St. Lucia to Santa Marta, Colombia

December 30, 2022 – January 17, 2023

Let the Adventure Begin! 

We really enjoyed our time in Rodney Bay and the lovely marina there.  We reconnected with old friends and made new friends as well.  We may have even inspired a Canadian couple to do the World Arc next year.  If so, I believe they will be the first boat to do so with a full size meat smoker on board.  They have raised cooking meat to an art form.  We got to meet our friend Carl’s partner Melissa and we had a really nice New Year’s Eve dinner together. 

The more time we spend with Carl, the more we hope he decides to join us on our Indian Ocean crossing.  Thinking of crew, we had great news last we that our South African friends, formerly of Gizmo, have signed on to do the South Atlantic with us, out of Cape Town.  That will be a really fun leg to Brazil and Carnival.  Peter, Jeff’s cousin, joined us on January 1 to crew all the way across the Pacific.  So far, we have been incredibly glad to have him.  Not just because he is great company, but also because we have put him to work.

Peter and I have hauled Jeff up the mast no less than 6 times this year.  Once to install our second set of spreader lights.  I consider that the only trip that should have happened.  The other 4 trips consisted of 2 to fix the bad wiring that Jean Michel at Turbulence did for us while our mast was down.  Our AIS and VHF antennas were working perfectly but were 20 years old, so we thought, oh, it’s so easy to replace them with new on the ground, let’s just do that.  Well, once Jean Michel was done with them, neither of them worked.  The connectors at the top of the mast were shorted.  Also, he didn’t label either antenna, and the mouse line that would normally help us fix the bad wiring was 6 ft short of the base of the mast, so we couldn’t pull it.  Awesome.  We called to complain, and ask for help fixing, and he explained to us that AIS was not supposed to work near mountains?!?!    We are now glad we didn’t let him touch our wiring again, now that we know how much was done sloppily.  Morale of the story:  never let “marine professionals” touch your boat unless it’s a total emergency.  I think it’s the sailing equivalent of going to the hospital.  Go there if you must, but know it’s a dangerous place and you may come out sicker than you went in.

Anyway, we got out of St. Lucia after the first three trips of the mast, and no splat on the deck.  Yay.  Fun-to-suck ratio started coming back into balance as the World Arc festivities got under way.  We very quickly started meeting and having fun with the crews of 23 boats.  One of the coolest things is there are only 2 boats from the USA.  We are meeting fun people from Sweden, the UK, Uruguay, Argentina, Denmark, Italy, Mexico, etc, etc.  We had lots of nice cocktail parties, which felt a bit weirdly for me like work events – that feeling of needing to be sure everyone had a good time and to remember everyone’s names.  It’s a good think I retired when I did, because I am truly struggling with the names.  No worries.  We’re all in the same boat – ha.

The start of the rally, Leg One of 30 different “racing” legs, was a lot of fun.  We had a ton of wind, and quite bit of liquid sunshine.  We were not first over the start, but we timed our tack to the start line perfectly, so we crossed it at maximum velocity with seconds to spare.  Always fun to have a great start with a press boat on the line!  We were out in front for the first 30 min of the 5 day race, and it was thrilling.  As another boat challenged us and tried to take the lead, we heard on the radio that they had been early across the line and would have a 3 hour penalty.  We were feeling a bit smug, and at sunset we landed a beautiful Mahi, which made us way too smug and happy. Neptune slapped us down.  We went to furl the Genoa for the evening, and it wouldn’t go in!   It wouldn’t go out!  It was jammed!.  The halyard at the top of the mast had gotten caught up in the swivel!    After several fraught moments, we were able to pull it loose with the power winch.  Phew, but winds were blowing 25kts, so we eased the halyard and lowered the sail to the deck.  No worries.  We are resourceful sailors, and had a second halyard (Genoa 2, clearly labeled with the label maker on the rope clutch) for just this sort of emergency.  More smugness ensues.  Neptune is irked.  Jeff and Peter haul the giant heavy Genoa back up 80 feet in the air.  It is really hard.  I am at helm, trying to keep the wind out of the sail, because when the sail fills, it powers up, and no one would be strong enough to winch it.  Keeping wind out of the Genoa by blanketing it with the main, holding a perfectly steady course is the answer.  I did my best.  By 78 ft, Jeff and Peter were sweating and exhausted, but almost there.  Sproing!  The shackle at the top of the halyard holding the sail broke and caused the sail to come crashing down and start to drag in the water.  Peter and Jeff started right away to try to haul the sail back on board.  It is incredibly heavy because it fills with water, of course.  I had to keep driving, and turned up so it couldn’t possibly slide under our keel and foul on the prop or anything.  We got a call from another boat because I turned sharply north, and they wondered if we were lost or injured.   Nice someone was thinking of us.  Well, they got our sail back on deck, and we lashed it to the stanchions for the night.  There was enough wind that we kept up decent, if not race worthy speed during the night. 

