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Providencia Island at June 2009

By Sue Richards last modified Aug 12, 2009 09:47 PM

Published: 2009-08-12 21:47:21
Countries: Colombia

A pleasant and friendly island and convenient for a break on passage to/from Panama.

Firstly, there is a significant datum offset (more than 200 metres) for both Navionics and C-Map charting - so once in visual range, ignore the charts and look out for buoys and bearings. This applies to Low Cay, north of Providencia and to Providencia Island itself. I understand the offset also applies to San Andres Island and to the Albuquerque Cays.

Low Cay - at the north end of the reef to the north of Providencia, makes a good night time anchorage if you arrive late on from the north and don't want to attempt the approach to Providencia. The light on a pylon on the cay is supposed to be visible from 14 miles, but 10 would be nearer - anyway, so can see it a good way off. Take a line about 3/4 mile south of the light and just head slowly east until you're roughly SSE of the light and the depth suits you.

Providencia Island - has a buoyed approach with a fairway buoy / safe water mark at the seaward end of the channel. Be careful not to anchor in the channel as it is used day and night by freighters, anyway there is plenty of space. Watch out for the reef in the middle of the bay about 350 metres south of Santa Catalina island - you can stand on it without getting your shorts wet, so best avoided. Remember the big chart offset.

Check-in is by calling Bush Agency on CH16. He will arrange for officials to come out to your boat and for all paperwork. Don't leave it too late in the afternoon or you'll have to wait until the following morning without going ashore that night. His fee of $100 though high, seems standard for Colombia. At least you get a warm welcome to Providencia. If you just want to stop for the night without checking in, that's fine of course.

The main village is on the Providencia side of the cute footbridge which joins with the smaller Santa Catalina island. There is a good dinghy dock to the left of the main dock and many armed soldiers, so good security for your dink! There are two ATMs and three modest supermarkets and a drinks shop near the dock. Scooters can be hired for $30 a day to look around the island.

South west beach (which needs no further directions) has a few bar / restaurants and is the venue for occasional horse racing on the beach. Great fun if slightly scary in the restricted space.

If you carefully take your dink under the bridge and head out towards Crab Cay off the eastern side of Providencia there is interesting snorkelling amongst the pinnacle coral formations here. Amazing pinnacles rising from a roughly 10 metre deep seabed to the surface - extreme care for dinghy use of course.

Santa Catalina island has no vehicles and there is a pleasant footpath from the linking bridge as far as Morgan's Head - an unmistakeable rock formation on the W side.

Michael Pass
Yacht Blue Sky
Bocas del Toro, Panama