Saturday, September 29, 2007

Maria, Maria, Maria

September 23, 2007  Sunday

Tonight a pot luck dinner was held in the Club Nautico clubhouse/bar/restaurant.  They put out a large grill, tongs and flatware with napkins.  Each person/couple brings their own meat/fish/chicken to grill and a dish to share with everyone else in attendance.  You are expected to purchase beverages from the bar, although you are allowed to bring a bottle of wine if you want because the bar does not sell wine.  Wine is expensive in Colombia for some reason.

I spent most of the evening talking with a German couple who have been cruising for 15 years.  They told me a lot about cruising in the Med, very little of which information was positive --- expensive, way over crowded, expensive, difficult officials in some countries, expensive, too many regulations, expensive, contrary winds or no winds at all; and, oh, did I mention that it is very expensive.  In their opinions the only places to visit in the Med in a cruising yacht are Turkey and Tunisia.  They also told me that Croatia charges $600 USD cruising permit, whether you visit for one week or a year.  Croatia also charges a fee even when you anchor.  This couple did not visit Croatia because the fees were too expensive.  Also, FWIW, I learned that today diesel costs equivalent of $8 USD per gallon in Turkey.  Uh, yeah….. it really does sound expensive in the Med.

Tonight I talked with my friend Barbara back in Texas.  She has recently discovered Skype.  I am not a Chatty Cathy on the phone (that is more Bill’s department) and I rarely call anyone, but it was nice to hear Barbara’s voice and catch up on what’s going on.  Her grandson Jake certainly has quite the Texas accent. 

A diver cleaned the barnacles off our prop today and also off our lines tied underwater to the cable mooring system.  A pilot from the boatyard is scheduled to arrive about 8 a.m. so we can get to the travel lift during high tide because the entrance is so shallow.  High tide is only about 8 inches here; but with our deep draft and the shallow entrance, we will need those additional 8 inches of water under our keel!

September 29, 2007  Saturday
Back at the marina again.

It has been a busy week.  The pilot arrived as scheduled Monday morning and guided us through the mangrove channels to the travel lift during high tide.  There was a whopping 1.8 feet of water under our keel when we reached the travel lift slip.   Lifting the boat was a challenge for several reasons: obviously the boat must be lifted enough for the deep draft keel to clear the ground surface and the 40-ton travel lift was not very tall, plus the width of our beam caused a problem.  The travel lift has a large I-beam along each side, connecting the cables that hold the lifting bands which slip beneath the boat.  As they would lift the boat and the weight of the boat would settle onto the lifting bands, these steel I-beams moved closer together and pressed against our stainless steel life rail and stanchions.  We very obviously did not want our life rail bent or the stanchions broken loose from their base along the toe rail.  It required a great deal of maneuvering to get both beams placed higher than the life rail and also not pressing against mainmast shrouds.  Two hours after beginning the lifting procedure, we were finally in place in the yard with chocks and ladder and ready for work to begin.

We stayed at the yard all day Monday and watched workers doing the various little maintenance jobs.  The taxi arrived at about 4 o’clock to take us to the hotel, and we were more than ready to go.  We stayed at Tres Banderas (Hotel 3 Banderas) in the San Diego section of Old Town Cartagena, which is located half a block from Plaza San Diego.  This is a small boutique hotel and was fine for our needs.  It was about one-fourth the price of the Santa Clara Hotel, which is part of the Sofitel chain and located directly across the street from Plaza San Diego.

Each morning the taxi would arrive about 9:30 to take Bill to the boatyard.   Bill would check on the work being performed and the taxi would arrive about 4 o’clock to bring him back to the hotel.  I walked around the San Diego district on Tuesday but didn’t really enjoy it very much.  Lots of interesting things to see and the people watching was great, but everyone stared at the single gringo woman and it made me feel conspicuous; so on Wednesday and Thursday I pretty much stayed in the hotel room watching television and playing on the computer all day.  When Bill got back to the hotel each day then we would walk around and search out restaurants.  We enjoyed an outstanding Italian dinner with a superb bottle of Spanish wine at restaurant Da Danni.   Really enjoyed the bar in the Santa Clara Hotel, very sophisticated and great music.  One night I had a Martini Bugs Bunny.  Wish we had brought a camera.  Never had an orange martini before, especially one served with a paper-thin slice of carrot garnishing the rim of the glass.  Bill thought I was crazy for ordering such a thing, but he also knows that I always order the most usual thing on any menu.  After all, you can always have ordinary at home; you should try different things when you have the opportunity.  Must say, don’t think I will be having another Martini Bugs Bunny.  One was enough.

Our best evening in town was our final night in the hotel.  We walked along the top of “the wall” along the beach road.  This wall is about 50-feet wide.  I had no idea it was so thick until we reached the top.  We walked down from the wall in an area of town that we had not seen before.  Several small tourist buses were unloading passengers in this area and there were rows of shops, all selling things we aren’t interested in buying.  Amongst these shops was the neatest bar – dedicated to bull fighters.  There were framed posters advertising bull fights in Spain spanning 30 years, along with lots of photos of individual bull fighters in action.  They even had half-dozen mounted bulls’ heads hanging on the walls.  We know nothing about bull fighting; but from what we could gather from some of the pictures and diagrams of bulls, there are names for each shape of bull.  These did not appear to be specific species of bulls, just different body shapes.  This is not a topic that I want to research but did enjoy looking at all the memorabilia.  The proprietor talked to us for a long time.  The first thing he said was “Welcome to my country.”  He was very proud of his country and wanted to make sure that we are enjoying Colombia.  He told us his name was Colombia.  He is a very friendly man and we truly enjoyed talking with him.

