Santa Marta

Great place, the second oldest city in South America! How amazing!!! And here we are….
Excellent marina, hot and cold showers ( not that you need the hot bit ) friendly staff and smack middle of the town. Mini market, wifi and gated. Apparently 29 on the list of dangerous towns/cities in the world. But as we explored and found lovely restaurants, friendly people and a chaos of cars and bikes….we didn’t feel unsafe or threaten not once. Not then and not now. Yes there is part of the town you don’t go to as we were told by Stewart, a helicopter pilot we met as soon as we arrived. Who invites English people ( me?) to curry nights on a Thursday and Sunday roasts. Oh yes! Proper roasts with all the trimmings. A bit hot at times to eat but we still stuff our faces. So, Stewart has taken us under his wing, shows us around, takes us to pool and beaches. He’s got a three year old, Nathalie and Alice gets on with her brilliantly. Atta, Atta Alice calls every day! They fight about pushchairs occasionally but all solved in due course. The boys get to watch proper TV and we get food. Happy days!

Now it was time to check some flights to London. Had few appointments to attend to…and what prices. Searched high and low and then you just got to buy it. As we were flying to Bogota we would stop over there for few nights. Checked few hostels out and picked one that sounded and looked good. We’ll see….
Mad rush to get the boat in shape and got all our frozen food over to Stewarts. Ineka and Mike, another cruising couple would keep an eye out for boat and make sure ropes are good etc. It gets very windy here and can blow up to 60 knots sometimes. And so we left. Only two check in bags and few more with us for all the goodies from London. Few wish list things to bring back like Heinz salad cream and mint sauce for Stewart, tetley teabags for John and fridge repair bits for Ineka and Mike….

The flight to Bogota took only hour and a half. I was very exited as I picked up a book in Grenada last year about a street child. Wasn’t sure I wanted to read it but I did. Cried and read it. A very sad story about a 4 year old who took to streets as his mum was a prostituet. One story among thousands in Bogota. How he survived, how kids get abused and disappear, how you have to fight for true survival and fight he did. My Bogota trip would be looking for street kids and walk the places where this boy walked.he didn’t even have a name, his mum called him Chico= boy….


Great trip from Cuba to Isla Mujeras


So the crossing went absolutely fine! Glorious sail and sun, took us two days with manual helming and arrived outside Cancun, Mexico to a little island called Isla Mujeras. Again our draft is to deep to most anchorages but found a good spot.
A very busy place, lots of holiday makers but stunning water and beaches. Did some shopping and hired one of those golfcarts to drive around with to great laughs and fun to both us and the kids.
Spent a day on the beach, me and Jani with the kids while poor Chris had to take the ferry to mainland to get the autohelm. Hot and sweaty he did return just in time for sundowners. All happy in camp Moody Finn.
We only spent three days there as we had to get a move on for Janis sake. His flight back home was from Colombia. So checking the weather….not looking that good. Going down south and wind blowing from southeast, plus the strong current that will push us up against Cuba. I wasn’t happy leaving but got voted out….

Well….oh dear Lord! It was the trip from hell. We were to tight to wind so kept motoring, big seas and all three kids seasick plus I felt rough. Puke galore, changing sheets, couldn’t do any cooking, the big boys upstairs doing shifts of 2 hours at the time not leaving the cockpit between. I just willed the trip to end and us getting somewhere, anywhere…
As I was laying in the bed in the night ( at least I was warm and dry :) ) I heard a shift of noise in the engine….hard to tell what was going on but I just knew it sounded different. So I jumped up and stuck my head through the window into the cockpit and told Chris. He pooped on that, told me all is fine. Oh well…if you say so….to the bitter moment when the engine died few minutes later! Now we were in deep shit. No engine, wind and current pushing us towards south Cuba… My heart just pumped madly as I watched Chris pull up floor and opening doors to the engine compartment. Out of fuel? Filters blocked? What?
He fiddled around with fuel tanks and the pressure was high in them. So released air and hurrah, engine got going! All good again. But not for long…as it did the same thing again. I so had enough by this time. I was scared and just stood there with torch in hand saying the same mantra again and again: please let it be fixed, please let it be fixed, please let it be fixed….after changing all fuel filters apart the last one which we couldn’t get off we had to makeshift this tool to get to the filter deep down and under engine….it was hot, dark and blowy. Finally Chris got it, changed it and a big hurrah got the engine going!!! Oh the joy! So nose towards Cayman Island as we all needed a rest. The trip took us 5 days instead of 2 and just shows you that it’s not bloody worth it to go against the nature.
Arrived in the morning and started to wash and tidy up. Lovely to be anchored.

