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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Isla Gorgona prices

It's been difficult to sit down and write this because our stay at Gorgona ended badly due to a dispute over the bill. I'll try to keep this short but at the same time I hope others can learn from our experience which could happen anywhere.

From information given to us by Diesel Duck, who visited in July, we knew that the quoted buoy price was USD$25 per person per night (which is in addition to the USD$12.50 per person park entry fee). We also knew that Ben and Marlene had negotiated a buoy price of USD$5 for their one night stay. Before leaving Tumaco Eric sent an email to Aviatur in Bogota asking several questions about Gorgona including the cost of the buoys. When the response was USD$25 per person per night Eric replied that that was too expensive and we would give it a pass. But we decided to stop anyway in case we could negotiate a better price with the staff on the island.

At the end of our initial meeting with William, the resort manager, we asked about the buoy price, and told him we wanted to pay the same fee as our friends on Diesel Duck. Without quoting us a price directly William said we would have to speak to Carlos at the adjacent desk in the office (first red flag). Eric asked how much the bouys were, Carlos consulted his computer, frowned and told us $5. We hadn't brought any cash with us so we couldn't pay up front that first day.

After our hike the next day Eric and John met with Carlos to pay our bill to date. They were able to pay the park entry fee, the hiking fee, and the boot rental fee, for all of which they received a receipt. But Carlos said he wasn't sure how to enter the negotiated buoy fee into the computer and we should come back later for that (second red flag). Again Eric made sure Carlos repeated the price of USD$5 back to him.

Two days later Eric and John went by the office again to try to pay our bill. We were now more certain that we would depart the following night and we wanted to get this wrapped up. But once again Carlos put them off with his inability to put the non-standard price in the computer (third red flag).

On 11/25 we went ashore for some final Wifi and to see the prison ruins, after which we again paid a visit to Carlos. Eric explained to him that we were leaving that night, that we still owed for the buoys and a lunch, and we needed to settle the bill. William was present in the office, along with Marie, another resort staff member. Carlos said he needed to go talk to someone about the cost of our lunch and exited the office.

Eric and I waited in the office while John and Sherrell went to fill water jugs. When they returned from that errand we were still waiting for Carlos to return. Eric went looking for Carlos and couldn't find him anywhere. Marie offered to help us with our bill but when she mentioned the official buoy price we told her we needed to speak with Carlos. She couldn't locate him for us (fourth red flag).

After at least an hour of waiting in the office wondering aloud where Carlos could be William finally got involved. We explained our deal with Carlos, and William insisted there must have been a misunderstanding and that we would have to pay the full price. Thinking that she was producing "proof" that we were fully aware of the actual price all along, Marie then printed out Eric's email to Aviatur and waved it at us and William. We argued that we would never have stayed even one night at that price, which Eric's email to Aviatur clearly showed.

Sadly the argument went nowhere despite our assertions that no one ever told us to our faces that we would be charged the full price, and that Carlos confirmed the USD$5 deal every time Eric met with him. Carlos had obviously ditched us or was told to disappear, so we weren't able to confront him face to face. To make matters worse we didn't have the pesos to pay the full price since we never expected to need it. Eric and John finally gave William what they could and we left.

In hindsight we should have insisted on paying up front, and left immediately when they kept putting us off. But everyone seemed friendly and we were enjoying our stay there. Actually now that we're at Utria we wonder why we stayed so long at Gorgona in the first place since Utria is a far superior anchorage.

Linda and John

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Coqui, Colombia

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we left Isla Gorgona at midnight on Tuesday and arrived here this afternoon. We'll head out early in the morning for Utria, another national park about 25 miles up the coast.

Hope everyone is having a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Linda and John


Monday, November 24, 2008

More Isla Gorgona

24 November 2008

Sunday morning at dawn we watched cargo being off loaded from a small double decker ferry into a panga and then onto the beach. It appeared to be mostly building supplies such as wood planks, metal struts/gutters/drain pipes, and plastic paint/stucco buckets. Later a panga arrived weighed down with fresh palm thatch. Then they loaded the old thatch, wood and other debris onto the panga for disposal. No doubt the park is restricted from cutting or burning their own thatch, though we've seen them trimming the palm leaves and coconuts (probably to prevent the latter from falling on the heads of their guests).

