Sailing to Colombia

To travel west, we first had to go southeast. This is because Aruba requires boats to check in and out on the dock at Barcadera, which is inconveniently located on the south side of the island. Fortunately, we had a nice light wind day, so we could motor this upwind section in relative calm. We passed by the cruise ship terminals, and spent the Sunday night back in the airport anchorage. We watched the planes come in and the shuttles pass by to Renaissance island, and Captain made his rounds.

Checkout in the morning was pretty painless, with light winds blowing off the customs dock for a nice safe approach. Unfortunately it happened a good two hours later than we’d have liked, because we had a ton of current against us getting from the anchorage to Barcadera. We zipped through the two offices, headed back out the channel, and put up the spinnaker. We got a little extra push from that same current, and had a flat and easy downwind sail.

Did I mention it was flat? The autopilot held, nothing fell over, and everyone was comfortable.

We had a lovely sunset, Andrew cooked actual food, and Jazz went to bed for her first nap.

Jazz took over the autopilot vigil for the night shift, and took about a hundred pictures of the moon and the stars and the bioluminescence sparkling in Villa’s wake, none of which really came out, before tagging off again a little after sunrise for nap number two. Note how the boom is still tied down; we’re still spinnaker only at this point, no mainsail.

In the mid afternoon, Jazz was sunbathing when she noticed dolphins approaching. They played for a couple of minutes in our bow waves, and then zoomed away. Captain was not interested, not that we wanted to draw his attention to anything near the edge of the boat while we’re under way.

About an hour later, a school of big fish started pacing the boat, very occasionally jumping as they hunted some prey we couldn’t make out. Our first thought was that the dolphins were back, but the shape and colors were wrong, and they weren’t surfacing to breathe. Our best guess is yellowfin tuna. When we arrived in Santa Marta, we found them on a mural outside the marina.

A few hours later, the wind started to pick up enough that we took the spinnaker down and put up the downwind pole. This was a bit more of a fiasco than we’d have liked, because we didn’t bother starting the engine. In the time between getting one sail down and the other up, Villa decided she would like to be sideways to the waves. So Andrew ended up dancing back and forth across the deck as he levered the pole into place. But we got it done, and we had another lovely sunset over the open ocean.

Then on Jazz’s night shift, we finally caught sight of Nautilife on our AIS. We’d had occasional radio contact for a few hours, and learned that they’d left an hour or so after we did. So we traded locations and the occasional joke as we headed around Cabo de Vela.

An hour or so into Jazz’s shift, the wind had died down enough that we should have put the spinnaker back up. But Andrew was dead to the world and flat-out refused to get up for this two-person task, so we motored most of the night and into the dawn.

At which point the wind had dropped even lower, and our arrival time estimate was starting to be borderline; we didn’t want to deal with officials after hours, much less approach the marina in the dark. So we put the spinnaker back up, and then the main, but we left the engine running to pick up an extra knot.

As the day lightened, the mountains came into view, and gradually loomed larger as we took advantage of our last opportunity to “boob brown” for a good while.

We rounded the coast with a late-morning coffee, and had garbled conversations with the harbormaster as we drifted forward on the dregs of the wind. We kept expecting something to pick up as we rounded the point, but no such thing happened, so while our spinnaker stayed, it was mostly decoration.

Getting into the marina was also a bit of a debacle. We called with plenty of notice, but still ended up doing a circle while they figured out where our slip would be. (Apparently there were issues with the double L in our name; “Via Veritas” had the reservation.) Once they did, they told us to come in, and which way to turn, but wouldn’t give us enough information to plan where we were going. As we came in, an monohull came ripping out without warning, ditching its fiberglass dinghy in the fairway and leaving it to sink and us to steer around it. We later found out that the guy was having a mental break and had left without permission or his crew/girlfriend; the coast guard escorted him back later that day. This drama meant that we had a nice big circus audience for our arrival.

So we’re puttering down the fairway when we get “stop here, this is your slip”, way too late to set the turn up properly. Then when we tried to align ourselves with the slip using a spring, the dock hand released the spring line without warning and for no reason we could figure out, resulting in Villa shooting out into the fairway towards another boat. Meanwhile a guy on a fishing boat is yelling “move over” with a big gesture, as if that’s useful guidance; what do you think we’re trying to do, exactly? People look at a catamaran and assume two engines, and maybe a bow thruster, and that’s not Villa. So while we can get her where she needs to go, the process can be frustrating when other people try to “help”. Anyway, we got into the slip without hitting anyone or damaging anything, though Andrew did have to physically fend off of our neighbor’s anchor. And we got the paperwork started, and were treated to a nice sunset and our first fast-food dinner on the Santa Marta Malecon.

Here’s Villa in the marina, closer to her neighbors than she’s been in several years. Welcome to Colombia!