Santa Marta Christmas 2020.

Santa Marta street art.

In the days following our arrival in Santa Marta, Colombia on Sunday the 6 th December, a number of other yachts arrived. These were Australian, New Zealand, US and Belgian registered yachts who we had all met before in various anchorages, so there was a flurry of reunion drinks and dinners in the evenings of the following week.

Statue of Simon Bolivar “The Liberator” of South America from Spanish rule. He died in Santa Marta.

Colonial government buildings.

During the day, we explored the town of Santa Marta, which was bustling with street traders on the sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk in the streets and running the gauntlet of vehicles whose drivers consider traffic lights as mere decorations and their hooters as the cure-all for pedestrians in their way.

Bustling streets and sidewalks.

Having a cup of coffee at a busy street cafe.

A hat and bag seller.

The marina could arrange hot dip galvanising with a local plant, so we had our badly corroded anchor and 80 m of anchor chain sent in for galvanising. Our BBQ which runs off an Aussie gas cylinder, was back in action as the local gas supplier had an adaptor for it and refilled the cylinder for us.

Santa Marta cathedral.

Our daughter Karen who travelled South America two years ago and spent some time in Colombia, suggested we visit Minca, a small town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We headed out there on the 13 th December to spend a relaxed time on land for a couple of days. The town reminded us of Nimbin, the hippie town in northern NSW, Australia. We stayed at the Chunu’u hostel resort in a “glamping tent” next to a river.

Arriving at Chunu’u – named after the small nectar eating bird.

The “glamping tents”

Inside our “Loveshack”

Taking a breather.

After action satisfaction – man, relax with a cup of coffee.

Fellow Aussie Colin, arranged for us to visit the La Victoria coffee plantation high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. To get there, ten of us sailors got onto the pillions of the local moto taxis and had a hair raising ride on narrow unpaved roads with hairpin bends and sheer drops to the valleys below.

Annie and her driver.

Miguel my driver – hairstyle is important to these youngsters. The “Style du Jour” is “Mullet meets Mohawk”.

La Victoria is one of the biggest and oldest coffee farms of northern Colombia. It was founded in 1892 by Charles and Alice Bowden, a couple of English entrepreneurs who arrived in the country. The Bowden’s were among the pioneers that started producing coffee extensively in the region around Minca. They engineered a system of pipelines that uses water from the numerous streams of the farm to collect coffee from remote areas and to power the machinery of the coffee factory.

The water powered generator supplying power to the farm.

Thanks to these innovations, La Victoria Coffee Company became one of the top producers of coffee in the region by 1921, with a yearly production of 200,000 kg. More recently, the Weber-Wilde family, who has owned the property for two generations now, is opening the farm to alternative activities. We enjoyed a very informative tour of the coffee factory built in 1892 and still running today. The owner who’s husband passed away two years ago, is running the big farm and coffee factory on her own.

The owner explains how the coffee fruit is soaked to separate the flesh from the bean.

Coffee beans are dried in these turning vessels.

The trip back on the moto taxis were even worse, because going downhill the riders could show off their considerable racing skills, which would have had the motorcycle racers in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, green with envy. When not hiking along the rivers and the mountain trails, we explored the town and enjoyed the local food.

Crossing the river on a dodgy bridge.

Locals enjoying the chilly mountain water.

Up in the mountains, these huge bamboo forests are prolific.

A nymph in the river.

Bye-bye to Chunu’u.

Back at the marina, we had new neighbours, Rokas and Simona on “Starlight” from Lithuania and Elaine and Crawford on “Nauplios” from the UK. The galvanising of our anchor and chain had been delayed due the volume of work at the plant, with the promise that we can expect delivery just before Christmas, which is celebrated in Colombia on the 24 th December. We will set sail to Cartagena, 120 nm to the South, after Christmas, to celebrate the New Year down there.

To all our family and friends, we wish you a merry Christmas and after hopefully receiving your Covid vaccinations early in 2021, a brighter and happier new year than the year that 2020 has been. Cheers!

Annie & Dirk

Curacao 2.5 and sailing to Colombia.

Whilst waiting for confirmation of the 1st December border opening of Colombia, we did our laundry and did two long hikes: The “Meditation” hike above Santa Barbara resort, which clearly hadn’t been walked by anyone for years. I should have taken a machete to fight through the prolific cacti and “Hook and spear” thorn trees. (Haak en steek dorings)

Annie forging ahead on the Meditation hike

Cacti flourish here.

