Colombia - Profile
- Colombia has a coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea; most of the coastal development is on the Caribbean side, which has the large towns of Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta.
- In spite of persistent reports about the danger of cruising in Colombian waters, because of the risk of being intercepted on the high seas by a drug-running vessel, a determined campaign by the US Coast Guard, whose vessels patrol the Caribbean Sea, has made this area into one of the safest in the world, with no reports of yachts being molested on the high seas, although many have been stopped, and even boarded, by a US Coast Guard vessel.
- Most cruising boats visiting Colombia do so on their way from the Eastern Caribbean islands to the Panama Canal, while those heading in the opposite direction use Colombia as a convenient stepping stone in their battle with contrary winds and current.
- While Cartagena is a popular landfall, and has excellent repair facilities, with a good boatyard, haul-out facilities and a complete range of services, the new modern marina at Santa Marta now provides a very attractive alternative.
- There are also good repair facilities at Barranquilla with both haul-out and repair services, but the approaches to the port, which lies on the bank of the River Magdalena, are very difficult, Barranquilla is also considered a high security risk area. There is now a new marina at Puerto Velero, approx. 25nm SW of Barranquilla.
- If wanting to have a prolonged stay in Colombia, be warned that formalities and regulations are very complicated, tiresome and the costs can be high. Regulations also have a tendancy to change. That said, it seems in 2015 that the government are making efforts to encourage yachting tourism and as well as producing a free detailed cruising guide (see Publications) are also working towards producing a formal document with formalities guidelines for visiting yachts.
- The Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andres are visited by boats on their way north from Panama, and repair facilities and provisioning are good on San Andrés Island although more limited on Providencia.
- Some of the cays and reefs further north, such as Serrana, Serranilla and Roncador also belong to Colombia, which maintains a military presence on these cays. Boats that have sought shelter there have been visited by the military, but have been allowed to stay.
- If going from Colombia to Haiti, it is recommended to clear first at Jamaica at Port Antonio before proceeding east to Haiti. See comment at bottom of page dated 13 Feb. 2015 for further details.
Although the overall security situation in Colombia has improved considerably in recent years, noonsite continues to receive security reports from cruisers, most of them violent.
The most recent violent attack on a cruising boat was in March 2017 at Isla Baru, when a yacht at anchor was boarded by armed robbers.
In July 2016 in Islas del Rossario, two crew managed to repel attackers but were badly shaken and very lucky to escape.
This is the 2nd violent attack in Islas del Rossario. A similar incident which sadly resulted in the murder of one crew member happened in September 2015.
In November 2015 an armed boarding and robbery (with assault) occured for the 2nd time (the first in 2012) in Santa Marta, Taganga Bay.
It is suggested that sailors file a simple "float plan" for their own security - see Formalities for further details.
Dinghy & Outboard Theft
Cruisers should take basic safety precautions and use common sense when leaving the boat or going ashore at night. Dinghy and outboard thieves operate throughout the Caribbean and best advice is to place your dinghy and outboard on deck and chain it overnight. A report was received from a cruiser in the Islas del Rossario whose outboard was stolen from a lifted dinghy at night. It was not locked.
Other Security Concerns
The threat of terrorism is still high in some parts of the country. It is advisable to check a website such as the British Foreign Office before travelling inland. However, visits to major cities and other popular tourist destinations is not usually a problem.
Use great care when banking in Colombia, especially outside of the main cities, and carrying large amounts of cash. Perhaps use a taxi for return trips to your boat. Be aware that in a bank others may see you counting out large sums or you may be marked as a good target.
Colombia is a major drug-smuggling area, and police and customs are especially active on the north coast, San Andrés Island and in other tourist resorts. Penalties for possession are up to 12 years' imprisonment. Searches are frequent and one should beware of anyone claiming to be a plainclothes policeman. Apparently foreign visitors have also been set up by police with planted drugs, so caution is essential. Walking alone at night is to be avoided as this is dangerous in many towns. The Tourist Office (CNT) will advise on the dangerous areas.
The Caribbean Safety and Security Net (firstname.lastname@example.org) provides information by anchorage or by island, so sailors can plan their cruising in the Caribbean with an eye to appropriate behaviour and precautions wherever they decide to go. Should you have suffered a boarding, robbery or attack on your yacht or have information about a yachting-related security incident, go to the CSSN homepage and click on the "Report an Incident" icon. The associated form is quick and simple to complete and ensures that all the necessary details are reported. The CSSN is the most comprehensive source of Caribbean security incidents against sailors. Remember, it is every cruiser's responsibility to ensure that incidents are reported. Also cruisers can subscribe to e-mail alerts, follow on facebook and twitter and listen to the SSB Voice Service.
The Caribbean Security Index (CSI) is a a tool to assist cruisers in assessing the probability of crime at ports and anchorages throughout the Caribbean. The CSI provides a means of assessing risk in a given area.
Also be sure to check the noonsite Piracy & Safety Pages
Last updated March 2017.
The climate varies according to altitude, the coast being tropical, hot and humid. The NE trade winds cool the coast during the winter months, while the summer has much lighter winds. Hurricanes rarely reach as far south as Colombia.
For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page
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