Our Life

The Adventures of Mike and Kelly At Sea

Monday, April 26, 2010

An Update to the Updates

This blog is long overdue, and I know many followers have been curious as to what has happened to us. I've spent some time posting blogs about our past few months, so please check them out! Currently, we are still in Cartagena, Colombia as of April 3rd. In my previous postings, I mentioned that we were having issues regarding the safety aboard the catamaran, Rumboogie, and had mutually agreed with the owner that we would not be carrying on from Colombia to Panama. I also mentioned that we found a new 50’ Sloop called Chantecler, which we are still currently aboard. Things have been great so far and we are happy to be with the owner George. We have spent the past few weeks getting settled in and organizing the boat as we prepare for our next passage. We’ve redone all of the storage spaces; with the help of a great woodworker named Alvarro the v-berth was rebuilt to help make it a more effective storing area. We’ve scrubbed, rearranged, and sorted through the many parts on this boat and have come to a point where we all feel happy about how she looks. It has been a fun project.
    As of next week, we are planning on leaving Cartagena and setting sail to Florida for various reasons. Our intentions are to work our way up the East Coast to the Chesapeake and eventually cross the Atlantic to the Azores, Madeira, and The Canaries for the remainder of the summer. Right now, much remains up in the air, so I will do my best to post updates now that we are settled into our new home and everything is going well.

Monday, April 19, 2010

¡Bienvenido a Cartagena, Colombia!

     It's another early morning on the S/V Chantecler in which we are frantically woken up by the workers jumping onto the boat ready to start their day’s work. Nestled into the cool, dark cave of our bunk (thanks to the AC and black out shades), we are completely disillusioned to the time of day and can’t quite make sense of the racket heard above on deck.
As we rush through the companionway to help the workers get started with their projects, we are slammed with the intense, humid heat and instantly blinded by the sun. Mike immediately jumps in to help the workers while I follow along serving as a translator with my elementary Spanish that has been on overtime through our stay here in Colombia.  The local men here, thirsty for work, have been impeccable with their timing, which we feel fortunate for as our neighbors have frequently been stood up. Unfortunately, however, their prompt arrival lends itself to chaos and we spend the better part of our mornings wanting to rip our hair out in frustration as we run around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to accommodate everyone.
       In the confines of Club Nautico, it is easy for us to forget that we are in Colombia. Most of the boats anchored and docked here are foreign owned, which provides a great atmosphere for a sailing community (which exists now but is rather slow as it is off season), but hinders the ability to get a feel for the Colombian people and culture. This extends slightly beyond the gates of Club Nautico as the closest convenience point is a one stop shop called Carulla, which serves primarily as a grocery store, but has an internet cafĂ© in the back as well as other miscellaneous tidbits. It is quite easy for a cruiser to spend the majority of time between his boat and Carulla if he so desires. In fact, there have been many days in our month here in which we have done just that. Fortunately, with the help of the local workers coupled with the occasional vendor pacing the lengths of the dock trying to sell local goods, we have been able to learn a bit about the people even if it’s laughing over silly idiosyncrasies in one’s native language.
Luckily, our experience here in Cartagena has not been isolated to Club Nautico and Carulla. With our cruiser friends, we’ve been able to explore the city and enjoy lovely dinners in this old, historic walled city. We’ve roamed the streets both in the heat of the day (not recommended) and as they come alive at night, constantly in awe of the stunning architecture of the buildings from this 500 year old city that once was the only port on the South American mainland. Magnificent city walls and countless fortresses beg one to delve deeper into the history which is easily provided by one of the many local museums. We are reminded of New Orleans as we roam the streets and admire the big houses with geraniums and ivy cascading over the balconies juxtaposed to the quaint rows of buildings with crumbling facades and painted in vibrant colors. We’ve come to love watching the city come alive at night; horse drawn carriages clabber along the dimly lit cobblestone streets and dancers in their local attire entertain the diners in the bustling open air cafes that are characteristic of the many quaint plazas in the old city. Vendors set up shop on the sidewalks with their local handicrafts and men run around with Panama hats, artwork, and cigarettes desperately trying to make a sale. Our palates are teased as the restaurant workers frantically wave menus in the air begging us to dine with them assuring that their food is the best in Cartagena. There certainly is no shortage of variety here; my mouth waters just thinking about the succulent seafood and sushi, the flavors of the local fare, and the other delicious fusions that the Colombians have perfected.
       Cartagena has been magical for us and we feel lucky to have been able to enjoy a part of the world that has been closed up for tourism and still raises eyebrows when one mentions it as a destination. With police roughly every 200 yards (if not more), safety is not an issue here. The people are lovely, the culture is colorful, and the city is absolutely beautiful. We are certainly going to miss it here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sailing From Aruba to Cartagena, Colombia