Went ashore for a wonder and of course what do we see? A McDonalds and we were not going to get past it. Have to say, I did enjoy it as well. The supermarket was so well stocked, never seen half of the stuff that they sold there and of course the beers in the seafront bar. It felt good to be on land.

Now though we had the long trip to Colombia ahead of us and we had to press on. Weather looking good so after 2 nights off we went but this time lots of goodies with us like garlick bread, pastries and lovely fruit. The sail was good, took us 6 days to get to Santa Marta but of course something had to go wrong.
The Colombian coast is known to be blowy. Not unusual to have 30-40 knots and rough seas about 24h from the coast. So yes, we got it and the headsail cleat broke with a loud bang which meant that the big sail just flapped in the wind. Oh great. So in it comes and the little headsail out. Lucky now and not earlier.
So there it was then. The Colombian coast with high mountains. Beautiful. We made it! The joy of knowing we are going to be here for awhile. But of course Janis flight had gone…2 days before. Anchored outside the marina as Chris took the dinghy to check it out and eventually we got in, Chris beautifully getting the boat in its place and lots of friendly faces and holas! I knew I would like this place :)))


From Cuba with love


So our days in Havana carried on….we used the pool almost every day, the boys scooted around the marina and of course we had to carry on with school. Oh yes, some days was just plain hard work…
But we had some fab times as well. The next time we went to Havana we took the hotel bus for free…yes it was free for the guests but as we tipped the driver there is no questions asked. Went to see El Morro fort, yes , same name as in San Juan, Spanish, no imagination!! Took a horse and cart drive and got back home with one of those big American taxicabs. We learnt about the people, the mentality, the generosity and about the culture. Our Spanish improved and we loved the country. We loved walking around not seeing one McDonald or burger king or any other rubbish joint but normal local food places. Our Fridays was spent at club nautico and afternoons at the bowling Hall and playground. Everybody thought the boys were nuts with they climbing and scooting and Alice grew up to use the potty and got her first knickers to use….so many memories and missing the place terribly.

So then my cousin arrived from Finland. Jani, 29 years old. Been sailing with us before but then we only had James, now…..well, I did warned him!
But he is great….very relaxed and always happy. He brought with him my favourite cheese from Finland and angry bird games and pyjamas for the boys, colouring books for Alice and charts for Colombia for Chris. As we waited for the new auto helm bit we prepared the boat for the next journey. We also met this boat called belly dancer from Belgium with this family on board and their 12 year old called Wajo. He is amazing, so intelligent and friendly and worldly. He took the boys to pool and came bowling with us. They have now gone back to Belgium as Wajo wants to go to school but we are in contact. Will be interesting to see what he will do with his life!

The auto helm part couldn’t be shipped to Cuba so we decided to ship it to Mexico. So that meant we have to helm the boat manually for couple of days. So eventually the day came to say goodbye to Cuba. Very sad….as we left the marina Ceasar the rubbish collector ran along the pontoon waiving and calling for us to come back one day….I cried.
So out we went between the reefs and feeling the Atlantic under us again. Nice and easy down wind sail but worrying about crossing the Yucatan channel. The channel is between Cuba and Mexico and the current is very strong there. Not fun as the current is going north and we were going southwest…

