January 6, 2011

Isla Providencia, district of Columbia!


    Isla Providencia is a beautiful place.  The rugged little island is just 5 miles long and a mile or so wide.  The island has been used by pirates and Spanish ships for hundreds of years. Towering  2000 foot tall mountains rise up off the ocean floor that are covered in dense vegetation  It is small enough that you can walk around the island in 6 hours. Home to just 4000 people, most of which come from the Columbian mainland.  The people here are very friendly and you feel safe .

      The clearing in process was made simple with the assistance of Mr. Bush  the clearing agent for Columbia on  the Island.  We met him at the port dock to clear in.  He asked if it would be alright to take the customs official and his wife and son aboard Downtime?  The six of us piled into Super Dink and went to the boat.  This was the customs agents first month on the job and he had never been on a sailboat.  After a quick boat tour and some paper work we were cleared in,  The documents would be ready in the morning and all was good.

    The same afternoon on  the 24th we went ashore and rented some scooters.  The island has a good paved road around it and scooters are defiantly the way to go.  There must be 2000 scooters and maybe  50 cars.  We stopped at every point of interest along the way.  We made it around  in two hours and  turned around and did it again!  Getting hungry we stopped  at a outdoor seaside restaurant  that served an amazing amount of food for $15. 

    Back on the  boat we had a few of the other cruisers stop by and welcomed us to the anchorage.  Tom and Rose from Sojourn came by and told us that when they saw the big cat come in they immediately thought  we could host the cruiser Christmas party.  What a great idea!!  They organized the party for 2:00 the next day. 

    Christmas  in the Caribbean  is very different than back home.  People don’t spend hundreds of dollars on decorations.  Christmas music is replaced by roaring stereo systems playing reggae, and at midnight they light off fireworks! People here are simple and seem content with their island lifestyle.  Riding around the island we saw people butchering pigs and cows for the big day. 

    This is my 3rd  Christmas on Downtime,  every year in a different country.   Being in Columbia is as far south as I have been on Christmas, and 80 degrees still feels strange this time of year.
  My favorite Christmas joke is:  What did one snow man say to the other snow man?
                                                                                                        Answer:  I smell carrots!!

     The guests started showing up just before 2:00. Every one brought a dish  for the potluck.  There were lots of awesome deserts that included pecan pie and home made brownies!!   Daria cooked a nice ginger grouper that made your mouth water looking at it!  We had cruisers from 10 different boats!!  23 people aboard Downtime and it was a happy place.  It is so much fun talking to fellow cruisers and hearing where everyone had been traveling.  The travel guides don’t compare to the first hand knowledge you get from fellow cruisers.   After we all had our fill of Christmas dinner and desert, we exchanged a small gifts with each other.  Everyone did their part in cleaning up and by 5:00  everyone headed back home to their boats.

    Talking with everyone gave us the idea to go to Cartagena for new years!  Cartagena lies 350 miles SE of Isla Providencia.  We should be able to make it by the 28th if we head out in the morning,  We called Mr. Bush and cleared out and set sail for the mainland  by 10:00 the next morning. 

   Well, like I said before, if you want to go some where  in a sail boat you can guess where the wind will be coming from!!  You guessed it!  Twenty hours into the trip the wind rose to 30 plus knts. and clocked to the nose. The waves grew to 12 feet!!   12 foot waves at night are scary!!  Downtime was crashing into them at over 10 knts at times making the ride very uncomfortable and wet. After taking a several waves over the side and soaking me to the bone it was time for a new plan!!   Maybe next time Cartagena…….

    Turn her south and head to the San Blas!!!!   Riding down wind in 30 knot winds and huge seas was a lot more comfortable.  We just needed a furled jib to go 8 knots.  After a warm shower and  some dry clothes Downtime was a happy place again.
                                                                            Peace, The Captain