Excerpts from our Logbook

Day 1 – 26 March: Aruba to Monjes Del Sur, Venezuela   
    We pulled up our anchor at first light this morning with high spirits despite the early start. Maybe it was because we were finally leaving Aruba, or perhaps because we were sailing again that generated the jovial mood that Mike and I shared with our buddy boat neighbors Dutch Dreamer (Carol, Greg, Brett, and Dylan). We took the lead in heading out first as we were prepared for difficulties in putting up the mainsail.  Sure enough, once we left the channel, the main stuck and took a bit of finagling before we could finally get a move on and enjoy the beautiful morning. Due to our difficulties, Dutch Dreamer put us to shame as they quickly hoisted their sails with no effort and zoomed by us out to the beckoning sea.
    Once underway, Brian immediately cast his fishing lines in hopes to get a one up on a bet he made with Dylan and Brett to see who could catch the most fish on the first leg of the trip. The fish were biting! Brian hooked his first fish by 8 AM and was gloating in his glory. Once again, however, Dutch Dreamer put us to shame as they had already hooked two fish, the first one being at 7:15 AM (as we discovered over squeals via the VHF). In fact, throughout the course of the day, we ended up only with one fish (partly because the owner gave up and partly because we hooked a couple babies had to be thrown back) which was no match for Dylan and Brett who took the prize with seven fish!
    The sail was really easy. We had light wind and no major problems. I snapped photos of Dutch Dreamer under sail and helped Mike maintain the course. Additionally, I prepared for our arrival to Monjes Del Sur by working out how to communicate with the “Guardia Costa” in Spanish after hearing how difficult it was for Carol to communicate in English. Unfortunately, my preparations did not make much difference as they spoke so rapidly and I could barely hear them with our faulty VHF.  We carried on closer to the giant rock that rose out of the sea, curious as to how we were going to anchor for the evening. We rounded the corner, dropped our sails, and made way to the protected bay. Rather than anchoring, we were instructed to pull up to a line that was strung from a pier to a rock cliff in front of a break wall and to tie up there for the evening next to three giant fishing boats. It was quite sketchy and both our boats had a bit of difficulty getting set.
    Once we were settled and were able to relax a bit, Mike lassoed a line to Greg (with a few attempts) so we could pull our boats together and enjoy a lovely fish supper. It was quite interesting how we were tied up; Dutch Dreamer’s stern was pulled up right next to our port side stern quarter and we fixed a little line between the boats that served as a tightrope for us to walk across to get to their boat. It was quite funny to see us walking across the line, especially after a few cocktails in the evening! I never imagined that I would have to tightrope walk while at sea, but I managed quite well (even if I was freaked out). All in all, it was a great first day, and an easy way to start out our adventure. Feeling completely knackered, we made it an early night to prepare for our 5 AM departure the next morning.

