Sea in the Colombian Basin
11 Degrees North, 73 Degrees, 49’ West
“It’s a Little Lumpy out Here”
The old salts of England used to say in their understated way, “It’s
a little lumpy today,” as they commented on a boisterous sea. This has
been a rather lumpy passage so far, as Pacific Bliss ventures out from
the extended Windward Island chain of the Caribbean towards the South
American continent, the romantic Spanish Main, our destination:
We have voyaged over 430 miles since leaving Bonaire at 0915 Monday
morning, the 29th. Amazingly, Ray (our ship’s autopilot
and computer) now tells us he has faithfully managed Pacific Bliss over
6000 nautical miles without so much as a hiccup. True, he has
lost his “fix” occasionally, but that, he assures us, is due to the
satellites up there, not him! Yea, Ray!
The trade winds have been in the 20-30 knot range, pushing us along
at a boat speed of 7.53 knots average, Force 7 gusts pushing her to
10-13 knots, with a trip maximum recorded by Ray at 17.7 knots. We are
sailing conservatively in these waters, with a double-reefed main, prepared
for anything that might come our way.
And what might come our way in these waters? First, the weather
here is influenced by the landmass of the South American continent.
The season of the strongest winds is from December through April, when
the trades blow NE to E. The wind we have experienced so far has been
directly East or ESE. Most people plan to cruise this area from
June to September, when the winds are lighter and more variable. But
we are not just leisurely cruising; we are passage making, with some
leisurely interludes thrown in.
We plan to reach Costa Rica by mid-February. We know that Pacific Bliss
can take it. After the pounding through the lumpy square waves
of the Med, the wind right on the nose, we are confident in her structural
integrity. The fast ride on our points of sail for this trip-run, broad,
and beam reach-does not present a problem; however, the 8-12 foot rolling
swells do cause uncomfortable rolling and yawing and the slapping of
the breaking waves against the hulls can keep us awake at night.
This is the first time on this passage that I’ve felt like using the
computer; in fact, no one was much interested in cooking or eating much
for the first two days.
Other than strong winds and high swells, the omnipresent danger in
these waters is drug running. The Peninsula de Guajira is to be given
a wide berth, according to Jimmy Cornell. We entered his
waypoints recommended in World Cruising Routes, heading
north of Curaçao and Aruba, and continuing further north of Point Gallinas,
only then heading back southwest toward Colombia to our next waypoint
off Barranquilla. We understand from various cruising guides that Colombia
is again being included in cruising plans, after years of avoidance.
The U.S. Coast Guard, whose vessels patrol the Caribbean Sea, has been
on a determined campaign to make this area safe, with no recent reports
of molested yachts. We’ve heard cruisers talk about yachts being stopped--and
even boarded--by the Coast Guard, however.
Our proposed landfall, Cartagena, is the most popular with cruisers.
Its picturesque harbor is purported to be one of the most attractive
harbors in the New World. I purchased a detailed chart of the
Bay of Cartagena at the ship’s chandlery in Bonaire. Now that
we envision landfall tomorrow, we are filled with anticipation.
We plan to hire a guide to take the four of us on an historic city tour.
The adventure continues!