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Back to Part 03: At George Town, Great Exuma, Bahamas
On to Part 05: San Blas, Panama
This is my first real log entry in many, many weeks. The last actual entry was made just after I arrived in Cartagena, Columbia. Now (May) I've finally departed Cartagena and am heading for Panama with a projected canal transit in just a couple of weeks.
1 Feb - 05 May 2011
I ended up spending three months in Cartagena, Columbia. I could have stayed longer with no complaints but that I have this urge to sail west. Chasing the sun and all that. Cartagena can be summed up as follows:
- Good holding in some spots, rotten in others.
- The most beautiful women I've seen anywhere
- Locals Can repair anything
- Can't find replacement parts anywhere
- Dirty, Dirty, Dirty (black powdery dirt in air settles on deck, on lines, on you)
- Bottom fouling is terrible. Two weeks and you'll have half an inch of crust on your prop blades.
- Great food
- Expensive (except the women)
- Great weather, but very hot
- Good bunch of cruisers resident and passing through
Let's go back to my arrival in Cartagena. That would be way back on 29 January. My Facebook friends have had a few more updates than I have made here in my blog. I apologize for that to you who are still 'Facebook-Free' (a condition I should respect… but don't, realy).
29 Jan 11, Cartagena, Columbia (N10°24.3', W075°32.6')
Trip: 878nm Total: 1339nm Eng: 2492hrs
On arrival to Columbia, one is required to hire an agent to accomplish all the clearing in and out paperwork. This is not an option. The port captain and the immigrations people will simply not deal directly with cruisers.
After I had moved Galena from her initial anchoring to a spot much closer to Club Nautico I dinghied in to find the office and get some help clearing in.
The dinghy dock at Club Nautico. The infamous Table-Of-Knowledge is under the sunscreen just right of center. The office is the squat blue bulding to the far right.
It was Sunday morning so I didn't find anyone. Well, no one who could help me. And since I didn't speak Spanish and they didn't speak English I stood around looking a bit lost.
That's when Barbara of s/v New Morning stopped and asked if I needed help. I told her that I was trying to find out how to clear in. She directed me to Yesika, aboard s/v Little Wing. Told me she was an agent and that she was very good. Barbara walked me over and introduced me to Yesika and her husband, John. Yesika took my passport, my ship's documentation and had me sign a bunch of blank forms. She went into the boat and did some computer stuff while John welcomed me to Columbia.
My Columbian maritime agent, Yesika.
Yesika and another lady, Paolo, run a marine agency called Cartagena Caribbean. You can call Yesika's cell phone at 320-545-1090 if you get there and want their help. They also answer on VHF 68 if you call "Little Wing." I'd recommend them even though I did have just a tad bit of trouble getting my Zarpe on time when I left. They are both very conscientious and if nothing else, they're fun to talk with.
I told John I was planning on staying for only a couple weeks. He said that's what everyone says. He said it, too. He's been there for something like 20-years now. He explained that the world's best anchor is a Columbian woman.
Yesika got dressed up (one has to do that to do business downtown) and headed into town. She said she'd have everything done in a day or so. This was more than I expected since it was Sunday.
John mentioned the daily happy hour at the dock. He told me how to get local money (the ATM at the grocery store just a block down the street). He gave me a few pointers on where not to go (I later ignored all that without problem).
Finally I headed back to Galena to relax and start cleaning up.
On 30 January I went as far afield as the grocery story. I used the ATM to get some Columbian Peso's; the exchange rate was about 1800:1. Everyone just roughs it out to 2000 peso's per dollar. So a 6-pack of beer that lists at $6,600 is about $3.30; close enough.
I went to happy hour at 1700 and met a bunch of the local cruisers. I found that most had been there several months. Many had been here years. A few just sail between Cartagena (winter) and the San Blas Islands of Panama (summer).
Happy hour occurs each day at 1700-hrs. That makes it very easy to get into the sixpack-a-day habit. And that's what I did.