We noticed wireless routers at the resort and asked for permission to bring our laptops into the restaurant. All set for a day of internet we were disappointed to discover that most of what we needed was blocked. We couldn't access basic things like Yahoo discussion groups, Airmail, or even our own blogs. This was very frustrating and meant we got little work done other than gathering some weather info, podcasts, and world news.

Anticipating a midnight departure whenever we finally begin the next leg of our trip John decided we should go ahead and move to the second orange can buoy (at the GPS position of my previous post) so we can just slip a line rather than have to raise anchor in the dark. We successfully tied off to its pennant and hadn't been settled in for more than 30 minutes when a small Colombian naval/coast guard (they seem to use "armada" and "guarda costa" interchangeably so they're probably the same entity) ship arrived and launched its inflatable. The two young crewmen very politely explained that their ship needed to tie to our buoy for two nights but that we were welcome to raft-up to them or tie off to their stern. We told them that we would tie off their stern but while they were getting tied tothe buoy, we tried out the fendered mooring near Sarana. It is sufficiently secure, even though the waves were noticeably bigger, and decided to stay on it rather then figure out how to tie off the stern of the CG boat. The wind built over night and it got very bouncy because any wind out of the southern quadrant sends chop right through here. We're hoping for a more westerly shift tonight.

Once Nakia was settled in her third berth of the day John picked Eric up for a visit to the ship. They were invited aboard for a tour of the bridge, and were able to ask a number of questions pertaining to possible anchorages and safe coastal transit strategies (stay at least 20 miles off shore). The navy even had a spare copy of a detailed chart of Bahia Solano which they gave Eric.

There's something brewing in the Caribbean which is causing spillover winds to the north of us. So we made the decision this morning to hang here another night or two rather than chance a bumpy ride to Utria (another national park). That will be about a 36 hour passage and we'd prefer to wait for better conditions to make it a more comfortable sail.

In Ziggy news we are sorry to report that we made the decision to dispose of his beloved grass. It had gone dormant in the cooler climate of Ecuador (John insists it was simply dieing) and was getting browner and browner leaving very little green for Ziggy to munch on. He finally viewed it as something to destroy and delighted in digging out the dead grass, dirt clods, and gravel rocks, and tossing them all over the deck. This was something we just didn't have the energy to fight him on so we tossed the contents overboard. Now he sits in the empty Rubbermaid dish pan, his pink nose twitching over fleeting scent memories of dirt and grass...

Linda and John

Isla Gorgona

23 November 2008

It feels like we've discovered a tropical paradise here, but you can take that with a grain of salt since we just spent six months in Bahia de Caraquez. It's beautiful, quiet, the people are friendly, the water is a clear deep blue, and best of all there are no fishing pangas roaring in and out. Granted the mooring area isn't all that protected from the swell so it's bouncy at times, and we have our rocker stopper working full time. There's also usually a good breeze and some corresponding wind chop. But it's so peaceful and lovely that we are very happy to be here.

Gorgona is part of Colombia's Parque Nacional Natural system which emulates the parks established in Costa Rica and Panama. It's unique in that the island also supports an eco resort for tourists (Google Aviatur for package prices). For cruising boats there are two orange metal can buoys and one orange fender type all with poly-pro pennants. Sarana took the first can we saw on arrival while Nakia elected to anchor in very deep (40' plus) water. Technically we aren't supposed to anchor but we haven't been asked to move to a buoy yet.

Prices seem to be a bit of a moving target. We found prices on the internet, but except for the park entry fee (COP$25,000 pp; current peso rate is around COP$2,200 to the USD) everything else varies. We found the official price for a mooring to be far too expensive (similar to what Panama has recently begun enforcing in their Western Islands) and, based on a friend's previous visit, we negotiated something more reasonable for our budget. We were also quoted a price for our hike on Saturday but it turned out to be almost half that when we went to pay. We rented boots and of course the boot rental price was about twice what we were quoted, so in the end the overall cost of the hike was just a little less then the quoted price. It helps to keep an open mind when you get your bill.

