Eastern Caribbean…Here We Come!

Our month in Cartagena flew by, and we were preparing to head for the Eastern Caribbean. There is no good way to travel east. The trade winds run from east to west, which means traveling into the wind. A head sea is no one’s favorite direction, whether you’re sailing, or motoring.

Getting out of Cartagena, or should I say away from Colombia, is especially challenging. There is an almost constant low pressure down here, which causes the wind to howl, especially at night. Sustained thirty knot winds are a regular occurrence; not good when you prefer a threshold of fifteen.

The most obvious route is to travel off the coast of Colombia, round a “bump-out” of land near the Venezuelan border, and head for the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). Winds are most vicious off of the bump-out, and we’re leery to travel anywhere near Venezuela. Six days of a full-on head sea is also a negative.

So after much consideration, we’ve decided to do more of a “tight reach,” to use a sailing term, or head in a diagonal direction up to Puerto Rico. This plan keeps us from traveling in a full-on head sea the entire way, and fingers crossed, gives us a better ride.

After watching and waiting for good weather, winds are predicted to calm over the next few days, giving us the best conditions we’re going to get for the next 14 – 21 days. Our plan is to follow the coast for a bit, to stay out of a current, before turning toward Puerto Rico.

This will by no means be a calm trip, even though the winds are down. Our first and last 24 hours are expected to be  uncomfortable, but we’re hoping that the middle will be better.

The run to Puerto Rico will be our longest to date, and should take six days; I hope we’re all up for this. We have several friends who are currently crossing the Pacific, so it could be worse for me (and Howard).

Even though this passage is going to be a bear, we are so glad to have spent time in Cartagena. The city is beautiful and vibrant, with much to see and do. Safety was never a concern for us, and we walked everywhere with ease. The entire area was incredibly clean for a large city (aside from the treacherous sidewalks!), and everyone we encountered was friendly and helpful. As usual, we’d have liked more time here, but hurricane season is coming, and we have to be in Grenada by the first of July, so Puerto Rico here we come!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”


Howard’s Cartagena Vet Visit

Howard was coming due for his yearly rabies vaccine. Few animals enjoy vet visits, but instead of being quietly terrified (as my last two female cats were), Howard is very “sassy.” He has a Caution sticker on his file at home, and the older and stronger he gets, the more “piss and vinegar” he spits out at a visit. If anything more than a quick vaccine is needed, we have to take him in for the day, to be put under anesthesia.

As we travel, vets and techs are always surprised at Howard’s size when he comes out of his carrier. At just under three years old, he’s 16lbs and very strong. In Roatan, the vet sprayed some pheromones in Howard’s direction, in an effort to calm him. I wanted to inform the poor vet that there weren’t enough pheromones in the building to calm Howard when he’s mad, and I was right. The vet only got half of the vaccine amount in, the rest going all over me and Howard’s fur. Knowing that Howard has no chance of catching rabies, half a shot didn’t concern me. All I wanted was that piece of paper showing a record of the vaccine for customs, which we got…for only $15.00!

Extra stresses, like dinghy and panga rides, and hot car and rooms only make vet visits while cruising worse, and after a terrible experience in Bocas del Toro, we now try to minimize things that will accentuate said “sass.” Cartagena seemed like a good place to get Howard his latest rabies vaccine: we were at a dock, so getting on-and-off the boat was easy; with the great exchange rate for our U.S. dollar in Colombia, the vet visit was affordable and cabs were cheap. There was a vet in the Manga neighborhood, not far from the marina. Scott and I went on a reconnaissance mission, and all seemed good, so I made an appointment.

On vet day, we loaded Howard into his carrier, walked him through the marina and out to the street to catch a cab. He stayed calm, and seemed to enjoy taking in all the smells as we walked. The short cab ride was air conditioned, and so was the vet’s office (both things were taken into account on the recon mission….a cool cat is a less stressed cat), so things were going along smoothly.

Our wait was short, and we were soon back in the exam room with the vet. He wasn’t fluent in English, but was very friendly. We managed to get Howard out of his carrier, vaccinated and back in before he hardly had a chance to hiss…excellent!