The next morning once everyone was awake and recovered, we reeled in a gorgeous Yellow Fin tuna.  To balance out the fun to suck ratio, we decided to try to hoist the Genoa on a spinnaker halyard.  That was wonderfully successful, although there was a lot of sweating and puffing involved.   The rest of our trip was easy downwind sailing wing on wing with plenty of breeze.

 We left St. Lucia at noon on the 7th, and at Zero Dark 30 on the 12th, we were approaching the harbor of Santa Marta and the finish line.  The wind cranked up over 30 knots, and we had “a bit” too much sail out.  We got the pole down and rounded the corner for the line, with huge waves breaking over the side for a hairy minute until we got behind the cover of the headland.   That blocked the waves, but not the wind.  We crossed the finish line at 5:44 AM.  It was still pitch black, and we came screaming into unknown harbor at over 10 knots.  Our hull speed is only 9.1 knots, so we were surfing or planning or who knows, what ever, it was FAST!  Of course there are unlit tiny fishing boats around too. 

We were happy to be the 4th boat across the line.  Amanzi, an Oyster 56, took line honors an hour and a half before us, and Salt the boat that owed the 3 hr penalty for starting early, was just an hour in front of us.  The third boat was Hoka Hey, a Hallberg Rassey 64.  It’s a gorgeous fast boat, but was having maintenance issues (they let “marine professionals” touch it, same as us), so they missed the start, skipped the turning mark, and even after giving the fleet a 5 hour head start, beat Renegade across the line by 9 minutes.  They would come to be really happy we had too much sail up and finished when we did.  After finishing they took in their sails and started their engine without realizing they had a line in the water.  (it was two guys double handing so they were really tired).  Of course that line immediately fouled their prop and they were dead in the water.  Of course, they were just a little bit up wind of an anchored tanker ship.  As soon as we got our sails in (sails are incredibly loud flapping in 30 knots of breeze while you slack them to roll them in) we heard Jan whistle sharply.  At first we didn’t get it, but quickly saw he was asking for a tow.  Towing a boat is dangerous, especially one that is heavier and all around bigger than your own.  The Renegade crew was exhausted from a tough night of sailing.  We didn’t want to do it.  We were first like, raise your sails!  Then, we saw the Colombian Coast Guard coming.  Yay!  Professional help!  No, they were just there to take our their phones and get photos! What!?!?  Ok, we see the tanker, it is just down wind.  We have like 2 minutes ’til impact.  Jeff couldn’t stand that beautiful boat to be destroyed, so we risked it.  They were able to throw us a line after several attempts, and we got it on an aft cleat.   Jan was so tired, he could hardly heave the line to us.  It was a close call!  Anyway, Jeff powered up slowly to full throttle, and at about 1.5 knots of speed into 30 knots of wind, we dragged them to a spot where it was shallow enough for them to anchor.  Phew!

Luckily, the sun had come up during all this, so we entered the marina in daylight.  Tricky berthing but we made it.  There was some serious discussion about kissing the land.   We settled for a big yummy Colombian breakfast with the first of many delicious Arepas de Queso. 

That night, Jan and Anders stopped by with a couple bottles of wine to thank us, and we all went out and had a terrific first night at a little brew pub, Lulo, with amazing dinner style Arepas.  We are all great friends now, and we are glad we towed them!  It’s part of the cruising life style, to always be looking out for each other.   If a strangers boat is dragging in rainy, stormy anchorage, you happily jump in your dingy to perform a rescue, because you know someday, it will be you.  It’s always great to pay it forward.

We have loved our time in Santa Marta.  The vibe in the town at nighgt is electric.  Everyone is out to have a good time, dance and listen to music.  The streets are festooned with lights and streamers and colorful umbrellas strung on wires.  Streets are loud, festive, narrow, and teeming with celebratory groups.  We felt that we fit right in.   Ouzo, Lulo, and the fish restaurant with green umbrellas by the Park were all great.  Paella at the Marina with the entire group fed from two giant pans, was impressive.

At Santa Marta Jeff and I did a memorable SCUBA dive.  I will remember the rough ride out, the 75 degree water (why didn’t I where my long wet suit!!?! ) the fun people, and some huge coral.  Yesterday, a group of 13 of us got together for a DIY tour that our Spanish speaking friends were able to manage.  We never could of arranged it on our own.  We had a fleet of four low riding taxis.  It was like a scene out of The Italian Job, except swapping Red Mini Coopers for yellow KIAs, LOL.  We hiked to a beautiful set of waterfalls we were able to climb up and swim in.  Then we went tubing down a crystal clear river.  Then, we were all starving and had a huge seafood fish at a restaurant where the river let out into the ocean.  We were on our tour for a full 12 hours.  Exhausting but wonderful.

This afternoon is the skippers briefing for our departure tomorrow, followed by dinner and an awards ceremony for the first leg.  If we have properly understood the handicapping system, we hope to have some recognition for what a great sail we had on the first leg.  This would please us enormously, mostly so we can rest on our laurels and take it much easier on future legs!!!

Sorry I ran on and on this time.  Here’s the TLDR version:  We (Jeff Julie and Peter) are having a terrific time, working and playing hard, and sucking all the juice out of this World ARC adventure!