We had a terrific passage from Tumaco, departing at 11 AM on Thursday and arriving here at dawn on Friday. It was another great sail averaging five knots or better until the last few hours when we had to slow down to arrive in daylight. We ate a big breakfast and were ready to crash when two guys from the dive shop paddled out in a kayak to tell us that our presence was requested for the orientation presentation. We begged off until Noon and then went in, still groggy from our brief nap. We met first in William's office for a welcome talk, and sat through a short DVD program on the park system and then a talk about the island itself at the interpretive center/museum. Although we were served coffee and tea everything was in Spanish, and we were practically comatose, so it was a bit wasted on us. But we took a walk around the well groomed resort grounds and then returned to the boat for a refreshing swim.

Saturday morning we went in at 8 AM to see about going on a hike. They don't allow anyone to hike trails without a paid guide, even though the trails themselves are easy to follow. This might be because of dangers posed by the three types of poisonous snakes and the very muddy, slick trails. Likewise you're required to wear calf high rubber boots which they conveniently rent for a nominal fee (bring your own socks). The hiking fee itself is also reasonable especially if you get Jesus as your guide. He doesn't speak English so were were lucky to have Eric as our translator, but Jesus spotted every lizard, frog, snake, and monkey there was to see. He told us we were exceptionally lucky to see four of the hard to find blue lizard (only a few inches long and slender as a pencil), two elegant walking frogs (I've forgotten the real names of things, though the latter is close), and a slender tan snake that Eric thought was a stick until it moved. Jesus also stopped to quickly husk a coconut with his machete, which we thought was for us until he showed us a pool full of coconut eating crayfish and shrimp. We enjoyed watching shrimp of all sizes duking it out for bits of coconut meat. Even the tiny fish managed to steal little pieces, and we nibbled on some of it ourselves. We saw two troops of Capuchin monkeys, but it turns out those are easy to see since we ran across a dozen of them right on the resort grounds Sunday morning.

The ultimate destination was a beach on the other side, opposite Isla Gorgonilla which is a bird and turtle nesting sanctuary. Since we get our fill of beaches living on boats this wasn't all that exciting for us, and we didn't bother swimming in the surf. The four of us sat on a log cooling our feet in a freshwater stream and watched three Swiss tourists grinding their skin off while attempting to body surf in the shore break. We back-tracked to the beach on "our" side of Gorgona where a panga met us at 2 PM for a ride back to the resort. We started out at 9 AM but Jesus went slowly and stopped at every interpretive sign so it's not really that far a distance, and was definitely worth doing. We got back in time to see a mother and baby humpback off in the distance. Apparently August and September are the prime whale watching months here and the season ended about a week ago so we were lucky. After sunset Sarana was visited by a mom (18') and baby (6-8') whale shark gliding right along the side of their boat. I'd call that a full day!

Linda and John


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tumaco wrap up

We had planned to leave for Isla Gorgona today but Sherrell woke up with an upset stomach so we'll wait one more day for her to feel better. We spent most of yesterday in the agent's office and in town taking care of last minute business.

Cruising Colombia is a work in progress and who knows what it will be like for the next boats to arrive here. We had hoped to get an international exit zarpe to Panama which would include intermediate stops at Isla Gorgona, Ensenada Utria and Bahia Solano. However, the Port Captain here would only authorize us to go to Gorgona and then on to Panama. If we want to go to Utria and/or Solano (or any place else beside Gorgona) we have to go to Solano and check in with the Port Captain there. That requires another agent, but he only costs $50 per boat including in/out so we opted for that. We're still stamped into Colombia on our passports and will receive a national zarpe only. The good news is it will include Gorgona and Utria. Why the local Port Captain will authorize us to go to Utria on a national zarpe and not on an international zarpe is not clear.

