Monday, January 11, 2010

San Andres to Providencia, Colombia

Despite the beauty, charm and convenience of San Andres we were anxious to leave. Perhaps, anchoring in front of the Sunrise hotel for free WIFI was partly to blame. In addition to the free WIFI we got a steady stream of novice jet ski riders showing off there lack of skills by riding around the boat at full speed. Plus, the hotel bar on the pier out front loved to turn up the volume about the time we were ready to turn out the lights. Colombians really know how to party and when on vacation at San Andres they pull out all the stops. It was not uncommon for extremely loud music to play until three AM and on one occasion a party boat was still out hooting it up at 7AM having partied all night. I can only imagine what hell this could be if you didn't like the music and lacked the extensive training accumulated living in a frat house during college. Really the jet skis pissed me off as they would come so close as to spray the deck with water... not so nice when we have the hatches open and our laundry out to dry. Of course we could have found a nice quite anchorage, but then we would have a long dinghy ride to shore and no WIFI. Ahh, what one will endure for internet access.

San Andres is awesome don't get me wrong. Colombians are really friendly and generally speak nice clearly enunciated Spanish that is perfect for novice Spanish speakers.

The Colombian island of Providencia (Heaven) lies 60 nautical miles to the North of San Andres and is very low key and sparsely populated with little tourism. Truly a slice of tranquil Heaven compared to the jet ski riding devils to the south. Most locals ride small motorcycles here in the islands and a handful of cabs and one 'Chiva' provide the public transportation. So the 'Chiva' SP? is a converted U-Haul truck or maybe a Rider as it's yellow. Anyway a door has been cut in the side sans the door and windows as well also sans glass. The driver is a super gregarious guy who really loves music. He loves it so much that he rarely turns it down below a deafening level. On my first Chiva ride I sat next to the driver and had a shouted discussion about music interests and we agreed to make each other MP3 CD's to swap.

As a side bar I frequently will make CD's to share music with the local guys whom can rarely get enough Reggae.

We circumnavigated the island along with a lunch stop for a 'Mixto Platter' which was a seafood lovers delight (Lobster, whole fried trigger fish, crab, conch and shrimp). Kathy and I shared a plate and shared the adventure around the islands with Dan and Lorraine of s/v Zephyrus. A good time with many stops of the Chiva so we could take pictures of the beautiful landscape and sea views. A lap around the island is about 1 hour and 20 minutes, but the Chiva is in no hurry so for example if you want to stop at the Pharmacy the Chiva and all passengers will wait while you shop. Very low key indeed.

So here we sit in Providencia, but anxious to get going to get to Belize to make final preparations for the wedding. The weather is not cooperating in the least with very strong winds. In fact we really got a lashing making the 60 nautical mile trip from San Andres. 15-28 knots on the nose with snotty seas. The distance gave us the choice to make an overnight sail or a direct motor boat ride during the day. Our first attempt to sail the 60 miles we aborted after about three hours when it became clear we wouldn't make it to Providencia before dark. A tough call to turn around, but one of the Cardinal rules is to never make a landfall (i.e. arrive at a new place) after dark or with poor viability. It's just not worth the risk to loose the boat by being a bit anxious or impatient. So our second attempt we left about sunrise and since the wind had shifted overnight we decided to make it a 'motor boat ride' and get there in daylight. Even though the wedding is more than a month out we are feeling the pressure of a schedule and want to get to Belize.

Now still sitting here in Providnecia waiting out a second Cold front. This one is packing a serious punch with winds a steady 25 knots with gusts to 35 or more in squalls. The Cold fronts bring strong North component winds and big seas this time of year making it difficult to head North. Further complicating our plans is a recent pirate attack near the Nicaraguan coast necessitating that we sail further off shore and more directly into the prevailing winds making the next two hundred miles of northing a difficult prospect. It looks like we'll have a small 'weather window' later this week to take us around Nicaragua and into safe Honduran waters. Once past the Nicaragua and Honduran border we get to make a more Westerly course which will be much more comfortable for sailing with the prevailing NNE to NE trade winds.

Well Providencia certainly is a good place to be stuck as it could be one of the most heavenly and unspoiled islands left in the entire Carribean.

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