doing more of this and we'll report back to you.

Click here for more photos from the tour to the convent.
Click here for more photos of Cartagena's Old Town
Click here for more images from the dance performance.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Cartagena

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

July 15, 2013-Cartagena: Another New Place (Revision)

Cartagena in the Morning

Sunday we left Santa Marta. Monday we arrived in Cartagena. We travelled overnight and arrived in a new place. Another new place. We've seen a few new places. Everything is different yet somehow the same. Another city, another stop. It's 30 hours in Cartagena now, but we've been in this space for close on 30 years. We're used to it.

We've been getting established here.

The routine: Secure a marina berth, get power, get the air conditioner going (because this place swelters and we need air conditioning), get the Internet working, go to the office and fill out papers, talk to the shipping agent (a requirement in Columbia) and get him working on our behalf with the Port Capitan, then walk to town and find the supermarket, bank machine, laundry, etc.

We did all that yesterday. We do it everywhere we go, usually on the first day, like we did here.

There are a few differences sometimes. In Cartagena there was a complication since the marina was full but we squeezed our way into a spot and it looks like they will let us stay in it. So that solved that.

Then we found out that this marina is subject to violent squalls; another problem. They say that about once a month you get hit by a big one, they call it Culo de Pollo (ass of the chicken) and you need to be tied up really good. So today we got the diver to go down and tie us to the big moorings and now that's done too.

Now we can get into life as normal.

By "normal" I mean life in which we go shopping, run errands, have doctor's visits, use mobile telephones, work on the Internet, get our laundry done, etcetera, etcetera.

Boy, this gets real crazy. We're living on our boat, travelling around the world, but we're also trying to live a normal life.

That's the way we think of it. This is not a trip or a travel adventure, or a long holiday, or camping out. It's just living in some different places.

On a sailboat.

And we like it. We even like the first day, when we're really lost. We've sort of gotten addicted to that. To the thrill of seeing the new place, of being lost, then getting to know the place. Making it home.

And now, a View From an Alternate Universe

I'm sitting here on my settee.

It's the same settee in the same boat that I sat on in Seattle in 1986. It looks the same, feels the same. I can't see outside. I could still be in Seattle.

Feels like it.

Am I still in Seattle?

What if we haven't moving at all? What if the world is moving around us instead?

What if we are sitting here, in a single spot in the universe, and we've never moved from that spot, and on certain nights, while we are sleeping, the world around this spot gets totally re-arranged. We wake up and the town looks different, the stores are in different places, the bathrooms and laundry are all new, the language is different, the money is different. The world we knew the day before is all mixed up. Like some big joke played by the gods.

What can we do? We have no choice but to go through the steps of sorting out all of our surroundings again. We have to figure out the new world which has sprung up around us and we do it. In a day or two we've adjusted and we resume our normal life.

When we go shopping every few days the only difference is that periodically we have to learn the new route to the store because the crazy world got changed since the last time we went shopping.

However, we're getting good at that.

In fact like I said, we've gotten addicted to it. Just about as soon as we get comfortable in a place we start wondering what the next one will look like.

We have to move on.

Or the world has to move on for us.

It's a cycle which repeats endlessly.

It's cruising.

Wings in Club Nautico

Click here for more arrival photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Cartagena

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Friday, July 12, 2013

July 12, 2013-In Search of Juan Valdez

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Motorbike ride in the Sierra Nevada

On the outskirts of the city of Santa Marta begin the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the snow covered range which rises abruptly from the sea to 18,000 feet here in the north of Colombia and which is said to be the highest coastal range in the world. The Sierra Nevada provides a scenic backdrop to Santa Marta.

On the moist mountainsides of the Sierra Nevada coffee is grown. Colombian coffee.

For this reason Judy and I set off to the Sierra Nevada on a quest: we wanted to visit a coffee plantation and buy Colombian coffee directly from the source. In this we were successful but getting there and back proved to be an adventure in itself.