From Cuba with love


So…..Marina Hemingway is a big complex.But very run down. There is a hotel, 2 * at the most but two great pools. Lots of empty buildings and a total soviet style to it all….kind of grey and square. There is a bakery, gift shops and hairdressers…..yes. Got all exited about until I saw the result…..
Booked us in and got the boys to have a haircut which was fine and then me. Wanted mine a bit more layered and a little shorter and highlights. She coloured, cut and blow dried it and it look fantastic. And straightened them to finish it all off…..well I never thought that you could apply red hot iron on newly coloured hair! Well you can’t at least not on mine. She frazzled and burnt my fringed and when I washed it and of course I don’t blow dry the whole thing looks a mess!!! Uk and my fab hairdresser Kirsty, here I come, needs serious sorting out:)
There is also a club nautico and popped in there. A lounge and a tv room! Also every Friday they do a BBQ. Of course we will be there. So in the afternoon down to the bowling hall where outside had a little park and then for the club. We were in heaven. Kids got tv, we got the view and the food was excellent. Alice finally asleep in the pushchair and we could finally really relax.
We spent all 4 Friday evenings there.some nights very late…..they also had this man playing guitar with limited English but we liked talking to him and of course after few beers Chris just has to join in with the singing. Usually a duet with the man singing in Spanish and Chris coming out with a lot of rubbish in English. Very entertaining!!!

We met a young man, michell, a student who worked there every Friday as his dad run the club. He promised to take us to Havana on the Sunday.
So in comes Michell with the lada to pick us up and good to have a local guide. Parked up and walked everywhere. Plenty of beautiful old American cars, old colonial buildings and happy friendly people. Went to the revolutionary museum which is the presidential palace from Batista era and where the 1959 coup happened. Walls full of bullet holes that James thought was fascinating and so did we.aircraft and missiles on display from the Cuba missile crisis and a van full of bullet holes from the coup. Inside lots of clothing, letters and books and also torture devices that Batista military use to use. Horrible to see and visualise….bought a book about Che Guevara and even if Cuba went on to be a communist country surely it was better than Batista era??

After that a lunch with lobster that cost about £ 4.00. Pays to have a local with you. Then a walk down to old Havana, obispo district with lots of shops, tourists and local vendors. And the chocolate cafe…great day out, thanks to Michell!

From Cuba with love


So from Inagua we left for Cuba but before that something happened that could have been rather nasty…..

Came back from the beach in the dinghy and the sea was choppy. We came alongside the boat and Chris took hold of it. At the same time a bigger waive hit the dingy and Chris lost his balance…to knock the throttle of the outboard engine into full speed… and kids in it and Chris was left hanging on the side of the boat. It took me a few seconds to actually understand what the heck happened as the dinghy went bananas around in a tight circle at full speed…..I sat there thinking I got to stop it but couldn’t move as I also had Alice in my lap. Finally Chris shouted ” you got to stop it” and that got me going. I climbed over beach toys, bags and other junk to get to the back at the same time shouting at the kids to hold on tight as the dinghy was churning around like a whisk. Finally I slowed it down, shaking as I went back to mothership to find Chris still hanging on the side of it. I went mad asking where is the red cord that you are suppose to have attached to your wrist so as if this happends the engine will stall???. Mumble mumble was the answer…..oh well. I can laugh at it now but it could have been an awful accident!

So we left for Cuba. All exited. Few days sail where we caught mahi mahi and tuna. Beautiful starry nights and perfect downwind sail.
Came to Puerto vito as it is the official port of entry. We anchored but the officials wanted us in the marina. To shallow, we said. Our draught is 2.3 m and the depth in marina was 2-2.2 m. They didn’t want to believe us until Chris got the dinghy and measured it with line and sinker. So finally they understood. So on board came the customs, immigration, guardia ( border police) and a doctor. They all love their paperwork. They all want bribes so out comes beers, soap and more beers. All happy. Glad to say that the doctor classed us all fit to enter Cuba and off they all went on their merry way:)

There was not a lot going on in the marina, we cleaned the boat, did school and organised a taxi to take us to the nearby town called Santa Lucia. That was on my birthday and in comes our taxi, a lime green lada. Hehe! Yes, a lada.
On our way we passed a lot of horse and carts and it’s amazing to watch and know that this is their mode of transport as most people are very very poor. A horse is cheap. A lada costs £ 15.000! Walked around the little town and met lots of smiley friendly people. They all want to talk but my Spanish is none existing but we do still understand each other. Oscar, a local wheeler dealer helped us to translate and the boys loved him.

