October 13, 2007 Saturday
Bill spent the past 2 days working his little skinny butt off! Thursday morning he decided it was time to clean the saltwater strainer for the sea chest. Oooohhhh….that was nasty! It was so clogged with tiny bits of sea grass that I am surprised that it allowed sufficient flow for the air conditioners and toilets to work properly. Then he decided that since he was already hot and sweaty that he would also clean out our sump bilge. He does this every 3 months or so. Well, that turned into a major project!
He borrowed a wet/dry vac from Paul on BLUEPRINT MATCH. (We really have to buy one of those…..if we can ever find one that is 220v-50hz.) When he suctioned out the bottom 2-inches of water in the sump bilge, he could see that the copper ground strap had broken. The ground strap connects wiring, engine, generator, fuel tank and other things to a keel bolt at the bottom of the sump bilge. This ground strap was intact when Bill cleaned out the sump bilge when we did the haul-out in
June. So sometime between mid-June and
mid-September the copper ground strap had corroded in two. Really not a good thing! Bill had noticed when we were hauled out here
recently that the new zincs on the rudder looked abnormally corroded for 3
months use. And the ground plate for the
SSB radio looked corroded, something which we had never noticed before. Bill was concerned about both of these and
was worried about galvanic corrosion. He
had noticed an electrical wire hanging in the water from the boat next to us
last week. There was a taped splice
actually in the water!!!! When Alberto
dived to check our prop for barnacles, he received an electrical shock when he
touched the prop. Hey…people could get
killed that way! We told the dock master
and he rectified it immediately and will be chastising the caretaker of that
boat for carelessness. Cartagena
Bill found our trusty worker-friend Alberto. If anyone knows where to find items needed for working on a boat in
, it is Alberto. Alberto examined the bilge and ground strap
arrangement and off he and Bill went to find the copper for replacement. They were back in about half an hour with a
perfectly sized strip of copper. It was
1/8-inch thick and 2-inches wide. They
bent it in the appropriate dimensions for a proper fit and made a hole to
connect to the keel bolt. This was not a
simple job! Plus, like everything on a
boat, access was torturous! The keel
bolt is more than 3 feet down in the sump bilge. The bilge sides make an opening of only about
18-inches by 12-inches. Try reaching
3-feet down when you can’t get into the opening! Bill thought he was becoming a
contortionist. But it finally was
securely in place. Cartagena
Today Bill worked on getting the wires attached to the upper end of the new ground strap. This required trips to 2 stores for terminators (why is it that no matter what spares you have onboard they are never the right size?), and it took half the day to finish this project. After many exclamations of distressed words that shan’t be repeated here, Bill finished the job by early afternoon. Hope this new thicker ground strap lasts longer than the original one did.
October 16, 2007 Tuesday
Think I mentioned last week how tiny the taxis are here in
Cartagena. Most seat only 4 people, the driver and 3
passengers. These are all either
Chevrolets or Toyotas and the two brands look identical. We have never seen these tiny Chevrolets or
Toyotas in the states. There are also a
couple other modes of public transportation in addition to the normal busses. There are bicycles with covered 2-passenger
trailers attached on the rear; remind me of rickshaws. We often see housekeepers or nannies picking
up small children from school or doing household shopping using these bicycle
taxis. They are most often seen in the
middle-class residential neighborhood on Isla Manga. These are just standard old-fashioned
bicycles so the driver must have strong legs.
Then there are these small motorcycles that one sees zipping all over
the place. If the driver is alone on the
motorcycle, he will be wearing an orange vest with large numbers across the
back. He wears a helmet and also carries
a second helmet, usually on the left handlebar.
This second helmet is for when he picks up a passenger. He may or may not also give the passenger an
orange vest with the same numbers on the back.
These are the numbers of his license to operate as a single passenger
taxi. These motorcycle taxis are most popular
with young women, but we have also seen a few men using them. We assume this is an inexpensive form of taxi
service. We have also seen police check
points to confirm that the driver’s license to operate a motorcycle taxi is
current. If the license is not current
then the motorcycle is confiscated and placed inside the back of a large police
truck. Don’t think they haul the person
to jail, but they definitely take away his motorcycle. The bicycle taxis do not appear to require
any special license to operate.
Yesterday SCOTT FREE (Heather & Scott) and UNPLUGGED (Tom & Colleen) arrived here in
Cartagena. UNPLUGGED arrived and anchored under sail
because their prop was fouled so badly with vegetation that they could not use
the engine. Both boats had enjoyed a
leisurely 10-day coastal passage from Aruba. They said there was almost no wind and they
either motored or motor-sailed the entire way.
Quite a difference from the strong winds we experienced when we made the
offshore passage from Curacao and over the top of Aruba down to Cartagena. They enjoyed all their stops along the coast
and found all the people to be very friendly. In fact, they did a bit of land exploration
at each of their stops along the Colombian coast. The bad stories that one hears about cruising
the coast of Colombia
are blown way out of proportion. We have
not talked to one person who has had a bad experience except for the guy who
anchored in Los Rosarios and was boarded; and he was anchored at the island
closest to the mainland and completely away from the rest of the Rosarios islands. He chased the 2 guys off the boat and took
away their weapons. Sounded like pretty
inexperienced criminals to us. Los
Rosarios is a group of small islands about 20 miles south of Cartagena.
Maybe there is more danger in the coastal areas of Colombia between Cartagena
and Panama, but it appears
to be quite safe in the other direction from Cartagena
It is not safe to travel inland in most of Colombia yet; but the coastal areas
appear to be just fine. If you plan to
travel inland from Cartagena,
it is safest to do it by plane.
