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The ABC Islands to Columbia

I am going to apologize for the lack of text, here. I have only a few hours before we leave for the San Blas and I want to at least get some pictures up here. We'll write more narrative and upload it the next time we have an internet connection!

We skipped Bonaire, the first of the Dutch ABCs that we passed, and went straight to Spanish Waters on Curacao. As we came into port, we landed the fish we'd been trying to catch for months: a Wahoo. Delicious sushi for dinner!

Strange to be in such a civilized, European place!!! We needed to figure out where and how to get our computer fixed, and ended up sending it back to Dell in the USA from there. (That's why it's been so long between updates!) Liv also had her birthday party there, with her friend Casey from Endorphin. We even "dressed ship" for the occasion!

When we finally were able to leave, we spent one night anchored off of Aruba (land of oil refineries!) before setting out for -we thought!- the San Blas Islands of Panama, 5 days away.

The next morning we set out with light winds and flat seas. We had a beautiful day motorsailing and catching 6 mahi-mahi. We kept the first one for dinner (Liv reeled it in) and then let the rest go.

By the second day, the thundersqualls were getting more numerous and violent. It was frightening, at night ,trying to dodge them. By day 3 the wind was on the nose and rising, often topping 20 knots. The squalls were getting huge. We were north of our rhumb line, and we were looking at what later turned into Hurricane Wilma, a huge grey roiling mass of clouds to the north of us. The wind continued to build. THEN, our engine died. With the wind direction, it would have taken us weeks to get to Panama, so we made the decision to turn south and try to find a harbor to rest and wait for better weather. We were far offshore, though, and the nearest refuge was nearly dead upwind; we beat for 30 hours towards the Columbian coast. We got some info on the SSB, but essentially knew little about the area. We crabbed our way into choppy seas that kept stopping the boat, sometimes making only 2 knots and hand-steering to conserve batteries (we had no way to charge them!) towards the "five bays". As we closed the coast, the wind abruptly died, and we had to lower our dinghy and use it as a tugboat to get into the long fjord-like bay. We were nervous, did not know how safe the area was, and exhausted. Neil finally diagnosed the problem: a broken fuel lift pump. Not a spare we had on board. The Columbian cost is not terribly well-traveled by cruising boats, but luckily a fleet of three came into our anchorage the next day. They were so great. Sylvester, Karen's Weigh, and Starlight Dancer all agreed they would stick with us until we got to Cartagena, a couple hundred miles to windward. Sylvester loaned us their gas generator to charge our batteries, and Karen's Weigh had email so we could source and order parts. The three boats had been calling themselves "Charlie's Fleet", after the Karen's cat; Liv did not want Daisy to feel left out, so they re-christened the boats," Chardais's Fleet"! We all waited almost a week for fair winds, and finally left in no wind. We used the dinghy/tug to get to the next night's anchorage, but it was SLLLOOOOOWWWW. After that, Sylvester suggested we try being towed by them. I was nervous, but it went quite smoothly. They ended up towing us all the way across the mouth of the notorious Rio Magdalena and into Cartagena. We are SO grateful for all of their help and support. We could have made it alone, but it probably would have taken us a couple of weeks!

Next: Cartagena!!