The vet suggested that Howard also have a vaccine for Feline Leukemia. Howard is never around other cats, to contract the disease, so I declined. After the rabies vaccine, the vet again stressed the Leukemia one. He even phoned his daughter, who spoke fluent English, and had her talk to me.

It wasn’t that I didn’t understand, I just didn’t want to put Howard through another vaccine. However, worried that a customs agent somewhere in the Eastern Caribbean may require it, I changed my mind. We pulled poor Howard back out of his carrier for vaccine number two….BAD idea.

Howard knew he was still at the vet, and coming back out of that carrier meant nothing good was going to happen. He came out growling (skipping hissing, and going right for growling), and fought hard as Scott tried to restrain him long enough for the vet to get the vaccine in. When the needle went into his skin, Howard lashed out at the nearest thing possible; unfortunately, the nearest thing was Scott’s hand, and he suffered another puncture wound to the hand.

Scott released our seethingly angry cat, and cleaned his hand in a nearby sink. The vet held up the half-full needle and looked at me, as if to imply that he wanted to inject the remainder. Fat chance! We’d all had enough drama and stress for one day.

I blamed myself for not leaving well enough alone. We’d had the best ever vet visit going, and changing my mind had caused havoc. I should have known better, and felt terrible for both Scott and Howard. Howard only lashed out in fear and anger, trying to protect himself from perceived danger, not knowing that he was hurting Scott. Thankfully, this wound was nowhere near as serious as the bite Scott received in the San Blas, and it healed quickly.

So, I again walked away with half a dose of vaccine in my cat, and another updated record. Fingers crossed, we’re free of vet drama for another year and things are back to normal in Howard’s world.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”



Cartagena’s Artsy, Funky Gethsemane Neighborhood

The colonial center of Cartagena’s walled city is beautiful, but most always bustling with people. Tourists come on foot and by the busload to tour museums, cathedrals and other historic sites. Street performers and vendors are prevalent in the city’s many squares, and horse-drawn carriages are around every turn.

Despite the area’s color and beauty, its energy can become overwhelming, especially in the Colombian heat. Luckily, we wandered outside the hub of the city, and discovered the streets of nearby Gethsemane.

This area was the birthplace of the revolt against Spanish rule in the early 19th century. Cartagena became one of the first cities in Colombia to declare independence from Spain, supported by a group called the Gethsemane Lancers, who continued to resist the Spanish until the city won its independence 1821. By then, Gethsemane was home to craftsmen, freed slaves and merchants, and the area became known as the “popular quarter.” Gethsemane is now often referred to as the “culture quarter,” as poets, painters, photographers and other artists settled into the neighborhood.

Outside the original walls of Cartagena’s historic old city, Gethsemane was formerly a haven of prostitution and drugs. However, as in many city neighborhoods with a gritty past, there has been a resurgence in the area. Most of the old colonial buildings have been converted to backpacker hostels, boutique hotels and bistros, and the area now has an artsy, funky vibe.

Unlike the colonial center, there are no major museums, cathedrals or other traditional sights to see. This neighborhood is an attraction in itself.

We first went to the Gethsemane neighborhood in search of Beer & Laundry, after Scott noticed it when reading restaurant reviews online. In addition to laundry service, Beer & Laundry also sells beer and pizza, and was getting rave reviews. Customers talked of the friendly the owner who was fluent in English, among several other languages, who happily offered local information. We read that the pizza was great and the beer was cold.

I didn’t need laundry service, as we thankfully have a machine on board. However, I’ve never met a cold beer I didn’t like, and we’re always up for a good pizza, so we set off to find this “Beer & Laundry.”

After crossing the bridge from Manga, where our marina was located, we decided to walk the wall for a bit, admiring the massive structure along the way.

High atop the huge stone wall, we had a clear view of Castillo San Felipe, as well as houses and shops along the outskirts of the neighborhood.

We also had our first look at some of the street murals that Gethsemane is known for.

After rounding a block or two, and getting our bearings, we located Beer & Laundry. I was so excited about a cold beer (after the hot, sweaty walk) that I forgot to take a photo of the exterior, so I borrowed one from online.

Inside, large, shiny-new washer and dryers lined one wall of the narrow space. Along the other wall were several small tables, surrounded by benches and chairs.