Day 2 – 27 March: Monjes Del Sur, Venezuela to Cabo Dela Vela, Colombia
    We had another rocky morning putting up our main sail. It was dark when we left, which only added to the obstacle of leaving the rocky anchorage and maneuvering around while putting up the main. It took us about an hour to get going, which set us back more than we had intended. Dutch Dreamer once again put up their sails easily, however, this time they had waited for us to make sure we would be ok.
    Unfortunately, the rough start in the morning transpired throughout the day. While on my watch, we hit a rogue wave that shifted us so drastically that it snapped our preventer on the main sail causing the sail to back wind. Mike rushed out to help me right the sail, and in doing so, it back winded one more time and the boom’s goose neck (the part that connects the boom to the mast) broke off! We had a set of high lifts with about 30 knots of wind while trying to secure the boom and take down the main sail. The owner seemed terrified and quickly retreated inside while Mike and I tried to get everything sorted out. Mike was able to center and secure the boom enough until we were able to fix it properly. We had been making excellent time with the main up and Dutch Dreamer was about two miles behind us. Without our main, we were motoring and using the head sail. Dutch Dreamer passed us in no time. I am worried about the state of the boom.
    The problems continue for us today. After the fiasco of the boom breaking, we couldn’t get our roller furling headsail in as we approached the anchorage. The sheets got tangled up and we couldn’t get it in to save our lives. The wind was howling (I guess we should have realized that given we were pulling into Cabo Dela Vela, or Cape of Wind), the lines were flapping everywhere, so Mike turned downwind so we could try to sort it out. I went up on deck to clean up the lines (while fighting the gale force winds) so we could get the headsail in, while Mike tried to scope out a safe place to drop anchor because we didn’t feel safe where the cruiser’s guide indicated. In the distance he saw another catamaran anchored, so we headed in that direction to drop the hook for the night. As usual, anchoring didn’t go smoothly; when the anchor finally stuck it jerked the boat so violently that it tore off parts of the chain locker. At least we were set. We retreated into the boat feeling defeated by the events of the day. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a bit better.

Day 3 – 28 March: Cabo Dela Vela to Bahia Cinto (one of the Five Bays)
    Today we spent the morning resting as we weren’t planning on leaving until 2PM. Mike was able to jury rig the boom so that we would be able to use the main with a double reef. We departed Cabo Dela Vela around 1:30 PM with the winds averaging around 20 knots even though the weather fax indicated a max of 8 knots. We were able to put our main up while at anchor, which eliminated the hassles that we usually encountered getting started. In pulling up the anchor, we realized that we did indeed hook a rock as the anchor shaft was completely bent.
    The seas were building the farther offshore we got and the wind was at our quarter, which is our best point of sail in the catamaran. It was a great afternoon. Huge dolphins were jumping in front of our bow higher than the A-frame which was incredible! A beautiful sunset set the stage for a beautiful night as the full moon lit up the night sky and the reflection sparkled on the sea. Mike and I were enjoying the sail, while the owner spent the entire time below drugged up on sleeping pills. Mike took the early evening watch, and I took watch from about midnight until first light. The wind died in the middle of the night, thus forcing us to motor, which the boat doesn’t do well. She’s fast under sail when the main properly works, but motoring she is significantly slower. We were delighted to have such another easy sail especially for one of the longer passages. My worries about the boom are distant as it seemed to hold up just fine even in the heavier winds.