Probable change of plans --- again! As most cruisers say: our plans are written in jello.
We are now toying with the idea of cruising up and back down the western side of the
Caribbean next year;
and delaying heading to the South Pacific until spring 2009. I am ready to head towards New Zealand,
but Bill still is not keen on the idea of crossing the Pacific; he doesn’t want
to commit to the time required to sail completely around the world. And he believes that once we go through the
canal that we would be forced to continue all the way around. There are other options: like the Sea of Cortez,
Ecuador, Peru and Chile. (Did you know there is a canal system in Chile that
sailboats can cruise?) Anyway, since we
will already be in Panama it
makes sense to continue up to Guatemala
or Belize and Honduras; then back down to San Blas Islands
again and maybe even back to Cartagena
for a few months. Gives Bill another
year to maybe get more interested in doing the South Pacific. We will have to make our decision on this by
the end of the year because our insurance renews in January and we will need to
tell them the geographic boundaries for which we want coverage for 2008.
October 19, 2007 Friday
Wednesday was a fun day for me; not so fun for Bill. Bill was filling our water tank with dock water because we certainly would not operate our watermaker in this filthy water. He got busy doing something on a computer. It wasn’t until the water was overflowing into the main saloon that he finally realized what was happening. The water only got into 2 floor lockers but that meant Bill had to completely empty those 2 lockers; dry everything; and then replace the contents. It is a good idea to go through lockers every now and then, but this was not how he planned to spend that particular day.
My fun day was visiting thrift shops down in what we would call the barrio. Judi on FIA has been in
more than 5 months and she has been just about everywhere during that
time. She is the “social director” for
cruisers here now (every anchorage needs one).
So Judi agreed to show several of us where the thrift shops are
located. Joanne on CALICO JACK and Kim
accompanied us, and the 4 of us were actually able to squeeze into one of those
tiny taxis. Judi soon left us to our own
devices because she had errands to run.
They must leave Colombia
again soon because you are only allowed to be in Colombia a total of 6 months during
any calendar year. You initially get 60
days and can apply for a 30-day extension, then you leave the country; then you
can re-enter for another 60 days and then apply for another 30-day extension. After that second 90 days is up, you must
leave the country for the balance of that calendar year.
Joanne, Kim and I had a good time browsing through the thrift shops. These are really tiny “shops” in an alleyway. We were the only gringos in that area. A well-dressed young Colombian woman came up to Kim and Joanne and told them to hold their purses in front of their bodies so they wouldn’t be robbed ---this was in Spanish and that was the best we could make out of what she was saying to them. Both Kim and Joanne know lots more Spanish than I do. A few minutes later a Tourista Policia (armed with the obligatory big gun) arrived and proceeded to follow us around for the next hour. He stayed a couple of yards behind us and waited outside the entry of each “shop” while we browsed. Kim and Joanne didn’t even notice him until I pointed him out when we walked away from that alleyway. He followed us several more blocks down the main boulevard until we reached a “safer” area. He never said a word to us, but he was obviously alerted by someone that tourists were in the local market sector.
Cartagena does not want tourists robbed or
harassed in any way because they are trying desperately to get tourist business
back to the city like it used to be before their civil war and drug wars. This is the safest city we have ever visited
--- including any city in the US. BTW, this local market sector is the La
Matuna district of old town Cartagena
that I mentioned earlier. Guess that is
why there is no tourist information on La Matuna; it is just the main shopping
district for the locals. Very
interesting place. Wish I had brought a
camera, but I didn’t carry any purse or bag.
Instead I wore tight jeans --- no one can pick your pocket if you wear
tight jeans. People were cooking all
sorts of food in pots set up right on the sidewalk; some of which looked and smelled
My reason for this thrift shop expedition was to buy clothes to give to the Kuna children when we visit San Blas Islands next month. We are bringing clothes, candies and crayons and construction paper for the children; fishing hooks and nylon line for the men; and reading glasses and sewing needles for the women. Bill might also give some of his older tee-shirts to the men. We really won’t give these things to the Kuna because that creates a charity expectant society. Instead, we will trade these items for whatever the Kuna have to offer. A kid can bring us a pretty shell and get a pair of shorts or a tee-shirt, but he must give us something to trade. We don’t want them to start expecting hand-outs from visitors.
After we completed our bargain purchases we walked down the main boulevard to Vivero. Vivero is a 3-story business that could best be described as a
version of a Target or Wal-Mart. We
each made a few purchases and walked on.
This time through the produce and flower market. We planned to catch a taxi back to the marina
but decided that we would treat ourselves to lunch instead. So we walked past the Clock Tower, past Plaza
Simon Bolivar, and down the side street to Crepes and Waffles. After a 3-hour lunch we found a taxi and went
home. A very fun day away from the
Yesterday morning we awoke to canon fire! A beautiful old tall-ship arrived in the bay. They fired a 7-gun salute and the salute was returned from one of the very old forts on Tierra Bomba, the island just south of Boca Grande at the entrance to the
. The tall-ship was dressed; meaning that she
was flying flags completely over the ship, up the forestay, across the triadic
stays, and down the backstay. This was
a ship of the Argentinean Navy, we think.
The uniformed crew was standing at attention on deck and crew were also standing
at attention at the end of each yardarm.
True old navy tradition! Quite a
sight to wake up to. Stick your head out
of the companionway hatch and find smoke wafting up from canon fire and this
beautiful old tall-ship being maneuvered into dock by tugboats. I do not think this ship has an engine, as
she sailed into the bay and then was maneuvered to dock by 2 tugboats – a
truely traditional tall-ship. Wish we
knew her name, but we never saw the stern. Bay of Cartagena