The Colon at the end of your canal.

June 2010

Muz and I finished our paperwork and it was just a matter of waiting our turn to get out of Colon. This place as mentioned before is horror, the city of Colon is just filled with filth, dodgy looking dudes, quite a few of the Kuna, soldiers and run down buildings. We had to wait at Tito’s lockup, safe as houses in there, and met Marcus’s gran, we then drove throughout the place to immigration, customs and the harbour master. We also went to the bank down by the wharf as you need to pay cash to the Canal Authority, lucky the bank was just next door, I wouldn’t want to be wandering around with to much cash on you here.

The boys took us shopping and geez the price of everything is so cheap, spewing as I found the same camera I bought for Moe for a third of the Australian duty free price. We stocked up mainly on alcohol and Moe bought a cocktail making book. Sorted. We then filled a shopping trolley with every spirit and liquer we could think of. They also sold these frozen packets of Yumcha which we jumped on and stocked the freezer.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We had a big night with the Dolly Grace guys as they left a couple of days before us, ended up pretty horror, their Captain is a bit of a panic merchant and very do it my way or its the highway, so will have to keep an eye on him. Vinnie and Mark are cool and it is always fun when they are around. We met your usual marina mob, this time an Israeli, Yaya, who was the captain of a beautiful yacht, Gay and Dave off Cumulus1, a 50 foot Benetau, the guys off Larabeck who ended up rafting up with us through the canal.

Moe was stuck in the marina as Colon was me fisherman showed her around the gardens which are huge plus she did the washing and came across dodgy grotty yacht antics. She loaded our washing into a machine but come back shortly later to find our stuff piled on the floor and some wanker had loaded his washing in. She unloaded it and started again, when the wanker came back he even tried to make a fuss, wont tell you where he came from.
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We whiled away the hours in the pool, the bar or washing the boat and had a big night with Tito and his crew and the guys of Larabeck. They had come to meet us as the boys had told them of our exploits in town, we bought them lunch and beers on a couple of occasions, may not be the norm I’m guessing, so we had a impromptu piss up. Poor old Tito’s driver wanted to get going for about 5 beers but he just had to hang around.photo[3]

Next day we  got the nod to head out to the flats and wait at anchor for the pilot to come and we should get underway around 1700. This was delayed and around 1830 we had knocked back quite a few beers and half a bottle of wine, Muz was cooking a big pot of spag bog for the crew which when the the pilot boat arrived in pouring rain, doubled. Tito had sent the three boys to be our rope handlers, Marcus just said enjoy yourself we will look after your ropes. Unreal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We followed a ship into the Gatun Locks and rafted up with Larabeck. The guys on the land chuck monkey fists down to you and then haul the ropes back, just out the corner of my eye I saw one coming at me and caught it left handed just before it hit me in the head, luck seemed to be with us. The gates close behind and then up you go, then into the next lock and same again. Fair bit of surging going on but with the boys and Yaya looking after the ropes all was good. We then made our way to a big mooring bouy and tied up for the night. Some people jump in here like a dare as there are crocodiles in the lake, we didn’t, we just sat back and pigged out on Muz’s excellent dinner then crashed. The boys sat up and drank all the beer then when it was finished curled up out the back.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                                                                                                                                                 The new pilot was there at 0600 and off we went doing 6 knots and just putting along. Muz had to cook again for the new pilot and we filled the esky back up with beers for later on. It was a thirsty old day. The boys were a bit sluggish but after a bit they started up again, giggling and taking the piss out of each other, calling everyone wankers, even us now, funny buggers. Moe spyed a crocodile swimming past and every half hour or so a bloody great big ship comes past. There are parts where the corners are a bit sharp and they have tugs sitting there waiting to bunt the ships around them. It was the only place where I reckon people live on the canal, it is an amazingly clean stretch of water, no rubbish at all. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                                                                                                                                        We motored all day and got to the Miraflores Locks early afternoon, had to wait as a fully loaded Panamax was coming through, you could hear it scraping down the side of the lock, they don’t have much room to spare. The going down was pretty uneventful and no real drama but the good thing was we could all look up to a building and wave to mum who was watching us live in Australia on the webcam. Felt pretty good as we had just about made it to the Pacific, not bad for three rangas anyway.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                                              We exited the locks, Larabeck took off for their marina and we headed around to find the Dolly Grace mob. We ended up checking the anchorage and as we had to provision food, fuel and water we decided to see if we could get into the Flamenco marina, Marcus to the rescue speaking the lingo and they let us hang off the fuel jetty. Dolly Grace rolled up for one beer and had to leave, but we would meet them at Malpelo Island, a few days off.                                                                                                                                                                The boys scored our tyres, rolled up the ropes, called us wankers had a beer, hugged us all and were gone back over the mountains to Colon. I would reckon that that was as close to being the perfect Panama Canal experience. On you Tito.

