Scenes From San Andres

There has been much to see and do during our stay here in San Andres. Shortly after we arrived, the island celebrated independence day (July 20th), complete with a parade and week-long festival. Scott and I planned to watch the parade from the flybridge, but the crowds were too thick to see through.

The parade lasted five hours, and that crowd stayed put for the entire thing (I never would have made it). Our friends Jack and Monique (s/v Aloha) ventured in for an up close and personal view. Here are a few of their photos:

As Providencia did for their carnival, San Andres held a beauty contest during the independence festival. Of course, that required a parade as well, and the contestants rode through the streets on decorated golf carts.

We’ve gotten to know our way around the busy downtown streets, and are constantly amazed by the number of motorcycles and scooters here (notice the clever sun covers). The flow and noise of traffic in the small area is amazing.

Benches along the mains streets are very unique, and make for great photo opportunities (unbeknownst to this local girl).

San Andres is full of beautiful tile work, murals, etc., as we saw throughout Providencia. The colors and patterns jump out at you, as you travel throughout the island.

We land our dinghy at nearby Nene’s Marina, and have spent much time at the little bar there, enjoying the breeze that goes through . The ladies who run it are very friendly, and the beer is cold.

Like everywhere else in the world (except for the U.S.), soccer is insanely popular here. We came out of dinner one night to find the streets jammed with people watching a game, obviously a very important one. They were gathered in front of every bar, restaurant and convenience store, eyes glued to the tvs inside.

Putting the pieces together as best we could, it seemed to be a collegiate national championship. When the game ended, the local team must have won. The crowds climbed onto their motorcycles and scooters, and into cars, and began an impromptu parade in and around the downtown area. Luckily, we crossed through it easily on our way back to the anchorage. As we climbed back aboard Sea Life, the lights of the auto parade, with horns blaring, stretched as far as you could see.

The water in and around our anchorage here is very clear. We’ve taken the Aluminum Princess out to the shallow, Bahama blue water for some bobbing, and have also made use of our water loungers, just off of the swim platform.

After a very enjoyable two weeks and change, we’re moving on today. We’ll raise anchor as soon as I post this, and make a six hour run to the Albuquerque Cays. It’s a remote anchorage, with only commercial fisherman and a navy post. No land to speak of, no stores, shops, restaurants, parades, festivals..or tour boats! It’ll be a nice break, before we continue on to Panama.

There is a tropical system forming to our north, that will most likely become a category 1 or 2 hurricane for either Mexico or Belize. We are far south of any danger, but it’s strength is sucking out all of the wind and squalls for the next week..terrific! The weather forecaster we listen to on the SSB radio says that it’s a good week to travel if you’re motoring, so we’re off. We are undecided if we’ll stay in the Albuquerques a week or more, or continue south in a few days, while the weather is quiet.

There won’t be internet access for us until we reach Panama. So the blog will go dark for the next week or more. Be sure to check in on us, using the link on our Where Are We Now page, as we make our final push to Panama! In the meantime, here are some more scenes of our time in San Andres.

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

 

Eating And Shopping On San Andres

We’ve had a chance to eat at several restaurants during our stay here, and most are very affordably priced. After noticing La Regatta on my morning walks, Scott and I treated ourselves to a nice dinner out.

We enjoyed the walk down the path leading to the restaurant, with it’s quirky decor.

We were seated at a table on a pier out over the water, giving us a great breeze as we ate our meal.

One of our neighbors here in the anchorage recommended Breadfruit, and it’s become a regular stop for us. They have a great assortment of fresh bread and pastries. I was reluctant to try their cakes, having that bar set very high from my beloved Sugarbakers Cakes back home (if you live within a 50 mile radius of their location…GO!) .

We can get two orders of scrambled eggs with toast, fresh juice, water and a large pastry for 10.00 (includes tax and a tip), which is not too shabby!