He was like a big brother to them joking and being interested
In what they were saying. We also got a ride on a horse and cart with this young family to the boys delight and I paid them 5 cuc for the ride….yes, it was to much and the young man nearly fell of his cart. Now, money is confusing, there is local pesos for local people and cuc for tourists. 1 cuc is 24 pesos or $1.20. A hairdresser gets paid 15 cuc/ month or a doctor gets 60 cuc/ month. Doesn’t matter if you work 2 or 5 days. That’s your salary.
Before we left for Cuba we were told that you can’t buy certain things like bread, butter or meat. You can, so we found the bakery with a long queue and joined in. No luck. Bread finished before we got anything. This old man came over and wanted us to have some of his bread. No, we managed. He insisted so we took the bread and gave him money. He wouldn’t take it so we insisted….the generosity of Cuban people makes you humble. They haven’t got a lot but still they want to share what they have. We saw it again and again on our travels.

We left Puerto Vito to carry on to Havana. We stopped few times at anchor but had real trouble to get in anywhere as the boats draught is to deep. The guardia watches your every move as they got posts all along the coast so they know exactly where you are. Very safe to sail.
We arrived in Havana early morning with a broken auto helm, yes another thing to fix again, and got a great mooring spot. Across the road was a hotel with a pool. Yes!! Very friendly and helpful staff at the marina Hemingway and we did end up meeting many new and lovely people but that will be for the next chapter…..



And so we said good buy to Puerto Rico and the city life with museums, beautiful churches and to lot of choice on food.We shopped the Costco nearly empty to stuck up for Cuba. Spent lot of money but had to be done. We buddy boated with an American boat called Magic, Ken and Michelle and totally lovely people. Ken first popped over to our boat and he looked like the wild professor from ” back to the future” .Hehe. Anyway we left together to sail to Arecibo and stayed there for one night and continued following day to Dominican Republic or DR. Good sail, a bit rough in places and again big waives but overall good.Ken is amazing at sailing…beat us every time and we got a swan!!! We even left before them from DR and he still beat us….

Samana,a little town, very rough and ra and I totally fell for this place. Beautiful music and beautiful people. Mode of transport was either back of an motorbike or motorbike with a carriage. Like a tuk tuk. We loved it. Crazy driving.
Went to local market where meat hangs out, dirt flows around and the gutters…..well you can imagine. But we still loved it. And it was cheap. Found the English church that was dismantled and brought over as well as a playground, great bars with Latino music and people just dancing as it took they fancy. Fascinating! And of course we just joined in. Fell in love with this little girl who just wanted to be picked up and we gave her one of our puzzles. We both cried when we left…..:(((

We were only 3 days there as we had to move on but we did see the humpback whales. Just amazing. They really played for us, the mummy and baby and leapt out and blew and we did get covered in I think whale snot and water…..? We watched them for couple of hours and it was rather moving too. Didn’t want to leave but again the wind took us and Magic to Inagua in Bahamas.

We sailed for 48 hours and got hit by rather strong squalls a few times. Everything went grey and the wind shifted here and there and then the rain came. Blew up a mist and white horses on the water and we had to just change course and ride it out. Arrived in Inagua in dark around 2 am but anchoring was very straight forward. And in the morning we were surrounded by the most amazing water…the really turquoise blue with sand bottom and just begging you to jump in. Fantastic!
We got Kevin with the big black truck to drive us around, the kids of course in the back. Can you imagine that in UK?? We saw the pink flamingos, the salt factory and we got to walk on the salt that just looks like snow. Amazing. The old light house that we climbed up and nearly killed myself as I’m very unfit to have lunch in a bar with guess what? A tv! The kids went bananas!!! Great day.
Been swimming and stocking up an few more bits and used the library on most days.air cond and excellent Internet. Now checking weather for our hop to Cuba and leaving on Monday. No wind at the mo.