The Ranga’s.               

Long Island May 2010

This was an email I have just found from back then.

Hi GUYS,

Back in civilization again, almost we are about 60nm north of Cartegena and cruising at 6+kns. We have had the joy sail down from when we got out from behind Hispaniola it has been 15 to 25 knots all day and night for over 50hours. Not much to do but drink beer and eat. We have seen and been to some really good places and some rundown joints as well but in the Bahamas if you get on with them you are protected property and no one will try to rip you off. You can leave stuff on deck, boat unlocked whatever but if you asked if it was safe to leave the boat or your dinghy here or there and they say yes then no one will touch it. It’ll cost you a tip, 10usd, but if you are like me and leave shit everywhere it is a bargain. We sailed from Eleuthera Island past Cat Island with pretty heavy seas and heaps of wind and finally made it to the south tip at Hawknest cay. Horror little river, very tidal. All the other boats were facing upstream and tight on their lines so we dropped anchor but then we  were pushed into a bank and then we were being dragged up into the creek over our anchor line then we ran aground, I pretty calmly, sort of, raised anchor and got the —- out of there. Never to return. We ended anchoring out the front which was fine although the others reckoned it was a bit rocky, not enough beers, I slept like a log. We were out of there at 0700 and heading for Rum cay but about 15nm into it, it was getting up to 30kns and 3 or 4 metre waves and I didn’t feel right so we headed west a bit and got to Long Island and beautiful calm water with 25kns  blowing across it. We hit 9.4 kns with main fully reefed came in close to check out the surf and rode a couple past the big flash resort. Looked good with yachts parked up everywhere. We checked the guides we had and decided to head for a little marina at Stella Maris and rang her up on the radio, still pretty crap at the radio thing, we were greeted with  excellent  news that the channel can accommodate 7 ft draft so we headed in. This channel is about 3nm long and you can only just tell it is a channel by the slight difference in colour, there is a hint of difference. About a mile in you come across 5 pieces of conduit with floats on them as a guide then they disappear and then it got shallow, you still can’t really see where you are headed but you keep going, our depth got to 6inches then stayed the same, locked up, and we came across the next 6 sticks so followed them till the end and within sight of the enterance we run aground. Got off alright but nowhere really to go so we tried every direction possible and finally got through. DSC00472            We pulled in and the marina was full so we parked right in front of the fuel loading area. Smelt like diesel but stuck the AC on and couldn’t smell a thing. We were greeted by the dockmaster, Chivago, We called him Doc, he was used to it but had never seen the movie. 1usd a foot and free water but you had to pay for power, a bargain, the crew were looking better by the minute and the little marina was a bit like where Gilligan’s Island first started, saw that in Fort Lauderdale, with all the palm trees and boats of all different sizes and types. In its day this was the best marina around although getting in and out would always be a worry. Doc took us up to the resort for a look and to hire a car which actually came with all working parts but was it thirsty. WE checked the Atlantic side of Long Island and were very happy to be standing on solid ground as it looked horrible, 3 metre waves and howling 30 knot wind, where’s the bar. Doc left us to catch up later and we took off  in the Mitsibishi tooting at everyone and anyone with the gayest horn you have ever heard, boyng is close.

