Monday, November 29, 2010


We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. We missed our families and friends over the holiday, but as with most events while cruising, we managed to find a group willing and able to celebrate.

On Thanksgiving evening, a group gathered to go to an Australian restaurant. The Australian chef had arranged to do a traditional Thanksgiving feast with a bit of Colombian flare. The small restaurant was filled with cruisers, oil field workers and Colombian school teachers. Though each group tended to stay to themselves, the restaurant had a warm, happy atmosphere. Football (American style) was also playing on the TV so all the Texans in the crowd were happy to see the Texas / Texas A&M game. The feast included the traditional turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce and the Colombian flare was the lovely pumpkin soup, vegetable mix and rum and lemonade cocktail. It was a fun evening.

Friday, we went to a local dentist for a teeth cleaning. It was okay – though not as thorough as our St. Petersburg dentist's. But it was good to get it done and it was reasonably priced. Then, Michael continued to work on the wiring of the new arch. He was making great progress with the wind generator now working, the radar hooked up and the anchor light working. He continued with the GPS, safety light and stern navigation light. Barbara headed for Casa de Queso – the cheese house. This is a local man who makes his own Italian style cheeses. Good, hard cheese in Colombia is hard to find at a reasonable price and we had heard about this place. So, together with "Miss Kitty" she headed via cab to Bosque where the place is located. It was an interesting shop and Barbara bought some cheddar-like cheese, smoked provolone and some buffalo mozzarella. Before we depart for the cheese-less San Blas, we'll probably make another stop there.

On Saturday, we got caught in a monster rain storm. We've never seen rain dump quite so hard so quickly. We were just walking back from a Home Center store where we had to return a light we had purchased earlier in the week. About six blocks from the dinghy dock, it started to rain, then it poured. We ducked into an open air, covered restaurant along with lots of others. It was lunch time so we ordered the "comida corriente" (meal of the day) and found a relatively dry place to sit. And we watched it rain and rain and rain. It was coming off the roof like a fire hose running at full speed. The streets (which have trouble dealing with even lighter rainfall were turning into rivers. We enjoyed watching a delivery kid on a bicycle coming back and forth wetter and wetter. Hope he was being well tipped for his efforts. He was soaked.

We finally gave up and made a run for it getting as far as the grocery store. Many of the streets we crossed were calf deep in water with a strong current. It was crazy. We got back to the boat soaked and the dinghy was barely floating it was so filled with water.

On Sunday, we had organized a nautical flea market. We promoted it all week on the morning radio net (Barbara getting back into her promo writing mindset). We had lots of stuff to get off the boat – an alternator, a prop that we rescued from a landfill (someone was just going to throw it out so we said we'd get rid of it and had tried to give it away in three different countries – here we managed to actually sell it and make 40,000 pesos!), old line (quickly grabbed), an old fender (not guitar), small bits and pieces. We managed to get rid of a few things and came back with less than we left with. Michael was good and didn't buy anything (a first for a nautical flea market for him).

Sunday evening was the weekly barbeque and potluck. Club Nautico lights a large charcoal grill and everyone brings their main course to cook and a side dish to share.

It was a busy Thanksgiving weekend for the crew of Astarte. We hope yours was filled with family, friends, food, football and Friday Christmas shopping. We're thankful for all our family, friends and readers.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Monday, November 22, 2010


The construction projects are completed. On time. On budget. And to our satisfaction.

The stainless steel arch on the back of the boat was done by Bianney Torres and his brothers. The quality of the work is exceptional and they did everything we asked. The design was Bianney's with a lot of input from Michael and it really looks nice. The radar fits and is much sturdier than our previous pole. The wind generator fits, is sturdier and is actually quieter below (yippee). And the best news is that the self-steering wind vane also fits at all points, which at first looked like it might be a problem.

The overall look is clean and we have great visibility. We have spare cleats, eyes and a very cool little barbeque holder. Now, Michael has a lot of work to do. He has to re-wire lots of bits and pieces...the radar, the anchor light, the big aft deck stern safety light, the stern navigation light, and the GPS. He already has the wind generator working though will re-wire it with some new wire in the future.

The other project that was done was some interior woodwork. We closed in the walkway berths for more storage. We had been using the area for storage all ready – but it wasn't very tidy. So we hired Nilson and his assistant Javier to build doors for the lower berth and a board for the upper one. They did the work in solid teak and it really came out nice. It makes the walk through much nicer. We did lose a little space with the construction but it was worth every bit.

