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Authorities and Yachts Liaise Over Cruising The Colombian Coast

By doina — last modified Jan 31, 2007 12:08 PM

Published: 2007-01-31 12:08:53
Topics: Piracy & Security
Countries: Colombia

In a meeting at Club Nautico in Cartagena on January 7 the cruising community present in Cartagena was well represented, with 35-40 cruisers present.

Present also:

Capt. Miguel Vargas, Commandant, Caribbean Coast, Colombian Coast Guard

Lt. Leonardo Marriaga, Small Craft Coordinator, Cartagena Port Captain's Office

Linda and Doug Reinthal, s/v Que Linda

Lee Miles, local sailor and coordinator

The presentation was organised to discuss coastal cruising between Cartagena and the Panama Colombia border, making stops at the Islands of Rosario and San Bernardo, Punta San Bernardo, Isla Fuerte and Zapsurro Bay (next to Cabo Tiberon with only the final leg requiring an overnight passage (many cruisers have already been making this coastal hopping passage to Panama from Cartagena without difficulty).

The Port Captain's Office of Cartagena and the Colombia Coast Guard indicate that they are prepared to provide support for boats along this route. Each of the officials in turn reiterated their pleasure that the cruisers present were considering visiting these coastal islands.

The Port Captain's office requests that you file a VOLUNTARY float plan (by e- mail, or when getting your zarpe) indicating your intended itinerary from Cartagena. (Those boats leaving the Netherland Antilles or elsewhere headed for Colombian waters may do so as well, to the same address.) They emphasize that this is not a requirement. Port Captain’s Office email:

Shortly there will be available an e- mail format in English and Spanish which may be filled out and sent in. It can be updated en route by those that have e-mail aboard.

The Coast Guard asks that you help them provide better support by:

  1. Filing a voluntary float plan or itinerary
  2. Reporting your departure upon getting your anchor up
  3. Reporting any suspicious activity or concerns anywhere along the route

Procedure for reporting departure (#2 above):

Call for "Guardacostas" ("Goo-Ahrdah-KOSE-Tah")on Channel 16

They will answer and ask you to change channel, normally to Channel 14 (Kah-TORE-Say).

Indicate the name of your vessel, your current position, and which way you plan to exit the Bay of Cartagena (BocaChica or BocaGrande)

(Soon there will be available a text of what you will be asked by the Coast Guard radio operator, so that you can be prepared for the sequence of information requested.)

Procedure for reporting suspicious activity (#3 above):

At any time you may call on Channel 16. Between Cartagena and Panama there are Coast Guard stations at Islas del Rosario, Coveñas (which covers both Islas San Bernardo and Isla Fuerte), and in Turbo (which covers Zapsurro Bay). There are gaps in the coverage of VHF along the coast, although the fixed stations are supplemented by Coast Guard units that are constantly on patrol.

Cell phones can call 146 or +57 (300) 710-1668

Direct telephone: +57 (5) 655-0315 (Coast Guard Station, Cartagena)

(Please note: "57" is the Colombia country code; "5" is Cartagena city code)

You may contact the Coast Guard in a confidential manner by sending an email to

This goes directly to the CG's center of operations for the Caribbean coast. They would appreciate reports of suspicious activity and/or anything that makes you uncomfortable. This address can be used for communications anywhere along the Colombian Caribbean coast from Venezuela to Panama.

The Port Captaincy and Coast Guard officials have expressed in the strongest terms their hopes that you have a rewarding experience in Cartagena and along the Colombian coast. Without wanting to restrict your movements, they ask that you keep them informed of where you are and where you are headed so that they are prepared to provide support.

If you wish to contact the Commander, Caribbean, Colombia Coast Guard in person: (currently Cpt. Miguel Vargas) or the Commanding Officer, Cartagena Station: (currently Capt. Harry Reyna)

If you just want to contact a civilian and local sailing ex-pat you may write Lee Miles at or visit

Also: John Halley, Dockmaster, Club Nautico

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