Had all the kids cracking up, Moe was a bit embarrassed but Murray and I were cool. We were looking for food and went to 3 or 4 restaurants but they were not open, 1600hrs, so we eventually found the resort at the top of the island and some awesome cocktails. Don’t  order nachos unless there are 3 of you and you are starving, coconut shrimp was ok but the chicken had veins in it, hid it under the napkins. Helped Murray with the Nachos but no chance of finishing it. Had a few beers and got out of there before the happy hour started. Checked out the Columbus memorial up on the cliffs, unreal views and limestone like our coast at home but not a single surf spot, unbelievable. We had to go back to the ritzy resort as Murray left his hat behind, reckons the guy met him at the door, was not that keen on us at his happy hour, Our tip probably was a bit light on but so was the time taken to cook the vieny chicken wings. We found a bottle shop, Hugh’s, and stocked up on rum, grenadine, girly drinks and some roadys, and a filthy Cuban. Got back to the boat tooting all the way and we all had showers, very quick as the see noseeums, mossies and sandflies were thick. No need for deodorant here just use high strength OFF. Got  a smell like orange tic tacs taste, if that makes sense, does to me. We went looking for boat parts when we got up and soon found out that we were heading up south and on the way home it was down north. We met heaps of people who just stared but give them a the standard tip, always listen to your mother and tell them we are from Australia, then they will smile and say Crocodile Dundee. It’s good to be an Australian.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had breakfast lunch at the Long Island Breeze Resort where we met Mike who owns the show, well set up with bars and restaurant on the water’s edge with a pool and bandstand. Very flash. He sails and he told us about the racing for the next day, Bahamian sloops, so we had lunch, a philly steak without the cheese and it was fine. Moe went the standard, chicken, Murray had the philly with cheese and a few Kalik, the local beer, its good and it’s stronger than normal. We run into a bloke by the name of Michael and I got yacking and he also told me about the sailing. He said to look him up. So by the time we got back to the boat we were a bit worn out, quite merry and I had told the woman at the resort, Karen,  that we would come to the rum punch night which was followed by all the conch and steak you can eat.

I used their internet up at the resort to watch dockers. Lost spewing . So off we went to a rum punch party with the old buggers, got pissed with Murray and a nice couple and we were the last to leave. Big night. Woke up got the boat jobs done when Canadian couple rolled up and wanted a lift to the sailing. Moe in the back and off we went with our new cd, Bahamian Hits and it is a beaut. Got one song called, Do right in, goes a bit like, I can’t go home cos I’m do right in, me head is spinning cos I’m do right in, oohhho I get do right in. Top of the charts for me. We are getting the verses down pat and the locals love it when you sing a verse, Murray’s is, Bartender bartender  give me another shot  cos the more I’m drinking these girls are looking hot, oooho I get do right in. Mine is about a doctor with a glove by then he is do right in.

Can’t believe it we just past a ship, starting to think we were on our own. About 46 nm’s to Cartegena 0600 Sunday.

We got to the Long Island Yacht Club at Salt Pond early and made our way down to where there was 3 sloops getting  set up. First person I saw was me mate Michael and introduced him to everyone then we met the locals. Boat 05 won the Bahama Sloop Championship last year and are pretty cocky and with the wind a bit strong more crew are needed so Murray and I got a berth  he on Beerly Legal and me with Michael on Surprise. We had to wait for our skipper, at a funeral, and Murray’s mob set off at a blistering pace. For such a heavy boat they really get rocking. They have a huge sail area, although the sumo crewmember, Shawn, called him Shawn the horn he liked that, reckoned it was a napkin compared to the big one. Jules finally arrived and in his jeans jumped on and ordered everyone around, winged a bit and off we went. I felt like I shouldn’t be there at first. When you are on the wind you drag these 2 planks of wood over and shove them under the leeward side gunnel and then you slide out to the end and then Michael slides out with you. Big Shawn didn’t need anyone with him so he just ordered the young fellow around. Poor kid was copping it from Jules and Shawn and he only came out because we needed him. Well first race we got a crap start. You anchor up at the line with your sail down and when the starter drops his hat you have to pull your anchor in and just as you see the anchor coming you pull up the sails, slide out the  pry and get out on the end as quick as you can. It’s a hoot, but we blew the first start and were behind for the whole race until we had a chance of pipping Murray’s mob right at the end, but I slipped on the plank and slowed us down. Geez did I cop it. Next race we got a cracker start and were neck for neck with Murrays mob all the race and we just won. ALL happy on our boat, high fives all round. I taught our guys to say Wanker every time Murray’s mob came near us. By the end they were getting pretty good at it.  They couldn’t quite get poofter but nor can the yanks. You have a break in the middle get a few drinks in you and back out for the decider. As we left the band cranked out “Do right in”, so cracked the crew up by singing the bits I knew. Got the best start we had all day and well in front of Murray’s mob when they tacked and we run aground. Oooho we do right in, So I just jumped over and started pushing much to everyone’s surprise then  in come the Horn and we were off again, no chance of catching them and the crew are silent, Jules was even wordless and in the end I couldn’t take it any longer and said to Jules that’s a carton where I come from. Running aground is the worst. The crew cracked up, so did Jules and then he said he couldn’t believe someone would jump of a boat to push it and that got the crew happy as too. We sailed back to the finish, I got to stand up on the end of the pry, that spun em,  and just chucked the anchor in and left the boats out there. Moe had been on rescue boat, heaps of photos. The band was in full swing, drinks going down a treat, bludged a few ciggys until Moe caught me even got introduced to Shawn’s missus, she liked that, and Jules’s family. Murray had exactly the same, it was superb. Had to leave as I had started to shiver and there was talk of hitting the Karaoke later, I still had bad memories from the last one in Bimini, stuff that.