The Table-Of-Knowledge at Club Nautico during Happy Hour
Of the boats I saw when I anchored was s/v Elysium, a Westsail 42, with Dave and Wendy. I'd met Dave in Beaufort, NC a year ago. He remembered Galena and as I dinghied by invited me over for a beer. Dave told me a great deal about the town and the anchorage. He warned me of the poor holding, the high, sudden winds from the south, the names of the various areas of town and which to avoid. Things like that.
He also had IB and Rebecca from s/v Passport aboard. Nice young couple who were putting their boat on the hard for a few months work.
During the next few days I would clean up Galena. Mostly a mater of washing the saltwater off everything inside. The scupper leaks had soaked just about everything and saltwater, as most of you know, never really dries and anything that was wet with saltwater eventually smells bad.
All the cans of food in the food locker under the starboard settee were wet and had to be rinsed and dried. The locker itself had to be cleaned and then everything replaced. I don't know how much it helped because all the cans turned rusty in a few weeks, anyway.
Once I found the fresh water hose at the marina I made a couple of water-runs and washed clothes. As I was filling my water jugs at the dock I was told I needed to pay a dinghy dock fee of $20/week for use of the dock and the water. At the same time I found out about the internet wi-fi system that John, the dockmaster, had installed. He charges $25/week for access and you can usually get a pretty good signal from the anchorage; and a very good signal from the picnic tables at the dock.
During the past few weeks I've been kicking myself for many of my past penny-pinching decisions. For example, I chose not to replace my halyards in Key West even though I knew they were worn. The reason I hesitated was the cost: $300. Now I want to replace them and I can't since quality line is simply not available here. So I do things like swap the old halyards end-for-end, and swap heavily used halyards for ones not so heavily used. And I probably should have bought new sails, too. Mine are quite tired. Again, it was the cost that stopped me. We're talking about $4,000 for new sails. But, hey, that's my main engine and I shouldn't have balked at the cost. I'll end up replacing them before this trip is done. Probably during the winter. Hopefully they will last that long.
On the local cruisers' net (VHF 68 @ 0800) word was passed that m/v Manatee, out of Cholon, would be in the harbor and hosting happy hour. I went. Manatee is a converted shrimper. I'm not really sure what it's converted to. But there's a big party deck on the fantail. Robert, the owner, is a retired LA cop who has been here about a million years. One of those guys who married a local beauty and never came up with any good reason to leave. Robert also lucked into a great land deal in Cholon. He bought a piece of land on the hill overlooking Cholon's harbor for a song and built a very nice house on it. That was only 7-yrs ago and now it's worth millions.
Anyway, he has a good gig going where he invites everyone over and sells beer at $1 each and mixed drinks for a little more. He has a small crew that works the gig for tips and does well. And you know cruisers: anything for a reason to sit around, tell stories and drink.
I met most of the cruisers in the Cartagena anchorage that night. Also drank more than my fair share of beer.
Back on Galena for a few days where I rigged a more efficient dinghy lift system using two halyards and a snatch-block. Still use the main halyard winch and Galena still heels over to port but it's much easier to lift the dink each night.
Found more wet stuff in the chart locker. Most of my old Eastern US charts were wet and ruined. They were mostly at least 7-yrs old anyway. I just threw them out.
Each of the days for the first couple of weeks here were closed out with a six-pack of beer at happy hour at the marina. Usually there would be six or seven of us there. Almost always just the guys. JB, Steve, Viva-Bob, Tempest-Bob, Ray, Dave, and myself.
One of the items that got too wet to save on the trip over here was my in-boat stereo system. It's just a car stereo but with the big speakers in the main saloon it rocks Galena and makes me happy. I went to the local mall and found a replacement for about $100. Not much different that back in the US.
I would sometimes head down to town after my afternoon nap. My days had much the same form as they had in Key West: Up at 0700; prattle about the boat; lunch; short nap; happy hour; dinner and nap; downtown to party; home about 0200. Actually, in Key West I did the 'downtown' part several times a week. Here in Cartagena it was only once a week.
Even on the 4th of Feb I was still rinsing saltwater out of lockers. Those damned leaking scuppers let so much water in that just about everything in the boat was wet when I got here.