What is clear is that the Colombians are very honest and sticklers for paperwork. When we were asking about how our friends following us from Ecuador should enter Tumaco, the agent was very clear that your international zarpe must state that your destination is Tumaco, not Panama or some other port. He said it would be very complicated and problematic if your destination was not Tumaco. But when the conversation worked around a little, and the subject of needing food or fuel came up, the issue was suddenly simple: "If there's an emergency, there's no problem at all to come into Tumaco!" So, if you happen to have gotten contaminated fuel in Ecuador or something like that, and need to stop to clean your filters or tanks, it sounds like it doesn't matter what the destination is on your zarpe. He made it clear that the boat with the problem would need to state that they had an emergency on board and were coming to Tumaco because of that emergency.

Entry: Call Guarda Costa on VHF 16 no later than your arrival at the entrance buoy, and probably earlier than that if you need an English speaking person. They will need the following info:
- Your ship's agent (Servimar, whom you will have already contacted; see below)
- Name of vessel
- Names and passport numbers of all persons on board
- Zarpe number
- Cargo info like number of gallons of diesel, gasoline, and water that you're carrying

Ship's Agent:
Agencia Maritima
Balvino Gutierrez Martinez (or his very nice son, Charlie)
serviadu@col2.telecom.com.co (try this well in advance of your arrival as we used our cell)
Across the street from the gas station outside the base gates on the other side of the unused children's park.
Initially asked for $150 per boat in/out, but agreed to $120US.
All in Spanish but Charlie said they can get an English speaker if necessary. The agent made all the arrangements to meet with Aduana, the Port Captain, and Migracion at the Coast Guard/Navy dock. Do not go to the Port Captain's office yourself. They don't want to deal with you.

Fuel is currently approx. $3US for gasoline and $2.50 for diesel. The gas station just outside the pier has very erratic hours and is sometimes out of fuel.

We had purified water delivered to the pier and transferred it to our own containers.
Oasis (the company): 727 3206
Pablo, the driver (cell): 317 792 0616

Linda and John

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quiet weekend in Tumaco

We had another nice day here on Saturday. It began with a trip to the mercado municipal which, for a city this size, was surprisingly small with a limited but sufficient selection of fruits and vegetables and was not as nice as the one in Bahia de Caraquez. We then visited several outboard motor shops as John would love to find a good deal on a new 15HP two-stroke engine for our dinghy. Yamaha, Mercury, and Suzuki motors are available here for prices a few hundred dollars less then those in the US. But more interesting than the details of price and availability of the various motors was the conversations we were able to have with the vendors. In one very large shop we had the full attention of Montoya and Fabio, and Eric and John were able to talk at length with them while Sherrell and I mostly listened and tried to follow what was being said. After being a bit lost for awhile we both immediately perked up when we were asked about Obama becoming president, and our enthusiastic responses were returned in kind by our new friends. Those are the kind of great moments travelers live for.

We made another trip to the commercial super market, followed by almuerzo just down the street, and then more internet. We took the bus to Hotel La Barranquilla at Playa Morro to pick up our bags of laundry, and the boys couldn't resist the lure of Club Colombia beers at a beach palapa across the street. After quickly becoming accustomed to fifty cent beers here they had sticker shock when the bar tab was over double that, but that's par for the course at beach bars.

After a short bus ride back to the pier, we loaded everything into the dinghy and called it another good day of cruising.

Today we're spending a quiet day on the boat doing chores and taking it easy. Eric and Sherrell were visited by a panga full of Colombian tourists who climbed aboard Sarana to have their photos taken. We were all prepared to be next, but they must have felt one sailboat souvenir picture was enough.