Got back to boat and we had to go to Doc’s for tea, ate and run to bed. Poor old Doc, Curried chicken, bloody beautiful, we didn’t get to appreciate it as we were so rooted from a big day.

Got up a bit late the next day, had brekkie up at the resort, absolutely pigged out the whole hog, good value for us I don’t know about the resort. We went back filled all the water dropped off the car and said our fairwells to everyone, Doc made me the most amazing cheese cake with cherries on top for my birthday, cheers mate, it looked filthy. We motored out of the marina and into the channel and hit bottom 2 or 3 times. Made it though and then checked where we were heading and as we were so late 1500 I thought we should go out to sea and around the banks, I once again found a short cut but then Murray pointed out that we would now have to go around the Exumas, extra 90nm, so we turned around and headed for Saltpond to spend the night on anchor. Great little sail 9knots all the way and anchored up in 1 foot of water, it was low tide so all good. The crew went ashore, I checked the anchor and had a few beers, bit scared of what could happen if we run into the sailing mob again though. BBQ and bed.DSC00469 We got going real early, 0700, and headed for Commer Channel  and got through easily as we had an incoming tide. As we cleared the channel, 2 yachts passed us on their way in, the last yachts we saw for ages. I will keep you posted. Alls good.

Seeya.

My boomerang will come back.

4th May 2010

We arrived at North Bimini Island late on the first day of our voyage and entered the channel that led into the anchorage and jetties owned by sports fishing lodges and bars. These were run by locals such as Captain Pat, who took a shine to us. He’s a pretty old fella but he knew everyone and just about everything.

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Just before we entered we pulled in the fishing line we had set as we left the USA and after much speculation as to what was so heavy we reeled in our first fish, a wahoo. It was so rooted it could hardly swim, we probably skull dragged it from Fort Lauderdale. After letting it go as we had no room in any of our fridges, Mollie had killed the new Waico by not doing up the hatch properly which led to it being drowned after the first wave, we hunted down a place to park up. We set the anchor just out of the channel and all dived in to see how it had set and to our surprise it had set perfectly. The water was close to perfect, crystal clear and warm as. Muz and I swam over to the other side of the channel and we both caught each other pinching ourselves to make sure this was really happening, we both thought about it at the same time, pretty amazing we reckon.DSC00358                        The current was running in and at a pretty brisk rate but we were holding well. We had a little ceremony up forward as we raised our Q flag for the first time and sat back for some refreshing ales. It didn’t take long and we had our first visitor, Canadian Indian bloke named Ted who had been there for quite some time. He had all the news of the island and gave us the run down over a few beers and then we hit the sack. Next morning I completed our first lot of formalities with clearing in, I reckon Bimini is a good place to clear in as it is all in one office and is all over in ten minutes. I went back to the boat, raised the Bahamian courtesy flag and got the crew into action. We hired a golf buggy off Captain Pat and went on our way to explore the island. It is a pretty relaxed place with plenty of shops and stuff all named after the owner or perhaps there mums. We found a bar to our liking and had our first taste of conch fritters and tried some more ribs, the conch was alright but the ribs were just like in the USA, pretty strange way to ruin meat.

We returned to the boat and found it to be facing the opposite direction and Ted came over and suggested setting another anchor, so I jumped over and right below us was a huge piece of chain, so we tied the stern off to it and all our anchoring concerns were over, Moe came back to the boat all excited about the treasure chest she had found so Muz and I dived back in only to find an old battery someone had chucked over board, it did look a bit like a castle but not really a treasure chest. We hit South Bimini that night for karaoke which got pretty messy especially for Captain Rod, I was lucky the crew were on duty and got me home.