Anna, the owner, came over to greet us, and laughed when she learned we had no need for laundry, and were instead in search of pizza and beer. Customers happily share tables in the small space, so she sat us with several people who were visiting Cartagena as part of a trip across South America (The glass wall behind us held maps of the world, for customers to mark where they call home).

It seemed crazy to us that they were traveling with only a backpack or two, and they were amazed at our boat life. We had a great time chatting with each other, and exchanging stories of our travels.

After feeding our bellies and cooling off a bit, we wandered the streets of Gethsemane. Here, locals far outnumbered tourists. Instead of vendors selling hats, paintings and jewelry, and tour representatives calling out to get your attention, local men played board games on the sidewalk or just gathered to chat. It was obvious that most residents had lived in Gethsemane all their lives, and there was a great, small-town feel to the neighborhood.

Gethsemane’s streets are just as colorful and scenic as those in the historic center, with one more interesting than the next. We tried to walk a different path each time we visited, enjoying each street’s unique feel.

At almost every turn, we were met with beautiful wall art. The vivid, urban murals were striking, against the backdrop of a faded colonial wall or building.

We discovered Basilica Pizzeria, opposite a quiet square off the beaten path. Our lunch was delicious, and we were amused at how nearby restaurants receive their deliveries..by glorified hand truck!

All streets in Gethsemane seem to lead to Plaza de la Trinidad , which is anchored by the Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad (Church of the Holy Trinity), built in the 17th century (During the day, the quiet plaza looks something like this).

The plaza is charming and welcoming, and the natural “hub” of the neighborhood. It comes alive at night, with residents and tourists gathering to eat at the surrounding restaurants and cafes.

We enjoyed a tapas dinner at Demente, on the edge of the plaza. They have a retractable roof in the bar area, to take advantage of the cooler evenings, and open-air patio seating out back. After our meal, we wandered the area, enjoying the sights, smells and people-watching.

The star of the plaza in the evening is definitely the street food. Vendors set up throughout the square and surrounding streets, with food to satisfy most any craving.


Burgers and hot dogs with all the fixins’ (Scott was sorry he’d eaten so much at dinner)

Lots of things on sticks.

And of course, arepas. (I was sorry I’d eaten so much at dinner)

Arepas are found in nearly every park and square in Cartagena. Arepa de choclo are made by blending yellow cornmeal and fresh corn kernels. This mixture is then combined with milk, salt and sugar, making a batch of something similar to thick pancakes. The pancakes are joined together and grilled with a filling of mozzarella cheese, egg and/or meat….and more butter. They seem to be most popular for breakfast, or lunch. Scott and I enjoyed several of them from a vendor just outside of Club de Pesca (borrowed photo).

“Arepas de queso are made with white corn, milk, butter and salt and then pan-grilled. They are sometimes opened up to allow more cheese and butter to be shoved inside. Sadly, we never tried these yummy-sounding/looking things (more borrowed photos).

Amidst all the frying and grilling, we were surprised to see fruit vendors. With brightly loaded carts, they were in full force among the evening plaza scene.

Lunch at Basilica Pizzeria was so good, that we returned for dinner with our friends Bob and Irma (s/v Gaia), who we’d met in the San Blas. At night, the square was filled with tables of diners from the surrounding restaurants. Soft street lighting and local live music made for a great atmosphere.

We spent many afternoons exploring Gethsemane’s streets, and enjoying the evening atmosphere. With its laid back feel, and friendly locals, it was easy for us to become hooked on this hip, but quaint, neighborhood . Here are more photos of Gethsemane.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”


Our Visit To Cartagena’s Massive Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

From our slip at Club de Pesca, we had a great view of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. The massive fort dominates an entire section of Cartagena’s skyline, and is the largest, most complex Spanish fort ever built in the New World. These photos  I found online give you an idea of just how mammoth this thing is.

Having never met a fort he didn’t like, Scott obviously wanted to visit. The sheer size intrigued me, so I was game as well, despite Cartagena’s intense midday heat.It was  just a short taxi ride to the fort, and after purchasing tickets, we made our way up the switch-back ramps that lead to the top.


Once there, we took time to enjoy views of the city below.

We then met our guide, who lead us on a tour, and provided us with many interesting facts about the fort and its history.

