Plan was to have a four man crew of Jack, Matt, Scotty and Ken sail from Aruba around the end of Gulf of Venezuela to Santa Marta and then Cartagena, Columbia. The sailing is especially difficult from the end of Venezuela across the mouth of the Baranquilla River – big waves caused by the river and constant winds from the East. Jack’s strategy was to add crew – Hanna from Wauwatosa came to the Aruba party to meet her boyfriend Scotty, the Grateful Red foredeck…only her second time outside the US. By party end Hanna was calling home her flight back was now from Panama City and we had a crew of five!
Sail to Santa Marta was as advertised, lots of waves and wind…the banging around resulted in a leak in the diesel tank. Within an hour, the boat reeked of diesel. thirty gallons of diesel was pumped out through bilge and the retrofit was soon diesel in a five gallon bucket with the line from the tank stuck in the bucket! Yes, it worked!
Limped into Santa Marta, Columbia, stinky with the boat all shook up. We hired Dino as our agent for the “paperwork”. Dino’s first report was the local Gendarme did not like our Venezuelan paperwork and if the local military felt that an inspection was necessary, the Grateful Red could be spending a few weeks in Santa Marta marina – not a good prospect. We informed the local Gendarme in writing that the reason our Venezuela paperwork was incomplete was the untimely demise of Presidente Hugo Chavez – who died while we were in Venezuela. Meawhile, Dino submitted our paperwork to the harbor master on Saturday late after the military had left for the weekend. A brilliant plan – as darkness set in the Grateful Red and paperwork were out to sea on the way to Cartagena.
Jack called the Houston Yacht Club and had HYC fax a letter of introduction to the upscale Club de Pesca, a private Cartagena Yacht club. Had to wear collared shirts to the club bar and at night the docks were patrolled by men with machine guns. Not sure who and where were the bad guys. With help of the club, we pulled ou the diesel tank. matt and tank took a road trip to the local aluminum welding shop…a few days later, repaired tank was back in the boat and we were off to the San Blas Islands in Panama.
A mostly motoring overnight with our newly repaired tank, we arrived in Panama on sunday looking to do our Panama paperwork. The Panama system was much refined once we found the “official” and agreed to pay the “Sunday bonus”. Paperwork and passports stamped were done…Pronto!. Spent a couple days in the San Blas Kuna Indian Islands then continued our way to Portobella for a crew change.
Arriving and walking to Capt Jacks Bar!
Ken’s office for a day!