The other cruisers are of the consensus that January is just about the worst month to sail across the Caribbean Sea. While I can't say it was the worst, I can certainly attest to it being a very bad time of year for such a trip.
I found the boomkin mounting bolts to be loose. As well as the boomkin stays (very loose). I'm not sure if they were loose before I repaired the booking mounting bolt holes in George Town are not. But they were when I got here.
Also, the spacer blocks I placed under the boomkin timbers have started to crush down. I see now why the originals were standing on end grains. I've tightened up everything and we'll see how it goes. Any further sign of movement will have to be dealt with more aggressively than simple adjustments.
A stainless steel bookin is looking pretty good right now.
By the 6th of Feb I was still feeling very much out of the loop here. The cruisers all talked about places between here and the States as though everyone knew exactly what they were talking about. Each evening after happy hour I get back to Galena and search charts for towns and places that they had talked about that night.
For Superbowl Sunday a bunch of us went to a "German" bar downtown. I put the word in quotes since the only thing German about it was the décor. And the fact they served Brats. I was watching an American football game, on a Japanese TV, in a German bar, in South America drinking Columbian beer. I felt so damned global I almost cried.
One of the things about staying in one place for a bit is that I start to be influenced by my new buddies. In this case my agenda of getting quickly into the Pacific is being eroded by talk of postponement. Viva-Bob, Night-Hawk-Ray, Tempest-Bob, Witch-of-Endor-Steve all want me to wait till next year and go with them to the Sea of Cortez. The plan would be to spend a couple of years cruising that part of Mexico and then I'd head out into the South Pacific.
So I'm batting that idea around a bit.
On the 11th I played poker with the guys after the normal consumption of beer at the 'table of knowledge.' I came out a little ahead.
On the 13th of February we started hearing more and more about the two missing boats in Panama. It seems that some Spanish guy, known to many here, was making good money in the Backpacker trade here. But he wrecked his boat on a reef recently. So he was hired as crew on a Frenchman's boat, also in the backpacker trade. Then this French guy is found floating in a bay in Panama and his boat turns up in another bay with the name changed. The boat is impounded.
Then another boat captain turns up missing. His boat, too, is found with the name changed in a harbor in Panama. The Spanish guy is suspected in both instances. He wanted the boats to use hauling backpackers.
Eventually he's arrested and put away.
Backpacker transportation is big business here. Some of these big catamarans can haul up to 20 backpackers at a time between Cartagena, Columbia and Portobelo, Panama. The going rate is $450 each and one can make a round trip (transporting both ways) in three-weeks (they always stop for a few days in the San Blas to let the backpackers play). That's about $13,000 per month for just sailing 250nm each way. Granted you have to deduct recurring clearance fees, fuel (you'll have to motor one direction or the other), food (you have to feed them something), and crew costs (you'll want to have at least a cook on board to keep the backpackers out of the galley). Still that's a lot of money for just sailing back and forth. It's had me thinking of buying an old cat, setting it up like a prison barge (just bunks and storage), and going into business. And it's an all-cash business!
Repair/Rebuild Galena's Scuppers
On the 15th of February I was ready to start working Galena's leaking scupper issue. To appreciate the problem you have to understand how the Westsail is constructed.
The boat has a 10-inch high bulwark around the deck. This is made up of a 10-inch high lip reaching up from the deck and then turning outboard to make a 3-inch horizontal lip. The hull continues up past deck height for about 10-inches and then turns inward making another 3-inch lip. These lips lay on one-another and are bolted together to make the hull-deck joint.
The scuppers are holes that let water that arrives on deck to flow off the deck and back out to sea. In the case of the Westsail that means there has to be a pipe from the deck, through the 3-inch gap between the deck bulwark and the hull. These tubes are what were leaking.
The original configuration called for 2-inch, spun bronze outer fittings coupled with a 3-inch long rubber hose to the inside of the hull. All held together with hose clamps.
With all the flexing between hull and deck the hoses, as they get old, crack. As the deck water runs through the scupper tubes, more and more of the water makes its way into the interior of the boat. The internal cabinet configuration directs the water into most of the lockers inside. Not a good design. Well, not a bad design if the scuppers never leak. But they always do.
