Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Aruba to Santa Marta Colombia

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

We are in Santa Marta Colombia for the holidays. We had a great sail from Aruba. Here is the story. We are happy to join up with our friends Bill and Roxanne on Bamboo. We are going to make the trip from Aruba to Santa Marta Colombia together. It is always safer to travel with other boats. The coastline of Colombia can be a very treacherous. Not because of pirates or other bad guys, it is the seas and winds that can become malevolent without much notice. We have picked a very nice "weather window" for this trip so we are confident we will have a nice sail.

Fine Line is a little late out of the anchorage for our early morning departure and Bamboo has a good lead on us. No we are not racing. No we are not racing. No we are..........

Steve is wearing his new safety gear while on deck. With the bright yellow I will surely spot him if he falls overboard.....another perk of the helmet.

Sailing along we get out the cameras and snap a shot of Bamboo sinking

Back up she comes. There is a bit of seas, 6-8 feet. Not bad since they are coming mostly from the back.

Up close and personal. Smile :)

Later we catch a picture of Bamboo with her Gennaker sail up. This sail is used when the wind is coming from behind. It is a fun sail and helps us sail along at a nice speed of 8-9 knots.

7 hours later we spot our destination for the night. Islotes los Monjes belongs to Venezuela and is used primarily by fishermen. It used to be two rocks but the Venezuelan government connected the two with a rock and cement dam. They stretched a cable in the water where the fishermen can tie up their boats and rest in between fishing trips. Other boaters have told us it is OK to stop here, tie up your boat and sleep a bit before continuing on. Hmm, we approach carefully and check it out.

It is a bit of a chore getting our boats secure. The cable has lines on it and the lines are all tangled up. Anne jumps in and tries to produce some lines we can tie to. It is not a great setup and we are a bit leary of how this is going to work out. We are tired, however, and some sleep before we continue on would be nice. There is a Venezuelan Coast Guard station here and soon we have two young Coast Guard officers calling to us that they want to pay us a visit on our boats. They do not have a boat so we have to lower our small dinghy and go get them. Go figure...Coast Guard with no boat. They do actually have a small row boat but they prefer us to come and get them. They are nice and we give them a coke and cookies. They fill out their Coast Guard paperwork and then they do a safety inspection. When they are all finished Steve gives them a ride back to shore.

The Coast Guard accomodations on the shore are not fancy. There is a loud generator that roars all night long

A desolate lonely place. The Coast Guard tells us they are stationed here for a month :(
We leave Monje at 5am along with the fishermen. We are now heading to Cabo la Vela, about an 8 hour sail.
We get a little rain and a great rainbow.

There are lots of dolphins in the water. They love to swim along with us, diving under the hulls and surfing the waves behind us.

You can almost touch them.

We have another day of great sailing with the wind behind us. We anchor in a beautiful bay and the next morning we wake up to a beautiful day.

Bamboo in the early morning.

Cabo la Vela is a very small fishing village.
The sunrise is gorgeous.
We visit Bamboo later in the morning and survey their Gennaker. Yesterday, at the end of the sail, it exploded. The cloth literally shredded. Good thing they have an extra Gennaker. They have a very big boat that has lots of room for lots of extra things.
A visit ashore is in order later in the day. We are greeted very warmly by the locals. The kids are itching to get into our dinghy to play.

Their fathers tell them sternly to stay out. Thanks dads.
There are many small homes along the water. There is no running water and electricity is produced at specific times during the day via generator. The kids here seem very happy and can certainly entertain themselves. No Game Boys requried.

We walk around the village and practice our limited Spanish. We meet some tourist from Bogota and they tell us this is a nice resort area for Colombians to visit. They love the tranquility of the area. It is very tranquil....and if you need a little excitement there is internet available between 5-8pm at the local bodega.

Some local ladies try to sell their crafts to Bill. Little do they know he has no Colombian money and they do not use US dollars here.

We spend two nights anchored at Cabo la Vela and then we head out early in the morning. We are planning to do a little exploring along the coastline. Specifically, we want to check out the town of Riohacha.

It turns out to be a big city. There is no place to anchor and the water is very dirty.It looks like chocolate milk or????

We decide to keep going and it means a very long sail to the next possible anchoring destination of 5 Bays. The 5 Bays are known for their beauty but they are technically off limits to boaters because the Colombian Coast Guard cannot patrol the area and there is some concern of drug activities and thus potential violence. We are going to anchor there anyway. Just for one night.

We continue west. The little wind we have is no longer behind us and our progress is slow. We turn on one engine to help us along.

We pass a very unusual ship anchored very far from shore. It is about 150 feet deep here. We do not see anyone aboard and there are no small watercrafts near them. Wierd.

Evening approaches and we are still 4 hours away from our destination. We rarely enter an anchorage at night. An exception is when we know the bay well and there are no reefs or other potential hazards to our boat. Tonight we are going to make an another exception. First of all we have a full moon. Secondly, the bays are wide open and deep. Third, we have radar and big spotlights to assist with seeing any obstacles in our way.

Approaching the bays, the dark clouds enhance the sunset.

The moon comes up and plays peek-a-boo with the clouds. We are hoping it peeks when we need it.

