We had difficult passage from the San Blas Islands to Colombia. It is only 200 miles but the direction of the wind, current, and waves all make it more than a little uncomfortable. And then when you add a night full of lightning all around the boat, it becomes not only uncomfortable but terrifying. However, we got through it and after an afternoon, a full night, and then another full day of sailing we arrived in Colombia. We sailed to a small group of islands 20 miles west of Cartagena so that we would not have to enter the very busy port in the dark and, so much more importantly, not have another terrifying night of lightning. As we approached the coast of Colombia just after dark we were greeted by the Colombia Navy wishing to come aboard. We lowered the sails and turned on the motor to hold a steady course. The expertly brought their RIB next to the boat and two officers in full combat gear came aboard. They were immediately greeted by Ranger’s ferocious bark and they told us that if he tries to bite them they would shoot him. Not exactly the best introduction but totally understandable. I put Ranger in a position in the back of the boat where he could be seen and could see but out of everyone’s way. The officers quickly set about getting all of our information and relaying it to authorities on shore or on a larger ship that we did not see. I kept us slowing moving to the spot we planned to anchor for the night as Ashley and Victoria handled the paperwork and translations. The RIB that brought them stayed on our flank ready to jump into action if it was needed. I definitely felt many eyes on me as I held our course. After the paperwork section of our evening the officers informed us of and welcomed us to, the inspection part of the night’s events. They asked to go below, asked us to keep Ranger upstairs and after relaying to their team on the RIB they went below. As soon as they got into the salon area of the boat they went right for the dry stores. They pulled out all the sugar, flour and baking soda. They opened each container and taste tested or smelled everything. They knew right where to go on a sailboat and they knew right how to access it. This was clearly not their first time. After about an hour of searching and taste testing they finished up. They offered to help put everything back but Ashley, Victoria and Alexander refused and told them it was no problem. We offered them all sodas or cold waters and they gladly accepted as it was very hot and they were fully kitted out in combat fatigues, helmets, masks and body armor. They also were both carrying assault rifles and side arms. The inside of our boat was in the high 80’s and they even looked in the engine room where the temps had to be around 110+ degrees. As they guzzled their cold beverages we loaded them up with extras and a few for the crew of the RIB. They apologized for the inconvenience and welcomed us to Colombia.
The next day we made our way to Cartagena to get a quick look at the city, rest and provision for our passage north to Hispaniola or Jamaica. Our plan was only to stay in Colombia a few days and then continue on once the weather allows. We spent the next few days exploring the old walled city. We walked on the walls from the 1600’s. We toured the old military forts from the time the Spanish ruled the area. We learned all about the history of the city, Colombia and the colonization of the 1500-1900’s. We found some amazing restaurants and met some wonderful people. Two days before we were to leave we were invited over to another cruising family’s boat. We had dinner and talked about each family’s travels. They have an 11 year old boy and a 14 year old girl so our kids matched up OK. The parents informed us about the quality work that is done in Colombia and the more than fair pricing. That got Ashley and I thinking. They gave us the number to a Colombian man who specializes in fiberglass work. They very next day he was on our boat with a partner of his who specializes in stainless steel welding and just like that we are staying another month here in Colombia. More to come on the project, our further exploration of the city, Alexander and Victoria’s local basketball team and our trip into the Amazon Rainforest, the Amazon River and the Southern Hemisphere.