October 4, 2013-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.
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.
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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Cartagena