Now, as we have to put the boat back together – it forces us to see what we have, what we haven't used in almost two years, what we can get rid of and what we couldn't find last time we were looking for it! It's always good to get rid of things. And because we did find some stuff to say goodbye to– one man's junk is another's treasure – so we're hosting a nautical flea market at Club Nautico this weekend. Maybe we can eliminate some extras and get some beer money.;

We can't believe its Thanksgiving week already. We've been so busy with the construction projects, it sort of just crept up on us. This morning we heard on the radio, the local "Australian" chef will be doing a Thanksgiving feast if they can get at least eight folks – so we'll probably join in and do that!

We still need to get to a dentist for a teeth cleaning and pick up some provisions, get our zarpe paperwork and then we'll be looking for a weather window to move on.

It's nice to be over construction and back at anchor.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Construction Zone

First things first: new pictures on Photo Page 2. No construction yet, just "desfile" or in english, parade.

Astarte is now officially a construction zone. Work on the installation of the arch is underway. We went into the Club Nautico "marina" on Thursday morning thinking the arch might be delivered that afternoon. This was after one of those Spanish phone conversations where we hoped that was what was said. Bianney did come by for some last minute measurements and promised an arch the following day. Michael went with him to his shop to take a final look – which was a good thing. A few small items were forgotten – but he was pleased with the overall construction and look.

On Thursday, when we went into the marina, the slip we were promised had been taken by a boat who just decided to tie up there and then go to a hotel. The funny thing is – the boat is registered from St. Petersburg, FL and we had met the folks in 2001 in Martinique. Small world. But they were in our slip and that meant we had to go elsewhere. We ended up next to a huge catamaran party boat and had to tie one line to their bow, another line to the underwater mooring (a diver from the marina does this for you), and two stern lines.. The mooring was really far away, over 100 feet, because the spot was meant for really big boats! It was a tight fit and when the wind switched about midnight, in the rain, it meant re-tying the boat. So much for the comfort of marinas.

On Friday morning, the boat in our promised slip moved to their permanent slip and we moved to the original planned slip. This was a much better place for the construction as it was farther from other boats. After all the boats moved and we were just getting settled, the arch was being walked down the dock by Martin and Johnny. It was quite a sight. The arch was polished stainless and quite large.

Then the destruction and construction began. First, they had to power up their generator – which meant "jerry-rigging" some wire as our extension cord wasn't quite right. Barbara was certain this would start a fire the way it was rigged! When that was completed they needed to first removed the existing stern rail. This proved to be a much harder project than it should have been. Turns out the existing stern rail and stanchions were bolted in places we didn't know. It required some tearing out of wall boards below to get to these bolts. Noise, sawdust, and just plain frustration was rampant. After having to finally just cut the stanchions off to get to the bolts holding the bases, they were off.
Then the arch was fitted. It was close. The wind vane paddle however, didn't quite clear it completely at one point. Now the tough decision of whether we wanted holes on the deck to show (or be fiber-glassed over) or live with it. We decided to live with it and hope that when the arch was finally installed the windvane would work because it was so close.

It's a day of lots of noise from the generator, drills, grinders, cutters polishers, and music from the nearby boats trying hard to drown out our noise! We don't blame them – but it's making for quite a noisy environment. Rain in the afternoon has slowed progress – but hopefully it will pass quickly and progress will continue.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In the Washing Machine

Nothing like being seasick at anchor! Well, almost!

Another parade to celebrate Cartagena Independence and continue the process to select "Miss Colombia." This time it was a boat parade. The contestants, in bikinis, are rowed by naval cadets in open lifeboats. They stand at the bow with the support of a bar and a cadet and wave to the crowd as they make their way from the old city to the lighthouse (a few miles). Of course every boat in the general area of Cartagena is out here to watch, make wakes, throw water balloons, play loud music and just have a great time. This all happens at 1400 hours (2 pm). But the boat traffic started much sooner – around 11 am. That meant boats of every size, shape, motor size and speed were zipping in and out of the anchorage. Many pushed giant wakes and others cut very, very close to the anchored sailboats. The police were out in force (also zipping about in the anchorage).

The bad news was the weather. It was a wet, wet day. It rained in buckets and then would stop and then it would shower and rain heavily again. The beauty
queens had to be frozen in their bikinis on the bows of those boats. The Aguila Chicas (that's the local beer and those would be the local beer girls dancing on the bow of a big power boat) were also scantily clad and quite an attraction surrounded by many boats (including many of the navy boats!)

