Wednesday, January 26, 2011

San Andres, Colombia

We opted for a trip to Isla San Andres before we headed to the Corn Islands. San Andres is a Colombian territory along with Isla Providencia and several surrounding cays (read: land and coral in the middle of nowhere that will eat your boat if you don’t pay attention!) San Andres was a bit tough for us to get to because the winds from Bocas del Toro are predominantly north and that is the way we needed to go. Once again, our sailboat made the trip as mostly a motorsailer. The trip was 193 miles offshore from Panama and we made it in about 50 hours and sailed the last 10 with no motors. We were immediately shocked by the beauty of this place. The main town is sheltered behind a several mile long coral reef and the bottom is white sand. This gives the water that tropical turquoise look and feel that we have been searching for all our lives (or at least for the last year and a half). We have explored the entire island and found a rather unique place. There are lots of tourists here, but they are all from mainland Colombia and it has been described as the Hawaii of Colombia. It is very upper class, but the feel is still very local. There are a few high rise hotels and some all inclusive resorts. The people are Colombian, but with a Jamaican sort of flair and the people are a mix of Latin and caribbean islander. Spanish is the main language with a surprising number of locals who speak English as a first language. The town itself has an incredible number of supplies and services considering the distance from the mainland. You will find all manner of American brands and stores along with a fantastic white sand beaches and the clearest water we have seen. I can see the bottom in 50 feet. For you potential tourists, there is snorkeling, diving, glass bottom boats, swimming with the mantas, and weather to match. We have not had a drop of rain during the day and full sun with a trade wind to keep the temperature just right. We have broken the record for the cheapest meal out in a local restaurant of which there are plenty. The meal was rice, beans, salad, chicken and soup with a definite local flavor. We left with full bellies and a bill for $8.50. I have informed Brady that we can eat out for two meals a day for less than our grocery bill. I do think we would pack on a few pounds on this diet :) After a week of this torture in paradise, we decided to head for Providencia, 55 miles to the north. We left after dinner with the hopes of arriving the next morning and were 8 miles into a perfect sail when a 15 foot seam on the mainsail decided to let go (read: the sail ripped in half). I did not want to motor the whole way, so I guess it was back to paradise. The next morning, I inquired about a local upholstery shop to help us out and was quickly distracted by an American boat needing help with getting their boat into the dock in 20 knots of wind. When we were finished, I was met by a local who was here to fix our sail. I was totally taken by surprise that not only did the (very local) marina know someone who could help, but they called and he came right away. I removed the sail and sent it off with Miguel, who fixed it the same day and for only $100. This place has met our definition of the perfect place: Super nice people, Beautiful scenery, Great climate, and Cheap cost of living. If there were a downside, it would be lots of traffic (cars, motorcycles, and golf carts) although it is still nothing like the U.S. (there are still no stoplights!). There is an international airport and I think this place will continue to grow as more people discover it. Troy

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Bocas del Toro is an absolute breath of fresh air. We had to fight a headwind and an incredible current to get here, but we are here at last. It is 133 miles from Colon to Bocas and it took us 72 hours to make the trip with good wind! We moved at a snails pace since we had to tack against the wind and fight the current the whole way. We did stop at an island called Escuda de Veraguas for some rest after the first 48 hours, but got wind and waves directly into the anchorage and did not sleep much. We caught our first Atlantic fish (36” wahoo) and had Brady’s house special sushi the first night and fish tacos the next. We entered Bocas del toro (on one engine again...tracked it down to a broken clamp on a fuel line later after changing both filters and spending 3 hours bleeding the fuel system-probably could have used some stitches on a cut finger too). The first thing we noticed was that everything is on the water-literally. Bocas del Toro is situated on an island and has hotels, restaurants, bars, stores and houses built on pilings or stilts on three sides. All of these places have docks that are available to customers and basically it is a boaters paradise. There are surf and dive shops (both with excursions), resorts, hostels and even a firehouse with a dock on the waterfront. The town itself is about 8 blocks long and three blocks wide with an airstrip and ferry service to the mainland. We hope that any of you adventurous souls will put this on your list of places to see. The prices run the gamut from U.S. pricing at the nicest places to the local places where beer is still a buck and we can feed the family for $15. We have visited the Zapatilla cays (snorkeling photos attached), Starfish beach, and several other locales. We entered the boat in a lighted boat parade and won some really cool stuff and are soaking it up until we head for the Corn islands in the next few weeks. Ta ta,
El Capitan