Scott discovered El Corral, along the promenade. It has been a welcome answer to his McDonald’s cravings. I passed on the burger, but the fries were pretty darned good. There’s also a Subway across the street from the marina where we land the dinghy. That’s been great as well!

As far as day-to-day groceries, there are two large stores with a great selection of fresh produce. We’ve been able to get broccoli, mushrooms, green leaf lettuce and fresh basil! Many fruit vendors with carts of all sizes can be found throughout the downtown area, selling avocados, mangoes, bananas, and some stuff we’ve never seen.

There are many small markets on the island as well. One in particular sells things imported from the U.S, and we’ve enjoyed finding familiar items, like Philadelphia cream cheese (we have found nothing similar to cream cheese in either Mexico or Central America).

Prices here are pretty cheap for soda, and even cheaper for beer. Scott wanted to stock up on Coke for his evening cocktails, so we did a big “can run.” He humped 102 cans back to the boat on his back….a man on a mission.

His months-long search for stainless steel chain finally came to an end on San Andres. After scouring several hardware stores in town (all of which have a great overall selection), we arrived at this one. Orders are placed at the counter, similar to an auto parts store in the U.S.

The man who waited on us spoke great English, and when the exact thickness of chain that we wanted wasn’t available, he told Scott to go across the street to the warehouse, and see if what they did have in stock would work.

The warehouse was a two story building packed full of stuff. The men inside showed Scott the chain, which worked just fine, and they cut it and carried it back across the street for payment. Quest complete!

Shopping “for fun” is big business here. If you’re looking for perfume, scented body lotion, linens, electronics, athletic shoes and clothing, liquor, luggage or candy, you’re on the right island! Everything is duty free, and some stores carry all of these items. La Riviera is one of the largest, and has locations all over downtown (and downtown ain’t that big!), with their “flagship” store along the promenade.

And, Under Armor is in the house! For those who don’t know, this world wide athletic clothing company is based out of my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland! (read how they got started – early history)

In the midst of the larger stores are many small stall-type shops, selling the usual beach-type clothing, woven bags and trinkets.

So there seems to be something for everyone here on San Andres. The many places to eat and shop have definitely kept us entertained. Here are many more photos.

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

 

 

 

 

Morning Walks On The Promenade

San Andres has a beautiful oceanfront promenade that runs for almost a mile along the north side of the island. I’ve been taking early morning walks here (before the heat gets too beastly), enjoying the easy access to a walk-able path around town. The promenade offers great breezes and much to look at.

Many hotels and restaurants line the promenade, as well as the usual beach town shops and carts full of colorful items for sale.

At the far end, buildings give way to more quiet beaches, benches and fishing boats.

As the promenade ends into the tourist hub, the sidewalk continues past small cottage-style lodging, and eventually to high rise resorts at the far east end of the island.

In addition to my morning walks, Scott and I have spent a day on the beach here, and Scott’s also found a great fill-in for his McDonald’s cravings at El Corral!

We’ve enjoyed the promenade in the evenings as well. There is a movie theater inside one of the hotels, and there is a showing in English, with Spanish subtitles, at 9:30 every night. For $17.50, we bought two tickets to the 3-D show, a large popcorn and two drinks….less than the price of just two tickets in the U.S.! The theater was wonderfully air conditioned, and we enjoyed the new Tarzan movie in our assigned seats (a great idea that I think they should adopt back home). It was a real treat!

When the temperatures cool and the breezes feel even better, locals gather along the promenade’s brightly tiled walls, enjoying music, drinks and each other’s company. It’s quite a focal point for both locals and tourists. Here are some more photos of sights along my morning walks.

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

Scott’s Fishing Adventures In Providencia

I meant to post this before we left Providencia for San Andres, so here’s a brief flashback…

Fishing for Scott has been challenging since we left the Bahamas. Most areas we visit are part of protected waters, so there is no fishing allowed at all. Other times, the area has just been over-fished, and there isn’t much available to catch.