It doesn't matter. The bay we choose to enter is called the third bay and it is lit up nicely. We crawl in slow and the only obstacles we see are a few fishing bouys. We make our way as far in towards the shore as we dare and drop our anchors in 35 feet of water. We sleep soundly after our 17 hour day and the next morning we wake up to a beautiful sight....are we in a Norway? It looks like a fjord with the mountains in the background. No snow, thank goodness.
It is so pretty here we decide to stay. The fishermen are friendly and the coastline is beautiful. We get into the dinghy for some exploring. There are homes hidden in the trees. People peek out at us. Some of the buidlings look abandoned.

There are caves along the cliffs
The fishermen are busy throwing out their nets and capturing small fish. Later they will fry them in oil and eat them whole. Very tasty. Yep, one of us has tried them. Guess who?
A beautiful Blue Heron flies by us a few times.
We find treasures on the beach. Unfortunately lots of trash floats ashore here but there are also lots of interesting seeds than can be polished and made into jewelry, wind chimes, art work, etc. It is time to go. Santa Marta is 2 hours west. It is another great day. As we leave the bay we will negotiate a narrow channel between the mainland and a small rock island. A nice short cut. In bad weather you go around the rock island because the waves break in the channel on the submerged reef. Today is nice so we take the shortcut.
Easy to see.
Bamboo decides to try the other side of the reef.
In the distance we see Santa Marta. It is a busy port. There is a large Dole plantation here and the Dole ships come in almost daily. There is also a cruise ship in the harbor every Sunday. We call the marina and we are greeted on the radio by "John" the dockmaster. John speaks perfect English. What a relief.
We are spending a few weeks here in Santa Marta. It is a wonderful city. We will have lots of photos to share soon.
Almost 2011!
Anne and Steve
S/V Fine Line

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Aruba, The Cliff Notes

This is Aruba. Beautiful beaches, big hotels, great restaurants. A perfect island escape for those seeking water, sun, sand and rum. We borrowed this photo from the internet. It is the view from Playa Linda on the west shore of Aruba. There are miles and miles of high end hotels on the beach each with it's own beach bar, beach chairs and crystal clear water. Those of us living on sailboats, however, are more interested in the day to day things like who is coming and going and should we have a party for them? Here our friend Roxanne put together a little party to welcome her husband Bill back to the boat. Seems Bill had been in Ohio, deep in snow and he was very happy to be back on his boat Bamboo. Bamboo is a bigger and newer version of our boat. It is gorgeous. We get serious boat envy whenever we visit them.

We do not go out every night. Sometimes every other night..sometimes. We had heard of a very good Brazilian restaurant called The Amazonian. We take a bus up north to the hotel district and check out the eating possibilities. If you are homesick there are plenty of options. We are not homesick. Some of the restaurants are very enticing: the decor, the aromas, the lure of a cool drink

But we are very selective tonight. No Hooters, no Benihana.

Outside our restaurant, The Amazonian, we find a little bit of Christmas

Inside we find handsome men....wouldn't you eat here??

Roxanne is a vegetarian. She sees this salad bar and is in heaven.

The rest of us are carniverous. We do not pay much attention to the salad bar. Would you?

Any kind of meat you can dream of is on the skewer...well almost any kind. It can make you crazy trying to decide what to eat.

A little bit of everything for starters

Pineapple? Really? It is actually very very good he says

You can eat as much as you want just turn the green end up and they are back with more. Need a break? Red up. Easy.

One happy group of eaters.

We decide to try another island icon. Charlie's Bar has been on Aruba since World War Two. The orginial Charlie was from Holland and assisted islanders and the allies during the war when the Germans fired on ships and other targets on the island. The restaurant is now run by his grandson, Charles III.

Inside is full of memorabilia and other interesting items....using the term "interesting" liberally here. Remember it is a bar.
Even the BR has been decorated.

Still smiling

Back on our boat we get to enjoy the cruise ships. Also smiling. Notice how nice and calm the anchorage is.

It is an absolute idyllic place. An occasional boat wake, sometimes a little chop, never a swell except

on very very rare occasions the wind and seas reverse themselves due to a frontal system to the north. We wake up and the boat is rocking. Behind us we see a wave break. Wishing for a minute we had a boogie board. But only for a minute because

The waves are getting bigger. Soon we are sideways to the swell and it looks like we may get pushed into the reef. Up comes the anchor and away we go to hide out behind a little island.

Later we venture out to go ashore. On our way back to the boat we get up close and personal to the seas. In our little dingy we can surf the waves but on this trip we have precious cargo onboard so we cautiously negotiate the waves.

Back in our safe anchorage it is a beautiful evening.

The seas are settling down finally and we have decide to head west soon along the Columbian Coast. This is uncharted territory for us. We will be cruising with our friends Bill and Roxanne on Bamboo. Our trip looks like this for day one and two: Aruba to Isla Monjes ( a rock with an interesting anchorage. Pictures in next blog). Next day Isla Monjes to Cabo de la Vela.

And day three will be Cabo de la Vela to Santa Marta. The three day trip will cover approximately 260 miles.

We are on our way tomorrow. Bon Voyage

Anne and Steve

Onboard S/V Fine Line