Thursday, January 27, 2011


It is approximately 110 miles from Santa Marta to Cartagena. Most people leave Santa Marta in the afternoon, sail all day and night and arrive in Cartagena in the morning. We decide to break it up into two days. We have heard there is a nice little anchorage half way to Cartagena. We decide to see for ourselves.

We leave Santa Marta at sunrise. Our biggest obstacle today will be to cross the Rio Magdalena River. It is a very big river that begins in the mountains of Colombia. It rushes down to the ocean at the big city of Baranquilla. It carries mud, cars, houses, trees, animals and other assorted hazards out into the ocean. The debris field can be wide and reach many miles out to sea. There are many thoughts on how you should pass through this minefield. Some boaters stay far offshore, some believe passing close to shore makes the crossing shorter. It has not rained in the last two weeks so we decide 4 miles offshore will be just about right.

The water is muddy but we don't find any interesting objects. Not even a plastic bag. It is a bit choppy but only 3 miles across. No problem.

Our anchorage for the night is a nice big inlet. There are thatched roof cabanas along the beach. As we come into the bay we are greeted by windsurfers. They are a friendly bunch. We go ashore and talk to the locals. This is a very popular spot for Colombians. We are told there is a big marina planned for this area.

In the morning Punta Hermosa is lovely.

The captain, however, has developed a fever and severe body aches during the night. He is sick this morning and we have to decide if we stay here until he feels better or should we continue on?? We decide to go the rest of the way to Cartagena. It is an easy trip. Along with our friends on Bamboo, Anne can easily get us there.

The captain sleeps as we motor sail to Cartagena. It is a nice trip, not much wind and gentle seas.

Our third crew member is a big help. Meet Mr. Autopilot, aka Otto.

There are two entrances into the very large bay of Cartagena. The closest entrance, known as Boca Grande, has a submerged wall beneath the surface of the ocean. The Spaniards built this wall hundred of years ago to keep out rif raf like the English and French. It worked then and it works now. If you do not come right in between the two channel markers you will more than likely hit the wall. Not something we want to do today. Bamboo has been here before and they do a great job leading Fine Line right into the bay.

Around the corner, a statue of the Virgin greets you and you can let out a sigh of relief and give your thanks to her.

Anchored deep in the bay, the evening displays the lights of Boca Grande, a very upscale neighborhood.
Boca Grande is also the home of the Cartagena Navy. There is a naval hospital here that serves not only the Colombian navy but they offer very good medical services to the general public. We become very familiar with the physicians here. Turns out Steve has been bitten by a Dengue mosquito in Santa Marta and he now has Dengue Fever. Also known as "break bone fever" it has taken a toll on him. Fever, pain, malaise, loss of appetite, low platelet count and low white blood cells are all hallmarks of this nasty fever.

There is no medicine to make it go away but IV fluids and observation is the ticket. After a week he begins to recover enough to make his way ashore to see some sights.

There are many boaters here and it is a very close knit community. If you need something, just ask. We are invited to join a city tour via an airconditioned bus. Steve feels he can make the trip and is anxious to see the beautiful city of Cartagena.

Our tour guide is Alexander Rocha. Alex was born in Cartagena. He speaks very good English which is not very common here. The kids are beginning to learn English here but most of the older generation do not speak a word. It makes us wish we had paid more attention in Spanish class.

Our trip begins in the late afternoon. Even though we are in an airconditioned bus, we will be doing some hiking around. It is very hot here during the day but around 4 pm the breeze comes up and it is very pleasant. Our first stop is the
Convento de la Candelaria, also called La Popa. This picture is from the internet. The hilltop location of La Popa was extremely helpful to the Colombians during the many battles fought here not only with foreigners but also during the struggle for independence from Spain. Inside the convent you see the beautiful arches of the colonial architecture.

The church is magnificent.

Our next stop is the fort know as San Felipe de Barajas located on a strategic hill overlooking the old city of Cartagena. It was built in the 16th and 17th century, taking 200 years to complete. It was the site of many battles.

Inside and under the fort you will find a maze of tunnels. Designed by the Spaniards as not only escape routes for the troops, these tunnels also served as attack points. The Spanish soldiers would run into the tunnels. The English or French would follow, get disoriented and, voila, you can imagine the carnage.

Along the narrow tunnel are small indentations where the soldiers slept. Guess they did not have claustrophobia. Restored cannons display the heavy fortification of this very important fort.

This city has many contrasts.

The next day is a trip to the Botanical Garden of Cartagena.

A large 200 year old tree. These are the type of trees used for dugout canoes. Still made today.


