Colombia, Cartagena: The Caribbean Cruising Network Helps a Single-Hander in Trouble

Many cruisers out on the water may not realise what goes on behind the scenes, with cruising volunteers manning some incredible organisations that are there to help, inform and protect cruisers. The Caribbean is probably one of the best places in the world where this is demonstrated with the likes of BoatWatch, Caribbean Safety and Security Net, plus cruising associations such as the SCCA and the OCC appointing port officers around the region. A wonderful example of how this rich network of volunteers can help at any time was demonstrated in Cartagena, Colombia in December.

Published 4 years ago

On the 10 December 2019, SV Auntie a 53 ft Gallant sailboat arrived in safe harbor and anchored in Cartagena, Colombia.

Three days prior to its arrival the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) were notified of an issue on this boat, a cruiser on passage from Antigua to Panama. Some sort of electronic failure caused the vessels autopilot and electronics to fail, leaving the single-hander in strong winds and seas off Colombia.

E-mails from the vessel indicated that only GPS, charts and AIS were operational (AIS on IPOD) as was the Iridium system, and VHF. On request, the SSCA reached out to the CSH hosts in Colombia and in Panama, outlining the issues.

KPK/Glenn Tuttle assisted with suggested entry (he knows this harbor) as well as fielding urgent requests from the vessels many friends. BoatWatch stood by as the boat continued efforts to get to port.

In Colombia, both Lee Miles and John Halley (Club Nautico) the SSCA hosts in Cartagena, assisted with entry information, and basically guided the vessel in to port. It was a long several-day effort, with the stricken yacht hove-to in heavy seas (filling the cockpit) until SV Auntie/Captain Eve Wilhite could manage to get to the Boca Chica entry to Cartagena.

Lee Miles has in-depth knowledge of the passages and took the time to go to his boat to get coordinates for sea buoys and more. It’s believed a pilot boat stood off the entry to indicate the entry area, and a local sailboat, Quick (CO registered vessel), provided guidance as they motored past Tierra Bomba.

Not just providing port entry data points, John Halley/Club Nautico sent out a launch to help the boat into the inner harbor. Panama’s, Juanjo at Shelter Bay Marina had been previously contacted and was standing by should the vessel continue on.

The SSCA Cruising Host program is making a difference for cruisers.

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Noonsite.com or World Cruising Club.

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