As if the scratches on our legs were not enough, a solid rain downpour hit us just before we reached the lookout, drenching us completely. During my meditation afterwards, I tried to answer the questions “Why did we tackle this hike?” and “Where did you put the Betadine antiseptic and Voltaren meds?”

Looking down to Seru Boca marina.

Annie at the lookout.

View across Spanish Water.

Annie catching her breath back at Santa Barbara beach.

The next hike was the Jan Thiel lagoon walk (aka “The roller coaster hike”) on Sunday the 29th Nov. After the previous day’s rain, this was a slippery mud-bath and begged the same question as above. After a swim, some Voltaren anti-inflammatories and a stiff whisky, we went to bed early.

The only worthwhile photo on this walk – an animal cemetery in the bush.

There was the good news by email just before bedtime that Colombia will open it’s harbours on the 1st December – details about Covid-19 protocols to follow. Confirmation came through on the 1st: No prior testing or testing on arrival required after a doctor has checked us out. We took the bus into town and did the 6.4 km circuit checking out with Customs and Immigration on the 2nd December. In the evening we had farewell drinks on Wild Thing.

Last look at Punda in Willemstad – new hearts for more locks.

Christmas tree decorations complete.

The fresh fruit and veg market.

The following day, we had a relaxed broad reach up the West coast of Curacao and anchored off beautiful Santa Cruz bay, the most northerly anchorage on the island. The reason for setting of from here, is to pass Aruba to the North and avoid the 15 km wide passage to Venezuela to the South – the danger of piracy from Venezuela is a reality.

Passing Willemstad on our way up the west coast.

More cruise liners in mothballs – the Kiwi’s say “Beached as”

On the 4th December, we set off at 6:30 am for the 358 nm crossing to Santa Marta in Colombia. After 2 hours of motor sailing to get out of the lee of the island, we set the jib out on the pole, with one reef in the main to goose wing downwind. We fine tuned Harry the Hydrovane in 28 knots of north-easterly wind and Harry steered us all the way to Santa Marta over the next 46 hours.

Route Caribbean. (Click on map to enlarge)

At 2pm we passed Northwest Point in Aruba, 8 nm offshore. At 4:30 pm we gybed the sails at 13.15 deg north on the 1,000 metre depth contour, to start our course south. During the night, the notorious easterly and confused swells started to rise, but we were bowling along nicely to cover 176 nm at 6:30am to average 7.3 knots over 24 hours. At 10:00 am we passed Cabo de Vela in Colombia, 20 nm offshore.

Annie catches another Mahi-Mahi.

Sunday the 5th December was a real relaxed Sunday sail as the waves got smaller, once we were in the lee of Cabo de Vela. As we were approaching Santa Marta, we furled the jib and tucked a second reef in the main in an effort to slow down in the strong 35 knot easterly. We had planned to reach Santa Marta by midday, but now it was still dark and we were not ready to make our landfall.

We managed to drop the sail outside Marina Santa Marta at 6:30 am, as the sun was rising. Esprit had sailed 182 nm over 24 hours to average 7.6 knots. The 358 nm passage she covered in 48 hours at 7.46 knots. Esprit was performing as well as we could wish for.

Hoisting the Colombian and quarantine flags.

The marina staff did not come on duty until 8:00 am, so we drifted in the harbour, brewing coffee and having breakfast. The staff were very welcoming and efficient, tying us up at our berth. Being Sunday, the government agencies weren’t working, so we went for showers and slept most of the afternoon. By 5:00 pm we were woken by the many pleasure craft returning to the marina, their sound systems blasting fantastic Spanish music. This was a welcome change from the Afro beat prevalent in the Caribbean.

Washing off the salt.

Jeanneau’s at Santa Marta marina

It is now Monday morning and Jorg Domann from Berlin has just berthed next to us in a Jeanneau 409 sister yacht. Sailing single handed and restricted from poling out, he covered the distance in 3 days, which is good for single handing. He has gone to sleep now, whilst we are waiting on a doctor to come and check us up around midday for Covid clearance. It has also given me the opportunity to write this post while waiting. We will report in due course on Santa Marta and Cartagena in Colombia. Until then, cheers and stay safe.