First we had to get to Minca, a little town 2000ft up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The tourist map shows Minca Station near the central market, but if we thought we'd get a bus at the Minca Station we were wrong. It is taxis only, and they are the most disgusting and decrepit taxis we've ever seen. But of course, who would waste a good car on the world's worst roads? The road to Minca, while only 17km from the Minca cut-off, is so bad that it quickly destroys any car. We were lucky to get a Jeep Waggoner, for which we paid extra, that was tough enough not to have been shaken to bits on this road.

Off we went into the hills in the Waggoner.

At Minca, a delightful little town of mostly backpackers and restaurants, we had lunch overlooking the Rio Mina. After lunch we hired motorbikes to take us farther up into the mountains to Finca la Victoria, a coffee farm, at 3000ft. Cars won't even try to go to La Victoria because the road is worse than the 17km bit to Minca, although some trucks and 4x4's make it. That ride was pretty fun; up the hills and into the mists we rode, going around the curves, through the bamboo forests, and bouncing over the bumps. Half of it was in the rain and we had no raincoats but the driver's bodies mostly sheltered us from the rain. The two drivers took turns leading, or was it a race? If so, Judy won; she and her rider arrived first.

We even saw Juan Valdez, or maybe it was his father, coming down the mountain on his horse as we charged our way up on the motorbikes.

Finca La Victoria, laid out on a hillside 120 years ago and in operation ever since then, was quiet. The coffee harvest is in the winter and is finished by this time of the year, but a few employees were present and one, a charming young woman named Jaime, whose family has lived on this farm and worked it for three generations, gave us a tour and sold us a kilo of beans. We walked through the factory and looked at the old equipment, still in perfect order. The operation is completely powered by water ducted down the mountain from above, and a 120 year-old Pelton water turbine provides electrical power for some of the equipment and for the homes of the 20 families which live there. This is one of the oldest hydroelectric power plants in Colombia and Minca was one of the first locales to be electrified.

Coffee in our backpack and the tour over, we saddled up and headed back down the mountain to Minca and then back to the humid heat of Santa Marta, where we finished the day with happy-hour Margaritas at the Blue Agave bar and and roasted corn from a vendor on the malecon.

Street Food

A good day.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Santa Marta, Colombia

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Sunday, July 07, 2013

July 6, 2013-We Think We're Going to Love Columbia

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Waitress at the San Lorenzo

We strolled Santa Marta's beach front with, it seems, about half of Santa Marta's inhabitants; all of them out with their families or lovers for a pleasant evening in the cool ocean breezes near the sea, looking for a nice restaurant. The one we found was in an alley in the old town nearby, one of many restaurants there. We chose one which had ceviche on the menu.

While we ate and drank our wine the hauntingly soft slow wail of a saxophone and pan drum echoed down the alley; two street musicians were playing jazz for coins. We were enchanted by the music, the food, and the magical night in Santa Marta.

Old Town

Jazz Musicians

We think we're going to love Columbia.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Santa Marta


July 5, Sleighride to Columbia

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Easy Sailing

There was a huge bang which woke me and Wings lurched wildly. Items flew around the cabin and a torrent of salt water hit me in the face.

I knew we'd hit something: rocks, a reef, a ship, whatever, it was terrible; the end.

"What was that?" I yelled as my hand gripped the ladder, heading for deck.

"A wave." replied Judy, "I'm soaked."

"Oh, just a wave. God that scared me." I sank back to my bunk. Wings recovered and sailed on.

It was a sleigh ride to Columbia which we were on and this was just one more part of it.

It had started out easy on Wednesday: a little wind, some mediocre waves, and we'd set a jib and main. It was the conservative call. The wind-vane handled it nicely. West bound, heading of 280.

But the wind built and so did the waves. By Thursday we had wind in the high twenties and huge waves, 20-30 feet, breakers.

Wings flew to the West in it and Judy and I just hung on. The vane kept steering, the waves broke around us but didn't board, and the boat kept on surfing, and we made miles toward Columbia.

We reduced sail but it didn't slow us much. I saw 34 knots of wind speed and the boat hit 10.89, almost eleven . Judy saw less on her watches, but still, quite a lot for a couple of oldsters like us.