The original fort was commissioned in 1630 and was quite small, with eight batteries for artillery and barracks for 24 soldiers. Construction began on top of the 131 foot-high San Lázaro hill, and the fort took its shape over a period of 120 years. The original portion of the work, which included constructing the “old fort,” should have taken five years, but the governor’s unmerciful schedule pushed workers to complete it in just one.

In 1762 an extensive expansion began, which resulted in the entire hill being covered over with the huge fortress (online photo).

Slaves used pickaxes and shovels to first clear the highest point on the hill (pickaxes and shovels..no small feat), and then began building the fort from the top down. Using rectangular blocks gouged from both the coral reefs offshore and from a quarry nearby, the hill was covered with walls and ramps; sentry stations; watchtowers and bell-towers; weapons plazas, ramparts for cannons and artillery.

Structures were also built to maintain 500 troops at any one time, such as a central kitchen, laundry, hospital, foundry and huge cisterns to collect water during the rainy season, in preparation for times of drought.

There are extensive labyrinth-like tunnels that run under the fort, many dug by Welsh miners brought over especially for the task. The main underground tunnel runs along the perimeter of the fort’s complex at sea level. Chambers within it could be exploded, preventing the advance of overhead attackers.

This complex system of tunnels connected strategic points of the fortress, and were used for moving and storing provisions (food, weapons, gunpowder, etc.) as well as re-positioning troops or even evacuation, if ever needed, through a protected exit at the base of the fort.

The tunnels were constructed in such a way that any noise reverberated all the way along them, making it possible to hear the slightest sound of the approaching enemy’s feet, and also making it easy for internal communication among troops. Soldiers used verbal commands, or sent alerts by ringing bells with pre-arranged codes, their sounds echoing through the intersecting tunnels.

There are only a few tunnels open to the public, and I can only imagine the fear in taking a wrong turn (like a rat in a maze). We came upon a group of girls who had gotten turned around, and were a bit panicked. I was glad to have a guide to take us through the dark maze; at times, we used our cell phones for light!

As we entered the tunnels, our guide pointed out exposed sections of the coral and brick construction.

The strategic placement of the San Felipe was key in its defense. Located at the base of the fort was a “hospital” for lepers (where treatment consisted solely of prayer), which was avoided by all who feared the dreaded flesh-eating disease, believed to be caused by demons. The area surrounding the castle on three sides was a mixture of lowlands and hills, frequently flooded by seasonal heavy rains.

An elevated roadway connected these inhospitable surroundings to the fort. It served as a route for supplies, but was useless to attackers, as the road was well protected by the fort’s cannons.

Swamps lay on either side of the road, thick with swarms of mosquitoes carrying malaria and yellow fever that had been introduced to the New World by the African slaves, further hindering enemy troops; an army weakened by disease, exhaustion and thirst was an easy foe for the Spanish to overpower.

The fort itself was actually seven defensive structures, with overlapping fields of fire. Should an attacker actually breach one of the outer parameters, they’d find themselves confronted with a hail of gunfire coming from two or more of the remaining six fortifications. It was a death trap waiting to trap any enemy fool enough to accept the challenge.

The photo below shows long, angled sections designed for artillery fire.

Cannons fired through the upper openings, while men with rifles laid down to fire through the holes below.

The small slits at the other end allowed enough room for rifles to fire out, but prevented enemy fire from coming back through.

The entire massive fortress stands as a testament to Spanish tenacity and genius. It was truly impregnable, and was never taken, despite numerous attempts to storm it.

The geometry of San Felipe was years in advance of that practiced in Europe; a full half-century would elapse before fortifications on the continent would rival this enormous fort in Cartagena. Along with the old City of Cartagena, the fort was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

When our tour was over, we spent more time admiring the views of Cartagena, from high atop San Felipe.

At night, the fort is lit with a warm glow, like a towering beacon on the hill. Here are a few online photos, the second is the view we had from our slip:

I have to say, the imposing and impressive Castillo San Felipe de Barajas was worth the day of sweat.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”


Cartagena’s Historic Walled City

Without doubt, Cartagena’s old walled city is its key attraction. The imposing walls were built to protect the city from pirate raids…an annoying side-effect of being a prosperous city on the Caribbean Coast of South America (I found this great aerial view online).

