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Thursday, October 24, 2013

October 24. 2013-Working On Big Blue

Big Block Barient

Three slips down the dock lies a maxi. I’m working on it. It is a dinosaur.

For those of you into dinosaurs, this big blue maxi is one. T-Rex; seventy-three feet of IOR muscle and bone that shakes the ground when it walks.

But it is old. Kialoa old, Sorcery old.

The new boats fly but these old beasts dig holes in the water, huge holes, and damn the force. It has sheets as big as your wrist, winches like garbage cans, and a mast as big as your sister.

I’m giving Kenny a hand with this maxi; Kenny, and Fernando and sometimes Hannes the carpenter. So there's three or four of us working on Big Blue these days. Kenny has been in Cartagena a few years and he works on boats here. He was hired by the owner of this old maxi, Phillipe, and then he hired all of us. Kenny is an artist when it comes to making a boat look good. Perfection, that’s Kenny, but he does not know much about dinosaurs, nor does Fernando. Hannes knows some, not a lot.

But I know a little. I live on a dinosaur and have sailed a few, and so on that basis Kenny brought me on. Now I am rebuilding Barient winches, rigging mainsheets, testing Lewmar hydraulic systems, and getting greasy. Every morning I get up and go over to Big Blue. After lunch, instead of taking my nap, I get up and go back to Big Blue.


Now that’s a good question.

I guess when Kenny said the boat had to be motored down to Panama because it “couldn’t be sailed”, it just stuck in my craw.

“Why can’t it be sailed?” I asked.

“Owner says the main is trashed.” He answered.

I looked at tubs of hardware still needing to be installed. This boat was a long way from being ready to sail.

“I see. Can we look at the main?”

“Sure, why not?”

We put a halyard on to lift the beast. We hauled it through the foredeck hatch and dropped it into a dingy. Four local dudes helped us drag it out of the dingy and into the park where we spread that mainsail right out. Eighty feet on the hoist, old laminate, but actually it looked pretty good.

A local guy with a husky sewing machine and big balls took it home to do a few little fixes and I turned to Kenny and shrugged.

“What next boss?”

“Let’s take a look at those winches”.

So that’s how I got to be working on this Big Blue dinosaur.

I actually love it, the camaraderie is fun, and maybe later we’ll go sailing.

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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Cartagena

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 12. 2013-Lunch at the Blue Lagoon

wingssail images-nelson espinosa janaceth

“The ceviche es fantastica”.

And so is the companionship in La Laguna Azul (the Blue Lagoon), the small a restaurant under the steps to the old Getsemani Central Commercial Mall in Cartagena. There are just two tables here and a slanted ceiling over the kitchen and movie posters hang on the wall with photos of a young and tender Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins and it serves the best, freshest ceviche (marinated fish) we’ve ever had, anywhere, bar none, plus really cold beer and good wine.

With only two tables there is a good chance you won’t get one so when we arrived on Saturday they planted us outside, nice enough for an ice-cold Aquila Beer, but we said we’d wait for a table inside where the air-conditioning keeps things frigid, before ordering lunch. Apparently my Spanish was undecipherable but after several English-Spanish language consultations with various bystanders the waitress finally got the idea and promptly kicked out the group of four who had been nursing their cervasas for an hour or so, and ushered us inside. Sometimes it pays to be a gringo tourist.

And, we found a party going on!

The other table was littered with empty beer bottles and plates formerly filled with fish and prawns and other piscatorial delights and surrounded by a gaggle of slightly boisterous Colombianos enjoying a long Saturday afternoon get-together. The small eatery was a bit noisy but never mind, it was cool inside after the heat of our morning shopping spree and the food, we knew from a previous visit, was great, so we ordered more beer and wine and a couple of large plates of the delicious marinated fish with red onion salsa and piles of plantain chips.

Before long we were happily enjoying our meal and had become part of the party, it seemed, and one great fellow, Nelson, leaned over and told us the story of how he and his comrades, all from San Juan Nepomuceno, in the mountains far to the south of Cartagena, meet here regularly to keep alive their long friendship.

Then the beauty contestants started coming in.

