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Saturday, December 28, 2013

December 27, 2013-Leaving Cartagena

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Ready to leave Club Nautico

Breaking Free of Marina Comforts

Life becomes comfortable when you are in port with the conveniences you have at the dock and the friends you invariably make and after a period of time in port you have developed some familiar routines and it becomes hard to leave. Days turn into weeks and weeks into months and months can become years as has happened to cruisers in every port we’ve been in; they never meant to stay there but all of a sudden it has been, well, as in the case of our friends Kenny and Jessie in Cartagena, six years.

It could happen to us, and certainly it will one day, but not this time.

So on Saturday we broke free of the inertia of port. We ran Blue Peter up, loaded the last of the provisions, collected the crew (just ourselves) , and cast off the lines. We pulled out of Cartagena and barely looked back.

Oh we’ll miss Cartagena, especially some friends like Omar and Geoff, and Kenny and Jessie and the others, and Cartagena has been good, but now it is time for a new adventures; there are new horizons calling to us and we are eager to go meet them.

We headed south.

Kenny told us about a patch of sand in 18 feet of water in a protected spot between two islands, Isla Grande and Isla Caribaru, called Isla Naval and that’s where we headed first. Coral reefs extend for miles around the Colombian islands known as the Rosariaos and it is rare to find a sheltered anchorage deep enough for a sailing yacht among the flats and but this place is one and we are glad to find it with its crystal clear water, which after Cartagena, was welcome. We stayed five days, swam a lot, saw some fish, and we cleaned the bottom and were astonished at the growth which happened in just one month in Cartagena since the antifouling paint was applied and visited the aquarium a few miles west, which was nice too. We enjoyed our first anchorage in the Rosarios. Thank you, Kenny.

Anchored in The Rosarios

But the wind blew hard every night at Isla Naval, it’s the season of the feared Christmas Winds, and we were ready to leave by Boxing Day so the morning after a nice Christmas dinner for just the two of us onboard Wings, we weighed and headed for the town of Baru.

Hectic Day to go to Baru

On Boxing Day (December 26) we had a few minor issues to deal with:

  • We found we had a big propane leak which emptied one of our two tanks, we disassembled the propane plumbing and found a leak which was a cracked fitting for the pressure gauge, which we bypassed and hope that solves the problem.
  • We broke the windlass raising anchor and we had to drive around with the anchor hanging down while we installed the spare, home-made, chain stripper.
  • Racing to town to buy propane to replace what we lost the Mercury outboard motor stalled and we had to row back to Wings and take off carburetor and float chamber and free what looked like a stuck float valve and we were lucky not to lose the small parts which dropped into dingy bottom.
  • Finally got to town and we had to buy 40lb propane tank since they don't refill propane here and that was the smallest they sell and besides being 4 times the amount we needed, it was heavy. But we got it out to the boat OK.
  • We got lost in the bayous coming back from Baru but found our way shortly.
  • Our dingy flooded and nearly sank. It's leaking water really badly, but we think it is the drain valve so we closed that and bailed like crazy.
  • Back on Wings we tipped the big tank over and hung it from the boom and poured propane into our tank (using cannibalized parts from our system which had to be disassembled again) and we were very happy to get our tank filled.
  • However, tipping the big tank over got dirt in valve and we could not shut off the flow of propane, so quite a bit of propane was vented to the atmosphere, lucky we had extra, and lucky there was no explosion. We're sorry about the air pollution, we hope it does not destroy the ozone layer.
  • Finally we put everything back together and had a drink.
  • (Oh, I forgot to mention, we broke one of our oars, Dang!)

The boy that fixed our outboard

Two Boys

Even after working for a couple of hours on the outboard on Thursday it still gave us problems on Friday when we left to go to town to return the propane tank. I thought for sure that the float was stuck again but we were short of time and we struggled with it instead of stopping to fix it and finally got to town to return our half filled, extra large, broken valve'd, propane tank so we could reclaim our deposit. While docking the motor finally gave out big time; I couldn't get it started to save my soul and we rowed to the dock. Two small boys were watching and I gave them a "its dead" slice across my neck. They looked on impassively.

Then we put the motor issues behind us for a while and went to town. We returned the propane tank and walked every street I think, many of them more than once. Got some nice photos. Baru is a very tranquil place. Most of our photo shots of the streets showed no people. There weren't many. But the ones we found were friendly and helpful. Some even spoke English.

Baru Street

The highlight of the day was buying two very cold beers at one small store, which was our lunch, since the restaurants were not open yet.