Linda and John

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cruiser chores

We spent most of Friday taking care of normal cruiser chores here in Tumaco. We loaded everyone in Nakia's dinghy including laundry and laptops from both boats, and did the rusty old hulk dinghy landing again. This time the tide was even lower and we had to use a second set of pilings to climb across on. We walked about a mile to the hotel area on the nearby tourist beach where we negotiated a price for our laundry at the Hotel Barranquilla. They don't normally take in personal laundry and had no concept of charging by kilo/pound. Instead they charge by the piece, which in past experience has proved exorbitant. So we waited while the woman counted out her idea of what constituted a "piece" (one shirt; two pillowcases; one bandana and a hand towel; one queen sized sheet). It seemed arbitrary to me, but it came out to a fair price of around $5 per bag. There wasn't a machine in sight, and I have to wonder if the per piece pricing is because they'll be doing it by hand.

We then went upstairs to the hotel restaurant to use their wireless internet. We spent several hours there (they must only open for dinner because we were the only customers), and then went next door to La Barracuda for another vegan (Eric and Sherrell are vegans and we liked the sound of what they ordered) almuerzo of beans, rice, and patacones (plantains cut crosswise, smashed, and fried, but not greasy) with a generous helping of the local aji, or hot sauce.

We walked back to the pier where John ran the laptops out to the boats, and we all went for a walk through the nearest neighborhood on the road to central Tumaco. Many of the houses in this area are built on stilts with raised wooden walk ways connecting them over the estuarial land. The wooden houses were interspersed with small tiendas selling the basics and we managed to find one guy selling ice cream. There wasn't much to the place so by the time we got to the Navy base we were ready to turn around and return to the boats.

Here's a link to a news story John found about what was actually going on when we were in town on Wednesday:


Today we plan to see if there's a Saturday market. It turns out that Monday is a holiday, so we think we will do the checkout process on Tuesday for a Wednesday departure for Isla Gorgona about a 100 miles up the coast.

Linda and John

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just another day in Colombia

We had an adventurous day here in Colombia today.

Eric and I started out by taking a survey of the area outside the channel. We're anchored in, or very close to, a navigation channel near the Coast Guard station here in Tumaco. The Port Captain has said that we can't really stay where we're anchored, but since we are no longer going ashore at the CG station (it's restricted) no one has come out to remind us that we should move. It looks like there's plenty of depth available east of the channel so we can move there and still be in visible range of the CG station. There's something very comforting about half a dozen olive drab Boston Whalers with 50 caliber machine guns mounted on them.

Next, Eric and I checked out our landing possibilities. Since we can't use the CG dock we checked out an old tuna cannery. There is a rusty old staircase leading up from the water, and a rusty old boat tied to the pier. The rusty old staircase held my (John's) weight long enough to get me to the top to find a rusty old locked gate. A smaller person could fit through the hole in the rusty old fence, but since the hole was surrounded by rusty old barbed wire we decided to check out the rusty old boat.

Eric managed to get aboard the boat (no easy feat since the deck is 5 feet off the water) to see how to get from the boat to the pier. It turns out you have to straddle a 4 foot high rusty steel wall, put your foot in a rusty hole at the base of the wall, then step onto a rotting old piling and then step across about 4 feet of empty space to the pier. Oh, I forgot to say the piling and pier and rusty wall with the hole is about 20 feet above the water. Definitely no OSHA requirements here.

We checked out other landing places, mostly muddy sloughs with houses built on stilts on either side and decided we couldn't trust leaving the dinghy in one of these neighborhoods. That and the fact that we'd have to walk through the mud. So the boat it was. We went back to Nakia and Sarana to collect the girls and take them ashore 'in style.' Sherrell got across okay and Linda made it after a little coaching. Then it was off to the beach restaurants for lunch and our first taste of Colombian beer. Well worth it.

