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Sailing the Northern Colombia Coast

By Val Ellis last modified Feb 18, 2011 05:31 PM

Published: 2011-02-18 17:31:14
Countries: Colombia

In December 2010, we sailed very comfortably from Curacao to Santa Marta 2 weeks ago, stopping in Los Monjes, Cabo de Vela (great holding), and now in the new marina in Santa Marta. We were headed to Cartagena but find the marina and the town so attractive that we will stay here a month or more before heading on to Cartagena. The trick was to pick our sailing days carefully. The current unstable weather pattern in the SW Caribbean means that days of light winds alternate with squally trough days. Having places to stop at ~100 mi intervals means that you can move on the days whose weather you like. We became a sponsoring vessel for Chris Parker just to be able to get focused weather info on this trip and on future trips in this part of the Caribbean; it was a good move. Swells were 8-9 feet much of the time but the motion was fine since they were on the quarter or aft and not steep – ie quite manageable.

The Marina Santa Marta is open and welcoming. There are about 12 sailboats here, same number of powerboats. There is room for over 200 boats. Docks have electricity and water; the bathrooms are due to be completed mid-December. The fuel dock won’t have fuel lines in until Jan (2011) but groups of boats can arrange for a fuel truck to come to the fuel dock. That was how fuel was handled at the inaugural event: a fishing tournament here last weekend. The marina hospitality was upscale and elegant and all marina guests were invited. With some other cruisers we got our propane tanks filled. The marina is on a learning curve as far as meeting cruisers’ needs but they are eager to succeed, willing to work with you and very gracious.

For boats anchoring out: there is some but not a lot of room. The ship channel into the commercial docks takes a lot of the bay. The marina will have a dinghy dock available – they are feeling their way on what other services they will sell to cruisers.

Other amenities: I just got a mail delivery via DHL and phones are fine. There is an internet café 50 yards from the marina gate and some free wifi vibrations in the air here and there (probably temporary). Laundry and groceries are convenient. Food is cheap (at least, before the current weather disruptions in the country) and good – a huge improvement on Curacao in that regard. Restaurants are affordable again! Taxis are cheap. Car rental is not. Santa Marta has lots of experience with Colombian tourism, less with international tourism. It helps to have a little Spanish.

I have used the services of Edgar Romero Paternina to clear into Colombian waters here in Santa Marta. He has been efficient and very direct; entry to the country has been very smooth. His agency Romovela_ltda is also in Cartagena and I am now completely cleared in for here and Cartagena and will have exit zarpes from both ports, for very little more than the cost to clear in at Cartagena. He also offers a reduced-cost clearance process for boats entering here and then proceeding directly to Panama. Warning: correspondence by e-mail is better in Spanish. But Mr. Romero’s main runner at the marina speaks basic English. You can wait until arrival and the marina will contact him for you. There is also another agent here who I don’t know.

Constance Elson
s/v Tashtego