Getting back to the dingy a couple of hours later, as we came around the corner, I saw one of the boys fiddling with our outboard. Without giving it a thought I gave a whistle and waved him away. It's not surprising to find boys messing around with your dingy while you are gone but this was different. When we got to the boat the one boy said something to me about the fuel line, and pointed to it. I said, "This line?" and he nodded. "So What." I thought, but when I tried the motor it started right away. More amazing, it ran perfectly all the way back out to Wings.

So I guess that boy did something to our fuel line, what I have no idea, but it was a nice thing. Too bad I didn't give him credit or even thank him, but I didn't know he was just helping us out.

Click here for more photos of the Rosarios.

Click here for more photos of Baru.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Baru, Colombia

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Friday, December 20, 2013

December 20, 2013-Christmas in Colombia

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Merry Christmas

I’ve been scanning old log book pages and saving them on the blog and while doing that I end up reading and reliving each one. This week I have been working on 1989, when Judy and I were still in Seattle sailing Wings and living aboard, and I enjoyed remembering those old days.

Then, as I saved the page I was reading, my screen saver popped back into view and it showed a beautiful shot of Judy from 2013, on Wings, laughing with some of our crew, and it was from a race here in Cartagena.

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Then and Now

And it struck me that we are so lucky to have had this life. We started out doing something we loved more than 27 years ago and here we are, still at it, still enjoying it.

And my Judy, so young and beautiful back then, and so in love with life and with our life, here she is 24 years later, still racing on our Wings, still lovely and still in love with the life we live.

This makes me very emotional.

Now it is Christmas and we are in Colombia; another new country, another holiday season away from home, and it won’t be the last.

We, like the other cruisers, try to fill the void we feel from being away from family and friends at these times: we have pot-luck dinners on occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving, we gather at some marina common area or on a beach in some bit of paradise somewhere, and we laugh and talk and heap our paper plates with food that never quite seems like the dishes we remember from family gatherings we had back home, and we make the best of it.

But honestly, we’d rather be with you all.

This week we went into Old Town with some friends we’ve met here, Geoff and Omar, from the yacht Un Mundo, and we had a nice dinner and drinks at one of our favorite spots in Cartagena: Plaza Trinidad, and we took the photos you can see in our wingssail-images pages, as well as the one we used in our card this year.

We really love our friends here, and we will miss Geoff and Omar when we leave. They are headed towards Cuba and then Miami and we are headed west through the Panama Canal so we will part company with them, maybe for good, as we have with so many cruisers we’ve met who became dear friends; that is the way of a sailor.

But at Christmas…it seems a little tougher.

Click here for more photos of Cartagena at Christmas time.

Click here for another photo of Fred & Judy back then.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Cartagena

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Friday, December 13, 2013

December 8, 2013-Fort San Filipe

On a hill called San Lazaro, overlooking the city of Cartagena, the Spanish built a fort.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Fort San Filipe

That was in 1536. It was called the Castillo de San Lázaro back then.

It was designed to protect the city of Cartagena and the gold and silver of the New World which the Spanish had collected and hidden in Cartagena. Canons were mounted atop its walls and access was either up the exposed sides or though hidden tunnels which laced the rock under Castillo de San Lázaro.

Few surmounted it.

The Castillo de San Lázaro still stands.

Now it is called Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, or more commonly, the Fort of San Filipe. Named after Philip IV of Spain who financed it and once remarked that for all the money he put into it he should be able to see it from Barcelona. But it was successful. Cartagena and it's riches were defended by this fort against all comers for many years.

It's not hard to imagine the dread in the hearts of any opposing soldiers who had to face the ramparts of this fort.

Then there are the tunnels.

Narrow and twisting and uphill. At the top Spanish muskets awaited.

The soldiers and canons are gone but the walls and tunnels of Fort San Filipe remain and it has shimmered in the heat over the city of Cartagena for 450 years. It still tends to intimidate anyone who would breach its heights.

For months we have looked at Fort San Filipe from the taxis and streets of Cartagena. And one morning, when it was still relatively cool, we set out to conquer it.

Even at 7:30 in the morning it is hot in Cartagena. As we climbed up the ramps leading to the fortifications atop the walls we tried to imagine the soldiers and slaves who had to drag the huge stones it was built with up that hill. They say the stones were splashed with blood long before the first battle. I believe it.

And in the quiet morning, before anyone else reached the top, we looked out over the city and the bay.

It is a commanding view. We wandered around and pointed imaginary guns out between the parapets.