We hopped a bus into town. Linda, Eric and Sherrell went to the super market and I went down the commercial street to price outboard motors. Finding that outboards cost about the same in Colombia as in the States I headed back toward the super market, checking the other shops as I went. I was in a plastic house wares shop when a woman ran down the street screaming. The shop owners looked at each other and madly started closing the steel doors to the shop. They were dragging stacks of buckets into the shop and things were piling up so I started moving stuff too. If they were that serious about being inside the shop when whatever was coming got there I sure wasn't going to go out on the street - I was going to help them barricade all of us in the shop. They got one of the steel doors closed and seemed to calm down a little. I asked what was happening and the best I could piece together was that a band of protesters were marching the streets and these bands can turn into looting mobs very quickly. It's best to put some steel between you and them if you can. Great, here I am in a plastics shop with Linda, Eric and Sherrell in the super market. I didn't remember exactly how far it was to the super market or if I could make it there before the protesters arrived, but the shop owner seemed calmer and assured me that it was only a block or two and I would be safe to go that far. I quickly walked to the market to find the last of the steel doors starting to close. I got in at the last second and they closed the door behind me. Then... nothing happened. No mob, no protesters, not even a police car. We bought our stuff and they opened the steel doors for us to leave. Actually this is what was happening when I got into the super market, they were letting someone out. We walked down the street to an internet cafe to surf for a while, the steel door partially down and at the ready. When we were done we asked about a bus, but they weren't running because of the protest so we caught a cab back to the pier.

The last adventure of the day was to get back across to the rusty old boat and down into the dinghy. After the threat of facing a looting mob this seemed pretty benign. The worst part of the day was having to clean out the rusty flakes that had rained down from the rusty old boat and into the dinghy.

John and Linda

Colombian Officialdom

Tumaco, Colombia

I don't know why we continue to assume all formalities will be handled on land, but we were still taken by surprise when a boat load of uniformed men came out to Nakia as we prepared to go ashore. They appeared to be representatives of the Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines. Only two men came on board, one to ask John questions and one to perform an inspection/search of the boat. They brought a friendly yellow lab with them but the drug dog had to stay in their boat when they realized both Sarana and Nakia have cats on board. The young man searching Nakia took a cursory look in a few lockers but seemed more interested in gazing at a photo of my 18 year old niece!

Both Eric and John got a lift in the CG boat to continue the check-in process with the Port Captain. They were gone for two hours so I knew something had gotten complicated. Usually this is only computers being down or electricity being out, but in this case our captains were blind-sided by a ships agent requirement. Prior to our departure from Ecuador Eric had done due diligence in researching the possibility of stopping in Columbia. He got high recommendations for places to anchor, and even exchanged email with the Tumaco Port Captain, who assured him we would be most welcome to visit. What everyone failed to mention was that we would be required to hire an agent to complete the check-in process for us.

Ships agents for cruising boats are nothing new and are SOP in many countries. But cruisers are known for preferring to do the leg and paperwork themselves to save money. Agent fees are all over the map but, for example, can be $150 at both check-in and check-out. Countries which see few recreational vessels haven't made any distinction between them and commercial boats so the paperwork is complicated, requiring multiple copies of many forms to several government offices. What takes only a few hours for an agent can take days for a yachtie, who also runs the risk of pissing off men who take their positions very seriously and don't appreciate "do it yourself" foreigners stumbling through established procedures.

So on top of being met by the decidedly unfriendly assistant Port Captain's, "What are you doing here? Why did you come?", our captains now faced an unanticipated expense. Fortunately the PC himself finally appeared and explained to his subordinate that we were here to visit their beautiful country. And regarding the fee, Eric's Spanish is even better than John's and he was able to talk the agent down from $150 to $120 per boat for the entire in and out process. After working with the agent and seeing the results so far, John feels it's a valuable service - he just wishes it was a more economic $50-75.

The next hurdle was Migracion and we had an afternoon appointment to meet our agent again. This time he brought representatives from Customs, the PC's office, and Migracion. We were permitted to tie our dinghy to the CG dock where this meeting took place. Many questions, forms, and passport perusals later, they seemed to have everything they needed. The one thing that the PC kept coming back to though was Sarana's exit Zarpe from Ecuador. While we were in Jama Eric realized that he didn't have his international Zarpe. In the confusion of checking out, Migracion in Ecuador asked for Sarana's Zarpe, Eric gave them the original, Migracion didn't return it, and Eric had no copy (John has learned the hard way to never give any official an original document unless specifically requested, and always makes multiple copies of any document he's given). So Eric made a copy of Nakia's original Zarpe, whited out and "corrected" the boat name, and made a copy of that. This is actually something he witnessed the Bahia PC do to avoid having to make originals for every vessel, so Eric wasn't being underhanded, just expedient. But the Tumaco office caught the anomaly right away and thought it was highly irregular. Although they came back to it a couple of times, Eric managed to assure them that it was just an example of the relaxed practices of the Bahia office.

