September 18, 2006
San Blas to Cartagena
I'm writing this from the dock of Club Nautico, located in Cartagena, Colombia. It is quite a change from the remote San Blas. We have wifi, eat out at restaurants, snack on ice cream, climb castle walls, and shop the street vendors.
The trip from the San Blas was uneventful, except for one 30-knot squall and losing our alternator as we entered the harbor--normal cruising stuff. The alternator was swapped out for our spare. I'm getting pretty good at doing this. I've done it three times in one year.
The harbor is busy with freighters, navy boats, and helicopters overhead. Some nights loud music starts around midnight and continues until 8am or so--Colombians party late and early.
The old part of the city looks like Spain. It is surrounded by a stone wall that you can walk on. Street vendors push emeralds, and everything else. They get right in your face and won't let you go, but the Colombians ignore all. It helps if you try to dress a bit like a local: long pants, a nice shirt, and shoes and socks for men. Unfortunately, that is also the way to be hot--why do people wear these get ups in the tropics? Some days I just go out looking like a gringo instead of sweltering, but if you're off to the Port Captain's office or Immigration it is best to show respect.
Cartagena is a great walking city. We can be in the old town in 20 minutes. The supermarket is 5 minutes from the marina. Great and inexpensive restaurants are just around the corner. Despite all the rumors, this part of Colombia is relatively safe. Some people describe Cartagena as a "demilitarized zone" where Colombians can take their families and enjoy living a normal life.
Colombians are very friendly and helpful, though it would be useful to speak Spanish--Leslie is taking courses right now. The harbor water is incredibly dirty and barnacles are growing like crazy on our bottom, so we're thinking about hauling soon to renew our bottom paint. There are good boatyards here with reasonable prices and help available. Ian and Heather are having a great time in the marina with their friends. This is a good place.