Rincon del Mar
After hopping around the Rosarios, Exodus set course for the San Bernardo island group. Having a boat full of visitors implies one needs to restock frequently, therefore we first stopped at Rincon del Mar, a small village on the main land. We were pleasantly surprised to find a slumbering fisherman’s hamlet that over the years welcomed the odd B&B or hostel and managed to become a low key hub for backpackers.
There were no big shops, but many small tiendas offering fresh fruit and vegetables. Sufficient to buy or order the essentials to feed 7 people.
We were just settling in after a nice stroll and some beach time when we saw the weather pick up. We saddled up for a speedy return to Exodus: The boys on the kayak. The rest of us on the dinghy, fighting the chop.
As we approached the mothership, Gitane remarked: “Look at the dinghy, there is water coming through”. And indeed, the transom had ripped on one side, allowing the sea to peek through and gush in. We just made it back on time. Closer inspection taught us that underneath its immaculate grey paint the marine plywood had slowly rotten away. The excess weight (4 adults, Gitane and some shopping) and choppy conditions only hastened the process of deterioration and made happen what was going to happen in any case at some stage…
Being anchored out quite far from the beach, with 7 people on board we had to look into the transport to and fro Exodus as a matter of urgency.
We looked around in Rincon del Mar for a replacement dinghy. Nothing suitable was to be found. One option was to try and patch up the dinghy, but it was doubtful Rincon would stock the right materials. We might have to go back to Cartagena and get the stuff there. But we already spent a lot of time fixing the dinghy in Bocas and felt reluctant to do yet another patch job. Doing it well would not be a quick job.
Some lateral thinking got us looking for a different type of tender boat, and we prowled around the village and its beaches measuring and weighing the fishing boats on the beach.
With the weekend coming up, we decided to ponder on the different possibilities while visiting La Palma.
Isla Palma is also known as Isla Salamanquilla, ghost island and pirate island. Local lore has it that at night you can hear rattling chains, eery shrieks, people screaming their lungs out, and so on. The island is haunted by the ghosts of pirates and their victims… A must see, in other words…
We arrived at this picture perfect spot in the middle of the day, with our biggest challenge being to find a proper anchor spot. As you might see on the aerial picture, there is shallow reef all around the island. The spotters were having an exciting time navigating through all the coral structures and finally managed to drop the anchor in the only sandy spot to be found. We all enjoyed some good snorkeling perusing through the coral patches like parks and gardens populated by the usual reef fish.
We settled in for the night, enjoyed one of the spectacular sunsets and retired to our onboard cinema room.
At about 9pm the chop picked up quite intensely. The wind blew strongly, and there was some kind of crosscurrent running that wedged the boat in an uncomfortable rocking horse position. Exodus would lift her bow high out of the water, smash it down and subsequently buckle her tail back and lift her bottoms out in the air to come crashing down with her full weight. We were in the middle of a movie when we heard a loud clanking noise. The pirata ghosts? Nope! Exodus was bucking that badly that our gas bottle had jumped off its pedestal into the water. Still attached by the hose and regulator, the bottle was putting the spurs on Exodus’s buttocks. We salvaged the bottle and dug in to sit out the weather. At about 11pm, the rocking horse picked up speed and resembled a wild rodeo ride. The wind was howling and serious weather was heading our way. We had enough. Last thing we needed was to start dragging during the night and land up on the shallow reef! In the dark of night, we lifted anchor, rain hammering, wind wailing. All adults on deck looking for a more protected spot. But the pirate ghosts would not let us go that easily. They kept the dinghy for ransom. They ripped off one of the ropes to tow the dinghy. More water entered through the broken transom and tore the rotten plank completely. Bye bye dinghy, drifting off by itself in the stormy night… We were left with a length of rope and a piece of rotten wood as a reminder….
Back to Rincon
With that decision made for us, two options were left: go back to Cartagena and start looking for a second hand dinghy or go back to Rincon and make a plan there….
