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Old 20-10-2016, 19:13   #1
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Passage from Aruba to Santa Marta Columbia

Hi all,
We have just finished sailing from Florida all through the Caribbean and now have headed west. ABC's were awesome but now (Actually end of Nov.) we plan on heading around the corner to Columbia. I have heard this can be a very rough passage so I am looking for first hand experience on what the go or no go conditions should be and what to look out for. We are willing to go based on weather not schedule so its important to me to not get "hammered" as Bruce Van Sant would say. We have a 48 Catamaran. Routes and Comments appreciated.
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Old 20-10-2016, 20:13   #2
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Re: Passage from Aruba to Santa Marta Columbia

We did it last year and had a wonderful sail, if you are getting 25 to 30 knots it's a great sail downwind or broad reaching. Just wait for a decent forecast and don't sail too far out and you'll have a great sail. We stopped at a nice anchorage enroute by the name of Cabo De La Vela which means the Cape of the wind and it's well named as being a headland it really hoots but once around the corner there is not much fetch and the holding is good. Quite a few fishermen work the area. No need to go to far out from land sailing to Santa Marta. You'll have to stay in the marina there but it's sort of reasonable, the coal dust keeps you rinsing your boat but the City is wonderful, especially at night. It used to be a favorite hang out for the drug lords but those days are over. Lots of stuff to see and unlike the Eastern Islands Colombia is loaded with culture. That city was founded in the 1500's so it's got lots to see and experience. Have a great sail, you'll love the experience and don't be too intimidated by the armchair sailors that see it as a very tough sail, it can be if you chose to but just get a decent forecast and you'll be good to go. October/November are supposed to be the better months but we sailed it in early January and all was good.
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Old 21-10-2016, 15:00   #3
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Re: Passage from Aruba to Santa Marta Columbia

Just ran this route, and on to Panama, on a Lagoon 38 about month ago.

Take a look at pilot charts for the region...summer months are the most settled. Its that area of larger seas that builds off Colombia that, justifiably (it can get quite nasty), worries many, but it settles down during the summer months. That is when when most of the Colombian sport fishing boats make their trips to Panama and vice versa.

As suggested, stick close to shore for more settled weather, but if in summer really not an issue.

We had light to moderate winds along the entire route from Curašao - Santa Marta - Cartagena. Had some very nice night sails.

We did encounter a few squalls along the way, a huge beast of one near Cartegena, but used RADAR to avoid any really heavy weather. One electrical storm formed right over us that was a bit disconcerting, but no damage done.

I assume you will be continuing on to at least Cartagena (wonderful city!). If so, give the Rio Magdelena a wide berth...we were about 10 miles out and still encountered lots of debri in the water. We also anchored behind Cabo de Vela and took a nice afternoon break so as to time our approach to Cartagena for day light.

For the Cartagena to Panama leg both wind an current get more complicated (I can provide details on that if you want).
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Old 21-10-2016, 15:46   #4
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Re: Passage from Aruba to Santa Marta Columbia

We had lots of speed....
30-35kt of downwind. Huge seas. Surfed 22kts. Not good in a catamaran (38ft).Got problem steering but we worked it out. Had lost one engine and couldn't go upwind to reef (had one reef in) untll next morning by pulling it down during 6-7 gybes. A week later we found out that the rudder had snapped....
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Old 21-10-2016, 16:25   #5
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Re: Passage from Aruba to Santa Marta Columbia

All the above is true, but I would cross the Magdalena river closer to the coast, lika 1 mile, so the debris field is shorter, but that is after Sta Marta. We did Bonaire to San Blas in one hop. We dis see over 14 knots off there, and we usually sail around 6, so it can really be fun.
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Old 21-10-2016, 17:19   #6
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Re: Passage from Aruba to Santa Marta Columbia

Pick a night with no moon. You don't want to see what's going on around you while surfing down the waves. The sound of the ocean was scary enough. Our relative wind speed was 15 to 25 on the anemometer. GPS showing 8-13 kts, and this in a Westerly 36. I told my wife that things will settle down after sunset, which was true but it was 6 hours after sunset.

This was in the 90's and we had been cruising the Eastern Caribbean for 4 years and become a little soft in the belly and a overconfident. The trip to Panama was a wakeup call. The trades seem to be funneled around the top of South America and accelerate and the waves have a very long fetch. Double check your steering system before casting off from Aruba and stay on the boat,,, there is no turning back.
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Old 22-10-2016, 03:42   #7
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Re: Passage from Aruba to Santa Marta Columbia

Quote:
Originally Posted by sy_gilana View Post
All the above is true, but I would cross the Magdalena river closer to the coast, lika 1 mile, so the debris field is shorter, but that is after Sta Marta. We did Bonaire to San Blas in one hop. We dis see over 14 knots off there, and we usually sail around 6, so it can really be fun.
That could be a viable option, but my concern would be increased possibility of larger debri.

We chose to run 8-10 miles off because from the Google Earth image that appeared to be about where the plume ended. We only encountered small debri like water hyacinths and slightly discolored water.

Either way I would plan to cross the Magdelena area during day light...cant dodge what you cant see. We left Santa Marta in time for a day time crossing of this area, then took a break at Cabo de Vela (AKA Puerto Valero) to time our approach to Cartagena for day time.
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Old 23-10-2016, 16:09   #8
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Re: Passage from Aruba to Santa Marta Columbia

Did the trip from Aruba to Panama last season. Yes the stories are true! My advice is to treat it like rounding a cape with about 1.5kn current against wind. There is no adverse current but the sea state seams to be what you would expect if the where. Dont know why but probably to do with compression zones. Make sure you autopilot and steering are spot on because they will get some testing. That said there are many worse passages and if it was not in the Caribbean people would probably take no notice, it is just bad reletive to a very benign sea area.
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Old 23-10-2016, 17:26   #9
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Re: Passage from Aruba to Santa Marta Columbia

If you look at Pilot Charts for the area then the bigger seas dont build until December (on average anyway) and then they are isolated to a smallish area W of Santa Marta. Image of area from Pilot Chart from Dec attached. The area outlined in red with "10" on the red line indicates an area where seas 12' or larger can be expected 10% of the time.

December is also when the Trades start to fill back in E Panama and blow until about April. The area of high seas off Colombia stays active during these seasonal trade winds, but is no longer shown on Pilot Charts by April.

This area of bigger seas can vary a LOT in size and intensity. A couple of years ago it expanded W all the way to the San Blas!
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