Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | November 20, 2012

Itchy Feet

N 11° 14.56′   W 74° 13.08′

Santa Marta, Colombia.

Marina Santa Marta is getting busy now, with arrivals outpacing departures. It has been a very pleasant home for the last two months.

Bob is getting anxious to move on and we are preparing to leave Santa Marta tomorrow. I had hoped we could spend Thanksgiving here – a potluck dinner is planned – but choosing the best travel weather takes priority. We hear it is wise to be farther down the Colombian coast before the winter winds start to howl. We had a small dose of that heavy weather last week, with wind gusts around 40 knots. Bob spent much of one night rearranging the dock lines which have been subject to a lot of chafe. He is right – it is time to make our next passage.

I am finding that once again I have become very fond of another destination and it is hard to say “goodbye”. Admittedly, my first impression was one of culture shock. It seems that with time to explore and adjust we usually find many wonderful aspects to enjoy wherever we have visited.  Santa Marta may well turn out to be one of our most memorable stops along the way.

Marina Santa Marta has been a welcoming home, with helpful staff and many interesting boating neighbors. The people in town are generally friendly and accommodating, tolerant of foreigners and curious about our travels. We have tasted some fabulous meals ashore. We have found most of the things we have needed, and love that so much is convenient to the marina on foot or via those inexpensive little yellow taxis. Even Bob seems to enjoy shopping and provisioning trips since they are so interesting and different from home.

For me, learning a little of the language has gone a long way toward making my time here more comfortable.  My last Spanish lesson with Elsa was on Friday. She provided me with tons of materials and self-study suggestions. I need to discipline myself to keep going. I’m actually looking forward to spending the next 7 months in Spanish-speaking countries.

The main thing that is troubling here is the paramilitary activity that lurks beneath the surface. We continue to hear stories, including recent events, where families felt threatened and businesses and homes were lost or in danger because of extortionist activities. Some people perceive that corruption in the government and police is widespread and that they will not find the help they need. It is sad, but until the masses decide to stand up to the criminal influences change seems unlikely. They are not there yet.

Our Cartegena plans are coming together. We want to spend a couple of weeks in this large and historic city. The harbor is said to be a challenging location for boats – dirty, with muddy holding and few marina spaces for transient boaters.  Most of the boaters we have met in Santa Marta are averse to taking their boats to Cartegena and usually visit the city via ground transportation from here. We always like to hear many opinions, but one thing we have consistently found is that our experiences and perceptions are not always in agreement with the majority. It is easiest for us to visit Cartegena by sea and we shall give it a try.

We were  able to get a reservation at the Club de Pesca, a private fishing club with a good reputation as a secure location. We will be there for two weeks in December, and with an earlier arrival will anchor in the harbor for a short time. Being in the marina will make it more comfortable for sightseeing, and we can do our final San Blas provisioning with greater ease. We are planning to stop en route at Puerto Valero, where there is a brand new marina, and that will allow us to make the trip in two more scenic day passages instead of an overnight trip down the coast.

It looks like we will get a break on having to provision for a full 3+ months in the San Blas as a new wrinkle has surfaced. As we were preparing to take on fuel, Bob discovered that in Colombia all diesel sold is 10% bio-fuel. Oops. If we had paid closer attention to Noonsite we would have known that. Bio-fuel can cause mechanical problems in older engines like ours. At some point we are going to need to make a trip into Shelter Bay near Colon, Panama, in order to have sufficient diesel for the long northbound trip from Panama to Honduras. We are still going to have to add a couple hundred gallons of Colombian fuel and hope that will not be problematic. In hindsight we should have dealt with the hassles of fueling up in Aruba, but a route change to mainland Panama would still have been necessary to totally avoid bio-fuel.

Lulos and tomate de arbols, some interesting new fruit. Sampling some wonderful local juice drinks combined with our plentiful supply of ice aboard convinced me to buy a Colombian licuadora (blender). Except for a puny power cord, it seems to a solid and powerful appliance compared with those from home.

An example of the many suburban dwellings that sprawl from the city.

The beautiful Catedral de Santa Marta is said to be Colombia’s oldest church

Santa Marta’s Simon Bolivar Park, honoring the man who is credited with liberating much of Latin America, is decorated for the holidays.

More curious decorations along the waterfront park. We will miss seeing them illuminated, which is scheduled to begin Dec 1.

Another interesting and unusual decoration appeared on the beach. We also see some traditional Christmas trees, and Santa and reindeer decorations complete with the “HO HO HO” for sale along with the expected “Feliz Navidad”-inscribed items.

On the weekends there are more pushcart vendors along the waterfront, selling everything from beverages and snacks to various clothing and personal items. On weekdays these carts are everywhere downtown. It is hard to imagine how they can make a living.

One of our favorite street markets, on 13th street between 4th and 5th avenue, is an interesting mix of little shops and semi-mobile vendors, and based on some of the fantastic pricing we think some black market activity might go on here too. Bob found a supplier for one of his favorite liquid refreshments at 1/3 the supermarket price. The vendors are very resourceful and can find many things for you within the web of shops. One day I was looking for a 16GB memory card for my camera and a vendor only had a 4GB one. He tracked me down about 10 minutes later a block down the street with the card I wanted, and sold it to me at a price better than any I had seen. It was probably easy to find the only blond gringo in the market.

Taganga is a pretty fishing village over the hill in the next bay. It is a little touristy, but friendly and the water seems cleaner for swimming.

An interesting street vendor we saw in Taganga with a diesel-powered ice cream cart. Pricing started at $500 pesos, about 30 cents.

Another sight we would not see at home – a sidewalk ceviche vendor preparing shrimp to be served on the beach in Taganga

We said farewell to our friends Jim & Jean from New York on Windsong with a great evening at a Mexican restaurant called Agave Azul. Jim & Jean are fellow Spanish students, and with their new skills they confidently left for a several week land tour of Colombia.

In Colombia, we are required to have a maritime agent to interface with the officials for our various customs, immigration and port permits. Ana and Rafeal of the Victor Abello & Asociados LTDA Agencia Maritima have provided awesome service. They are attentive, timely, very knowledgeable and have kept our documents in order. Although other boaters have reported problems with the officials in Santa Marta in the past, we have had absolutely no issues here and have to give credit to their excellent work and communication. (Cruisers needing an agent can reach Ana Cecilia, Manager, at 315-751-1370, or



  1. sounds like you guys are having lots of fun
    B very careful stay safe
    happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at HealthSouth Largo
    God bless Tony

    • Thank you, Tony! Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving too!!

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