Alice has started to use the potty and we make a great fuss about that,the boys have downloaded a lot of new games and we just got to keep cleaning as I don’t get it why the boat gets so filthy….you know, crisps, sand and stuff every where:)))

We are doing really good and loving every single bit of it

So much to do again


So we set sail for Culebra which only took about 3h.navigating now with Chartplotter as well as proper paper charts as I need to brush up on that, and its fun to see the dot going forward. Culebra is a tiny island off the east coast of Puerto Rico. Long reef filled bay to get through but well marked out. Good anchoring but windy. First stop the mini market and getting the hang of the fact that everybody speaks Spanish. I love the language but can say only 5 words….music is great and here you hear the Latin stuff at every corner which just makes you dance to it or as Chris so kindly puts it “wobble to it!”

Met this lovely American couple, Annette ans Walter from states who took us under they wing for driving us to the beach and borrowing the washing machine and being a great company. As we can’t go out much in the evenings we miss out on the yachtie social circuit. So nice to have adult conversation and best of all? The kids got to watch tv!!! They were in heaven. Charlie was bouncing up and down and shouting” there is a tv!!” Bless:)

From there we sailed to an even smaller island called palomitos.just beach and nothing else. South end of island was reserved to a hotel from mainland so ferries was coming and going but didn’t disturb us at all. We snorkelled, even me with Alice on a woggle and me behind and it worked! We dingied to a tiny sandy island just south where there was nothing but sand and few bushes. A bit like sandy island in Carriacou.beautiful. And we couldn’t spend any money, best of all.
In the evening we were watching the mainland with lots of lights and wondering how we will feel about stepping into a city…busy,dirty,noisy…? We stayed another day and another until basic fresh food was gone and we had to move on.

So Puerto Rico, big island and as we motor sailed the coast we got all excited. Maybe we can do cinema, bowling etc. and as we came closer to San Juan we saw the big El Morro fort built by Spanish about 500 years ago.absolutely stunning. I called the boys to come up and have a look at this amazing piece of history and when they finally dragged their bottoms of the bed and the iPad they came out, looked around and said: oh ok. And went back down again! Daaahh! What can I say?

The bay is huge. We found the anchor spot, anchored perfect and settled down to watch what is around us. Us military base, marina, sky rise buildings, police car noises, local airport and cruise ship docks. Talk about noise!!! Chris was moaning and bitching what an awful place this is, blah blah blah and I let him rant and rave. Why? Because I read that people can have culture chocks and he was having that moment right there. Go to bed,its better tomorrow!

Well, we have been here now nearly 3 weeks and love the place. Chris thinks it’s great anchorage, we are in the city and surrounded by history. Seen the fort, bought some kites and fly them there at the fort. Old town is beautiful and found the children’s museum where the kids had a blast. Been stocking up in Costco for food and went to Arecibo where the worlds largest telescope is.just huge. A bond movie was partly filmed there.
We use the local buses, go to parks, have access to washing machine and everybody at the marina knows who we are. The Spanish love kids which make life a lot easier. They don’t mind the noise and the climbing and the shouting…
We also met Bill Butler who in 1989 got whacked around by pilot whales on his boat in pacific and he and his wife had to abandoned ship in just half an hour and survived the seas for 66 days in a life raft. Bought the book and its well written. Called “our last chance” Amazing who you meet or bump in to….

Mum here for the moment so busy doing more sightseeing and looking to move on end of next week. Will be sad to leave San Juan….

Alice is coming up with few more words, Charlie seems to have meltdowns about everything and James gets the blame… The kids are good sport and walk around without moaning. They hair is gettin longer, they don’t get chocked about anything they see and just accept that sometimes life is rather cruel. We see a lot of homeless people here and beggars but we just can’t give money to all of them….

On that note I will sign off.