Next day we were yacking with Captain Pat and he suggested that we should head on our way as the weather was going to be perfect for crossing the Grand Bahama Bank that night, full moon and a light to moderate northerly. On finding out about the full extent of my running amuck it was deemed a great idea, I can still vaguely remember meeting the Queen of Bimini and dancing but vaguely is the appropriate word. We said our goodbyes to Captain Pat and our first new mate of the voyage, Ted, and off we went, headed for some place called Chub Key  which using Davids lessons we estimated to be about 1 degree 20 minutes away. Not far.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was unreal, calm water with 10 to 12 kns all arvo and night pushing us along at 6 kns. The water is crystal clear, so clear that you can see tiny rocks amongst the sand in four metres of water. But there were also lots more batteries, a washing machine and a fridge. We found the beacon in the middle of the banks and kept going, we came across the passage that gets you off the banks and then we came across the fishing boats. They were everywhere fishing for mahi mahi and wahoo. We rolled up to Chub Key late afternoon and got a pen in the marina. This is not a very friendly place, all to busy being knobs with big toys, we ended up in the locals bar where we were introduced to domino’s and rum. Charged the batteries all night and got out of there as quick as possible the next morning headed for Eleuthera Island and hopefully some surf.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We motored most of it as it was like glass but it was also muggy and hot. At one stage we pulled up and jumped into the Atlantic ocean in 2 km’s of the most beautiful crystal clear dark blue water. Finally we got to our destination, Current Cut, which is a passage between the town of Current and Current island. We anchored up here, the anchor set perfectly again, then went ashore only to be straight back to the boat for some insect repellant. The noseeums got us big time. Big lesson as they are as itchy as a sand fly and get you when you least expect it.

We met a bloke on the shore who was going to get a car to take us to the pub, didn’t happen so we walked a mile or so to a house that had been cleaned out and turned into a big room with tables and chairs that served alcohol, the pub. It was a pretty funny session, the publican and her husband, Americans who had been there for years, had no idea where Australia was and even after jumping around like skippy still had no idea, normally always works. Our man with the car rolled up, on his bike, the first couple of beers were cold then they were served up hot so we switched to the local rum, two bucks a bottle the size of a hip flask. It tastes great, bit like Malibu.The owners were getting tired so the pub shut and off we went with old mate to get some shells, then some conch fritters and beers at a house where the lady made up the food, her husband cooked the BBQ and the kids served it up. Slick operation and the conch was filthy.

We made it back to the boat, Muz bought a shell then old mate gave Mollie and I one, I think he was pretty out there, but we were all thinking if this is the type of fun you can have on your first night, look out

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We headed for Hatchet Bay which was pretty close to a good surf spot and the chart showed a inland pond that had been cut through to the sea and looked like a safe spot to leave the boat while we explored a bit. We headed east and passed the Glass Window which is a bridge across a valley and it is possible to glimpse the Atlantic.                                        Hatchet Bay is a bargain place to moor up, no charge, dinghy dock, Francis, Gina and family makes the best fish burgers, fresh fish, fresh salad fresh everything, at their restaurant called The Front Porch, which is all of one minute from the dock. A hire car is less than $50 a day although the air con didn’t work but if you left the sliding doors open it was fine, the local pub called Da Spot is walking distance and was frequented by the friendliest people. Only bummer was no surf but at least we tried. We made heaps of friends and had a ball. Mollie had the boys sniffing around whenever we hit Da Spot. It is so laid back. We hung around for four days and pretty much explored the island then said our goodbyes and headed for somewhere new.

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We rounded the southern tip of Eleuthera and headed for Cat Island then the plan was to island hop to Rum Cay but we didn’t make it as the sea and wind were against us big time so we bared away 60 degrees which put us on a reach and we headed for the north western tip of Long Island, one of the best decisions Captain Rod, now known as Captain Erratic by the two Gilligans, G1 and G2, had made to date.

Cracked 10 kns for the first time in flat water the colour you see in the magazines, beautiful. We found the guide and quickly sussed it out. Stella Maris Marina seemed like the go so we called them up on the VHF and were told to make our way down to the entrance markers and come on in. The entry is long, a couple of nm and shallow, 1.2 metres, and is marked with pieces of white 25mm PVC pipe. With the calibrated depth sounder frequently reading 0.00 we slowly motored in only coming to a halt right at the end. Although it was so shallow you could still just pick the subtle color change between the channel and the bank, must have been all of a foot difference.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We met Chivago, the dock master, we called him Doc, at the fuel berth where we were allowed to moor up. This guy is a ripper, he took us for a tour of the resort, the marina which is straight out of Gilligans Island, and got us a hire car.

