It was tough to leave the tranquility of the Chagres River
in Panama, but alas it was time to head north. Our destination
was San Andres, a Colombian island over 200 miles to the northwest
and located east of Nicaragua. After sailing downwind for
1,600 miles, we found ourselves on an unfamiliar upwind course
too high on the wind to sail. Reluctantly, we engaged the
iron ginny and motorsailed straight up the rhumb line all
night making great time toward our destination.
Around sunrise the next morning, the engine choked and gasped
a few times, and then it rudely and abruptly shuddered to
a stop. We sat there for a moment, wide-eyed and mouths agape,
in the unexpected silence. Fortunately, the wind had come
around to the northeast allowing us to sail. We made great
time sailing close-hauled while Nick changed the fuel filter
and eventually got the engine to run. But now we didn't need
When we left Panama, we had allowed time to make a few long
tacks in order to reach San Andres. After motorsailing all
night and now sailing 6-7 knots right on course, we found
ourselves ahead of schedule and facing a nighttime arrival
on the reefy south coast of San Andres. So we decided to head
instead for Providence, another Colombian island to the northeast.
We tacked due east for a few hours until we could lay a course
close-hauled on the wind to Providence. As night fell, the
wind picked up and the seas started smacking the hull in short,
bone-jarring intervals that made sleep virtually impossible.
Aahh...the joys of upwind sailing! We had forgotten.
Sometime in the middle of the night, Nick saw a frothy trough
open up and swallow the boat. As the hull slammed into the
trough, boxes of milk and fruit juice flew out of a crate
in the v-beth and landed in the forward head. Several boxes
of milk and pineapple juice burst, spewing their contents
onto the floor. I cleaned up the mess as best I could, but
at 3:00 A.M. with the boat heeled I couldn't get the smelly
mixture to go down the shower drain.
We reached the south coast of Providence around noon the
following day and entered the marked channel into a tranquil,
protected harbor on the island's northwest shore. After three
days and two nights with virtually no rest, all three of us
sacked out and remained virtually comatose for 12 blissful
The next day, after delivering our papers to Bernardo Bush
of the "Bush Agency" for check-in, we set about
cleaning our salt-encrusted home. The pineapple juice-milk
concoction had curdled overnight and was emitting a sickenly
sweet smell, so rinsing that mess down the shower drain was
a priority. That's when we realized that the forward shower
sump pump, which we never use, had stopped working. So, the
curdled pineapple-milk juice had ended up in the boat's bilge.
After the chores were done, we started discovering what a
terrific island we'd unintentionally come to. We noticed that
while mariners call the island by its Spanish name Providencia,
the locals use the English Providence. Along with Steve
and Mary on S/V Barefoot, we enjoyed a walk around
Catalina island, a Baptist beach party, and a tour by moped
around the island. We also discovered terrific snorkeling
on healthy reefs in the island's clear water. The residents
of Providence are generally of West Indian descent, most
of them speaking both English and Spanish with a Jamaican
accent. However, we found them to be much friendlier than
their neighbors on the other side of the Caribbean Sea. Forget
Simon Bolivar and Che Gavara; we were back in Bob Marley territory.
Now it was reggae and calypso music instead of Latin rap.
Providence turned out to be a delightful destination. Bernardo
advised us that a dinghy has never been stolen in Providence,
and we had no problem leaving ours tied and unlocked on the
public dock. The island is pretty, the water clear, the coral
healthy, and the people friendly. As we often find in cruising,
sometimes when the wind blows you off course, you may discover
Just another day in Paradise. Nick swinging
on a tire at Manchineel
Bay. (Note the frayed rope on the left side of the branch.)
Roland's served us one the best meals we've
had in the Caribbean.
This mixto included stewed conch, grilled lobster tail,
crab claws, tostones (plantains), coconut rice, and slaw.
These little boys gladly posed for a photo.
When Nick showed them
their picture in the preview screen, they said "Gracias."
shocked. Anywhere else, they would have stuck out an empty
palm for money.