Day 4 – 29 March: Bahia Cinto
    Around 9 AM we started to get closer to the coast where we saw giant, lush, green mountains rising out of the sea. The Five Bays are fjords, where it is rumored that you are able to see snow capped mountains high above the pristine sand beaches that line the coast. We weren’t able to see any snow capped mountains, but that didn’t bother us too much as we were taken aback by the beauty of the coastline. We sailed between two rocky points into Bahia Cinto, where we were greeted with an untouched golden sandy beach, lush greenery, and tiny thatched roof huts dotted along the beach and in the mountains. The heat was smothering as the wind died off the closer we pulled to shore. We dropped anchor next to Dutch Dreamer, who had been there for about an hour or two already.
    Even though we had just done an 18 hour passage, Mike and I were eager to get out and explore the area. After breakfast we jumped into the crystal clear water and delighted in how nice it was to finally go for a proper swim. We splashed over to Dutch Dreamer and climbed aboard to swap stories about our passage thus far. Unfortunately, they had quite a rough sail as their generator broke and water was pouring into their boat from a mystery spot on deck. They had their work cut out for them and we felt horrible that it had been a rough night for them.
    Despite the problems, their spirits were high and they quickly geared up for snorkeling and exploring. Carol, Dylan, Brett, and I snorkeled around a bit seeing if we could find anything interesting. Although the water was nice and clear, there wasn’t much to see. We found a few sea creatures nestled into the sea grass, but that was about the extent of it. Dylan, Brett, and I decided to go ashore and explore the coast a bit. We walked into the dense forest and started collecting coconuts to take back to the boat. In the meantime, Mike swam ashore to see what we were up to. Some man noticed what we were doing and ran after us whistling to talk to us. We volunteered Mike to go talk to him even though he took no part in our coconut escapades as we were not really sure of the man’s intentions.  After stashing the coconuts in a bush, I went back to see what was going on while the boys covered our tracks and marked our hidden treasure with a branch. Upon catching up to Mike, the Colombian man informed us that we were not allowed to take the coconuts as it was a National Park and coconuts were like currency here. He also quickly informed us with hand gestures that we were unable to use spear guns, which could have been interpreted a number of ways. This was my first taste of trying out my rusty Spanish in a conversation, and I quickly realized how much practice I needed (even though I was much better off than Mike who seemed to think that talking louder, using hand gestures, and adding a bad accent to English words would suffice). The man was really nice and he was telling us that there was a yoga retreat going on in the houses across the bay and he invited us to come take part. We decided to pass and headed back to Dylan and Brett to relay how our plans to take the coconuts had been foiled. Additionally, we had to break the sad news about spear fishing to Dylan, who had patiently been waiting to break in his new spear gun (which he named Timmy and sleeps next to at night while dreaming of fish) in [parent-approved] legal waters. Feeling slightly disappointed, but not upset in the least, we carried on exploring the coastline. Eventually, as we walked the beach, we ran into a girl from New York who was attending the yoga retreat. She confirmed all the details that the man had told us while mentioning that this was a private area where people could rent out the bungalows for a pretty penny.
    Feeling satisfied with our exploration, we swam back to the boats to carry on with our day. Mike was convinced that the anchor had dragged, so he checked out the anchor before deciding if we needed to reset. Fortunately, we didn’t have to reset, but Mike was constantly worried about it and added more scope to be on the safe side. Later in the afternoon, Greg and the boys put down their dinghy and picked us up so we could have dinner together.  We attempted to take a little tour of the bay via dinghy, but the weight of 6 people in the dinghy going against the current made for a wet ride. Greg dropped us off at his boat and took off with Mike for a little recon mission. Carol made us a lovely dinner once they got back. It is always a pleasure dining with the Van Wycks.

Day 5 – 30 March: Bahia Cinto to Bahia Guayraca
    Carol and I spent the morning swimming around, while the boys tried to fix the generator on Greg’s boat and realign the engine on Rumboogie  which in turn led to revealing a busted engine mount. We decided around midday that we would motor across to another one of the Five Bays called Bahia Guayraca, rather than hanging out in Bahia Cinto as we had intended. Upon arrival in the next bay, it had a similar feel to Bahia Cinto; however, it was not as pristine. There was much more activity on the beach with fishermen and locals. We dropped our anchor close to shore, and were surprised that it held on the first try. The bend from the rock must have helped it!
    Dylan and I went to shore in their dinghy to check out what the story was in this bay. As we approached the beach, a little old man ran out to our dinghy and greeted us with a giant smile while he helped us beach the dinghy. His name was Reynaldo, and we recognized him from the cruising guide that we had used to get to this spot. He took us to his home and showed us pictures of his family and other cruisers that he had met here. Since he only spoke Spanish, Dylan and I got to practice a lot. He was easy to talk to as he spoke slowly for us. We had to get back to the boat as Mike and I were cooking for everyone for dinner, so we arranged to meet Reynaldo the next day with the rest of the crew.

