We sailed from Santa Marta to Puerto Velero fuelled by Jamie Oliver’s delicious bacon-coated meatloaf (Recipe here especially for Jon ) and good conditions. More fruit juice for the local coastguard (I wonder if they are baffled by all these sailors enthusiastically pulling out the fruit juice for them; all because of one blogger’s suggestion) and the next morning we were off. San Blas beckoned: a two-night passage out in the open sea, at the far end of the Caribbean.
Note: It was a good job we entered Puerto Velero during daylight as there are sandbars and rocky outcrops which are non-existent on the charts. Darn those shifting sands of time. AND as a further aside, the town closest to Puerto Velero, Baranquilla, is Shakira’s home town which I hope, due to the proximity of the Sierra Nevada, is full of confusion-avoiding small-breasted women.
Departing from Puerto Velero our Catalonian mates Semo and Marcos had warned us that debris from the Rio Magdalena gathered over the entire length of Colombia and spewed into the sea can turn this part of the passage into a bit of a slalom. We were lucky, however; a few tree trunks and a toilet seat were all we encountered. Not one dead cow. The day was hot and peaceful, with clear skies and gentle waves.
With our second night, however, came nail-bitingness on a different level. Sunset brought ominous flashes on the horizon which crawled closer as darkness descended. I don’t think sailors ever know how scared to be of lightning, because although the chances of getting hit are low, the consequences could be dire, and when you are in the middle of the ocean with your mast sticking tauntingly up in the sky, it can feel like you are asking for trouble. There is, however, not a lot you can do about it. We shoved all the electrics in the oven and dragged the life raft up onto deck where it was more accessible. Skipper slowed the boat down to allow the storm to pass in front of us (it’s only polite) and we watched as huge, sprawling, impossibly bright flashes spread themselves gloriously across the sky again and again, turning the clouds violet-coloured. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. We took turns sticking out heads out and peering in awe at the spectacle. It went on for hours and, despite its beauty, we were very glad when it was over. After a stressful, sleepless night, Patient Skipper ended up looking a bit like this:
We approached the Eastern Holandes Cays, giving land a wide berth to avoid some breaking waves, and feeling rather excited.
On the outer reef the wreck of a sailing boat lies, serving as a warning to those who might get cocky with navigation round these parts. It’s mad; you’re sailing in deep seas and suddenly a reef or a sandbar or a whole island pops up at you, some of which you can’t see until you’re on top of it. The Panama Cruising Guide had already proved invaluable on its first day of use.
I feel so lucky to be able to see places like this, but also very satisfied and proud of myself, for the fiery nine-month sailing baptism I went through to get here. While it has been incredible, it’s been far from easy, as you may have guessed. We spent almost two weeks in this idyllic place and took some time to let it all sink in.
More stories and info from the tropics to come, complete with various forms of wildlife including an actual shark.