Now we were finally free to take a taxi into Tumaco proper which is a few miles from the Coast Guard and Naval bases where our boats are. It's a large commercial city of 200,000 people with a rabbit warren of streets, so I'm glad we had a taxi for our first visit (even at the rate of $10/hour which seems high compared to $40 for a round trip shopping day from Bahia to Manta). Our first stop was to an ATM for the local currency of pesos which are at about 2200 to the US dollar, making it important to carry a calculator to help with conversions. We then took our Ecuadorian cell phone to be unblocked for other countries and purchased a Columbian chip and minutes to have on hand just in case. Sarana tried to take care of some US banking business but got lost in a recorded phone tree maze (which concluded, "We're sorry, but we're closed for the holiday."), and struck out when they couldn't connect via the internet either. By this time we were all ready to call it a day, and returned to Nakia for drinks before wishing Sarana a peaceful night.

It's lovely to be safely anchored in a calm estuary and, other than a brief rain shower, we had a restful night. We're still working out minor issues over where exactly to anchor the boats and land our dinghies. The PC feels we're anchored too close to where the fishing boats exit the channel to dock, so we'll take care of that today. Where to land the dinghy is more complicated. We don't want to impose on the CG to use their dock, but the fixed fishing pier is far too high for us and has no useable ladders or stairs. The guys are going out in the dinghy this morning to explore our options for both, and later we may take a bus back to town for some errands and shopping.

John has fixed the script for our position links and we also discovered I missed one degree in latitude in my previous post. The correct link is below.

Linda and John


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Punta Galera to Tumaco, Colombia

01 degrees 49.148 minutes N
78 degrees 43.764 minutes W

We miscalculated and left Galera too early in the morning yesterday. Even at the relatively relaxed departure time of 8 AM we had such a fast sail that we had to heave to at 3 AM this morning to wait for first light to navigate the entrance channel.

It was another perfect downwind sailing passage though. We probably have had more wind than we think and we must also have at least one or two knots of favorable current. There's usually a short swell and wind waves with white caps and cat's paws on the surface. One or two larger swells roll under us regularly and our beamy double ender waddles over them, waggling her stern like a duck's tail. It's not the most comfortable ride but we've decided it's far preferable to the hobby horse motion of bow and stern when we're pounding to weather.

We saw dolphin and when we went through them and a bird pile of frigates, terns, shearwaters, and boobies John hooked into two 20 lb yellow fin tuna. Since our fridge is small and the freezer is packed with meat he released one and spent about an hour filleting (and then cleaning up the mess from filleting!) a beautiful fish. Dinner that night was delicious.

We dropped anchor with Sarana between the Garda Costa (Coast Guard) pier and the fishing pier, and small planes are landing on the other side of the mangroves. After we check-in to the net this morning we'll go ashore to begin formalities with the Port Captain and Migracion.

Linda and John


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Punta Galera

00 degrees 49.405 minutes N
80 degrees 02.759 minutes W

The decision to stop at Punta Pedernales was a very poor one in hindsight. The anchorage near the fishing pangas is terrible. There's no protection from the west swell and the wind never let up. On top of that not all the locals are friendly. Both boats made the choice to leave shortly after midnight.

Sarana's batteries are shot so for them running at night means motor-sailing in order to have enough juice for things like lights and electronics. Nakia was able to sail the entire distance once we were well clear of the Pedernales anchorage. We made good time and reached Punta Galera by 10:30 AM. We ate a late breakfast and got some much needed sleep.