Then we ventured into the tunnels going downward from the top, not up from the bottom. Even with electric lighting they are scary. It would be easy to get lost in the maze. Once we stepped off the passageway in the darkness at the bottom of one passage into water. It was only up to our shoe-tops but it could have been over our heads. We'd already been thinking that going further and further into these tunnels wasn't the smartest idea. That was enough for us. We went back up and left the tunnels then and we thought about this fort and these tunnels which have stood here for 450 years and which have scared a lot of people during that time.
wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Jacque & Edith

And we thought the Spanish did a good job building this.

Click here for more photos of Fort San Filipe.

Click here to read about this fort.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Cartagena

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Sunday, December 01, 2013

November 30, 2013-Racing in Cartagena (v.4)

wingssail images-judy jensen
Having a Good Time

(About version 4 of this story: Sorry for those of you who are followers, and keep getting notifications about a new posting, only to find the same posting each time. I swear, this is the last one. I just have been trying to get a good story, tight, interesting, which still describes how the day really went. Maybe this is it.)

Some days you can't seem to get out of your own way and other days you sail like you're on fire.

Yesterday we were on fire and there is nothing like a win to erase that string of defeats we had in Antigua. Yesterday we won.

But to do it we had to rely on our gut instincts because at the start we had nothing else to go on: no sailing instructions, no official clock, no flags, just a rough idea of the course and a bunch of chatter on the radio in Spanish.

Hannes asked me if I had a stop watch but I had no time for that, I was in a zone, living on my wits. I told him to forget it, I was just going to stay close to the line and watch the other boats. I'd use my judgment.

He shrugged and said "OK". At least he'd tried to get us to be serious

Then there came one more hail of chatter on the radio which ended in, "Five minutes, five minutes!". This time it seemed real and the fleet was starting to line up so I started a timed run away from the line.

At 3:30 I turned to go back.

It was a downwind start. We ran the line on starboard. Some boats were approaching on port and I yelled "Starboard". They didn't budge. I yelled again and they turned to take our stern. We had a clear shot. Hannes asked, “How long to go?” I reckoned five seconds and held up five fingers. He said, "Go, GO!" I turned down and we crossed the line first, with speed on. I looked around. We were in front.

I wondered if we were early, Kenny said, "Well if we were there were about four other boats that were early too." Nobody was going back.

I said to get the spinnaker up. It filled.

Nobody else had kites yet, we were ahead of them all, and then we were gone; a horizon job. But we still needed some luck. We needed to turn left more to get to the first mark but we were already way by the lee. I took a chance and called for a jibe and we talked it through as we went and surprisingly, it worked. Now we had a good angle to the mark. Kenny said to stay away from the next point, "Lots of shallow water there, you can go inside of those bouys, but not by much." I stayed high. Nobody behind was going there either and nobody was gaining except LOL, one of the new Jeanneau Sun Odysseys.

Fifteen minutes later we did another jibe and it was perfect. This crew was good.

But I was running on adrenalin, the crew needed direction and I was giving it. Stuff was coming fast, as fast as I could handle, just see it and get it done, and then see the next thing and get that done.

Hannes worked like a horse on the foredeck, Kenny kept up a stream of invaluable local knowledge, Sheila trimmed the kite and she had good eyes, she saw every mark before anyone else. Gert was strong and fast on the3 winches and he never stopped smiling. Judy, as usual, was a rock. She saw everything on the boat and kept it all together for us.

As we passed Santa Cruz Bank we spotted the bottom mark and it was coming up quickly. The jib needed to go up and I called for it. Hannes yanked on the halyard and Judy tailed while the rest of us trimmed in for a hard spinnaker reach. The pole went to the headstay and somebody sheeted in the kite and it pulled like a train. The Jeanneau didn’t gain any more.

On the takedown the kite got tangled in the jib sheet but Hannes yelled, "Sheet in man, sheet in, we'll keep it clear", and they did.

wingssail images-Fredrick roswold
Great Sailing

The beat upwind in 14kts of wind and flat water, with the big genoa sheeted tight and flat as a board and carrying a bubble in the main, was glorious. In puffs I had to feather it, but we twisted off the jib and dropped the main traveler all the way down and Wings climbed to weather. We outpointed the Jeanneau and had speed on them. When I looked back they were farther to leeward and farther behind.

And that's the way it finished: first by enough to get the jib down and the beers out before the Jeanneau came in and they gave us a big cheer. We stuck around long enough to see the next two boats come into view then we headed back to Club Nautico. Even getting fouled on our neighbor's anchor during docking wasn't a problem; Kenny said, "I'm a fish", and he jumped in a cleared it. Good man.

That's the way we like it.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Cartagena

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