Around the Colombian coast, engine failure, Cartegena

December 2007




Jed taking a turn at helmThe Colombian coast has a reputation for rough seas and strong winds, so we timed our passage from Curacao to coincide with a favourable forecast of steady breezes and less than rough seas. Then of course there are the stories of pirates, drug trafficking and gun running………..!  Our evening departure from Spanish Waters in Curacao, the Dutch Antilles, was a wonderful sail along the sheltered coast, with a distant view of the worlds longest operating swing bridge, and only a few cruise liners and large commercial ships to dodge.


It was some time since we had made night-time passages and with a 410 mile stretch to Cartegena we experimented with a new watch system with Bridge and George as one team and JackOur First Glimpse of Colombia and Grum the other. It worked well, we stayed wide awake, had company, some conversation and more cups of tea, all of which helped to pass the long night hours.


We made one overnight stop at one of the ‘5 Bays’, a fjord like area of the Colombian coast with a backdrop of dark, jungle clad mountains reaching to 10, 000 feet. The following day we had a day sail that took us across the River Barranquilla outflow; a bright brown line in the sea clearly marked the river water carrying silt and debris seaward, some 4 miles offshore. A fascinating thing to see and sail through.

 Coming into Cartegena

Later in the day and approaching another overnight anchorage, and just navigating inside an extensive reef, we were alarmed to discover that our trusty Perkins engine started but abruptly stopped! Despite Grum and Jacks’ best and sweaty endeavours in the engine-room, as we sailed back out to sea, the engine would not go. Some quick decision making and then followed 2 hours of tacking up into the shallow bay of Punta Hermosa; George and Jack perfected their rope handling, Jed called off the depths; “ 6 meters, 5 meters, 4 meters!”, and Bridget called “ lee ho”. Grum did something useful but nobody can remember what. Eventually we dropped the anchor in calm and sheltered water.Statues in Cartegena


So much of life aboard is repairing, maintaining and troubleshooting. After extensive detective work, Grum was to be found with his arm up to the shoulder in diesel in the main tank, fishing out various bits of debris including the guilty plug of silicon which was blocking the fuel outlet from the tank. Once again our mechanics won the day, and soon Perkins was purring once again.


Arriving in Cartegena on the 8th December we were surprised by the modern Manhattan-like skyline of this historic city. Later, once anchored we could fully appreciate how busy this major port is, with Christmas Decorationsfrequent movements of container ships, cruise ships, several Colombian Naval frigates and an astonishing number of local and visiting yachts.


Our time in Cartegena was spent exploring the old city, catching up on school work, doing some small boat jobs, and provisioning ready for Christmas and New Year. The Spanish fortifications of Cartegena are impressive and remain relatively intact despite having a good pounding from many English cannons down the years. G, J and J had a great visit to one fort that has a maze of deep, dark, damp tunnels to explore.  We also spent good times with our friends Peter, Benedicta, Filipa and Emil, exploring, chatting, and planning Xmas and New Year. Plus Bridge and Grum celebrated a wedding anniversary with a meal at an open air restaurant atop one of the fort walls, listening to salsa music, and gazing out over the bay. Romantic.