Captain's Log, Stardate:

1/8/06

Arrived Cartagena, Colombia!

Hi again: If you respond to this email, please do not return a copy of it to me.  Our internet connection is not the best down here!  If you do not wish to receive these "travelogues" anymore, click Reply and place "Remove" in the subject line.
After narrowly avoiding inviting a pirate aboard (see 11/13/05 email), Rich and Chris arrived in Margarita as planned and the four of us set off for Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles. 

It just about broke my heart but after leaving the Coast of Margarita, we had to motor nearly all the way to Tortuga and later, nearly all the way to Los Roques.  However, "With every bit of bad in the world, there is some good!"  With no wind, the seas are flat.  And when they are flat, you can see the slightest disturbance on the surface.  So I brought a lawn chair and the binoculars out on the foredeck to s ee if anything was disturbing the surface.  Sure enough, within thirty minutes I could see birds swarming over a patch of ocean off the port bow.  I brought the remote control out on deck and began vectoring us toward the activity.  As we got closer, you could see a feeding frenzy going on.  Dozens of birds were joining forces with hungry tuna to apply nature's form of population control on schools of some sort of bait fish.  The tuna would break water in their zeal so you could see exactly what it was that would make the rod & reel sing a minute or two later, as the lure passed over the same place in the water.  Sure enough, we hooked a nice sized tuna which fed the four of us plus the couple we were "buddy boating" with, Dave and Audrey on Maxolar. We spent a day snorkeling around Isla Tortuga, some 45 miles N. of the South American Coast.  On Nov. 24, we left at 9:30 p.m. for Los Roques, a Venezuelan marine park some 100 mi distant.  It's standard procedure to leave in the dark on long passages in order to reach your reef-strewn destination in good light the next day.  But alas, the wind again died on us and we had to motor.  And once again, I was on watch the next morning, out on deck armed with the binoculars scanning the glassy smooth seas.  Sure enough, faint activity on the horizon grew slowly into another feeding frenzy, with only a small change in course.  But this frenzy was different from any we had ever seen before;  There were three whales amongst all the tuna, bait fish, and birds!  When approached, they would only sound for a few minutes although they more typically stay under for 15-30 minutes.  Hence, we were able to easily plot an intercept heading.  Of course we slowed way down so as not to frighten or harass them.  They paid us no heed and one came right along side and, apparently swam upside down.  We assume it did because it was white from head to toe.  If it was right side up, then either it was a beluga . . . or Moby Dick!  The water was too warm at 84 degrees for the first, and the whale too small, at 35 feet or so, for the second.  So it must have been just a playful whale happy to see us like its smaller cousins, the dolphins. This email will get to be too long if I tell you all about the TWO dolphin escorts we had on the way to Curaçao so I won't. We sailed on to Bonaire and then Curaçao where Rich, Chris, and Mary all flew home for the Holidays while I waited for crew to help me sail the long, arduous--and some say dangerous--passage to Cartagena, Colombia.  My Russian friend, Sasha, arrived for that purpose and together, along with the trimaran Maxolar, we set off for Cartagena.  Again, we caught more tuna than we could eat even though we ate fresh fish every night.   I said I wouldn't mention the other TWO dolphin escorts we had on the way to Curaçao but how about a photo of the one given Sasha and me on our way to Cartagena?  Sorry.  It's hard not to talk about them! Although we caught lots of fish, several of the fish we hooked got off before they made it to the boat.  So Sasha kept giving me advice on how to gently play the fish so as to tire them out first, etc. That got old after a while.  Not that I'm defensive, but nonetheless seeking a way to stop it, I proposed a fishing contest.  He could have one pole and I would take the other. I proposed he take the new rod and reel on starboard.  I found a nice lure but it was bigger and fancier than mine and had a pretty heavy lead head. It was yellow and green with red in the feathers and green beads above the hook for a couple of inches plus the ubiquitous eyeballs.  It was so big, I figured he would never catch anything with it and I would win the contest which was based on number--not weight--of fish caught.  Brilliant!  So when the blue marlin he caught turned out to weigh some 225 LB I pointed out it nonetheless counted merely as "one fish!" Sasha asked for no help as he fought it for over an hour.  We were making 7-7.5 kts under spinnaker and mainsail in 10-12 kts of wind.  It threatened to take out all the line so I slowed the boat down by bringing the main amidships.  I got down on the last swim step with the thought of removing the lure and releasing the fish.  I was able to grab the fish's bill with my gloved hand and pull it toward me to try and disengage the hook from its bill (close to the mouth), as I've seen on TV programs.  After getting a good grip on its bill--but not my senses--I pulled it toward my chest so I could reach the lure.  It then occurred to me, a couple of swishes with that mighty tail and I would be impaled!  Instead, I just cut the line.  So Sasha now holds the record for the largest fish caught on this and my last boat combined!  What a way to lose a fishing contest, huh?  They say golf matches are decided on the first tee when the handicaps are negotiated.  Interestingly, while Sasha was fighting the marlin, I caught another nice tuna, landed it, and cleaned it.  Also of interest, the marlin hit while Sasha was cleaning a tuna.  Does chumming help?  Maybe so. Notice that long, smoothly tapered bill! But sometimes the weather is so rough no one wants to fish and that's the way it was the day we crossed the effluent of the Rio Magdalena.  Some of the waves were 12 feet high.  Normally, I wouldn't be out in weather like that but it's not so bad when the wind and waves are behind you.  It's awe inspiring to be so close to such power and I never tire of it.  It's also hard to describe and even a photo will not convey situation very well.  But I think two photos might.  Here are two shots taken seven seconds apart.  Note that there is no water visible in the first photo whatsoever, just blue sky! Wheeeee!  You gotta love an autopilot that can handle quartering seas like that! Sasha and I got a couple of good days of sightseeing in the old Spanish city of Cartagena before he had to fly back to Los Angeles.  The most impressive is the fortress of San Felipe which defended the Spanish treasures collected from the Incas.  It was a prime target for the French and English privateers who figured since the gold and silver had already been stolen once, there would be no harm in stealing it again.  Although Francis Drake sacked the city in 1580, once San Felipe was completed, all future attempts to crash its walls failed including the month long siege in 1740 by Edward Vernon (the namesake of George Washington's home).  Vernon prepared to attack with 186 ships but found that if he got close enough to reach the fort with canon fire, his ships would be destroyed. You don't need to walk the treadmill on the day you chose to visit the top of San Felipe! We still have some space aboard for March and April, cruising from San Andreas and Providencia "around the corner" to the Bay Islands of Honduras.  Check out http://www.escapecay.com/ if you're interested.  We'd love to have you down!  And--I know this is a long shot--if you need an apartment in W. St. Paul, MN, please check out our building at http://www.ccmanor.com/ . If you respond to this email, please do not return a copy of it to me.  Our internet connection is not the best down here! Hope all is well with you and your family! ~~~~_/)Lee~~~~~~~~~~_/)_/)~_/)_/)~~_/)~~~~_/)