We rocked and rolled all day as the wakes came from every direction. Everything had to be put away like we were offshore. It was fun to watch all the activities and everyone seemed to be having a great time despite the weather. All the big party/tour boats were out including the two big pirate ships. Even small canoes with men rowing were out and about though they looked like they were in mortal danger of being swamped or run over!

Of course in the midst of all these waves and rocking – Michael decided to tackle a huge project which kept him below (at least until the bikini clad beauty contestants arrived) with his body in positions it shouldn't be. He wants to get the designer of the boat alone for ten minutes! He replaced the 1 1/2in. aft head discharge hose – not a pretty project and bad language was heard! But it's done.

Don't know what parties or parades are scheduled today. There were fireworks at 3 am this morning! We couldn't tell what the noise was and woke up to watch the display over the city. I guess that was the finale to the big parties.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Parties, Parades and Projects

Sorry for the lack of entries, but it has been a busy few weeks in Cartagena, Colombia. We're underway with two big boat projects – the stainless arch for the back deck and some interior woodwork. The projects have been a good test of our Spanish language skills (or lack of them).

The arch is being done by the Torres brothers. Bianney, the younger brother, is the designer and a very skilled welder. We've seen a lot of his work. After our initial meeting with him, he came back with a drawing and a price. Some negotiating took place and we settled on a design, price and timetable. We signed a short contract and then had to exchange some more money to pay them the 60% up front. These small businesses don't have lots of stainless in stock so they need some of the money for materials. After that was all settled, we had to remove the radar post and the wind generator mount. This meant we had to clean off the back deck and empty the lazarettes – major projects that got accomplished with some effort but not broken bits or body parts.

We got the poles to the Torres boys – which meant we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies in a dinghy as we headed to shore loaded down with long stainless and aluminum poles, dinghy lift, radar mount and smaller bits and pieces to be fitted on the new arch.

Our next arch adventure meant going to Bianney's shop. Getting there was the first part of the adventure. We handed our cell phone to a cab driver to talk to Bianney for directions. We headed out to one of the barrios (neighborhoods) over rough roads and crazy traffic. We got to the shop which is an open air mud (a bit of concrete) floor and a roof. Dogs and chickens were running through the shop which had lots of interesting equipment. They were using a manual hydraulic tube bender which was fascinating to see at work. We took some photos of the bending project on our arch. Then we hopped a ride back to the marina with Bianney in his car. He had some parts for another boat he had made up. It was good he knew the way, because his exhaust was leaking into the back seat and too long of a ride would have spelled disaster.

The next project on our list was enclosing the bunks in the walk through for better storage. We met with the highly recommended carpenter Nilson and he came to the boat at beer thirty, which we obliged, to look at the project and give us a price. A couple of beers for spanish lessons seems like a pretty good deal. After a day to think about it, we negotiated and settled on a price and some specifics. We had to get him some money, also in advance, for buying the teak and then he was supposed to come back for measurements. He didn't show (after he had our money) but then we connected and he came the next morning. So both projects are underway and we should get them completed within ten days.

Now between trying to speak Spanish to the contracted workers (which is really great for our skills – especially over the phone where charades can't help you!) we are enjoying the city life. We've done some local street treats (shaved ices, tintos etc) as well as some local restaurants. Wednesday night is cruiser pizza night at a local establishment which is always fun. Sunday night is potluck night and then we connected with an Irish couple on an Island Packet who enjoy walking into Centro (an area in downtown). We walked there on Tuesday night to watch dancers in the square (but we were in the wrong square). So, we had a few beers and then had dinner at an Australian bistro that several people had told us about.

November 11th is Cartagena Independence day – and the celebration starts on the 10th and runs through the 16th. It involves several parades, parties, lots of music and some boat festivities. Yesterday we went to the barrios parade – where each neighborhood has a group in the parade – many dancing, great costumes, a few floats with beauty queens and much partying amongst the crowd. We got into town with Lindsay and David, and David turned into a big kid in front of our eyes. Michael was right there with him. They sell these very tall cans of spray foam (sort of like shaving cream) and people spray each other with glee. We got into it with the locals to break the ice. Then the corn starch came out – they rub the white powder all over you. There are also the "black men" - men covered in motor oil and they threaten to hug you if you don't give them a small amount of money. It's all in fun and you can just walk away.

