We have been in Cartagena
for two months and it is a delightful city below the hurricane
belt. While the trip from the ABC´s to Cartagena
has a bad reputation for high seas, we motored it in a dead calm! Pick your weather
window. The prefered entry to the harbor is through Boca Grande which is well marked but narrow and listed at 7ft depth
at low tide but I have been through it 6 times and never seen less than 9 ft.
The Old City is a marvelous place, lovely restaurants, museums and old forts. A 10 min taxi ride into the old city from the marinas
costs $3 and there are more taxis than cars.
There are two marinas
near town. Club De La Pesca is expensive, hard to get a slip but with great security
. Club Nautico is reasonably priced, a little rough and has marginal security
but allows more extensive boat work
than Club De La Pesca. We are there and we have two excellent carpenters relaying, recauking and sanding
my teak deck
, working an industrious 8 hour day, for $100/day for the pair. Club Nautico´s docks can become very dangerous when big squalls come in from the south. We are stern to and have a 55 kilo anchor
out on long scope
and 3 heavy lines to the bow mooring
blocks to the seaward
side. Our stern is 8 ft from the dock
, there is a boat
on the dock
with a one ft hole in her stern.
The boat yards have good inexpensive workers but charge US prices for liftout and storage
and add a premium to the cost of outside contractors working on your boat. However, they do allow you to work
on your own boats
The work force is excellent, hard working and competent, carpenters and fiberglassers cost $7/hour. Canvas
work is good and costs 35% of US prices even paying US+50% for the sunbrella. The only service
that approaches US prices is stainless steel
work. If you come to get work done buy the parts
and raw materials in Panama
, the US or even Budget Marine
in the Caribbean
. This also applies to bottom paint
(beer is $4.50 a six pack) but imported boat parts
are US+50% or more.
Cruisers are making reasonable incomes in an unofficial trade
transporting backpackers from Cartagena to Panama
and back. The land routes are thought to be too dangerous and the backpackers pay $250 to $400 for a 5 day trip including a 2 day layover in the San Blas islands. Even the 35 ft boats are taking up to 6 customers and there is one 45 ft cat that takes up to 12 people and 3 motor
bikes. There are about 12 boats in the backpacker trade
and most get customers for both legs but as more boats get into the trade competition is lowering the profit margin.
The anchorage has reasonable holding but security is marginal, the Coast Guard patrol the anchorage but the cruisers net says 20+ dinghys have been stolen this year and in the last two months there has been a stabbing of a cruiser on land, a female cruiser thrown in the harbor and this week an Ausie found a robber onboard but won the fight. More than half the violence is conected with the fact that the Columbian boats in the backpacker transport trade are resentful of the American and the German boats in the trade.
In conclusion, Cartagena is a great place to hide from hurricanes and get good work done at a third of US prices but security requires constant vigilance.