We opted for Rincon and resumed our measuring and weighing of local fishing boats on the beach. This of course drew some attention. Just when we thought we would have to sail back to Cartagena to explore the second hand dinghy market over there, lady luck smiled at us. We were referred to boat builder Francisco, also known as Pacho, who makes all the glass fibre canettas in and around town. He has two sizes of molds. We picked the smaller and therefore lighter version so we are able to lift her with 2 people.
Pacho agreed to modify the back and insert a transom to mount an outboard on. She would fit easily on Exodus’s front deck. It would take 5 days to build her from scratch, as soon as the cash deposit was made for the materials. The closest ATM was in the next town, San Ofore, about 25 km away. Pacho organised us a local car and we were lucky to find an ARA (inexpensive supermarket) next to the bank. At least we could do a proper restock for bulk foods (pasta, rice, milk, coffee, cans, ….)!
Having organised all that, we were ready for more sailing.
Our next destinations would have to be places where we could anchor relatively close to the beach. Having only 1 kayak for 7 people, is like a crash course for fitness. You are either rowing or swimming to land or the next snorkel spot. One person serves as a ferry man on the kayak and goes up and down a few times to bring everyone, their bags as well as the flipflops and clothes of the swimmers to land.
We visited Punto San Bernardo, where we went for a long walk in the reserve and came across a very nice treehouse and beach swing in one of the bed and breakfast places.
We stopped in a protected bay close to Baru village. We could not go into the laguna as the entrance was too shallow for Exodus, but we did check out the village with the kayak. The dusty plein with its big old church reminesced of a spaghetti western. It felt like Clint Eastwood lurked behind the corner, toying with his revolver or John Wayne with a big Stetsan hat cocking his rifle for a quick shootout with some outlaws. Apart from the church square, neither the good, the bad and the ugly, nor any quick draw duels were to be had. Just a plain, poor village with trash lying around.
The village is also too close to the touristic hotspot Playa Blanca, where the whole of Cartagena goes for a nice day on the beach. Picture rows and rows of beach chairs and umbrellas, lots of people with jetskis screeching past in the swimzone and lots of hustling. No place for us. We had observed the circus through our binoculars and had wisely carried on. As most of the people in Baru village are employed or derive their livelihoods from the touristic side the hustling is also present in the village. Drunkards trying to talk you into guarding your kayak or adamantly trying to accompany you on your walk because clearly you need a tour guide to find your way around a 5 street town, or negotiating a ‘good’ price for you (+ 20% commission for him). It immediately put us off to be regarded as walking wallets and easy rip-offs. Even though we were anchored outside the laguna, in a quiet spot of the bay, we did not feel like hanging around very long and waiting for things to spontaneously disappear from our boat.
Even after we got the new tender boat, our transport problem was not solved immediately. Having no indian blood running in our veins it did take a while to get used to our superlight-eager-to-rock’n roll-canoe. We ran some experiments with stabilisors: 2 fenders mounted on a paddle with duct tape. This proved to be a great improvement.
From there on our captain worked out the kit we had to buy in Cartagena to pimp our canetta before we could take on any passengers: plastic tubes, bends and PVC glue.
And since then, we have continued to improve the design. We made proper mounts.
The latest improvement was to add a rubber mat on either side as a splash cover.
We spend more time on Isla Grande, as everything we need is easily accessible and available there (diving, beach, food).
Another interesting place we visited was on the deserted side of Playa Blanca. The resort area was far across the bay, and therefore of no bother to us.
We could anchor relatively close to the beach and walk around in the dry rainforest, part of the national park. We had our anchor spot all to ourself and Exodus was swinging over the rocky reef. We didn’t even have to swim to see loads of fish.There wasn’t much colourful coral around but there were plenty of reef fish.
On our daily dives (several times a day), we saw the biggest population of squirrel fish we had ever seen. At least 7 trumpet fish enamoured with a big underwater log, 9 playful baby squid, a normal and a dark porcupine puffer fish, 3 moray eels, several groupers and an eagle ray were resident to this area.
It was also special to wake up to the sound of ara’s and parrots, and being put to bed by the sound of cicada’s and crickets. On one of our walks on land, we spotted turtle nests.