We enjoyed a full day in town ending with a drink in a square (where the dancers we went looking for on Tuesday night performed). We had dinner at a German restaurant and headed back. We were exhausted as we got back to the boat in time for the skies to open up again. With lots of rain, lightning and thunder.

So we've been busy with major boat projects, some less major ones (wiring, installing a new light); looking for boat bits – walking all over in search of filters and bushings and some cleaning, minor projects, and basic maintenance.

We've also enjoyed meeting some new cruisers and exploring by foot the city. Barbara's gone to a local eye doctor (all is well) and was impressed with his skills. Now we need to find a local dentist for teeth cleaning. So we've been doing lots and have neglected our blog – we apologize.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Settling Into City Life

We are well anchored in the muck of Bahia de Cartagena. It's been hot, humid and quite rainy with a regular dose of squalls. Some of the squalls have been exciting with gusty wind and lots of lightning. Some of the gusts have really pulled the anchor chain through the muck of the bay – making it something to look forward to when we have to pull it up (yuck!) We are sitting in a good spot with enough swinging room between boats (we hope).

The bay is fun as there are lots of boats coming and going everyday. We always call the goings on in an anchorage as "bay movies." Well, in big city anchorages – it's like a multiplex theater. Lots of movies everyday! The boats are from all over the world with a plethora of flags flying. That makes time on the docks and in town always interesting with lots of well-traveled folks, accents and stories. We always learn so much from these well-traveled cruisers.

On Sunday, we had an appointment with the DAS agent. That's immigration here. Our maritime agent, Paola, set it up and we cabbed to the location to meet her. Because we arrived before she did, we started to walk towards the building. A uniformed man with a big automatic weapon stopped us. With our beginning Spanish we realized we couldn't proceed until our agent arrived. So we waited and had a few chats with the armed DAS agents who were all very friendly. We chatted (in our Spanish/English/Sign Language way) about baseball, the wild west and Colombia. It was fun. Then our agent arrived and we went into this incredible old building with high ceilings, many carvings and fancy concrete work, beautiful windows – many of old stained glass, and lovely wood and tile floors. It was quite a sight except for the very industrial desks within its rooms. The immigration agent was a very friendly guy – even though he had only two hours of sleep. It seems there are only two agents that handle all the boating traffic – including cruise ships. The day before there were two huge cruise ships in town – so he was one busy guy. But he maintained a great attitude and it was a pleasurable experience.

We cabbed back to the dinghy dock to change out of our "going to officials" clothes and then head into town to exchange US dollars for Colombian pesos. Because it was Sunday, we weren't certain if the "cambios" would be open. There is a big con in town that everyone warns you about - "never exchange money on the street." Banks do NOT exchange money – you can get pesos from ATMs, but they won't take US dollars and give you pesos. We did find an open "cambio" and exchanged some dollars. Now we could buy street food and drinks. We enjoyed a limeade from a street vendor who makes it with fresh limes. Very refreshing.

We tried to make a few calls to Colleen (Hans' daughter) so we could arrange to meet her and deliver her package. But we had no joy. As we walked back towards Manga (where the boat is), we stopped into a store and bought a SIM card for our cell phone. It was an interesting experience and we managed to get it done without any English spoken. Then we went to another spot to buy additional minutes (the first place would only do it with a credit card). Our last stop was Carulla – the big grocery store. We have a "tarjeta de Carulla" (Carulla discount card) which we got on our last visit to Cartagena. We loaded up on some fresh fruit and veggies and called it a day.

On Monday, a holiday here – day of the dead – we did boat projects (laundry and deck scrubbing - thanks to all the rain) and Michael spent hours trying to get online (no joy). Now we have lots of wet clothes and no place to dry them in the continuing rain. Monday night we went out with our agent Paola and her husband Mark and Les and Sara from a boat named "Wild Matilda". We were going to walk into the old city but it started to rain again – and so we went to a great local eatery that Paola knew. You had to buy your beers across the street at a tienda and bring them into the open air (but thankfully covered) restaurant. We enjoyed the local fare and then stopped on the way back in a pastry shop for a dessert.

It was pouring as we headed out to the boat in the dinghy so we were soaked upon arrival. Got the dinghy and outboard up and locked and tried to dry off.

Another rainy we sit amongst wet clothes. Today we should get the bid for the arch and will decide if we can afford it. Want to contribute?

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: