January 31, 2001
At 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: Cartagena.

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!






Log and Journal