We took the car, tooting the horn at everyone and getting smiles from all the kids headed down North to the top of the island, saw a monument to Christopher Columbus, then proceeded to check out every thing of interest back up south. I have forgotten the reason for saying it arse about but it sort of made sense when it was explained to us. Something to do with a nautical theme.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A customs official came to the boat, just wanted to know how long we were staying and was on his way. We travelled the island from top to bottom, met a bloke name Michael who invited us to race in the sailing regatta at Salt Pond on Sunday on his mates Bahaman Sloop. Also met a pommy publican, Mike, owner of  the Long Island Breeze Resort who said we should definitely come up for it as the Bahamian Champion was there and there was some pretty hot competition, by now Muz and I were fully going racing and in the end we had a ball. Muz crewed on the champs boat, Beerly Legal, for 2 seconds and a third and I sailed on Surprise. We got 2 thirds and a second. If Captain Jules hadn’t run us aground while we were out in front in the last race we could have beat the buggers. After I jumped in and started pushing us off the bank, the rest followed and once we got going again with the crew pretty down trodden after our lightning start, which consists of an anchor pull, sail raise and set on the gun, which is the wave of a hat, they were all waiting to cop it from Captain Jules who for some reason they feared with their life, but I got in first and informed him that where I come from, running aground when your are way out in front is definitely a carton, the crew loved it and Jules even had to smile.

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They introduced us to vodka and coconut water’s, lethal but go down a treat. The crew also introduced us to there wives and their girlfriends as if we were royalty but they mentioned the horror word, Karaoke, and it was on after the yacht club shut. We left while the going was good, Mollie was the skipper back down North that night. They were most disappointed as I had been singing “Do Rite In” along with the band out on the boat, you could hear them as you sailed close to shore, and they were pretty impressed that we new that song, a Bahaman all time great. Oh no I get do rite in. Which was becoming a bit of a habit but when in the Bahamas do as the Bahamans do.

We were invited to tea at Doc’s house that night anyway so as Mum always used to say, “you can’t do everything.”

We had a great feed of a local chicken dish and Doc gave me a raspberry cheesecake  for my birthday which was fast approaching.

Doc, Francis and Captain Pat would cover two or three generations and if they are to go by then the Bahaman people are a pretty happy go lucky bunch that are very trustworthy and lovely, which is how old Christopher Columbus saw them as well.

We had a big night to finish our visit at the Stella Maris Resort’s rum punch night, this is another place you need to visit when on Long Island, great people and great rum punch but get in quick for the food, it was so nice it got hoovered up in no time.

Got underway next day, my birthday and headed up south through Gommer Channel for Mathew Town on Great Inagua Island. Caught our first Mahi Mahi and let it go, it was about 4 foot long and neither Murray or I were in the mood to kill something so splendid.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On reaching Mathew Town we tied up to the wharf, introduced ourselves to the harbour mistress, Donna, who gladly runs you round the place in her big black truck, but this is not for free and in fact is pretty expensive. Cost us 75 bucks, a filthy bottle of Howard Park Cabernet and lunches. Be warned.

We found a power point that worked on a post near the fuel shed so we had the air conditioner going for the first time as it was hot and steamy. Over the couple of days we loaded up fuel, food and ice and went to clear out, once again an easy task. Nice little town but like most of the Bahamas has had too many run ins with hurricanes. Everything is a bit worn out but that is also the beauty of the place, the other is the people, if you wave to everyone and say gidday to everyone they will make a point of shaking your hand or high fiving with you whether they are kids, adults or oldies, I can’t wait to go back to the Bahama’s but next time will be for a full season. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We departed Gregory Town and headed for Cuba where we would pick up the southern shipping lane and head through Windward Passage and south to Categena in Colombia. We had a great south easterly breeze of 14kns which had us sitting on 7kns, the current was quite strong but late in the night it changed in our favour, the main problem was the ships, they were coming at us from everywhere, one passed so close we could see people looking down at us from way up above. We came across our first pod of dolphins and they hung with us for half an hour riding the bow wave, with full moon, smooth seas and no swell it was pretty cool. The wind dropped to nothing so on with the Yanmah’s and away we went.

Next day while we were cruising along near the coast of Hispanola I noticed two coke bottles in the water so we turned around to investigate, sure enough they were tied to string so we started pulling one up. Bloody long way down and weighed a ton but we got it to the top and found it to be a fish trap made of wood and fronds. We dropped it back down near the other one, went for a swim and were off again. I really wanted to put a present in the trap but in the end it went back in with the handful of little fish already trapped.

