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The Two Captains


16 October 2000 Guayraca, Colombia 11*19.23N, 074*02.62W

Well. We had a superb weather window. We had a full moon. We had a good night's sleep and fish in the freezer. All set, right? Well,....

For the past month or two, in all those assorted off-shore island anchorages we've enjoyed, we have sat during the evenings in our comfy cockpit, over dinner or perhaps a second glass of wine, and watched the lightning way...away...way off over the South American continent. Well...night before last, on our 120-mile passage from Cabo de Vela to the bay at Guayraca, we got front-row, center-stage seats for the light show.

The trip started off smoothly about two in the afternoon with great sailing and the fishing line singing right from the start. Fish we landed were a couple of small black-fin tuna and another medium mahi. We had another hit from a big fish that made a spectacular set of leaps and threw the hook before we could set it. Thinking we were doing pretty well, it was a bit of a come-down to learn that one of our companions, the yacht Pizazz, had caught wahoo....not one, but 12! As they were small, they released them all (probably easier given that they had plenty of mahi and tuna in the fridge from their last outing.)

Picture our courseline as the 120-mile string of a giant bow. Land was out of sight within the first hour, especially in the hot summer haze. The sun set red, but the moon never had a chance as the haze over land thickened to murk, and as dark settled in the lightning to the south couldn't be ignored. The thing is, there isn't much option. Normally this area of convection huddles over the land, but this night the black cloud seeped out seawards. We were about 17 miles offshore, and, I might add, out in front, when the black cloud crawled out to us. The wind had evaporated, so we had just cranked up the engine, furled the big genoa (how fortuitous) and were motoring under only the triple- reefed main, when the wind hit us, increasing to 37 kts, the highest either of us have experienced at sea (short of gusts).

There was lightning EVERWHERE. Fortunately, MOST of it stayed up in the clouds, snaking back and forth across the sky like something out of one of those Weather Channel specials. Unfortunately, there were bolts, too, coming down to as well as up from, the water!

Other than the fact that the autopilot opted out of the show and Don had to hand steer, the boat and crew did great. The bit of mainsail kept the boat amazingly steady in the whiped up seas, and our zipped up enclosure kept us virtually dry. The storm area lasted about two hours before we drove out the other side of it, leaving the light show behind. Our group was making radio position reports on each other every two hours, (a very comforting practice), and everybody came through unscathed.
Eventually the moon showed its face and even some stars and the seas went glassy with no wind to resume sailing! Weariness hit hard after the adrenalin rush, and our watches seemed unusually long especially with the drone of the engine. The fact is we have gotten awful used to pure sailing.

As the sun rose we made out some mountains in the low clouds off our port bow, but it was probably a half hour into coffee time before we did a double-take, realizing that that second layer of clouds was actually a second layer of mountains...like real mountains, the Sierra Madre de Santa Marta, according to the chart, reaching up to 3-5000 METERS! That's 9-15,000 feet! In the early sun, it sure look like snow on the caps! To me it was like a mythical rebirth of the earth after a cataclysm.

Our destination was an area of five north-facing bays in the Santa Marta Peninsula. The third, Guayaca had the reputation of being the best combination of picturesque and protected, so we turned in there to find a deeply inset bay lined by steep, lushly-green hills. It reminded me of Magens Bay in St. Thomas, only smaller and without the houses. There is a caramel colored beach at the head, with a few buildings we guess to be a mix of fisherman huts and vacation places. We haven't seen green like this in ages. In fact, we haven't even seen hills since Margarita. Don and I found we had the exact same thought: that of all the places we have traveled, this is the one that most made us feel like home!

We dropped our hook, the second boat to arrive, and the others trickled in during the afternoon (we had picked up two boats in our strung-out group who were making the trip straight from Aruba without stops!), with the last one arriving just after dark. We were the only fishing boat not to catch a big tuna in the morning, but Enchantress, at 30' the midget of the flotilla brought in a 40-pounder, waist high to the captain! The thought of this fish in their tiny cockpit is kind of amusing, but since their refrigeration is limited, they have been doling out chunks to all of us. This made us very happy, as each of OUR tunas would only make one meal, and you know the two captains like tuna best of all.

We are all going to take a break here. Dinghies are launched, snorkle parties mustered, and domesticities like cleaning and sharing recipes for tuna being the order of the day. As I said in the last update, there is very little rush to move on to the civilization of Cartagena...except then to be able to move on to the San Blas, and except for crossing the outflow of the Rio Magdalena (our next leg) the worst of this trip is over!

Glad to hear so many of you are having fun with the http://winlink.findu.com/wp2ail website. My sister tells me they actually have our positions show on "maps". Fun. We will try to be more timely about getting our position reports in to Winlink.

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