Welcome to Our Latest Adventure Aboard Dragonfly!
We have launched our third cruising year aboard Dragonfly. In 2006 we traveled from our home waters of coastal Massachussets to the NW Caribbean enjoying Belize, the Bay Islands of Honduras and Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Our first season back in 2005 found us sailing the Eastern Caribbean as far as Grenada.
We have had a blast, traveling over 10,000 miles to date. The highlight seems to be the people we meet, people from all over the world with fascinating experiences and life stories. Last year's adventures centered around diving the beautiful reefs of the NW Caribbean. Our first year focused on snorkeling gorgeous reefs, hiking lush rain forests and volcaninc peaks, swimming in pristine waterfalls, walking exotic towns &, sampling exotic foods.
Read our latest thoughts and experiences here:
Cartagena has a fascinating history. It was the most important Spanish port in the New World for many centuries and the most heavily fortified city. Its strategic location made it an ideal spot for the Spanish fleet to gather the riches of the Indies, repair their galleons in perfect safety, regroup after taking delivery of it’s precious cargo & establish a windward position for the close-hauled passage to the Yucatan Straits (taken from Kit S. Kapp “The Coast of Columbia). Over the centuries both the French and the British raided the port with moderate success, resulting in ever larger and advanced fortifications - the last British attack ended in retreat not because of a military defeat but because of rampant disease among the troops. For the modern day boater, an interesting aspect is entering the bay of Cartagena via the BocaGrande channel – here you enter over the top of an underwater seawall built for defense purposes two centuries ago (11 foot depth).
We’ve walked the little streets of the Cartagena’s old walled city numerous times; I just don’t tire of its beauty. I find myself peeking in as many open doorways as possible, the little houses contain quiet, shaded courtyards, beautiful tiled floors and exquisite wooden furniture. The street vendors are assertive trying to interest us in sunglasses, shopping trips for emeralds, so called “original” art work (which of course is seen again a few streets away), t-shirts, etc. The little yellow taxis beep at us constantly, drivers hoping for a fare. At night the plazas are filled with local musicians and groups enjoying the open air cafes. The Cartagena international film festival took place this past week bringing more activity and events; we enjoyed a photography exhibit one evening (of course we were the first to arrive at 8:45PM) but never made it to a film (many false starts since better offers always seemed to appear).
The restaurants start to fill at 9:00PM and so far the meals have been delicious and a great deal. The clubs start hoppin at 10PM. How would I know this? We pushed ourselves one Saturday night to visit Club Havana for live Cuban music with our friends Kaija and Gary - and a merry scene it was. We heard the music spilling out of the doorway of the club well before we arrived. We stepped into a bright room packed with well dressed couples of all ages. The space was mainly taken up by a huge U-shaped wooden bar and tables lining the outer walls. Clustered on a small platform were 5 musicians and 2 singers who performed one lively Cuban tune after another. The bartenders boogied behind the bar, couples jumped up from their chairs to salsa in place. It’s was a joy to soak up the rhythms and feel the energy (and taste the mojitos). I can’t wait to visit Cuba someday! From there we attempted to find Club Columbia to hear typical Columbian music but after a 20 minute search we gave up -- if only we could stay awake past 1:00AM!
Nosotros actividads touristica have been interrupted by las lecciones Espanol. We have been enjoying daily private lessons from Professor Amoury on the marina deck. Not a bad classroom! The lessons are excellent, we have covered quite a lot in a short amount of time and both Rick and I are feeling less intimidated. Having said that it still seems that words don’t come when I need them, and they are there when I don’t. At one store I was told that my Spanish was very good, at the next I couldn’t get my intentions across at all. Still, it’s great working toward the goal and beneficial to learn together so we can practice and use both brains when attempting a real conversation. We should have lots of practice ahead in Panama and Guatemala.
We also have to make time for the continuing boat projects. Rick isolated the root of our water leaks. In the forward port storage compartment the hull had separated from deck. On a calm afternoon, Rick scooted along in the dingy removing the outer rubrail so he could access the area that required repair. Then he glued the hull and deck back together so it was in the correct position for phase 2. Wakes from the motor boats flying through the anchorage certainly made for a unique work environment. Next Alvero came in to re-fiberglass the area ($50 for 5 hours). Rick accompanied Alvero to the store to purchase the resin and fiberglass. The resin was sold in two plastic bleach containers, the resin itself in a container labeled in magic marker “A”, the hardener in container “B “. Once the wind kicked up reattaching the rubrail had to be put on hold. Fixing the leak in the forward starboard berth required first caulking the holes where the trampoline track is bolted to the hull. Then disassembling the interior wall of the room where some of the hull had separated from the deck. The work of repairing the wall continues.
We also hired Renzon to make a new sailcover for Dragonfly; the existing cover has always been too short and has been deteriorating over time. Lots of cruisers have boat work done in Cartagena, including carpentry, varnishing, corian fabrication, canvas work, upholstery. Of course there are good stories and bad. At the recommendation of our ‘ship’s agent” we brought Renzon out to the boat to discuss the project. He understood English quite well but spoke hesitantly. Via bits of Spanish, English, hand signals and drawings we agreed on a design and we were convinced he understood our requirements. The price was good so we gave the “go ahead” hoping that we’d have a happy ending (the quality would be acceptable and that the delivery date met). A week later he was back on the boat as promised with a beautifully constructed sailcover (el forro). It fits perfectly and is a big improvement over the older one. Renzon seemed to get kick out of our Spanish studies -- as he set-up the sailcover he tested us and joked with us, teaching us new words and phrases (Que Pienza?).
Another interesting event was our meeting with the Captain of the Cartagena Port and an official from the Columbian Coast Guard. They came to the marina to discuss their regulations, raise awareness of their efforts in the area of safety, to answer questions and hear our concerns. The officials were very impressive – they were open, understanding, generous with their knowledge and proactive in answering questions. The cruising community turned out in force as most are continuing to Panama along the Columbian coastline, an area that has a reputation for great beauty, friendly people and numerous convenient day stops along the way. Of course drug trafficking remains a huge industry in parts of Columbia so cruisers are interested in the latest recommendations for a safe journey. It’s obvious that the Columbian authorities have taken a serious interest in assisting cruisers and in their safety - they ask us to email the coastguard a float plan before leaving Cartagena and to check in on the vhf radio with each local coastguard station as we arrive at a new area so that they know our whereabouts. It is common for cruisers following this procedure to be checked on by coastguard vessels. Unfortunately these are often stealth visits, taking place after dark, the coastguard vessels running without lights.
So, we have a enjoyed the city and finished our preparations and are hoping to head out toward the San Blaas islands on Saturday. Of course another day may easily turn into another week as a big blow is headed our way. Once we depart we’ll lose the internet until we re-emerge at a larger town on the coast of Panama. At that time I expect we’ll be talking about the unusual lifestyle of the Kuna Indians of the San Blaas instead of the hustle and bustle of Cartagena.
Click to see our pictures.