Day 6 – 31 March: Bahia Guayraca
    This morning started out with another swim with Carol and Dylan. The snorkeling here is much better than Bahia Cinto with many fish and abundant coral. It has been so long since I’ve had decent snorkeling, so this morning was such a treat. Back on the boat, the guys were doing more maintenance, trying to troubleshoot the many problems of the boats. Greg had decided to try to seal his deck with a bit of paint, so hopefully that will resolve the problem of the water leaking inside.
    In the afternoon, the guys (from both boats) and I went ashore to meet up with Reynaldo. I served as the translator, which was quite a mental work out. He showed them his home and when he pulled out his cards of other boaters, we gave him our cards and photos to add to his collection. He then took us to the restaurant on the beach where the other fishermen were making a racket playing a game. The owner of our boat ordered a fish lunch, so we sipped on the local beer while watching the locals carry on with their day. It was a shack of a place, and the women cooked the lunch outside on a pile of rocks.  People gathered around to watch the game that was going on at the table next to us. Through this entire ruckus, the coast guard (serious professionals with guns and bulletproof vests) approached to tell us that we should have checked in so they knew where we were in case we had problems. Due to the problems with drug smuggling, it would be in our best interest to have the coast guard on our side. It was a bit difficult to comprehend what the Coast Guard was saying through all of the calamity, especially when our owner turned to them and shouted, “do you like Cerveza?” and tried to buy them a drink to make them go away. Talk about getting off to the wrong foot! It was hard to tell from that point on how things would go as they insisted on checking our vessel to make sure they were safe.
    After the fish lunch, we decided to head back to the boats to prepare for our next passage. We said farewell to Reynaldo, grateful for all of his help and education regarding this tiny little bay. Mike and I went back to the catamaran to do a bit of tidying up before he took Dylan to do a bit of spear fishing. In the evening, a couple that was crewing aboard another catamaran at anchor (the same cat that we anchored next to in Cabo Dela Vela) came over to chat and exchange computer programs. Martin and Natasha, or our French twins, could easily relate to our experience working as crew and their owner sounded very similar to ours. We greatly enjoyed their company and hoped we would be able to spend more time with them in the future as we were following the same route to Cartagena.
    We had another lovely dinner that night thanks to Carol as we huddled over the computer to plan out the remaining days of our journey.

Day 7 – 1 April: Bahia Guayraca to Ancon Chica
    Last night we were very restless as the wind was howling from all directions swirling the boat around in circles and we were worried about our anchor holding. Sure enough, in the night our kayak had slipped and was hanging off the bow and the anchor had dragged. We luckily didn’t hit anything as we were pushed into deeper water away from shore where the anchor reset itself. We decided since we moved so much, that we would rather move to our next destination instead of resetting our anchor here. Dutch Dreamer had the same idea as they were already securing their dinghy on deck preparing to lift their anchor.
    We motored to the last stop in the Five Bays called Ancon Chica. The wind was very strong here and the water was deep. We had a hard time finding a spot to anchor given all of the problems we have had thus far. The main beach was swarming with people, and this also made us nervous to pull so close to shore. In the previous bay a few of the locals swam to our boat and hopped aboard. They were harmless, but we didn’t like how easy it was for them. We decided to find somewhere a bit safer. We tucked into a little cove that was secluded, but not protected, from the strong winds. We felt like we were back in Aruba with such winds!
    Once again, we had trouble anchoring. This time it took us about 5 tries until we finally held. Mike and I were so frustrated (and the owner certainly didn’t help) from the process that we looked to get off the boat quickly. Dylan came and picked me up in the dinghy and we went to the main beach to check out the scene. It was packed with locals from Santa Marta (the closest city) and was not a very nice beach at all. We wanted to head back to the boats, but first decided to do a bit of searching for a place to spear fish. In the process of doing so we got tangled up in fishing nets that weren’t clearly marked and quickly ended our search. Begrudgingly, we headed back to the boat and opted for an afternoon of splicing lessons instead.

