Albuquerque Cays, Columbia

The Albequere atoll was a lot bigger than we thought it would be with two beautiful cays with crystal white sand that you can spot from miles away.

Just two Islands out in the middle of nowhere

Just two Islands out in the middle of nowhere

The larger island is used as a navy base to apparently protect and safeguard the Columbian waters from Nicaraguan fishermen. Alas after checking in with the commander of the Navy stationed on the island and his 10 or so onlookers we were told we were not allowed to walk on either island. Shame they were so beautiful looking.P1100718

The second island is occupied by transient Columbian fishermen who are licensed to fish here. We saw 10 Fishermen who live in little huts on this little piece of paradise.P1100713

Nicely protected from weather between the twos cays we sat out a late Northerly and enjoyed getting out for some snorkeling to see some reasonable coral and fish life. The highlight was seeing two dolphins and a spotted ray.Dolphins

Sorry not real clear

Sorry not real clear

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The brain corals were a good size and in good shape

The brain corals were a good size and in good shape

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0326.Had a beam reach sail to Panama catching a couple of fish or at least I think you could call one a fish. Also had a passenger 100m from land who settled in for a rest and then continued his trip later.

Poor little hog fish

Poor little hog fish

P1100741We have arrived at Isla Linton near Portobelo the new office for checking in to Panama and the San Blas area. There has been a disagreement between the Gunas of the San Blas and the Panama central govt so the office in Porvenir, San Blas is closed and an office has opened at Linton Marina. You still have to take a bus to Portobelo to see immigration and there’s a Port captain there too so all a bit confusing. We are cleared in and ready to continue onto the San Blas Archipelago.

Touristy San Andres, Columbia

Had a great day sail from Providencia to San Andres skirting the reef, which is scattered with wrecks into a very busy harbor. San Andres is a holiday destination for Columbians from the mainland and other South American countries. Most people speak Spanish so we are back to speaking Spanglish again.
West Carr map

One of many wrecks on the reefs around the island

One of many wrecks on the reefs around the island

San Andres definitely caters to the tourist with boat tours to the nearby cayos, diving trips, lots of duty free shops & name brand stores like polo, quicksilver, Hurley etc and a good selection of restaurants to choose from. During the day the harbor is busy with boats and jet skis going in every direction, all of which seem to have two speeds; Fast or ridiculously fast.

packed full, spot the huge ship wrecked out on the reef

packed full, spot the huge ship wrecked out on the reef

 

Johnny Cay is popular as a day trip via a water taxi

Johnny Cay is popular as a day trip via a water taxi

We took the kayaks around to the Spray Bight beaches passing lots of big hotels. The nice white sandy beaches weren’t very busy as main tourist season is October to December and Easter so it was perfect.
P1100611A stop for Ceviche and Spanish lessons at Danny’s place on the beach was in order.

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The island is only 24kms around and so we decided to hire a golf cart with Stu & Steph from S/V Matador, which cost us 90,000 pesos (US$30). We thought it was a bargain given other prices we’d been quoted and I guess you get what you pay for. It was dog slow, would not make it up a hill and not even half way around we ended up with a flat tire. We limped our way to Big Mamas reggae bar for a cold one and some snorkeling off the rocky shore, while the rental guy came to our rescue. There were a few statues placed in the water off Big Mamas so it ended up being a good stop.
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Once the tire was changed we continued along the road to an area where we found a small fun park and enjoyed swimming with the fish, diving off the dive board and coming down a water slide. This place was one of the busiest attractions along the road and only cost US$1:25 to enter, bargain.
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loved the wood structure holding the slide up

loved the wood structure holding the slide up

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Reggae bars seemed to be popular as they were scattered around the island on the road sides to temp you and yes we were tempted as it was hot.
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We took the local bus up the hill to the Baptist Church, which was built in 1844, to climb the stairs up to the steeple to see the 360 views and amazing water colors out to the reef.P1100683

Down to the anchorage

Down to the anchorage

Out to a Cay at the entrance

Out to a Cay at the entrance

The locals here are all friendly and helpful. Miss Kelly from Nenes Marina was always interested in what we did and offered other suggestions to keep us occupied in the heat! Yes its hot and humid here. She even offered to do my laundry as I couldn’t find a laundromat.

Miss Kelly

Miss Kelly

On our last day we managed to get out to the reef to snorkel thru the reef to the outside and saw some good coral and lots of fish life. Hope there’s more of that where we are going.

Has been a great stop with good reasonably priced restaurants and good supermarkets to provision for the next few months. Had enough of people and shops and as the winds are pretty much non existent have decided to stop at Albuquerque Cay 30nm southwest of here for some snorkeling and fishing before continuing south to the San Blas Islands in Panama.image

 

Tranquil Providencia, Columbia

After choosing a weather window with relatively calm seas and Easterly winds for sailing we set off from Grand Cayman and arrived in Providencia 355 miles or 3 days later. Your first sight of Providencia is the glistening palm trees and rocky cliffs and as you enter the channel you pass Morgan’s Head on Santa Catalina Island and in front of you is Morgan’s Crack on the main island Providencia.

Morgan's Head

Morgan’s Head

View of anchorage from Fort Warwick, Santa Catalina to Morgan's Crack

View of anchorage from Fort Warwick, Santa Catalina with Morgan’s Crack on the right

You have to use an agent to check in to Columbia so we contacted Mr Bush the only agent here. After providing him with all our documentation we then found we had to negotiate his fees down as what he quoted was higher than what friends had paid 2 weeks previously. Must be end of season, hmmmm.

