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Approaches to Cartagena

By James Greenwald last modified Apr 16, 2003 04:20 PM

Published: 2003-04-16 16:20:52
Countries: Colombia

Boca Chica, situated between the islands of Baru and Tierra Bomba is where the main shipping channel entering the Bay of Cartagena de Indias is located. The channel is well buoyed (as is the whole bay apart from the entrance to Bocagrande). A mile off the entrance is a sea buoy, position (aprox)10 deg.19'N, 75 deg.36'W. Passing the forts of San Jose and San Fernando the channel is 200 metres wide and dredged to more than 11 metres depth. Sailboats arriving are advised to call Port Control on CH16/14 warning them since Cruiseship, Tankers, Container ships pass through here, and for them the entrance is narrow.

  1. The entrance at Bocagrande over the submerged wall is used by some sailors arriving from Aruba although should be approached with caution. While there is is usually a green barrel(and sometimes a red one aswell) marking the entrance this cannot be relied upon (yet). There is a perch(a pole on a concrete base) which is used informally as a entry guide (leave 20 mtrs. to starboard entering. Still, bear in mind: 1. Bocagrande is still not an official entrance. 2. The entrance is narrow (70mtrs wide). 3. In normal blustery NE afternoon conditions you may not recognise the markers/buoys until within 250 metres from them. 4. Don't depend on the marks. 5. The minimum depth at the entrance is 2.6 metres. 6. The GPS position I have is N 10deg23.370' W 75deg34.285'. Try to enter on a bearing of 100deg magnetic.
  2. The entrance into the inner bay and the anchorage is through two well buoyed channels passing either side of a statue(Madonna and Child) placed on a shoal bisecting the two channels. The East channel is used by container vessel and cruiseships. The West channel is used largely by military and smaller vessels. Both pose no problems day or night. The west channel passes close to the lighthouse on Larguito point. The anchorage surrounds the Club Nautico dock although to the North the depths vary between 7 and 10 feet, moderate holding.
  3. The local Coast Guard has an excellent reputation for helping out cruisers. CH14/16
  4. The anchorage is very safe and patrolled nightly by the CG. To our Knowlwdge, nothing has been stolen this year from the anchorage.
  5. Cartagena is still a great and secure cruising destination. Cruisers should however be aware that stops on the way may be ill-advised despite various recent informal guides suggesting the contrary. In Colombia the situation hasn't deteriorated in the last 10 years although we might expect some decline bearing in mind current Colombian strife. I emphasize that Cartagena itself remains a secure and fascinating destination.

Sent in by: John Halley, sailing a 43 Robert Clark 1961 cruiser racer (S/Y Bowstring). John is currently the dockmaster at Club Nautico.