The city was founded in 1543, and served a key role in the organization and expansion of the Spanish empire. By the early 1540’s, had established itself as the main gateway for trade between Spain and its overseas empire.

During the colonial era, Cartagena was a key port for importing African slaves, and especially for precious metals. Gold and silver from mines in New Granada (what is now modern day Colombia and Panama) and Peru were loaded onto ships  bound for Spain, causing the city to be raided numerous times by pirates.

As a result, construction began in 1597 on a walled fortification around the city, which took nearly two centuries to complete, due to repeated damage from both storms and pirate attacks. It was finally finished in 1796, making the city virtually impenetrable.

In 1984, Cartagena’s colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The massive coral-constructed walls are 30 feet high, and 65 feet thick at their base, complete with angled bastions (sections that project out from the wall and built at an angle, to allow defensive fire in several directions), towers and cannons.

The seven miles of huge stone walls that surround the historic center are in remarkably good shape.  The wide, expansive tops of the walls now serve as walkways for visitors, providing scenic city and sea views.Another online photo, showing the extensive upper walkways.

Inside the old walls, Cartagena’s historic streets are packed with churches, plazas, shops, cafes and restaurants, and the city is bursting with color. In addition to buildings of all shades, flower stalls, local lunch spots, produce carts and shops are a rainbow of bright hues .

A popular item seen in the city’s shops are items made from reed grass and wood. After the reed is hand-dyed, it’s cut into small pieces and used to accent wooden bowls and vases with bright, beautiful patterns. I couldn’t resist them, and chose this bowl to take home.


In addition to the endless shops in old Cartagena, many street vendors line the sidewalks with vibrant items for sale as well. The colors draw you in, and make it hard not to walk by without purchasing these beautiful items.

Even donkeys are colorful in Cartagena.

Old Cartagena has a very European feel, with it’s narrow streets, quaint balconies and  many church steeples visible from the city streets; a stark contrast to the Central American locations we’d visited over the last 18 months. It was as if we’d crossed an ocean instead of having made a thirty-some hour passage on the Caribbean Sea.

Modest houses and mansions alike are adorned with overhanging balconies of all shapes and sizes, and shady patios,  most accented with bright, colorful plants.


Large wooden doors are a common sight in many of the city’s houses. We were told that the large doors were used by carriages, and that the smaller doors within the larger doors were used for servants. We also heard that the smaller doors were used to prevent a hot blast of the tropical air entering the building when the door is opened, by minimizing the size of the entryway, and the larger door is used for big deliveries. Whatever the true meaning, the historic doors are beautiful.

Doorknockers, called aldabas in Spanish, are a common sight in Cartagena. The aldabas come from a time when social hierarchies meant families were eager to display their status. The size of the aldaba was an immediate indication to the public of your social standing and wealth. It was the ultimate status symbol, and a constant reminder of your place in Cartagena society.

In addition to their size of each aldaba had a symbolic meaning. The animal shapes corresponded to the owner’s profession:

Lizards represented royalty, signifying a family’s Royal Spanish background.

A fish or mermaid referred to the merchant class, particularly those who made a living from the sea.

We were told that lions represent teachers…and also the military.

Today, the aldabas are simply decorative, and Cartagena’s many shops sell all varieties and sizes.

Cartagena’s “fruit ladies” are a fixture on the city’s streets. They sell fresh fruit at a very cheap price, and also accept a tip for photos (we paid for some, and snuck in a few others).

The women were originally from San Bassilo de Palenque, which is located to the south of Cartagena. The small town was founded during the Colonial Era by runaway slaves who claimed to be obligated to no government.

The Palenqueras were so successful, that the town was able to negotiate its freedom.  In 1691 a royal decree established the village as its own entity, making residents the first free Africans in the Americas. The town is widely considered to be one of the first “free” towns in The New World.

On two ends of the city’s walls, restaurants are located atop the bastions, providing great views of the modern city and sunsets over the water. Cafe del Mar is at one end of the city, and draws a big crowd for daily sunsets.

From our slip at Club de Pesca, we could see Casa de la Cerveza, and enjoyed several fireworks displays that were set off here during our stay.

Cartagena’s most famous landmark, the Torre del Reloj, or Clock Tower, was once the main gateway to the walled city.