Although there is some swell at low tide we are much more comfortable here and the fishermen assure us that it is a safe anchorage. We are anchored off of the panga boats and their corresponding support village. The pangas go out in the late afternoon with three men to each boat, set their nets 50 miles off shore, and return at dawn with their catch. This morning we admired one dorado, one marlin, one tuna, and a skipjack for the sum total of a night's work for one boat. The men unload their catch to trucks waiting on the beach and then anchor their pangas outside the surf line.

It's lovely and calm here but with no national cruising zarpe and expired visas we have to move on before our presence attracts too much notice by local authorities.

Linda and John


Friday, November 07, 2008

Punta Ballena to Punta Pedernales

00 degrees 03.046 minutes N
80 degrees 04.776 minutes W

We enjoyed our stay in the large bay inside Punta Ballena. It was rolly enough to use the rocker stopper but more comfortable than Cabo Pasado. Yesterday, after reanchoring closer in towards the pier, we launched our dinghy and went to shore with Sarana. I was happy to share our bug spray when Sherrell and I were immediately attacked by small black "see-ums." The inflatable was a major source of admiration and curiosity for a dozen young boys and even a few grown-ups. As we started to walk away from the dinghy one boy wanted to know if John would give him the key so he could take it out for a spin while we were gone!

We began walking the narrow paved road leading out to the highway, but quickly climbed into the back of a covered pickup truck with bench seats for a "bus" ride to town. Jama is very small but it has a lovely, new looking town square, a Coactur bus station, and a charming restaurant called Bar-Budo (on Av. Jama between Delgado and San Francisco streets, just a few blocks past the square) where we ate a nice almuerzo. We had a bit of confusion clarifying that the beautiful beach advertised as being at Jama was actually the beach in the anchorage, where the village is called El Metal. And that the scenic river at Jama was the one we had crossed in the bus, and not really a tourist attraction. With no body of water as a possible destination for a walk after our lunch, we headed back to "our" beach to stretch our legs.

The dinghy and its contents - with the addition of some beach sand - was right where we left it. John took it out by himself to meet the three of us past the pier so we could all walk out around the point. The tide was still mostly low and it was a wonderful long walk on hard packed sand. The days have been overcast with heavy drizzle each morning to keep us moist and cool.

There is a Port Captain down at the opposite end of the beach in El Metal, and we believe he made a general announcement regarding zarpes on VHF 16 yesterday morning. To prevent hard feelings over not checking in we thought it prudent to depart this morning. We're enjoying another lovely spinnaker sail with low swell from the WSW and SW winds of 10-12, occasionally as high as 15 kt. John is taking a tip from our friend, Ed on Wind Dancer, and is poling the spinnaker out to windward with the whisker pole.

We've now arrived at Pedernales and are anchored in about 12' of water as close to the beach as we can get. But it's futile and as we expected we're still being rocked around by the swell rolling in from the west. The bay just isn't deep enough to get much protection from the point. But we'll spend the night here and get an early start tomorrow morning for the 50 nm day run to Punta Galera.

We've had a report that the Google Earth link in our last post is malfunctioning. We'll try it again in this post but it may be something we have to fix when we get internet access again, so bear with us.

Linda and John


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Bahia de Caraquez to Punta Ballena (Jama)

Yahoo, it's good to be out cruising again! We cleared formalities with the Navy early this morning. They came aboard with a list of questions but no actual paperwork changed hands. John had to have one question repeated three times before he understood it, and when the "inspection" was all over with he realized that the answer to all the questions is "Yes."

We were underway for the Rio Chone bar crossing by 6:45 AM and were sailing just after 8 AM. It started out slow, but we ended up having a great spinnaker run until 3:30 PM when we dropped anchor in the lee of Punta Ballena. So far it seems to be much more protected from the swell here than it was at Cabo Pasado where we stopped on our way to Bahia in May. We've already been visited by two local fishing pangas on their way out to the fishing grounds so it appears to be a friendly place.

We plan to get a good night's sleep tonight and then sail over closer to town tomorrow for some shore side exploring with Eric and Sherrell on Sarana.

Linda and John