During a passage, Scott always hopes to put out his lines and catch some dinner; but again, things haven’t worked out since the Bahamas. It’s either too rough (we have to put the boat in neutral to reel in the lines, and in rough seas that’s not a pleasant choice), or dark. During daylight hours, if not on watch, Scott usually tries to catch some sleep. The few times the lines have been in the water, he’s been “skunked,” coming up empty.

When we arrived in Providencia, Scott was determined to change his luck. He headed off to fish a reef on the north end of the island, rallying some fellow cruisers in the anchorage to join him. The “fleet,” made up of two dinghies, headed out early one morning, determined to come back with dinner.

After a few hours, Scott and Kevin returned triumphant; Scott had caught a yellow snapper. Hours later, Jack and Lee followed. Jack graciously shared his catch with us, giving us another snapper. It was now time to clean and cook these things.

Scott isn’t crazy about cleaning fish, and even though we had an agreement that it would be my job (since he is the killer/catcher of the fish), I cannot stand the idea of cutting into and removing fish guts, it just icks me out. Thank God for Kevin, who is fine with doing this job, and has become the official fish cleaner. So now Scott and Kevin catch said fish, Kevin cleans them and I cook them; a great system!

Lobster had completely eluded everyone here. There were just none to be found. We learned that the locals travel miles out to catch them, which was too challenging for the guys, with the strong winds that were stalled over us.

However, as luck would have it, we were returning from a farewell pizza dinner for our (Baltimore!) friends Lee and Rachel (s/v Satori), when it was discovered that there were lobsters under a sunken palette beneath the town dock.

Not wanting to get in the water at night fully clothed, the guys immediately began the arduous job of trying to spear the lobsters from inside the dingy (Kevin doesn’t leave home without his spear, so it was nearby and at the ready).

There was a lot of head lamp use and body contorting, as well as much dialogue on where the lobsters were and how to get them. You’d think we’d been adrift in the open sea for weeks, and hadn’t eaten.

Finally, Kevin managed to spear two lobsters, the mission was deemed a success and we all headed home.

Scott and Kevin were quite proud of themselves.

They were not the largest lobster, but made for a nice appetizer the next night at dinner. Ya take what you can get!

Days later, Scott and Kevin again headed out to the east end of the island, and Jack joined them.

This time Scott returned with two snapper, and Jack again shared a third one with us. Hooray…fish tacos!

Wanting to try some deep sea fishing, Scott and Kevin took the Aluminum Princess out to the west side of the island, just inside the reef. They were back at the boat a very short time later, which only means one thing…injury.

As the guys were trolling, they caught a mackerel. Kevin grabbed one side of the double hook, to remove the fish (he’d used a double hook, I don’t have the skills to elaborate), the other hook went right through his thumb.

Scott cut the hook off and pulled it out, and convinced Kevin that yes, it was worth going back to bandage. After cleaning and dressing the injury, they went right back out to resume their search for fish. Unfortunately, the mackerel was the only keeper of the day. Kevin’s thumb was deemed inedible, and a barracuda caught later was thrown back.

As we routinely climbed the stairs toward Morgan’s Head, to stretch our legs, Scott kept noticing a lone coral head at the back of the anchorage, which intrigued him. Thinking it may be a lucky spot, he and Kevin headed over. Jackpot! They’d found the honey  hole! The coral head was full of grouper, lion fish and snapper, making a great feast for three!

We ate from the honey hole several times after that. In an hour, Scott could run the dinghy over, catch a few fish and be back onboard (stopping at Kevin’s “cleaning station” first). Now that we’re in San Andres, the honey hole is just a memory. Here it’s back to protected water and slim pickins.

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

 

 

 

A Golf Cart Day On San Andres

After several internet and computer challenges, I’m finally catching up on some posting:

So we’re on a new island….you guessed it, another golf cart day! We traveled San Andres with our Aussie friends Brian and Sue in tow. First up, getting ourselves out of the busy downtown area. Thankfully, all of the inner streets are one way, so we just had to focus on dodging the weaving motorcycles, trucks, cars and scooters.  The intersections are especially tricky, as there are no stop signs, and very few traffic lights.

