Denali Rose Ships Log - 10 November 2011
Jack and I flew into Curacao on September 10th, with four large duffle bags, two backpacks and two computer bags filled with boat parts and one change of clothes for each of us. Our boat, Denali Rose, had been stored on dry land for the hurricane season at Curacao Marine, the island's working boat repair yard. Because of boat insurance requirements, we could not launch until the 19th of the month. In the interim, we booked an efficiency apartment in a nice residential area a short distance from the boatyard. Our rental car was a tiny Chinese four-door called a Great Wall, but the letters had fallen off the trunk, so it now it reads "GreatW," and the glove box was held closed with a shoestring, but the engine and the AC worked.
Although Curacao is in the same time zone
as the Eastern Daylight Time so we had no jet lag, but we did need to adjust to
the tropical heat and humidity. One day at lunchtime, I (Fred) climbed into the
car and the inside temperature read 104º.
Jack finished painting the boat's hull, replaced the sacrificial zincs and we launched on schedule. About that time, he discovered that the diesel engine's stop solenoid had given up the ghost. Luckily, he found a new one that almost fit but required a new bracket to be custom made. Yes, there were replacements, identical to the old one, in the USA at half the cost BEFORE shipping and import duties. However, we had a proverbial "bird in the hand," with the Dutch one. In addition, with the local one, we would not be held hostage to the shipping gods; plus if we waited for the US solenoid to be mailed, it might bounce around for weeks through island customs offices and gather dust on island time. We simply could not chance it. If we wanted to be ready to head west when the forecast was right, we could not delay our departure. So, we bought the Dutch one, made a new bracket, welded the metric thread to the USA thread connector, Jack installed it and we were off to Aruba. On the way there, 10 dolphins romped and played beside our boat's bow as if to say, "Happy Birthday, Jack!"
Hello Aruba! There is nothing as gratifying as arriving at a familiar place and finding the same friendly people there to greet you. I just wish every Caribbean island had a marina as well run as the Renaissance Marina in Aruba! While there, we also had dinner with our friend, Janine, and her very nice friend, Gerome. We also met fellow boaters, Michele and his wife, Pamela and their three children from Toronto, Canada, aboard a sailing ketch called Viatrix. They were also sailing to Colombia, so we had a buddy boat heading west with us.
talked with weather expert, Chris Parker, each morning and they agreed that we
should leave Aruba for Colombia, Wednesday, October 5th. This was a shakedown
cruise for our AIS (Automatic Identification System) that shows us where commercial
shipping vessels are, their ship's name, current heading and location, and it
shows them where we are. As we were passing a commercial freighter, it looked
like it was sitting still. Suddenly, it started moving and crossed right in front
of us, at less than a half a mile. Our AIS set off its alarm, Jack radioed to
the ship and the man at its helm calmly said, "Yes we see you, please pass
behind us." Jack proudly told me this incident had paid for the AIS!
Why were we leaving in the dark of night? You might ask. The answer is that we needed to arrive during daylight hours when we reached the mouth of a huge river farther ahead of us, called the Rio Magdalena. This river drains 1/4 of the country of Colombia into the Caribbean Sea. During the rainy season, entire trees and other debris (very unfriendly to sailboats) float out the mouth, which is two miles wide. Sure enough, when we arrived at the river, we watched the blue/green Caribbean waters turn a cocoa brown and carried small islands of water hyacinths and small logs across our path.
Late that afternoon we arrived at our final anchorage, Punta Hermosa, where we dropped the anchor behind a natural jetty, in protected waters. Cool and gentle breezes lulled us to sleep shortly after sunset. It was a good thing, since we needed to raise the anchor at dawn to reach our final destination, Cartagena, and the Club de Pesca Marina, before dark.
Neptune decided that our quota of fair winds had expired and it was payback time. The changed direction and came at us from the nose. To explain this, picture yourself riding, sidesaddle, on a 43-foot rocking horse, on a lumpy carpet; then, continue galloping along for six hours. That was our final hours before turning into protected harbor at Cartagena. Little did we know that we were arriving on the Saturday afternoon of a three-day holiday weekend. The marina staff was waiting to grab our lines (in Spanish the lines are "sogas"). We were tired and sore, but we were very happy to finally arrive. Jack had started researching this trek three years ago; all his hard work paid off. To celebrate, we popped the cork on the Prosecco bubbly we had brought from Curacao.
From the stern of our boat, we have free entertainment here each weekend. We can looks over to the fuel dock frequented by local babe magnet powerboats and macho fishing boats. According to Jack, watching the big power boat captains jockeying to get fill their tanks is a great show, free of commercials!
That first afternoon, after connecting to shore power (110-volts) and to the water line, we walked down the dock looking for dinner. That is when we learned that the marina was deserted and closed. Since it was a three-day weekend for something, they just closed up with only security and thank goodness, the bartender! This marina had one of the top restaurants but it was closed for the holiday! He told us about another restaurant nearby but it was dark and we were new to town. He could see we were reluctant to venture out the gate. He said, wait a moment, please. He went back to the cook, who was preparing dinner for the employees and they took pity on us. Within minutes, he served us fresh sea bass filets, French fries, and a salad! The tab came to $50 including a few drinks, but worth every peso. What a wonderful welcome to Cartagena!
Thanks to the many international cruisers here in the harbor, we have found a local Spanish teacher who comes to our boat twice a week to teach us the language. Already we feel at ease hailing a cab to tour museums and the shopping mall, etc. Each weekday, the boaters use the marine radio to broadcast an informal "cruisers' net," covering current local weather, security and medical incident reports, help for fellow cruisers and upcoming events. I volunteered to run the Friday morning broadcast and Jack reports the weather, which he pulls down from the internet.
Cartagena has a population of over 1 million people and thanks to our boating friends here, we have also found a local carpenter and brass refinisher to help us renovate the boat. Yes, our boat, Denali Rose, is on the market for sale, and while we have received some initial nibbles, we are taking our boat broker's advice: only work on projects that you will enjoy yourselves. Part of the enjoyment of working on these "nice to have" boat projects is meeting the artisans and speaking with them in Spanish. We never leave the boat without a dictionary, a map and a cell phone. We never know how long it will take to find the correct place, but we know that once we have found it, we will be richer in experience from the adventure.
Yesterday, as part of Cartagena's 200th liberation festivities, kids dress as devils (similar to our Trick-or-Treat) and we had been advised to carry small change (100 pesos = $.05 cents US) to give to them. Sure enough, we met some 6-year-old boys who acted ferocious dragging a classmate dressed as a devil, but were thrilled to find that two Norte Americanos (North Americans) knew about the tradition and forked over the coins!
We look forward to the Miss Colombia beauty contest here next week, Thanksgiving celebrated with fellow cruisers and the Christmas holidays in the "land where palm trees sway." In January we head to the remote San Blas islands in Panama.
Here is the website Jack created to sell our boat: https://sites.google.com/site/nauticat43forsalesvdenalirose/
Susan "Fred" and Jack Webb