We were down to no jib and a double reefed mainsail when the wave hit but there was little else we could do to reduce, so we just kept sailing.

By Friday morning, four hours ahead of our plan, we arrived in Santa Marta, Columbia, and found a berth in the marina, five hours after Sooliman, who left 12 hours ahead of us.

A job well done, and now: a new country.

Click here for more sailing shots.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Santa Marta, Columbia.

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July 3, 2013-Passing the Point of the Middle Moon, or How my Coffee Cup Became Cracked.

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Tanker Passes

I wake and see the sky is turning from dark blue to cyan. Dawn is coming.

I get up.

Judy and I trade places and I survey our surroundings. Water, water, more water. I turn on the computer and see that the next landmark, the Point of the Middle Moon, is still ahead of us, as it should be. According to my passage plan we will arrive there at 09:00. It is now only 06:00.

I need coffee with which to greet the sunrise but the stove won’t start. Propane must be out. Ah, yes, the log book shows 44 days on this tank. Is that a record? Anyhow, the tank must be empty. I get the adjustable wrench to change the propane tank and crawl aft on the crazily tilting and swaying deck toward the propane lockers. Its hard to hang on. The wrench is rusted, won’t adjust. Down to the workbench forward for some oil, then back for a second attempt.

Wrench fixed, propane changed, coffee cooking, I hear a chirp from the AIS receiver. A ship is drawing near. The computer shows it still an hour away.

I drink my coffee. Now I think of food: a hot bagel with pork and cheese and a cookie. And fresh coffee.

Beans need to be ground, they are Colombian beans, but bought in Antigua. Perhaps soon I will get to buy some a little closer to the source.

Starbuck's Cup

After breakfast I check the ship. Still 30 minutes away. Wash up. I notice the cracked handle of my Starbuck's cup. It happened during a previous wash up when another cup was dropped on it and cracked the handle. Good thing it wasn’t broken; these Starbuck's cups have been halfway around the world with us and a broken one would put a damper on the whole venture. Well, maybe not, I can get another.

On deck I adjust the solar panels for the early sun and find it’s getting hot in the cockpit. Time to put up the awning. I drag up the large awning and set it. The wind and tossing deck make it another struggle but the shade is nice when it is done .

I count 12 flying fish on deck. Judy hasn’t thrown them over so I do. "Back to Neptune," you guys.

The AIS chirps again and now I must watch that ship. The name is "Charmer", a tanker. We are on a collision course. I would turn but his course and speed is erratic. I don't know which way to go. He is the burdened vessel so I reach for the radio to ask him.

“Charmer, Charmer this is Wings.”

He answers, “Vessel calling, come back.”

We switch to 14.

“Charmer, this is Wings. How do we deal with this?”

“I will alter course,” he says.

“Thank you very much Captain.” That was easy.

I watch him pass on our starboard side; a small ship.

With the dishes done, tanker gone and the awning up, I decide I can relax in the shade.

I load some new music on my phone and get a new book.

Just as I settle down Judy is stirring. “What time is it?” she asks.

“Nine O’clock.” I say. It is time for her watch already.

“Where are we?”

I check.

“Just passing the Point of the Middle Moon.”

We trade places again.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, On Passage.

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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

July 2, 2013-Aruba


The first day at Aruba made me hate the place.

We anchored by the airport and the wind blew all day and all night. Enough to drive a man crazy.

The boat bucked in the waves and the wind, as we seem to say so often in this part of the world, howled.

God did it howl.

And it was hot. We sweltered. There was too much wind to put up any awnings, we had no shade.

And to top it all off, some of the car stereo crazies ashore here played loud music all day, really loud music, which we could hear all too well all the way out to the boat. Really loud.

Aggravatingly loud. Boom Boom Boom.


On the second day, when we thought about putting the dingy together to go ashore, and we considered the wind and the difficulty of it, plus the waves...

We gave up. We went into the marina.

There we had peace and quiet. The wind didn't reach us in the marina. There were no waves. We had power and we turned on the air conditioner. We put up an awning. Live became good.

Aruba became good.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings. Aruba

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