As we made our way out of town, and around to the west end of the island, the views of coral shorelines were beautiful.

We passed a small drink shack, and turned around to make a stop. Paul welcomed us, and made quick work of cutting coconut “cups” for our drinks.

We made note of the time, our earliest start yet! Oh well, it was hot enough to be noon…so close enough!

Scott and I like to see the sights, and if possible take tours, on each island that we visit. It’s a good way to get a feel for it’s history and give a little boost to the locals.

Our first stop on San Andres was Captain Morgan’s cave. The buildings were made of stone, coral and shell, and there were several rooms displaying many things that coconuts are used for (baskets, carvings, food, etc). One room also acted as a gallery for local artists.

We made our way to the cave, which reminded me of the cenote that we visited in Mexico, with much less inviting water. The uneven, steep coral steps made it challenging to get down to the bottom.

Next stop, First Baptist Church. Located atop the highest hill on San Andres, it was established in 1847, with lumber brought from Alabama (I’m not sure why).

It’s bell tower is the highest point on the island, and offered great views. At the door, they asked 5,000 pesos from each person, to climb up ($1.60). Brian and Sue chose to stay outside, so I waited with them as Scott made the climb (I was disappointed to find out later that we could’ve also gotten some history on the church, included in $1.60, as I’ve had a hard time finding information on it).

Inside, Scott made his way up to the balcony, which has a slanted floor, and then climbed a steep ladder to some scary spiral stairs.

Next, there were some tiny, scary steps, leading to a small hole that Scott crawled through to the tower above. This process would have terrified me, and I was glad that I chose not to do this!

Even though some clouds and rain had moved in, the view was still good for a photo. You can see the downtown area at the top, spreading along the peninsula to the right.

On to the Big Pond, a freshwater lake located in the center of the island. We paid another $1.60 each, and a man walked us down to the lake. Our timing was a bit off, as it started to pour rain, making it a muddy go.

We got to meet the resident alligators, who come to eat bread that’s tossed to them. They were small in size, and Scott thought them to be decoys, diverting our attention so that larger ones could come in for the kill.

Leaving our creepy friends behind, we continued on to see a blow hole. As we approached, a man waved us down and explained that there was no charge to see the hole, but asked that we buy a drink from his stand to support his business. Fair enough…we parked our cart and ordered some drinks. Unfortunately, they weren’t the best libations, but the bar was quite a cheery place, with pretty views.

We walked a few steps over to the blow hole, which was surrounded by people and tourists shops, selling food, clothes, hats and trinkets. The ground around the hole was jagged coral, and it was hard to keep our footing. Scott and Sue made their way closer to get a better view. Strong winds would regularly gush out of the hole, but being so far from the shoreline there was never a strong enough wave force to move water up through it while we were there.

The breezes as we drove along the southeast, windward side of the island were quite strong.  The tops of many of the palm trees along the road here were just stumps.

Here, small sandy beaches met coral at the water’s edge.

We were starving, so it was time to find some lunch. After passing several places, stopping at one that was closed and not being able to find another, we finally stopped at Hotel Cocoplum. Our food was pretty good, and we left rested and recharged.

With full bellies, we back-tracked to a place that I’d noticed earlier; it’s upper deck looked inviting.

We never made it up, after discovering the large deck out back that extended over waves crashing on the coral.

There were also two more blow holes here, that we could enjoy all to ourselves. Scott and Sue investigated up close again, and Sue received a refreshing “facial” as one blew water up at her. We had a drink, watched the blow holes and hung with the residents.

Our rental car was due back soon, so we headed to town on a route that took us back up the highest hill and past the First Baptist Church. Now that the sun was out, we stopped for some final photos of the view below.