Day 8 – 2 April: Ancon Chica to Punta Hermosa
    It was another windy, restless night and we worried about dragging anchor again. Around 4 AM we pulled up anchor and made way to our next stop off point Punta Hermosa. The sail was pretty uneventful for us, but Dutch Dreamer once again was bombarded with water coming inside. Arriving at the anchorage was pretty tricky as we had to do so by waypoint one of which would have landed us directly on top of a sand jetty that was not accounted for on any of our charts. We were thankful to arrive in bright daylight.
    The bay was windy and filled with wind surfers and kite boarders. We anchored pretty far away from the shore as this spot has been known to have boardings in the past and we didn’t want to take any chances. Mike and I dropped the kayak into the water quickly after anchoring so we could help Dutch Dreamer  clean up their salon and fix their other generator which had also now broken. While on board their boat, we noticed a shady looking fishing boat pull up to the catamaran to speak to the owner. It said “Department of Agriculture” on the side with a dirty pair of tattered boxer shorts as their flag. Inside there were about 6 men dressed very shabbily swigging a bottle of booze, and one man dressed smartly with a vest that read “Inspector”. He hopped aboard the vessel and very quickly the owner’s voice was heard over the VHF calling for me to help translate. The connection was bad, and the boat shortly pulled up alongside Dutch Dreamer to get the scoop on our intentions. It all seemed so shady to me and I felt nervous with the entire scenario. I was told to relax as this was how things took place in this part of the world, but I just had a weird feeling. Given that they didn’t even have a radio on their boat, when I asked the guy how we should call for help if needed, he merely gave me his cell phone number. Something was fishy about this and I had freaked myself out by reading too many stories of piracy.
    Mike and I paddled back to the catamaran to make an early dinner and make sure the boat was secure for the night. We planned on another early departure so we could arrive in Cartagena in bright day light. I was so nervous all night and was eager to get the heck out of that anchorage.

Day 9 – 3 April: Punta Hermosa to Cartagena
    Finally, our last day of the passage! We are all highly anticipating arrival into Cartagena. It has been a fun coastal hop, but given the problems with the vessels, we just want to get there at this stage. There is no wind today, so we have to motor most of the way, which we hate to do. It’s a rather quick passage and we arrive in Cartagena around 2 in the afternoon. The entrance to the port was tricky: an eleven feet wide gap that was surrounded by a submerged wall on either side. It was a tight squeeze, but Mike made it through easily and navigated us around the bay until we found all the boats anchored off of Club Nautico. Navigating through the boats, we noticed many of our friends from Aruba and the coastal hop that were already anchored here. They greeted us from their boats and we were elated to see everyone.
We were originally told that we would have to anchor, but thanks to Greg and Carol working out an arrangement with the harbor master, we we’re able to get a spot on the dock right next to them. Alas we’ve arrived in Cartagena! Carol’s birthday is tomorrow on Easter, so we are all looking forward to a bit of downtime and celebration before all the real work of repairing our boats begins.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Hello All,

This is just a quick follow up to the last post when things were looking quite dismal. Mike and I stepped off the 45´catamaran last Friday for reasons that I have mentioned in the previous post. That same day, we were welcomed aboard a 50´ Bruce Roberts sailboat named Chante Cler. Its a beautiful boat, but more importantly, the owner, George, is a wonderful man. Karma is an amazing thing. We are both very fortunate and extremely happy with this new situation. Please stay tuned for tales from our new vessel! We are still in Cartagena, Colombia and have intentions to sail to Panama and cross the canal in the near future. I will try to post photos from Colombia as soon as possible.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Update from Cartagena, Colombia

At last we finally made it to Cartagena, Colombia! We spent 8 days bay hopping along the coasts of Venezula and Colombia. I have many stories to tell and many photos to share, however, I cannot do so at the moment as we´ve been hit with some unfortunate news. Upon our arrival here in Cartagena, the owner smacked us in the face with a whammy. He hated every second of our travels here and decided he doesn´t want to keep his boat anymore. He isn´t willing to put the money into it because he won´t see a return on his investment as quickly as he hoped. Furthermore, things keep breaking on the boat despite our efforts to fix them, and he just can´t keep up with it (financially). Therefore, Mike and I are now going to be left in Cartagena while the owner tries to take his boat to Panama and sell it. He has fought us over getting the necessary repairs done in order to make the boat safe (which he promised to do here in Cartagena), and since he hates Cartagena, he´s going to continue on to Panama with the boat in an unstable condition. Mike and I don´t want to risk sailing with the boat in this condition as it was risky enough just getting here to Cartagena. So, given all this information we´ve now got less than 10 days before he leaves and we are once again homeless (the time is undetermined when he will leave as he tends to just get up and go when he´s unhappy and will not give us a straight answer). Fortunately, we convinced him to buy us plane tickets, so we may be heading back to California if we can´t find another boat here to hop aboard. I will post updates here and also try to write about our great sail over soon, but for now its a rush of packing and job hunting. There is never a dull moment with this life!