Several tall and lean and gorgeous young women, smiling and friendly, all wearing satin sashes with their names on them, came in one by one for hugs and kisses, more hugs, more kisses, and photo ops. It seems that the national beauty pageant, which happens in Cartagena in November, is a popularity contest and these girls were out getting the vote. It made my head spin, that and all the Sauvignon Blanc I was drinking with my langoustino cerviche.

Two hours later we finally bid our goodbyes to our new friends and meandered our way back through the streets of old town to Club Nautico and Wings, where we collapsed for a long nap.

I wonder what we’ll do next Saturday?

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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Cartagena

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

October 4, 2013-Cholon Swamp

Cholon Swamp

We slipped our dock lines last week and set out for Cienaga Cholon.

Cienaga Cholon, the name means Cholon Swamp, is actually a pleasant salt water lagoon twenty miles south of Cartagena and a popular spot where Colombianos and cruisers go to get away from the city. Going there was a chance to exercise the systems on Wings which seemingly atrophy after months at the dock, and was also a chance for us to rendezvous with friends who were headed the same way.

And we thought we might have a nice sail.

But doing anything in Cartagena’s heat can sap even a strong person. With 300 feet of mooring lines to be recovered, a power cable to be handled, a boarding plank to be stowed, an air conditioner to be moved, awnings to be struck, and more, all of which had to be managed under the broiling sun, for two ancient sea dogs like us, getting away from the dock left us drenched in sweat and nearly finished off before the sailing even started.

But this tired old crew kept doggedly at it and we got away well enough and into the stream and soon the main went up, as did the jib, and eventually Wings was sailing south, albeit slowly, in a very light and deviously shifty southerly wind. The tacks were wide and nearly laid back and forth on top of each other but we were sailing.

However we soon realized we were basically getting nowhere for our trouble and arriving at Cholon in time to get through the opening before the sun was too low was important so… down came the sails and on went the motor. That action was followed quickly by the discovery that the engine wasn’t charging the batteries. Off came the motor cover and deep into a smelly hot engine I went.

Judy stayed on deck and drove Wings south the whole way to Cholon and I sorted out my wiring error and finally everything was right again and we made it easily through the tricky dogleg between the reefs into Cholon and anchored by mid afternoon. We found it to be a perfect anchorage: 20 feet of water, good holding, lots of room and peace and quiet. Orion with Gerry and Douglass and Eleanor aboard was anchored there and waiting for us. Things started to look up.

We swam in the clear, cool, water and I had a look at Wings’ bottom for the first time in months, we talked briefly to the Orions, had a drink, skipped supper, and went to bed early.

The next day was a lot better. We toured the bay in the dingy, Judy got a back massage at Palapa Beach, and we were on board Orion for cocktails. From their majestic new boat deck we all watched the sunset looking for the green flash which was allegedly seen by some but not all of us and it could have been the rum anyhow, and this was followed by a good meal in their cabin and this time we got back to Wings and fell into bed quite late.

Now we’re cruising.

Thursday morning, in a nice 15 knot southerly, we set sail homeward bound and all went well until we encountered the submarine. It showed up on AIS and a starboard to starboard crossing looked easy. But then an “Armada National” speedboat with three men in black balaclavas roared up and told us to turn to “course 090”, which meant a jibe, and now! They meant business!

Now we’ve been doing jibes on Wings for 27 years with just the mainsail up and it should have been a no-brainer. Probably I should have used some brains however, because I managed to get my ankle caught in a loop of the mainsheet, for the first time ever, and when the main barn-doored over, which is our standard routine in this much wind, the sheet took my leg with it. I was astonished by the sight of my foot careening skyward and I hopped on the other leg trying to keep my balance and get free, which I did in a millisecond, but not before I got a nice rope burn on my ankle. I thought it was a good thing it wasn’t my neck in that loop of rope.

The submarine turned left, we passed port to port, and I informed Judy, who missed my little antic, that’s how quick it was, that I had a little problem and now it was her turn to be astonished at the beautiful, looping, rope burns on my left ankle. “How did you do that?” she asked.

And she got out the salve and antibiotics.

Rope Burn

So now here we are, back at the dock in Cartagena, and two days later I still have my foot up trying to encourage this rope burn to scab over so I can get on with life.

I guess this is cruising too.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Cartagena

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