Of the three arched doorways, only the central one existed originally; the other two were occupied by a gun room and a chapel. In 1874, a clock was added to the gate, brought over from the United States. It was updated 63 years later, with a Swiss clock, which is still in place.

A short, fifteen minute walk from our marina put us at the clock tower gate. We seldom ventured in during the day, as the heat was brutal. By late afternoon, the sweltering temperatures would subside, and a much welcome breeze would blow, allowing us to wander and enjoy the city as it came alive in the evening. I borrowed this online photo of Cartagena aglow at night.

Colombia was not on our list of places to see, but every cruiser friend we met who’d visited told us that Cartagena was a must-do. We are thrilled to have listened to them, as this beautiful, historic city is a gem. Here are more photos of Cartagena’s colorful walled city.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”



On To Cartagena, Colombia

After spending four months in the San Blas, doing short, 2-4 hour jumps at most, between anchorages, we now faced a thirty-some hour run to Cartagena, Colombia. We hadn’t planned to visit Colombia at all, but everyone we’ve met over the last 18 months who’s visited the city says not to miss Cartagena, so here we go . Like the forts we visited in Portobelo, Panama, the city’s historic walled area is also a World Heritage UNSECO site. We’ve been told that it has a very European feel, and are anxious to explore the area.

Whenever we settle in for an extended period, the thought of a long, overnight passage is unsettling. It’s always nerve wracking as we set out. Seas that were previously the norm for us, seem insanely huge until we get our passage “pants” back on.

Our trip got off to a more bumpy start than expected. As predicted, the winds and seas picked up overnight (not Scott or Howard’s favorite trip, so they weathered most of it out on the couch together). Thankfully, by the time we made the turn for our final leg, which was in  a head sea, both wind and wave conditions had calmed wonderfully.

After 27 hours, we approached Cartagena Bay, noticing the increased presence of fast pleasure boats running in and out of Cartagena (yay….wakes!).

The Colombian National Navy has a base near Cartagena, and we saw several of their ships on our way into the harbor.

We passed the remains of several forts, their walls still mostly intact. At one time, all of Cartagena harbor’s natural entrances were protected by forts, and the huge  Castillo San Felipe de Barajas that dominated the city to the east, from atop it’s rocky cliff.



Many of these forts are still standing in some form, and we passed several on our way into the bay.

After passing towns and villages,  we eventually got our first glimpse at the modern skyline of Cartagena’s Boca Grande peninsula.

To the west was Cartagena’s commercial port, reminding us of scenes from our home port of Baltimore, Maryland, and it’s busy commercial shoreline.

As we came further into the harbor, the expanse of Boca Grande’s high rises came into clear view. The bright, white buildings with their blue and green glass windows gleamed among the palm trees and blue sky, very similar to the syline of Miami, Florida.

The Castillo Grande Lighthouse, and remains of Fort San Matias stand as a reminder of Cartagena’s history, among the modern skyline.

As we neared the harbor, the old, walled part of the city came into view, with it’s many church steeples rising into the midday sky.

We arrived at Club de Pesca, and headed for our slip. Docking was a bit challenging, as we only have one motor and don’t have the luxury of a bow thruster (they provide propulsion, making a boat more maneuverable). We usually rely on the outer poles of a slip, resting against one as we pivot into the place.

The slips at Club de Pesca didn’t have outer poles, and there were only finger piers on one side of our slip. That meant we had to come into the slip without making contact with the boat next to us, and without a pole to use for pivoting…making  things extra challenging.

Luckily, our friends on s/v Sirena were docked right next to us, on the “open” side of the slip. They’d heard us hail the marina on vhf, and Shawna was out on the bow, in case she needed to fend us off. That left me free to keep watch on the very large boat on the other side of us, as he stuck pretty far out past the short finger pier. There’s always a flurry of activity, and calling back and forth as we back in, but everything went fine.

We were required to use an agent for clearing into Colombia, and Julio was waiting for us on the dock as we came around the corner to our slip. He collected our passports and other needed documents, and was off to begin our clear in process. We settled into our slip, with a great view Roman Bridge, and the edge of the walled city.


We could see over to the many church steeples in old town, and also had views of Castillo San Felipe; behind us, the skyline of Boca Grande.