My plan was to remove the current bronze and rubber and replace them with simple 2-inch diameter PVC pipe. I wasn't sure how I'd seal the pipes in place. But it would have to be something flexible. As a first try I'd use simple silicone sealant-adhesive. When I get to someplace where one can get things like 5200, I might replace the sealant with that.
The top picture is looking up into the space inside the bulwark. The hull is on the bottom and the deck at the top of the photo.
The bottom picture is on the outside of the hull after I'd removed the right-hand spun bronze fitting. (Yes, Galena used to be white with a red stripe. Notice that the strake rail runs around and covers half of the scuppers. I'm not sure what design criteria that was supposed to address. I'm leaving the rail cut to allow full flow out of the scuppers.
And here's a shot of the old, bronze and rubber arrangement and the new PVC solution.
Finally, here's a shot from the inside and outside during a test fitting. Some more filing needs to be done, of course.
The replacement effort took several days. Mostly because I take many, many breaks and some of them last days. I was finished on the 21st. I tested everything with buckets of water and found no leaks. Now we'll see how long it will last.
On the 19th of February I went over to Viva-Bob's boat to have a couple beers and then head to town. Also there were Philani-JB and Witch-Steve. By the time it was dark we were too wasted to head to town. Things like hat happen a lot.
On the 25th I had Alberto clean Galena's bottom. There was a crust on her about a quarter inch thick. On the bare prop I chiseled off a half-inch of solid, rock-like growth on each side of each blade. That's when I decided to pay Alberto $30 to do the rest of the bottom.
I've never seen anything like the rapid and hard growth that happens here in Cartagena. Amazing!
By the 1st of May I was getting into more boat projects.
Repair the Staysail Halyard Shackle
On the way here the shackle holding the staysail halyard sheave to the mast broke off. I had to replace it. I found a suitable replacement in my "small rigging" box and went up to install it. When I got up there I found that the shackle would fit into the sheave, but not through the eye on the front of the mast. I was doing the usual twisting, pushing, turning, trying it other-end-first thing and was about to give up when it just slipped through like it was made for the job. I secured everything and came down before it changed its mind.
Another affect the of the broken staysail halyard was a torn staysail. I got out my sail tape and sewing machine and went to it. There was a 4-foot rip just inside the seam on the leach of the sail near the top. I sewed and sewed and sewed some more. It might hold. Again, I really need new sails.
The final affect of the broken staysail halyard was that five of the bronze sail hanks snapped. JB gave me some that he had salvaged. They were a bit large and two cracked when I tried to bend them onto the sail. But I ended up with enough for the sail. Again, say it with me: New Sails.
I checked the house batteries and found the water down about 4-pints, total. Not too bad considering this heat.
I took apart the heat exchanger and cleaned it with muriatic acid. I had tried to do that once before but was unable to get the core out of the housing. Ray (s/v Night Hawk) said, "You know you have to pull out the rubber O-rings first, right?" Well, no, I didn't. Once I pulled the O-rings, the core just slid out easy as pie. Yep, I'm a dummy.
On the 7th of March I did my taxes on line. Didn't come out too badly this year. Now I have to start writing a book. Under "Occupation" I listed "Writer." The intent is that all my expenses while cruising are business-related in that I'm doing research for my next book. I don't know if the IRS will actually buy that, but we'll see.
On Wednesdays we forgo the usual beers at the "table of knowledge" in the newly renovated, Bedouin-inspired, seafront lounge at Club Nautico and walk down the street to Pedro's and have pizza and beer.
The high point of the week was Wednesday, 9 March, when I met Jeff and Jose (s/v Stravaig) at the local pizza place.
Me and Jeff onboard sv Stravaig.
Talking with Jeff is an education in the art of cruising. Not only does he know a lot of technical things but his attitude of "make it an adventure" appeals to me. He's currently heading back to the Pacific. I say 'back' because his adventures already include things like, while cruising the South Pacific over twenty years ago, having lived in Tahiti for two years managing a hotel. I may cruise with him to see if I can pick up any of that knowledge just by hanging around. Also his Dutch wife, Jose, is adorable; and that's always nice.
