We enjoyed a fabulous 4 months in the clear waters of San Andres, Colombia, learning to kiteboard, having family visit and catching up on boat chores. Then a few changes. If you have been following our facebook page, you will know what I’m talking about.
Kelly’s sister Rhonda and beautiful niece Melissa were in need of a holiday, and so they came to see us in San Andres. It was a fabulous treat! Melissa hadn’t been onboard with us since 2014 in BVI, and that had been her only sailing adventure, so this was to be just a little bit different for her.
This small Caribbean island in this Colombian group of islands is approximately 425 nautical miles north of the Panama mainland and 60 nm off the coast of Nicaraugua. This archipelago encompasses a total area of 22 sq mi, including the outer cays, reefs, atolls and sand banks, with the area of the islands being 45 km2 Its heavily guarded by both AeroNaval and Police. Its said that it’s a training ground for Colombia police and some 400 are stationed on this small island.
The history of both San Andrés and Providenca includes stories of pirates, their invasions and occupation of the islands. Its a stopping point for yachts on voyages between Panama and Guatemala and the safe cruising grounds of Roatan and Rio Dulce. Boats often buddy boat during that passage in attempts to stay safe from pirates, which have been reported in the area in the last few years. Its common for transiting yachts to send a sail plan to other friends and families. This way, we know exactly when one is scheduled to arrive, and in waters that is known to have dangerous possibilities, it is common and necessary. We call this a Sail Plan or a Float Plan, and prudent sailors do it regularly. This is our friends Sail Plan from Steph and Stu from yacht Matador when they came up to San Andres from Panama on their own.
We knew their departure time and estimated arrival time, and everything we needed to start a rescue operation should they not arrive on time. Of course they did, they are experienced sailors, but in these waters, prudence is they key. The passage between the northern shores of Panama and the Colombian archipelago has been quite safe. From there northward and the corner of the Nicaragua/ Honduras area has been the questionable areas.
We have an excellent adventure one day as we rented a “Gator” type vehicle and took a drive around the island. San Andres is 8 miles long and three miles wide with a paved road encompassing it. It was a fun escapade, even though we got a flat tire. The most amazing thing about the unfortunate event of the tire was the most welcoming and friendliest of people we have met in our journeys anywhere. We were stopped not more than two minutes at the side of the road when the people began stopping their own vehicles to ask if we needed assistance.
Before the proprietor of the rental agency got there to fix the tire 45 minutes later, we had been approached at least six times with offers of assistance. This is how the world SHOULD BE. Its is a kindhearted community all over, this is not the only moment we saw this generousness from locals and other tourists alike.
Lunch was a well deserved stop at a beach bar that day with cervecas all around.
Another day trip took us to the little cay of El Acquario. A beautiful crystal clear, white sand beach islet a short dinghy ride from the boat. At the beach on arrival, “our man” who would make sure all our needs were taken care of during our short few hours there greeted us at the beach. He made sure we were taken to the “right” palapa for the very expensive Coco Loco type drink we enjoyed there.
The weather was ideal for an overnight trip to a beautiful atoll just 25 nm to the south of the Island called Cayo Alberquerque. San Andres is heavily monitored regarding movements of vessels in and around the island group due to the drug and pirate activity surrounding them. When our boat started to move out of the anchorage, we were asked via radio by the Traffic Control what our intentions were. We were just going for a “day sail” and would return later that day – was our story. We did have intention to head to Albuquerque for the night but to ask forgiveness is easier than to ask permission in this case.
Because of the heavy presence of the Armada, they called us on the radio upon our approach to Cayo Alberqueque to see what we were doing there. Due to our lack of fluency in the Spanish language, and their complete absence of the English language, we were granted permission to anchor. We carefully maneuvered our shallow draft catamaran between the coral heads and reefs to the anchorage in front of the base office. Of course we were the only yacht to have been there in months.
Shortly after arrival, we took in some freshly baked chocolate cupcakes and cold Cokes and we were greeted with smiles and many thank you’s from the 11 young men stationed at the small base. We later returned for a walk around the island after asking permission, to play Frisbee, and enjoy the clean white powdery sand beach. The navy were more than happy to have the company of three ladies on the beach for the afternoon.
The next day we said goodbye to our military friends and returned to San Andres Island for more adventure.
During their short stay with us, Darren taught Melissa the basics of SCUBA diving which was a real feat for her! Melissa’s fear of water has always dictated her activities around it, so this was definitely a milestone for her. Great Job Melissa, and Darren!
San Andres quickly became one of our favorite destinations, read our next post to find out why, how our Kiteboarding adventures progressed and what happened in the next few weeks that changed our world. … 🙁