Howard took his usual post-passage, coma nap.

Once rested it was “turtle” box time. He loves to get under this collapsed box and run around, wearing it like a shell. Throw in some string and a straw, and it’s pure bliss…cats are weird. After clearing in, it was time to again raise the Colombian courtesy flag, and Howard helped make sure we had the right one.

Scott visited the atm to withdraw some cash. The exchange rate in Colombia (as we learned during our stays last year in Providencia and San Andres) is insane: 3,000 Colombian pesos to 1 US dollar; we’re millionaires here! Scott returned with a fist-full of bills…..20,000, 50,000, good grief!

We began to explore our surroundings. Shawna and Chris (s/v Sirena) filled us in on the need-to-knows: locations of grocery stores, restaurants, ice cream spots, etc., and we perused the marina grounds. It was a full house, with lots of daily activity, in the form of washing, waxing and detailing. I think most of the boats were cleaned more than they were used!

The fuel dock was a traffic jam every day, with boats of all sizes waiting in line to fill tanks and/or jugs. It was amusing for Scott to watch the organized chaos.

We stopped at one of the two restaurants on site for a happy hour cocktail, and were convinced that there was a meeting of the Colombian mafia at a nearby table. It was like a scene out of Scarface or Goodfellas. We remained quietly amused, not needing Colombian enemies.

Shawna had told me of the many kitties that call the marina grounds home. I bought some cheap cat food at the grocery store, and carried a bag with me whenever we came and went (Of course, I couldn’t get the bag out, without giving Howard some… I called it his McDonald’s treat). The cats came to know our step, and would pop out of their shelter spots, or run up to us for food.

Groucho (aptly named by Shawna because of his black mustache) was one of my favorites. He was very vocal, always greeting us for food near the rear marina entrance. If I thought I could talk Scott into it, and if there was a chance that Howard would share his space….and food, we’d have a second cat.

Club de Pesca in located in the Manga neighborhood, just a short walk across the bridge from the walled city. It was a very safe area, and we enjoyed wandering the streets.

Of course….Scott can always sniff out a unique vehicle.

Shawna and Chris took us to their favorite local find, D’Res. It was just across the park outside the  marina, and had terrific steaks at great prices! We returned several times, to get our red meat fix.

The streets of Cartagena are insanely clean, with crews sweeping them every morning. However, the condition of the sidewalks are treacherous. If you’re not frequently looking down as you walk, it’s easy to twist and ankle on the horribly uneven surfaces, or in the patches of rubble “repairs.”

In other places, exposed rebar and open holes wait to cause you harm, making it challenging to try and find your way along streets and across intersections, while looking down for these sidewalk traps.

In the late afternoon, when the marina office is closed, we enter through the old walls of Fort Manga, a daily reminder of the history surrounding us.

We ventured out to the nearby mall, in search of a sim card for our phone and of course, a McDonald’s fix for Scott. They made the food to order; still quick, but deliciously hot and yummy….. the best McDonald’s ever!!!

You couldn’t spit without hitting an ice cream place in the mall (or in all of Cartagena for that matter). I counted four, just in the food court area, including a McDonald’s stand-alone kiosk. At most locations, there is a separate ice cream counter, next to where you order burgers and fries. They’re serious about ice cream here.

Scott sought out a dermatologist in Boca Grande, and made an appointment for some routine scans. He walked there and back, past the high-rises and beaches. As a reward, he visited Burger King after the appointment, for another fast food fix. Much to his disappointment, it was not nearly as yummy as the McDonald’s food we’d enjoyed at the mall, much to his disappointment.

We were spending a month in Cartagena, so Scott took time for some boat projects. He replaced the raw water impeller, during routine maintenance of the pump. He finds it more thorough to just take the pump apart, so he can inspect all of it’s workings.

An oil change for the motor was also in order. During the process, he used a jiggle siphon to transfer oil from a five gallon bucket that he’d purchased in Bocas del Toro, to smaller containers for easier storage.

And, our poor, dirty cockpit got a fresh coat of paint…hurray!

As usual, we’re one of the smallest, oldest boats in the marina…but we’re ok with that. We’re enjoying our Cartagena home, and look forward to exploring the walled city!

Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”