I then went in search of a Columbian courtesy flag but no such luck here. Luc and Aline on S/V Oceana1 who we knew from the Rio Dulce came to our rescue with a flag Aline had made us. Thanks Aline!

Aileen delivering us a Columbia flag

Aline delivering us a Columbia flag

Providencia is a small natural colorful island with no large resorts, a few small communities scattered around the island and this impressive rocky volcanic landscape, with its highest point being 360m; the Peak. The locals here are very friendly waving out as you wander by their homes and most people here speak English, which is a bonus.

Square in the Centre of Main Street Santa Isabel which always seems busy

Square in the Centre of Main Street Santa Isabel which always seems busy

The boardwalks are all painted bright colors; someone has a job for life

The boardwalks are all painted bright colors; someone has a job for life

Nun walking along the main road to church

A small place where you come across the local Nun walking along the main road to church

Santa Catalina, the smaller island is a national park accessed via the 100m floating Lovers Lane bridge. The channel here was dredged by pirates to protect the islands from invasion. We climbed up the stairs to Fort Warwick and then walked the trail out to Morgan’s Head past pirate beach. Henry Morgan, an English admiral and privateer (sanctioned pirate) in the 17th Century terrorized the Spanish fleets from this area and set their headquarters at the Fort. We enjoyed snorkeling the coast here and came across an old Cannon under the Fort.

Lovers Lane Bridge

Lovers Lane Bridge

 

Sitting out at Morgan's Head

Sitting out at Morgan’s Head

Together with Luc and Ailene we hired scooters (40,000 pesos/ US$13 day) to see the main island and its sights.

Scooters are definitely the main transportation here and we're fun to see the island

Scooters are definitely the main transportation here and we’re fun to see the island

The bus stops scattered around the island are unique
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One of the many bays - Southwest Bay

One of the many bays – Southwest Bay, shame we could not anchor here…

Nice beaches with lots of shade for us people that burn

Nice beaches with lots of shade for us people that burn

You can see the reefs crystal clear water; such a beautiful color

You can see the reefs crystal clear water; such a beautiful color

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Lots of beach bars; we stopped at Roland’s on Manchineel Bay for a cold one

Lunch and a swim at Divino Niño, a huge seafood plate for two was good value

Lunch and a swim at Divino Niño, a huge seafood plate for two was good value

Time to relax after a big meal!

Then it was time to relax after a big meal!

We took our dinghies for the day out to Crab Cay and into the national park to the Three Brothers and the surrounding reefs to get some snorkeling in. (16000 pesos entry fee each to park incl Crab Cay). The views from Crab Cay were amazing looking out at the reefs and color changes of the water on this side of the island.
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View from the top of Crab Cay

View from the top of Crab Cay

Yes the water was crystal blue out towards the reef

Yes the water was this crystal blue color

Unfortunately the coral here is covered in a brown green film as we have seen in many places in the Caribbean. The far reef out from Crab Cay was amazing as you felt like you were in a city as there were lots of huge coral structures coming up out of the sand.

There were lots of these coral pinnacles that towered around you

There were lots of these coral pinnacles that towered around you

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I organized a cruiser group hike up to El Pico ( The Peak) where Russell & Laura from S/V Lutana decided to join us as our guides, as they had already done the hike. It starts at the community of Bottom House an area which was where the freed slaves settled and was named this since the plantation owners were high above in the mountains.

The start of a 1.5hr hike to the top mainly in the shade of trees thank goodness

The start of a 1.5hr hike to the top mainly in the shade of trees thank goodness

Along the hike Laura who is Columbian showed us lots of different plants and explained their uses.

Cotton Tree here is used to make pillow stuffing

Cotton Tree here is used to make pillow stuffing

a very small fruit similar to an apple that can be eaten

a very small fruit similar to an apple that can be eaten

The blue iguana, which turns brown to blend with the landscape when it feels threatened

The blue iguana, which turns brown to blend with the landscape when it feels threatened

hot but happy to make it to the very top S/Vs Matador, Sojourner, Oceana1 , Lutana and Seismic Wave

hot after 1.5hrs to get here but happy to make it to the very top S/Vs Matador, Sojourner, Oceana1 , Lutana and Seismic Wave

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down to Bottom House where we started & out to the reef

down to the anchorage and Santa Catalina island in the distance

down to the anchorage and Santa Catalina island in the distance

We had heard that there are bareback Horse races on the beach at Southwest bay Saturdays so together with Stu & Steph from S/V Matador we headed down there. After being told there was going to be a race it was cancelled as the sand was too soft. It’s meant to be a fun day with betting and brings lots of people out to watch it. Oh well lunch and a day out isn’t such a bad thing.

seafood lunch with Stu & Steph

After getting permission from the Port Captain to go to Low Cay we sailed the 10nm north, for a change of scene for a few days. Crystal clear water and just a lighthouse on the reef.
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coral was better with lots of small to med size fish

coral was better with lots of small to med size fish

Finally word spread around town that there was going to be a horse race so off we all went again………

looks promising more people gathering

looks promising more people gathering

and then suddenly it's on.....

and then suddenly it’s on…..

one happy man & horse

one happy man & horse

Roland from Roland’s beach bar even did a lap of the beach
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Definitely a great place to kick back and relax. Moving on to San Andreas, Columbia.