Cactus can grow anywhere.

A drum tree. Great percussion.

Later at our lunch stop at a local farm (finca) we were entertained by this Spider Monkey.

The old walled city of Cartagena is beautiful. The Spanish guarded this city well by building a wall around the entire city. It took over 200 years but it still stands today.

Once inside you are transformed to a different time. Narrow streets and alleys lead you around the city.

You are transformed to an earlier time...a few exceptions

Great statues

Inside courtyards are cool and calm.

The older buildings have big doors with a smaller door set inside. The small doors were used by servants and the big doors were opened when important people came to visit. A great way to impress your neighbor.

There are coffee vendors in every plaza. 10-25 cents will buy you a small (tinto) cup of sweet coffee. Just perfect during an early morning walk.

Something stronger maybe?

If you need a legal document drafted, this is your corner. Sit right down.

You do get real thirsty in the heat.

You can walk for hours. There is plenty of shopping opportunity. Cartagena is known for its emeralds, gold and leather. It is not cheap but you can bargain all day long and if you have enough perserverance you can walk away with a good deal.

A beautiful city.

Our next stop is a lovely lagoon 22 miles to the west. We are still traveling the coast of Colombia and will not be in Panama for another 2-3 weeks. Internet will be spotty from here on out so the next blog post may be delayed. Steve is feeling better and we hope he is back to 100% in another week or two.
Anne and Steve
S/V Fine Line

Friday, January 14, 2011

Around Town Santa Marta

Santa Marta has been a great stop for us. Here are some of our favorite photos and places to visit.

Christmas in Santa Marta. Our little Christmas tree we purchased before leaving Aruba. All dressed up

Downtown Santa Marta

Christmas Eve dinner at Agave Azul. American owned and operated. Great food.
A bit of rain but at least it is warm

Soaked to the skin Christmas Eve

A few days later, great weather so Steve goes up the mast for some maintenance work

Great view of the coastline

City view Our favorite trip here was to a small mountain town called Minca. We stayed at a cute little B&B.

Locals flock here for the holidays. Cool temperatures and great family time along the Minca River

Soup is a local favorite. Anything and everything goes into the pot

Local bridge crossing


Hanging out at Sierra's Sound. The couple who own this B&B are also the owners of the Crock Farm

Next door is Dona Ana's kitchen. Excellent local food

Color is a big part of decor

Beautiful flowers grow wild

But just in case you need some delivered just call 1800 CARLOS

There is some great hiking in the mountains. A beautiful waterfall at the end makes the hike even better......even if it is a looooong hot hike

Along the way Along the way

Our guide spoke only Spanish. He was with us for the 4 hour hike. We learned some Spanish and in the end we paid him $10 and gave him a beer. He was a very happy guy

At the top

At the end of the day a well deserved rest and cold beerOur patient guide trying to teach us the Spanish name for the large Bambo.
Can you say "guadua".

A little dancing in town. The local men love Roxanne
A pato

Local church

Steve and his mustache are very popular here in Colombia. These men ran out of a bar and remembered seeing Steve a week ago in another town. Best friends now

And ofcourse that meant a dance with the wife of the man with the mustache

The Colombian tamal is fantastic. Made with banana leaves instead of corn husks

Lunch on the Minca River

Another favorite trip was to the neighboring village of Taganga. A real bohemian seaside village filled to capacity with vacationing Colombians and backpackers from all corners of the world Snowman at the seaside

Dugout canoe, still used for fishing

Taganga is a vacation spot but also a fishing village

Treehouse for rent

Hiking around the hills of Taganga. Next cove over is another popular beach

Taganga from above

Sunset over the Caribbean Sea

Friendly local

Back in Santa Marta, the streets are very safe and we walk every morning, soaking up the sights. Our favorite coffee vendor...see how popular Roxanne is

Feeling oppressed?

Working across the street from the Santa Marta cemetary

The best mojito, frappe style

Need some booze? Local marketplace sells just about anything

Trading in coal, using the rail for transport to the seaside....picture tells the whole story

Restored residence in old town Santa Marta

Sorry to disturb you

Las flores para la venta (flowers for sale)

Pescado para la venta
The chopping block
This hat or that hat?
Small but very sweet once they turn yellow. You can buy the whole stock for almost nothing. That's alot of banana bread
Peaceful, clean and quiet early in the morning
Boat kitty for Sid and Manuela?
Up late on New Year's eve
Good friends, great places
This has been a great stop
See you on Sunday in Cartagena.
Anne and Steve
S/V Fine Line