After a long 24 hrs with no wind we were pretty wrapped when it started to come in and as we finally got out of the Lee of Hispanola we had 25kns from the east, a three metre swell  also from the east, both reefs in and look out Categena here we come. We sat on 8 to 10kns for the next couple of days and nights, bearing 188 to 190 all the way. This passage was a major step up as we hadn’t travelled this far without pulling up for ice or power and for the first time it kind of sunk in what it is like to be pretty self dependent. G2, Mollie, chucked up a couple of times and wanted to go home, had a father daughter discussion and gave her a hug but told her she would have to pay for the airfare from Colombia if she took the easy  way out. It worked, although she just lied around not doing a great deal. Muz and I were taking it all in our stride, steak burgers on the barbie, beers and dark and stormy’s to wash them down. I got the water maker going, it had never really worked properly so out with the book and hey presto, a solenoid valve was clogged up, I had seen the old owner mucking around with pipes and valves the day we left. The bypass valve for back flushing didn’t work automatically, he could have told us. By now we had given him a name, limp wristed Len as anything he had done himself either leaked, came undone or had not been put back properly.DSC00493 We sailed on in the same conditions for another day with the little boat symbol on the GPS slowly heading south at 190 degrees with Cartegena now on the 300nm range. Go To Cursor was working a treat. I read a book without stopping, never done that before, more BBQ’s, more beer and even had a shower. Muz was hanging in, Mollie was contemplating an airfare still crook but not spewing any more.

With about 30 miles to go the wind stopped to nothing, it was weird as we just went from sailing, to slowing down, to a dead halt in minutes. Dropped the sails, and ventured forward for the first time in a couple of days, dead flying fish everywhere. We got the motors happening for the last stretch. About 20 miles out we smelt our first land for four days and it smelt like chooks.

There was a huge thunderstorm coming straight at us so we gave the boat a big wash down with hull wash and let the rain finish it off. Boomerang was sparkling again and as we got closer to Cartagena I asked G2 how her Spanish was going as she had to talk to Port Control in a few hours. She was off to her cabin in a flash trying to find the tutorial I had bought for her to learn. Spanish in two hours, I don’t think so, but Muz and I went for as much lattitude the situation would allow. We both had read the guide that let you know that all the Port authority personnel speak fluent English.

We located the markers that showed the passage into Cartegena and tried to get G2 to call up Port control but it was futile so I gave it a shot. The officer came back in a flash in perfect English and requested that we spell the boats name in boat alphabet, this ruined Muz’s and my moment as we had not expected it and after our first complete stuff up I asked him if we could just have a tick to write it out, bravo, Oscar, Oscar, mike, echo, roger, alpha,  no idea so we used nelly, gamma. Failed so off to the dictionary and we soon had it right.Photo202

Mollie was cracking up, then he wanted the captains full name and the port Boomerang was registered in the same. We were lucky it was not an emergency as we would probably have been on the bottom but we got there and he gave us permission to enter the port and instructions to head to Club Nautico to clear in. As we entered we could see a huge Colombian flag flying off the stern of an equally huge old sailing ship. There were two other ships and a huge crowd seeing them off. Geez if we had have been an hour earlier we could have been right there but even from a mile away it was a pretty speccy sight. They were a part of the the tall ships mob.

Our next job was to find Club Nautico, no mean feat if you have no idea where it could be, but looking around and taking in the scenery was an eye opener with pretty big buildings in all states of repair and construction all over the place. I actually thought that they may have been bombed, it just looked sort of old but also new. We rounded a headland with restaurants on the shore, people were waving at us, we all looked around to see if we had stuffed up and entered some forbidden area or a minefield but it seems they were just happy to see us. Quite a good welcoming committee if I do say so, probably heard about our antics in the Bahamas. Once round the bend masts appeared and we had found Club Nautico so we waved back and headed for our next anchorage.

We found a spot amongst the other boats, dropped anchor and let out about forty metres of chain in 5 metres of water, I am now a firm believer that you can never have to much chain, but we swung a bit close to another cat so we hauled in ten metres and found the bottom to be black stinking mud. We weren’t going anywhere.DSC00377

After a few beers it was decided that Captain Erratic should go ashore and suss the place out, so I did, and met our Cartegena connections, Alberto, diver and hull scraper, Antonio, wise old bloke who always nodded his hello’s and Juan a diver who found the mooring lines that must just lie on the bottom, he had definitely lucked out in the employment stakes. They introduced me to David, the agent, who was a big bloke in a pink Lacoste shirt. He gladly took our passports, ships papers and said he would be back, just wait a bit.

