The crew of Two Drifters goes coastal cruising in Colombia.
It’s a very rare feeling to be on the cusp of discovering something special; but our few weeks of sailing the Caribbean coast of Colombia has been nothing short of spectacular and totally unique. Colombia is unspoilt, rugged and raw and we feel privileged to have explored so many of its beautiful islands and cities on our catamaran, Two Drifters.
This fascinating country on the northern tip of South America is best known for its civil war, drugs cartels and emeralds. It’s only in the last few years it has opened its doors to tourism; and it still has a long way to go. However, it’s currently doing its utmost to encourage boats to visit and witness Colombia’s real beauty.
Our journey took us on a two-day sail from Aruba to Santa Marta. Sailing the Colombian coastline is exhilarating and very lively at times. The sea can be rough, the swell on the large side and with the constant trade winds, we soon discovered it’s prudent to reef early.
We normally anchor where possible, but opted to stay a week at Marina Santa Marta, which gave us an excellent and secure base from which to explore while they handled our official check-in formalities.
Our excursions included an off-road tour around the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which was one of the best experiences we have ever had. And, complete with Molly, our dog, we also accomplished a 30km hike into the hills around Minca; witnessing waterfalls, coffee plantations, stunning scenery and reputedly the world’s largest hammock!
From Santa Marta, it’s a fast 118-mile downwind sail to Cartagena and easy to do as an overnight passage; although after such an invigorating sail we broke the journey at Puerto Velero.
Cartagena is charming and colourful; versatile and vibrant; mixing an old walled city with an impressive skyline of skyscrapers. It has a very good anchorage and two marinas catering for visiting yachts.
A few hour’s sail from Cartagena is Islas del Rosario, a beautiful group of islands and National Park where the water is clear and clean and the main anchorage at Isla Grande is calm with good holding and great snorkelling. This island offers well-trod paths leading to tiny hamlets, a forest of amazing palm trees, a village square and many bars and restaurants. There’s also a great paddleboard safari between three lagoons interconnected by tunnels cut through the mangrove swamp.
As we neared the end of our tour of Colombia, we had a similar captivating experience exploring Isla Fuerte, a small island 55 miles south of Isla Grande, where the anchorage is tenable in settled conditions.
Two Drifters sailed Colombia as part of an Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) rally and the Colombian Navy - the Armada Nacional - kept a very close eye on us at sea and at anchor. On a few occasions, they stopped at the boat to talk, and are so proud of their country and delighted there’s a return of sailing tourism to Colombia. They are committed to do what they can to protect their waters and the safety of those sailing around them.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to some parts of Colombia. Anyone considering a visit to Colombia is advised to consult the FCO advice at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/Colombia
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