My MP3-player died (again). I bought this one last August and today, 18 March, it decided to refuse to turn on. I plug it in and it does nothing. I put it away and sulk; I need my music. Bummer!
Let's get back to Cartagena.
I was downtown and started to notice all the door knockers. I know, sometimes I can be a little off-center. But anyway here's a few that caught my eye.
I've shown some pictures of Cartagena before, but here are a few more. I was going to the grocery store with Jose (s/v Stravaig) and we snapped a few shots.
This is Jose (sv Stravaig) on a typical Cartagena street. They are narrow and usually blocked by something.
Another shot down a typical side street. The architecture is definitely Spanish.
Back at Club Nautico Happy Hour turned to talk of politics and also turned a bit unhappy. It seems that many cruisers are radical liberals and just expect everyone around to agree with their view of the world. When they come across a conservative cruiser they are shocked and get very emotional. Tempest-Bob, Passport-IB, Elysium-Dave are raving socialists and can't imagine anyone thinking differently. Well, they can now I guess. I rarely go quietly from those kinds of conversations. It all started when they started making "I Hate Sarah Palin" jokes. I stepped up to the challenge.
Elysium-Dave believes that the estate tax should be 100%. That once you die you have no right to anything you once owned. That belief generated more than just a bit of conversation with me, a devout property-rights guy. But it's just politics and most of us parted friends that night.
I've begun to realize that I really have to start looking at leaving here. I need some inspiration. Between happy hours, pizza nights, poker, and just hanging out downtown I'm doing nothing but living. Well, actually, what the hell's wrong with that? Nothing! But I want to do some living elsewhere, too. So to work. Maybe tomorrow...
One morning a large sport fishing boat went speeding past the marina and through the anchored boats. I remember it knocking me down and everything flying off the shelves on Galena. Later I heard that several of the boats in the marina, which are Med-Moored right next to each other, had significant damaged done when their masts smashed into one another. Many had wind instruments broken, masthead lights smashed, rigging cracked, roller furling and sails damaged, etc.
Night-Hawk-Ray was one of those with significant damage. He and Tempest-Bob got in touch with the Port Captain and complained. They then found out that one of the guys on the dock had recorded the whole thing on his digital camera. Had the fishing boat roaring past and then continued around in time to catch the masts banging into each other.
Lawyers were hired. Court dates set. Costs and estimates prepared. And then they waited. And waited. Oh, and paid additional, unexpected and not really explained court costs. And the lawyers needed more up-front money. And they waited. Finally all the cruisers just threw in the towel. Which was just what everyone was waiting for them to do. The cruisers repaired their boats and sailed away. The sport fisherman went back to his fishing.
The Continuing Story of My Overheating Diesel
The first week in May I awoke to find a French cruiser had anchored right on top of me. Well, I wanted to test the newly cleaned heat exchanger so I moved. I hauled anchor and went for a spin around the harbor. I let the engine warm up to operating temperature. Then shoved the throttle to "econ-cruise" power, which on the Yanmar is 2800 rpm. The engine overheat alarm sounded in just 3-minutes. Damn!
Now, I've been trying to solve this overheating problem for about a year. Everyone I talk to tells me the same few things to check. Orf course I've checked all the easy stuff. If you're reading this and you think, Impeller, jammed impeller blades, dirty heat exchanger, thermostat, clogged raw water strainer/hose/through-hull/mixing elbow… yeah, I've checked all that.
I borrowed a remote temperature probe and took her for another test run. The alarm was sounding a bit too soon according to the book. The alarm was going off at 185-deg instead of 200-deg. The normal operating temperature is 185. In fact, the thermostat opens fully at 185. So that might be the problem: a bad sending unit. But the temp seemed to continue to go up as I ran it at normal cruise rpm.
I had Hawk-Ray look at it. He wanted to pull the freshwater pump. So we did. He didn't like the softness of the freshwater hoses. So I replaced them. I also had to replace the gaskets for the freshwater pump once we decided there was nothing amiss there.