Alberto leant me 10000 pesos and I went and bought a dozen beers and sat there and drank them with them while I waited. They could speak a bit of English which was good because I didn’t even know how to say hello in Spanish. David came back and said he had missed the airport and as it was Sunday we would have to wait till tomorrow to get the paperwork done. I asked about everyone coming ashore and he said of course don’t worry this is Colombia. Excellent, so I went back and grabbed the crew and we hit a takeaway joint up the street, my cards worked at the ATM, always good, paid back my debt and went back to the boat and crashed. There was a good breeze so it was a joy being safe and sound, the boys insisted that we raise our dinghy as even though the marine police kept a pretty good watch dinghys were fair game.

Next day met with John the harbour master and he organized us a pen for five days so we shifted and pulled up next to another cat, quite close to the dinghy wharf and in view of the office and undercover area. I had to rewire the power circuit on our jetty and out of pure luck in the bag of leads that came with the boat there was one strange looking one that I had never come across that just happened to be the the one we needed, Len was making good, about time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Categena is an excellent city, when we were there it was very safe, really old and well maintained, colouful, very busy, pretty cheap, had great food but there are two things that let the place down. First is the traffic, I like to try driving everywhere but not here, it is out of control and the second thing is they only speak Spanish and very few people know English. I have never just ordered food by taking a guess but we did this on more than one occasion. Our favourite in the end was Carne tipi-cal, which is a whole 3 courses starting with soup made from a piece of meat, piece of potato and a piece of corn in some stock, then the main is the flattest piece of steak you ever did see with ensalader, which you cover with tobasco sauce and desert was a dollop of ice cream with a flavor poured on top. Taxis are cheap, same with DVD’s and electrical appliances although finding a vacuum cleaner took a couple of days, pretty hard trying to explain that in sign language, ended up something between an elephant and a broom did the job. We had a bloke named Woby cut and polish the whole boat for US$250, all the stainless for $50 and his mate painted any aluminum that required it for $160 and old mates Alberto and Antonio kept an eye on them for us.

John the harbour master is a wealth of knowledge and can help you out with just about anything, should have asked him about the vacuum, he is doing a great job in very trying circumstances. We had a ball in Cartegena but it does wear you down when there is no wind, it is bloody hot and muggy so we gave David our passports and papers and he did his bit and we were free to go when we were ready. His services couldn’t be faulted, although it felt strange handing over your passport to a stranger and not getting it back for a couple of days. We left late in the afternoon and headed out for the San Blas Islands.

The trip there is an overnighter and was uneventful. We spent three days checking it out, not long but long enough to know we will be going back there. Couldn’t believe the Kuna people, short, colorful and a happy mob, we charged the young women on one islands mobiles for them, made us wonder who they were going to ring as our phones rarely worked. We had a great time at the bar on Pourvier with a collection of all nationalities and a big feast on Muz’s roast pork and veges to finish the night off.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Set sail at midnight headed for Colon and our first chance to catch up with Vin and the Dolly Grace crew as we had word they were still ginning around in Shelter Bay Marina. Got there at 1400 next day and found Vin working his arse off in the engine room. Didn’t look like he was on holidays but it was great to see him.

They had used Tito to do their paperwork so we did the same and it all worked out perfectly, you just need to let them do it as it comes, Tito is a good operator and may roll up with his son Marco with tyres, ropes or your papers at any time but if he says he is going to do it he will do it. Mollie had to stay in the Marina as it was pretty dodgy in Colon itself especially around the port, we had the can of mace but on one occasion there was gunshots, people started running and then soldiers came from everywhere while we were in the old range rover with the window that wouldn’t stay up, pretty scarey stuff.

Some people do the paperwork themselves, good on them but I reckon it would rate with driving in Cartegena. If there is someone willing to do it for you the chance of being robbed is greatly diminished. It took four days from when we got there to be stocked up, all papers complete and relaxing by the pool waiting for our turn at the canal. On one of the shopping runs Mollie came with us as Marco and his mate drove to and from the supermarket. Food, alcohol, antibiotics and medicine, in fact everything is cheap but so is life so watch out.