By the time we dropped the cart off, I was spent. The 93 degree sun was taking it’s toll, at the end of a long hot day. The noise of our cart, other carts, cars, motorcycles and buses wore me out. However, I do enjoy golf cart days. They’re a great way to get a good overview of an island, and we enjoyed the day with our friends. Here are many more photos of our golf cart day on San Andres.

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

 

 

 

 

 

On To San Andres

We raised our anchor at 5am on Friday, and traveled ten hours south to San Andres Island. The forecast was for 15-20 knot winds, and sea swells of 5-7 feet. They got the wind part right, but the swells were more like 7-9 feet, with breakers on them…..and some really large ones thrown in once in awhile, just to keep it interesting.

The boat was completely fine with all of this, but as usual, me…not so much. I just cannot get used to seeing big waves come at me. Several started to break as they approached us, but Sea Life just “rolled” with it, sliding down them and then getting back on track. Thank God for paravanes; I cannot imagine the degree of roll without them.

Howard fared much better than me. I started him off tucked into his triangle of safety on the couch in the saloon, but he soon appeared on the bench in the pilot house with us. He hasn’t liked the noise of the waves outside the open pilot house doors recently (we keep the top halves open while traveling), but I guess he wanted to join the party this time. I reset the triangle around him, and he settled in.

As we came out of the protection of the reef around Providencia, and into the open ocean, a huge pod of dolphins headed our way. We’ve never had this many visit us at one time before. There were also several babies in the group, about the size of Howard! They stayed for almost 30 minutes, playing near the bow and jumping alongside us before breaking up and moving off. I guess they knew the seas were going to get large, and vacated.

Just after noon, San Andres came into sight. We had to navigate through a break in the reef to get into the harbor, while surfing  breaking waves, which was challenging. Scott was especially nervous to see many boats run aground and left for dead, and wrecked along the reef, as we approached.

Once inside the harbor, Scott hailed the port captain, who asked for some basic information before telling us to anchor in area A, which is designated for pleasure boats. Area B is for commercial and fishing boats, but unfortunately, we discovered that many of them had spread into area A. With the many fishing boats, other cruisers already at anchor and shallow spots in the area, it was challenging finding a spot for ourselves.

When we first dropped the anchor it didn’t hold, which is very unlike the Hulk (*). It was just as well, as the water in that spot was pretty deep. More scope of chain is required in deeper water, which would have put us very close to our neighbors when swinging with the shifting winds.

Luckily, our friends Jack and Monique (s/v Aloha) had made the trip from Providencia the day before, and were anchored nearby. Jack yelled over to Scott, and told him to drop our anchor right at his stern. As we let out our chain, he jumped in and dove on the Hulk, to make sure that it had grabbed the bottom. Jack signaled us that the anchor had set, so we backed down in reverse to dig it in. We were now settled in among the many, many fishing boats (a big thank you to Jack!)

(*) When Scott dove on our anchor the next day, to check that it was still set well, he noticed that the bottom here is covered with old fishing debris (San Andres dates back to 1700s). We think that the Hulk must have grabbed something down there on our first drop, and skipped along the bottom.)

Like Providencia, San Andres is also a Colombian owned island. Since we were still in the same country, we didn’t have to get our passports stamped again, but the boat did have to be cleared in with the port captain.

To do this, we’d contacted Julian Watson, an agent our friend Kevin suggested (you are required to use an agent when clearing into Colombia, you cannot do it yourself). He contacted us on the radio as soon as he heard us hail the port captain, and once we were anchored Scott went to nearby Nene’s Marina to meet him. Julian was very accommodating, and offered his help with anything we may need while visiting the island.

We haven’t done much exploring here yet. There have been several days of squalls, and most of the shops and restaurants close early on Sunday here, so we look forward to getting the lay of the land this week.

The internet here is atrociously slow (who’d have guessed that the free internet on quiet Providencia would be better than the paid data on busy and populated San Andres??), so getting posts updated will be a challenge, but stay tuned! Here are more photos of our trip here.

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