Finally I just hired the local diesel mechanic, Elvis. Nice guy. Very thorough. He checked a lot of the things I'd already checked. But as he said, it was required part of his analysis. Well, he didn't say those words, but that's what he meant. Finally he said the injectors needed to be bench tested. His experience with Yanmars is that the injectors, if running lean, will cause an overheat. He said with 2500 hrs on the engine it was time to test/calibrate them anyway. So we did. He found one very weak, and one just a little 'off.'
Elvis working on Galena's Yanmar diesel.
In removing the injectors he noted that one of the external oil galleys on the engine was very corroded. He explained that if that developed a pinhole leak, the engine wouldn't be able to maintain oil pressure. The tubing should be replaced with copper (like the hard part of a car's break line). So that went off the to shop, too.
Replacing the rebuilt injectors made the engine run much, much smoother. It actually sounded like it had more power. We took her out for a test. He noted three problems:
First the engine overheat alarm came on after about 10-minutes of cruise rmp. But the temperature stayed well within the normal operating range for the whole 30-min test.
Secondly, the transmission was making a little noise. Elvis fiddled with it and said the drive cones may be damaged. He wanted to tear it down. One day only, he said.
Thirdly the new oil galley tubing leaked. Badly.
On the way back to the anchorage he noted the stuffing box temperature was a bit high. So he adjusted that, too.
Three days later, with a newly rebuilt transmission (bearings and seals), and a newly re-soldered oil galley tube we tested Galena again. Again, the temperature alarm sounded but way too soon. As soon as the thermostat fully opened (I had checked it in a pot of water and it was working perfectly) the temp dropped a few degrees and held right there at normal operating temperature. With the alarm merrily bleaping away.
Elvis said a new Yanmar sending unit was way, way expensive. I said I work it out in Panama.
Sometime at the end of March I bought a cell phone. I wanted to be able to talk with my buds here and to call my daughter, Michelle. I also wanted a phone that I could use for internet access. I was assured that the phone I bought was one of the best and could be 'unlocked' from the local Comcel provider.
I paid $120 for it. Nice phone. I took it to one of the guys that does the unlocking and he looked at it, scratched his head, called some of his buddies over, they scratched their heads, they called friends on the phone and jabbered a bit. The bottom line: this phone can't be unlocked. It's only good here in Columbia. Damn! Foiled again!
There's a guy here who makes and sells courtesy flags. For you non-cruisers, whenever you enter another country's territorial waters you have to fly their flag from your starboard spreader as a courtesy. So I went through my flag locker and made a list of the flags I didn't have for a trip through the South Pacific. I made quite a list. He made quite a bundle of money. Good flags.
At the end of March I had to go to immigrations with my agent, Yesika, and have my two-month visa extended for a month. That cost $40.
A cruising buddy mentioned he had a Max-Prop for sale. A Max-Pro is a variable pitch, feathering prop that retails for about $3400. He wanted $250 for his "lightly used" one. I bought it. Someday I'll actually install it. But it's complicated. One doesn't just pop the old one off and slide this one on. Galena definitely needs to be on the hard for that job. OK, I'll remind myself next time I paint her bottom.
I prattled my way through most of April. I did a great deal of nothing whatsoever. And did it well, I might add.
A short trip to Cholon
Then for Easter weekend a couple of cruisers were heading over to Cholon, Columbia just to avoid the holiday madness here. So I went, too.
Galena's track from Cartagena to Cholon with insert showing entry route into Cholon
Leaving Cartagena I went out Boca Grande. There's this wall there. It was built in the 1500's to keep the British warships out. Most of it is about 4- or 5- feet below the water. But there is one spot where you can get through. That spot is marked with large, sometimes lit, floating markers. The opening is only a couple hundred yards wide. And there are always reports of the markers being off-station. Because of that I was too frightened to try it when I arrived. Now I thought, what the hell.
After crossing over the wall a few times I can accurately report that the center of the cut is at:
N 10° 23.394, W 75° 34.256'
and carries 10.5-ft at MLW. No problems at all.
