Off to Panama

October 07 – October 29, 2022; 9146 nm and 1318 days after departure from La Rochelle.

It was such a nice feeling being back at anchor and not having continuously big projects in mind. There was finally time to do just nothing. So after splashing we just stayed aboard our pretty lady and enjoyed our regained freedom in the anchorage of Cartagena. On Sunday Ruffian gathered together all the OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) cruiser friends for a farewell evening. They were getting ready to leave Cartagena to sail off to Panama. That was a fun evening and a great source of getting information about our next destination the San Blas islands, Panama. We too were also planning on going there soon but first wanted to explore some of the nearby islands. The next day we lifted the anchor and headed to Cholon. A pretty anchorage 20 miles south of Cartagena, super calm and surrounded by mangroves. Believe me, we did enjoy this place. Even though the water wasn’t sensational (mangrove water never looks great) we celebrated it. After so many months of not being able to jump in the water from the boat, we were desperate for swimming and enjoying the nature!

Altimate in Cholon, ain’t that a cool pic? Ruffian took it for us 😁, thank you!!!

After about a week of laid back doing nothing, we decided we want more! The trouble was that in Colombia traveling by boat was not that easy. First, there were not thaaaat much nice anchorages and second the officials do make it difficult to travel by boat. E.g. to enter Colombia we needed an agent for checking in and out. Without an agent you can’t enter. Customs doesn’t want to deal with cruisers! You get a cruising permit but it only allowed us to cruise within the “Departamento Magdalena” which Santa Marta belonged to. When we switched to Cartagena we had to check out of Magdalena and check in to the “Departamento Bolívar”. Here again we needed an agent to check in and later to check out of the country even though we already had paid for the international check out in Santa Marta (it was already included in the check in costs of Santa Marta but useless for Cartagena🤷‍♀️). 200 us dollars here, 150 us dollars there just to give an idea of the costs. Fortunately the living costs in Colombia were super cheap and the people extraordinary nice. Especially in our last week we did inhale once again the spirit of the Colombian people. Walking early in the morning through the streets was always exciting. Can you imagine that – it felt like -half of Cartagenas inhabitants were out and doing sports? Yes, as soon as the sun rose the people started to work out outside. Running, aerobic, yoga, team sports you name it… All kind of sports were done in every age group outdoor at every possible place. The same happened at sunset. We loved that. (Watching not joining😉) The other half of the inhabitants got ready to work. At every corner people were selling empanadas, coffee, fresh juices, fruits, vegetables, hats, sunglasses, cigarettes, chewing gum, sweets, arepas, soups, ice creme, beverages, coconuts… A bustling mixture of small moving street businesses. Awesome! And everybody was always in a good mood, friendly and helpful when we needed some information. To finish our errand list I had to go one day to a special fabric store to hopefully find some replacement for our curtain hooks. I took a taxi to go there and when I arrived it was closed. Instead of just leaving me there the taxi driver got out and asked around when it would open. A typical Colombian!

some street 
vendors at night

street vendors at night at Plaza de la Trinidad in Getsemani/Cartagena

I tent to digress…we decided we wanted more of beautiful anchorages and easier movement. That brought us back to Cartagena to get ready to leave Colombia. Or better to say to get ready to stay in Panama. As already mentioned our goal are the San Blas Islands. Those islands of the turquoise Archipélago de San Blas of the Comarca de Guna Yala were described as a vision of paradise. I read there are 365 islands!!!! And that description did not only come from travel guides but as well from sailors who’ve been there already. Sounds great, right? That involved at lot of provisioning as most of the islands are very remote. We took our list from the crossing and roughly doubled the amount plus -of course- some adult beverages and some items we heard the Guna people might like. Sweets and pencils for the kids and reading glasses for adults. Thus our last week was filled with running our errands, that even included a day trip to Decathlon in Barranquilla just to find some long enough bathing shorts for El Capitano. Yes, somehow all the bathing shorts we found in Cartagena were too short for El Capitano… the question arises, is the short too small or El Capitano too big? Or maybe the Colombians too short? Who knows? Anyhow, we were buying many, many groceries. Like e.g. 15 kg of flour, 5kg rice and pasta, 1 billion of olives cans (we haven’t had nice olives since ages and found them in one supermarket and bought all of them), 20 cans of tomatoes and muuuuuuch more. We also had some cooking session. El Capitano was cooking the meal and I did the canning. I think we have managed to can 16 jars. We hope that this will keep us going for weeks if not month. Laundry, changing the engine oil, filling up diesel and gas and buying fresh groceries was last on our list. Oh how could I forget? Of course I also bought a lot of fabric for more sewing projects 🙈.

the eager but also patient lady helping me to find the right fabric

Monday we were ready with all our provisioning and we asked the agent to get our check out papers ready for leaving on Wednesday early morning. Tuesday evening the 25th of October we were checked out and had gotten our stamped passports back from customs. Ready to leave!

Today it’s Saturday and we are anchored in Tintipan. A beautiful island about 50 miles south of Cartagena still belonging to Colombia. We arrived yesterday coming from Cholon were we also stayed two nights. Once checked out of Colombia we should actually go directly to Obaldia in Panama what our travel papers proof. Again the trouble with Colombian cruising rules. If we wanted to visit officially this island we would have to come here and then sail back only to checkout in Cartagena as it is the only town next to Santa Marta were it is possible. Like a lot of other cruisers we stopped in Cholon and here in Tintipan illegally hoping that the coast guard will not see us or ignore us. Still we don’t want to overdo the situation so we will head directly to Obaldia tomorrow. We skip another island and won’t dare to sail to the mainland as friends of us got caught there. They were friendly asked to leave immediately, not allowed to get fuel or stay at anchor for a night. Now we will enjoy the rest of the day and we are looking very much forward to exploring the San Blas islands.

the anchorage in Tintipan

Bye, bye Colombia. Welcome Panama

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