Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cartagena, Columbia

 Hi Everybody,

Note the size of that new inner turnbuckle
The installation of the new lower shrouds went well. After paying the exorbitant shipping fees I had a dread that something wouldn’t be right, that some dimension would be incorrect. Not so, everything is as it should be and Lennart  “Lelle” Davidson, the rigger in Bonaire, proved to be a guy who knows his stuff. We got the rig slackened up, the new lowers installed and the rig retuned in about two hours. Everything looked good and the voyage to Cartagena proved that, so far at least, its pretty much the way I want it.
Lelle has tougher feet than me!
We departed Bonaire with some sadness. The people at Wannadive had become friends and we had some good times with them. Between Janet and I we did eighty-five dives on Bonaire and felt it really was an excellent dive destination. True, there were no real mind blowing once in a lifetime dives. Not that we saw anyway. However, there are many, many miles of easily accessible and quite excellent reef with a great variety of reef fishes, coral, sponges and about any kind of life you might expect to find in a healthy tropical reef system. The large Tarpon we saw on almost every dive would let us get quite close. There were as many as seventeen around us on one dive. It is a good place and we’d recommend it for a dive trip. We also had fun with the staff at the marina restaurant and bar and they were nice people
First view of Cartagena through the haze
But this season has been about moving west and after seven weeks in Bonaire it was time to resume. We did a non-stop to Cartagena. 510 nautical miles in 77 hours, lines off at Harbour Village Marina to lines on at Club de Pesca Marina in Cartagena. We sailed the first two days in moderate conditions and motored the last due to light air, laziness and the desire to get into port during daytime. Rounding Punta Gallinas, the “Cape Horn of the Caribbean”,  in those conditions was no problem although there were some interesting seas. It was easy to see how in gale conditions you would not want to be anywhere near the area. So we made it to Cartagena with no problems and no breakages and we’re comfy and secure at the rather classy Club de Pesca Marina

Nice equestrian monument to Bolivar
Its hot and humid and very hazy although there were some thunderstorms in the area yesterday which seems to clear things out a little. There seem to be no mozzies here at the marina which is nice for a change. What we’ve seen so far of this city has been interesting but not world class wonderful. The harbor area of Boca Grande and Santa Mari is posh Miami Beach style high rise.  El central is  the old city of Cartagena which dates back to the 16th century. We’ve done some exploring around and we have a lot more to do. So far we are underwhelmed by the old city, it’s too touristy and not as picturesque as its touted to be. 

El Central street scene
We’re a rather jaded pair of course, but  Cartagena seems like a good place to stop enroute to Panama and not a world class destination in itself. People are sweet, there’s lots of well armed security at the marina, lots of cops on the streets, cabs are cheap and prices in general are quite moderate. There are very good super markets for provisioning and plenty of good restaurant food available. Also, true civilization can be found in the fact that they know how to make a really good chocolate shake! There is hope for Columbia!

Monument to San Pedro Claver
We plan on being here ten days, departing Tuesday the 3rd of May for the San Blas Islands of Panama. Should take  just over a day for our planned landfall. The boat is in good shape with the exception of the fridge which has ceased to cool once again. You may remember it failed on the Atlantic crossing. I had the coolant filled in St. Lucia and it seemed to hold pressure and to have solved the problem. Well, it quit again and seems to be out of coolant and that shouldn’t happen in just a few months. We’re supposed to have a service guy here this morning and hopefully the fix will be simple enough. Of course a different service outfit was supposed to be here all day yesterday and never showed! We’ll see.

So we’re both homesick and by next week it’ll be time to get moving towards Panama and ultimately towards the great white bird homeward bound. With a little luck there will be some very good stuff between here and there, the San Blas Islands  are supposed to be wonderful, but home sounds pretty good.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet
SV Airstream

Monday, April 11, 2016

High Times In Bonaire

Family time, Harbour Village's beach
 By Caribbean party island standards Bonaire is a very quiet place. As far as we know there isn’t a tourist attracting night time hot spot to be found anywhere. The local bars don’t seem very interesting and there seems to be no live music to found other than the small but rather good jazz group that plays Wednesday nights here at the marina restaurant. Ahh, there was one night of hell on the other side of town in the local stadium where some disc jockey “music” was being played at about 160 db. Luckily we are berthed far away and up wind.
The "floating hotel" with a"red hot" dinghy
But do we care? No way, we like the quiet. We dive almost everyday and we’re getting to be friends with the crew at WannaDive which is a very nice operation. They do our tank fills and we do an occasional boat dive with them.  
Suited up for a shore dive
We have great gelato at a nice place in town. We have a  happy hour libation at the marina bar with like minded folks. We know where to find excellent pizza and great ribs. The trades are always blowing and although its in the eighties every day it cools down into the seventies at night and there’s a cool breeze through the boat for good sleeping. 
Monkeys on board
The main event since your last update has been a visit from my niece Julie LePrie, husband Russ and their two kids Owen and Jack, ages seven and five. They stayed with us on the boat for five nights and then next door at the Harbour Village Resort for the last two evenings. Great fun was had by all! We showed them the island and spent two days on the beach at the Plaza resort snorkeling, diving and using the Plaza’s lovely facility. 
Look out below
All for the price of a $15 cabana. We had an afternoon at Jibe City where the boys played on the beach and Julie took a wind surfing lesson. Then a couple more days on the Harbour Village Resort’s beach with more snorkeling. The boys made friends with the iguanas. We had a morning dinghy ride each day. They think our dinghy is definitely hot stuff. Owen is an avid fisherman so I managed to get him onto a couple fish off our docks. Julie and Janet talked about everything and kids and Russ and I solved the world’s problems.
Prior to lift off.

Mutton Snapper
Atlantic Thread Herring
The family that fishes together........
He does, however, have entirely too much faith in the future of self driving cars. Now me, after a lifetime of monitoring aircraft systems that should be in a “nothing can go wrong” mode, I am probably far too cynical and have little faith in automatic systems unless monitored by at least one very professional person who’s awake at all times. The future will tell.
Chad and Jerry
So it was lonely after they departed. We miss them all and we miss Jerry and Chad and our cruising friends. And we’re beginning to get homesick after four months on the boat. The stem balls for the stainless steel rod rigging that forms our lower shrouds, the shrouds we will be replacing, are supposed to be at the supplier in the Ft. Lauderdale today. If he does receive them he’ll get the new shrouds shipped tomorrow and we’ll have them in a couple days. A day or two of work on the rig and we’ll be ready to depart only a few days later than we had planned. Then it will be off to Cartagena with perhaps a couple stops enroute, then to the San Blas islands of Panama and then Panama itself.
Wish us luck

Love to all,
Bill & Janet Wickman
SV Airstream