 Then we walked the street a bit and came across a street vendor selling hot dogs.  Bill is not a hot dog kind of guy, but he wanted to try one.  He also enjoyed standing around and visiting with the vendor.  This man said that he sets up in the same place each day, and that he sells approximately 700 hot dogs every day.  Wow!  That seems like a lot, but he certainly did have a steady stream of customers while we were standing in the area and watching.  For 2 mil (2,000 pesos is called 2 mil – about 90 cents US) you get a good-sized hot dog on a delicious bun, topped with finely chopped onions and crushed potato chips with streams of mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise and 2 other sauces that we couldn’t identify.  They were great; so good that we bought a third one to split. 

Then we spotted a street vendor selling arepas con queso.  I love arepas.  These are made from corn flour and look like corn tortillas on steroids, about ¼-inch thick.  Arepas are heated on a flat griddle or skillet.  Then the vendor would slice partially like you might open pita bread to fill as a sandwich, and he would place a slather of a creamy white cheese inside the hot arepa and hand it to you wrapped in a paper napkin.  This is not cream cheese as we know it in the states; it tastes different.  I buy arepas in the supermarket and have them for breakfast.

We had an evening of hot dogs, arepas, grape drink and beer.  This was our least expensive evening out so far in Cartagena and one of the most enjoyable.  Bill called it our night of getting to know Colombia since we were out among the locals in their city neighborhood environment. 

The taxi picked us up early on Friday morning so we could arrive at the boatyard at 8 o’clock.  Everything was supposed to be finished Friday morning.  High tide was shortly after noon, so we wanted to be back in the water immediately after lunch.  Our boat was cradled in the travel lift; the workers broke for lunch; and when the “end lunch” whistle sounded the travel lift started moving us to the travel lift slip.  Going back into the water was much easier than lifting out for some reason.  There was not a bit of trouble with those steel beams pressing against our life rail or stanchions.  We followed our chartplotter track of the way we came in, and getting out was simple.  Arrived back in the marina and tied up and everything is now back to normal.  Good to be back in our home.

A couple of things were of interest in the boatyard.  First was that a boat that had been sitting for months in a marina was seized by the Colombian government because the man who claimed to be the owner could not provide documentation proving that he was indeed the owner.  So the port authorities impounded the boat and had it delivered to Ferroaquilmar boatyard.  This boat was literally covered in barnacles.  The barnacles had to be 4-inches thick.  There were even oysters growing on it!  There is a photo attached to this posting so you can see how badly the barnacles grow here in CartagenaCartagena is supposed to be the worst place in the entire world for barnacle growth.  You need to have a diver clean your prop and check the bottom every 2 weeks while your boat is in the water here.  This costs only about $15.

The second thing was a Venezuelan looking fishing boat that arrived Thursday morning.  Do not know how that boat made its way to the travel lift area because it was large and had no working motor.  At one point this boat went aground and a single man pushed it back into water deep enough for it to float.   The boat was too big to fit into the travel lift slip, so they used 2 cranes to lift it and move it to a work area of the yard.   The men who had come on the boat then started working on it.  This is a wooden boat and many planks on the hull needed replacing.  These men were using the only tools they had available and were doing a darn good job of repairing that boat.  They had an ax, a pick ax and a machete.  The only thing they used for making measurements was a divider compass and pencil.  It is amazing to see what these people can accomplish with whatever tools and materials are available.   They have learned to make do with what they have.

This morning our anchor chain was delivered; we were not expecting it back so soon.  The chain was fine but we had it re-galvanized anyway in hopes that it will last several years longer.  We wanted to take advantage of being docked at a marina and also being in a country where it is still possible to have this done.   A man in a dinghy comes to the bow of your boat and you use the electric windlass to lower your anchor chain into the dinghy.  It is taken to Barranquilla where it is hot-dipped into the zinc mixture and tumbled.  Tumbling is very important so that the zinc doesn’t clump and fill up some of the chain links.  The chain is then delivered in the dinghy back to the bow of your boat and you use the electric windlass to haul it all back into the chain locker.  Talk about making hard work easy!  The whole process takes a couple of weeks and we were not expecting our chain back until next Wednesday.  The chain looks brand new again for a fraction of the cost of replacement. 

We had purchased an additional 25 meters of chain in Grenada.  Then we ordered a quick-connect link and that was delivered to us when Aaron and the kids visited in Bonaire.  Bill first put the new 25 meters into the chain locker and then used the quick-connect link to connect it to the old chain, then used the windlass to lower all the chain back into the chain locker.  So now we have slightly more than 100 meters of anchor chain on our primary anchor.   We also will have the quick-connect link spot-welded before we leave Cartagena.  That isn’t necessary but would make us feel more secure.

Remember the fruit lady who I mentioned recently?  She walks around daily with a large bowl of fruit on her head and calls out what type fruits she has available to sell.  She also has a tiny machete in that bowl and will cut up the fruits you select to make you an on-the-spot fresh fruit salad.  Well, she came by to visit one day.  She was walking down the dock last Sunday and saw Bill, and she asked him if she could come aboard our boat.  Mind you, she was speaking Spanish; so something might have been lost in the translation; but that is what Bill believes she said to him.   It was her day off from regular work, so she did not have the large bowl of fruit on her head.  I was down below and heard Bill calling me to come into the cockpit because we had a visitor.  We sat in the cockpit and talked in Spanglish for about half an hour.  Her name is Maria, Maria, Maria.  Why you have to say Maria 3 times, we have no idea; but she says her name that way.  She was nice and we enjoyed chatting with her but still are puzzled why she wanted to come sit and talk on our boat.  She did not go to any other boat at this marina to visit.  Guess we seemed special to her in some unknown way.

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