Leaving Santa Marta After a Five Week Stay

While we loved Santa Marta, we were eager to untie the lines and sail again. We left at first light on Friday, and entered the harbor with 24 other sailboats. Two swimmers grabbed a navigation buoy and held on, hoping to avoid being run over by the parade. We often saw these swimmers in the early morning, getting in a long workout. The times we tried to do this, my mouth filled with gasoline-tasting water, and Bill got tangled in plastic bags! We were not brave enough to try again.

The harbor was soon filled with catamarans and monohulls traveling in zigzags, as we headed into the wind to raise sails, and heading off the wind to get on course. Once underway and on our course, we lost much of this great wind, and started engines to keep up the pace. We all wanted to get to the anchorage in Porto Valero, 55 miles ahead.

We are approaching the line where the Barranquilla River outflow meets the clear Caribbean Sea
We are approaching the line where the Barranquilla River outflow meets the clear Caribbean Sea
Now we are in the river outflow.  It even smells like a river!
Now we are in the river outflow. It even smells like a river!

Approaching the Barranquilla River, was bizarre. The water had a clear line marking the fresh river water flowing on top of the Caribbean Sea salt water. I would like to do a study to see why this water doesn’t mix more, giving a gradual color change. We were almost three miles out to sea from the mouth of this river, and there seemed to be no mixing. Bill caught a tuna as we approached this line, as did several other sailors nearby. Apparently, this water causes a wall of sorts, where the tuna swim with the current, hit the wall, and turn around. In their confusion, they bite on lures more frequently than they tend to during the more steady water patterns.

As the water changed from a clear turquoise to a milky cafe au lait, the wind also changed from a docile breeze to a spirited ride. We moved along briskly at this point, and witnessed too much wind as we turned the corner to head into the anchorage. No matter, the sea state was calm, and the boats settled nicely at anchors.

As the sun sets, Bill finds the sail has pulled out another luff tack
As the sun sets, Bill finds the sail has pulled out another luff tack
Here is the broken slider.  Luckily I have spares
Here is the broken slider. Luckily I have spares

Luckily, Bill noticed, even in the dim light, that we had blown out another luff tack. This mainsail is only a few months old and we’ve already blown out three. We have sliders that run up the mast with webbing to attach the sliders to the mainsail. The webbing doesn’t tear, but it becomes unstitched. I just stitch them back in place, hoping my stitching will last longer than the original. This time, however, the slider actually broke, allowing the webbing to slip right out. As the sun went down, I stitched the webbing back on to a new slider and ran it up the track. Fingers crossed that this fix will hold.

Funny GPS plotter shot.  X just marks center of page, boat image marks our position, triangles mark other boats in our group.  collision symbol marks where it thinks we will collide, white marks navigable water, blue is shallow, and yellow is land. Hmm.. the land is not right!
Funny GPS plotter shot. X just marks center of page, boat image marks our position, triangles mark other boats in our group. collision symbol marks where it thinks we will collide, white marks navigable water, blue is shallow, and yellow is land. Hmm.. the land is not right!

The Colombian authorities came around to each boat to check us in. The officers must have been new to this job, because they caused damage to the first boat they visited. They tied their small vessel to a cleat on Bayzano, and with a rolling swell in the anchorage, the boats lurched, yanking on the cleat, loosening it. Luckily, they just did drive by’s for the rest of us, taking pictures of the boat and calling it good.

PortoValero
Bill is ready with our ship’s papers. Luckily, the port authority officers don’t tie up, they just pass by taking pictures.

Knowing we would be rising well before dawn to complete our passage to Cartagena the next day, we all turned out lights, except the mast heads, and went to sleep. I would have liked to have gone to shore to explore this new place, but there was no time.

Rising at 4 am, we found the air completely calm. After a quick bowl of oatmeal and a cup of tea, we raised anchor, and set out into the dark. Raising the mainsail was a waste of time, and we soon dropped it back down again, resigned to a day of motoring. Slight breezes came and went throughout the day, and you could see all of us raising sails, only to find them mostly drooping lazily. This confused me. We had worried about the coast of Colombia since the start of the trip in Maine. We had been warned that the coast had stormy weather with huge seas all the time, and to prepare for this accordingly. Well, we have sailed along this coast on three separate days so far, and each day has been so mellow and barely enough wind to fill sails.

This journey has been all about surprises. Nothing is as we expected. The books and charts are guidelines, but each day brings new weather patterns and conditions to deal with. So far, we have found that Alembic has outperformed all of our expectations. Bill and I have found many surprises with our relationship as well. After being together for 34 years, we thought we knew everything about each other. I am happy to report that all of our new findings have just brought us closer, and stronger. We are looking forward to seeing all of our loved ones, and our favorite home, Maine, but we also have learned that we want to keep sailing. We are now making plans to revisit some of the places we have seen, and explore new ports as well.

Hopefully, some of you will come along for parts of our journey. Kenny and Jenna just booked tickets this week to be with us in Belize, Cay and George will also be joining us for another week in Belize, and Ben and Pat are trying to arrange a time that works for them as well. We are a moving target, so booking flights can be challenging, but we are always hopeful to share this amazing experience with others. Alembic is ten feet longer than our last cruising boat, Wings, a Westsail 32, giving us space for more on board. Come help us fill this space!

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