Cholon is a quiet little harbor about 20-nm southwest of here. There's a rather torturous entrance that isn't well marked. So I got some waypoints from Jose and another set from Ray. I ran in and was surprised how easy it was to see the shoals. After cruising the Bahamas for all those years, reading the water comes rather naturally.
Oh, the waypoints are:
N10° 10.752, W075° 40.508
N10° 10.640, W075° 40.536
N10° 10.368, W075° 40.310
N10° 10.089, W075° 40.319
N10° 09.862, W075° 40.186
At the fifth waypoint turn to starboard and stay as close to the shoreline (it's on your port side) you will see the last shoal on the starboard side as you run down along the shoreline. It's only a couple hundred yards until you are free to navigate inside the harbor.
The "Bar" on the beach as you enter Cholon. Yeah, it's pretty close. People are sitting at the tables in the water there. You can see the deeper water just past the power boat.
Anchored inside the harbor I just hung out and met some more cruisers.
I already knew a bunch of them. Including Robert, the ex-LA cop who had been here for about 20-years. There were a couple beach parties and a lot of swimming (the water here, unlike Cartagena harbor, is crystal clear).
And I finally reciprocated and invited Jeff and Jose over for dinner. I made something that closely resembled something eatable and they were gracious enough to actually eat it. Then we sat around drinking wine and playing guitar.
Jeff and Jose (s/v Stravaig) onboard Galena
Galena in the harbor at Cholon, Columbia
Then it was back to Cartagena for the final push to get things done. s/v Stravaig was going to leave about the same time as I so I gauged my activities to match theirs.
The Saga of the Witch of Endor
About this time Steve (s/v Witch of Endor) was heading back to Florida to get new masts for his Formosa 44(?) ketch. He has wooden masts and they had started spitting. He had sistered-up the main mast about 10-ft up off the deck. The mast there was visibly split.
His plan was to sail "gently" north out of here. Having just sailed south into here I thought he was nuts. But Steve has many, many sea miles under his keel and it would be out-of-place for me to say anything.
Well, the Witch got about 20-nm north when the top 2-ft of the main mast snapped off. Along with the mast-head came the forward stay with roller furling, the stay going back to the mizzen mast, and the main upper shrouds.
The mizzen mast, without it's forward stay, stood up for about 20-seconds and then snapped off and toppled over the stern.
He decided to turn back to Cartagena.
The stern of the Witch of Endor showing the mizzen mast over the dinghy davits.
The splintered top of the main mast of the Witch of Endor with the masthead dangling from some remaining electrical wires.
Steve then decided that the best course of action was to completely remove the masts and just motor from here to Florida. Something about the cost of shipping anything over 40-ft overseas.
JB (s/v Philoni) volunteered to go along with Steven, who is a single-hander. This time they got about 100-nm north and the steering quadrant broke. For you non-sailors out there, the steering quadrant is like a lever-arm that is bolted to the top of the rudder post. The steering cables go to it and push/pull the rudder back and forth. No steering quadrant means no connection between the wheel in the cockpit and the boat's rudder.
So they dug out the emergency tiller. On this boat the emergency tiller is a pole about 12-ft long. They tried to steer her but the seas were too big and the boat, without masts, was rolling so much that they couldn't even stand in the cockpit. So they rigged some bungee cords on one side of the tiller and a block and tackle on the other. Leading the end of the line below they could steer by pulling and releasing a bit of rope.
They decided to return to Cartagena.
OK, two days later they have a newly welded steering quadrant installed and ready to go. Third time's the charm, right?
The divert to Providencia (an island off the coast of Nicaragua). The Witch was rolling so much that the muck in the bottom of her fuel tanks is stirred up and has clogged the fuel filters. They have already used all the spare filters on board and so were waiting in Providencia for a couple cases of new filters to arrive.
That was the last I heard of them. I assume they made it to the States eventually.
Ok, it's time to get out of here. I'll go to Cholon just to make the run to San Blas a good two-nighter.
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Back to Part 03: At George Town, Great Exuma, Bahamas
On to Part 05: San Blas Panama