Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cartagena to Aruba

Chris Parker, our weather forecaster, finally gave us a heads up. We asked our agent to get our departure papers and paid up our bill at Club Nautico. Early on October 1 we filled our water tanks, did a quick last minute grocery run and left the dock at 9:00 AM for the fuel dock. Seven hundred and fifty dollars later we pulled away and temporarily anchored off the marina. It is 22 hour trip to the Five Bays anchorage so we have decided to leave at 6 PM to cross the River Magdelana in the early morning when the winds are calmer and we can watch for debris - and still anchor in Guayraca, the middle bay of the five before dark.
It's always eerie to leave a harbor in the dark. The channel is pretty well lit and we've been this way before so it's safe. Still I held my breath a little as we negotiated the narrow entrance throught the breakwater. The rest of the night was really lovely - calm and full of stars. We had a positive current so we really had to turn the engine down so as not to get to the Magdelena before daybreak. It was calm as we approched but once the wind came up against the currents steep waves with short intervals crashed over our bow and tossed us a bit around. We knew this often happens here so we were prepared and it only lasted a few hours. Then it was a nice the rest of the way.

Approaching the Five Bays in Tayrona National Park is always wonderful. The highest coastal mountain range (peaks over 19.000 ft) in the world looms up behind the rocky cliff lined harbors. Our favorite is the middle bay with it's small fishing village and coffee colored beach. Our friend Reynando came out to visit with us and we spent five days snorkeling, kyacking and admiring the view. We were waiting for Chris to give us the go ahead for our next passage and he finally said, "GO"
This next part of our journey was full of possibilities and timing arrival in daylight at the potential anchorages was tough. We left early in the morning and at 3:00 AM passed the first possibility, Cabo de Vela (Cape of the Winds). It had been a good passage with some great positive currents and we were making good time.

Some squalls and a second oil platform not marked on our charts gave us some exciting moments but we were feeling pretty good. We decided to keep going and at least make it to Monjes del Sur, a rocky Venezuelan outpost we had visited last October (see posting for all these anchorages in October 2007). The weather still was great late in the afternoon but if we continued on to Aruba we would be there at 2:00 AM so we tied up onto the rope at Monjes at 5:00 PM and settled in for the night.
The next morning gave us an unexpected challenge. I was up early and noticed that we were lying in a strange position relative to the wind. We had somehow been pushed over the line and our keel was caught. Scott had to wake up quickly that morning for a swim to free it before the wind came up. We cast off not long after and set our course for Aruba and the Renaissance Marina - luxury ahead!
This is a first class establishment and a good value. We pay $50 a night to stay there and the rest of the hotel guests pay $300 and up. Three nights refreshed us completely. We also met a very nice couple from Scotland on "Atlantia", Margaret and Will that were heading west.

Our first day there however was spent on the internet and on Skype. We had decided not to continue on to Trinidad if we could change our plane tickets. These were frequent flier ones on American and Continental so this was a difficult process. It took a day but we managed. Unfortunately it meant I couldn't be home for Thanksgiving and my planned sister Paula's visit. This was very disappointing but frankly it was a huge relief not to be transiting the Venezuelan coast at this time. Security problems have been rampant. Just last week a French cruiser was killed there on his boat by robbers in front of his wife and 10 year old son. There have been many incidents within the last month. The Russian navy is off the coast till November in joint exercises with Venezuela. To top it off I've been suffering from bursitus and sitting for long periods of time has probably caused it to flare up again.
We emailed and then called all our family after we made the changes. Everyone has been understanding. Our next port of call is Curacao and we had a lovely day to motor sail the 50 miles over there.

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