The Columbia passage is 280 nm (nautical miles) from Aruba and we wanted to arrive in daylight. Matt uses several apps for weather, but a new favorite is PredictWind Offshore which is an app that charts your course based on your boat model, and the current wind and wave conditions. We set our sail plan based on the average of several models provided by PredictWind Offshore. Basically, we were looking at a downwind sail with a wind speed average of 17-19 knots and less than 1 meter waves. It predicted we would arrive in 40 hours. Based on this data, we decided to leave Aruba around 1400-1500 with the hopes of arriving Santa Marta around 0800-0900.
We reserved a slip at the Marina Santa Marta arriving on 4 November. The marina’s hours of operation on Saturday are from 0800-1700. If we arrived before 0800 we would have to find a place to anchor or moor. Unfortunately, we were not able to find out if there were any moorings or anchor spots near the marina before we left. The one map that we found showed an anchorage in 10-15 meters of water which is too deep for us as we only have 100 meters of chain.
We always seem to learn a thing or two on each passage. One key learning was that we should have made meals before setting sail. It is not terrible cooking when the boat is on a downwind tack, but it is easier if meals are prepared ahead of time. The day before we left, Matt cooked up a huge batch of fejuiada which is a Brazilian bean stew with pork shoulder, black beans, sausage, spices, onions, tomatoes, and a few other bits of yumminess. We also had an extra meal from Maria (our Venezuelan chef) and tuna salad for sandwiches. We were all set.
At 1400, we pulled up our anchor, raised the main, hoisted the small spinnaker, set our course, and put out the fishing lines and teasers. Our Columbia passage begins.
Matt is sitting at the starboard helm and I am at the port helm. There are fishing polls behind each seat. 2.5 hours into our sail, the fishing pole behind me starts to do a small dance, but doesn’t “zing.” Matt happened to be looking at me and I caught it in my peripheral vision – yep, something is hooked. Matt reeled in a tuna which was pretty small but would still make a great snack! The drag was set too high and our fish was too little which was why it did not zing.
About 45 minutes later, the same line sang out loud “ZING” and spooled out. Before Matt could get to the line, a second line went “ZING” and we suddenly had two “fish on.” I brought in the two teasers as Matt hauled in the next tuna and then pulled in a bigger tuna. Sweet, three big eye tuna’s, two caught on a cedar plug and one on a skirt. We didn’t even have to turn on the engines, slow the boat down, or alter course.
With the freezer full, we decided to pull in the lines so we did not have to worry about them during the night. We were settling back in when a pod of dolphins decided to play with us. They were fairly small dolphins, but very playful and stayed with us for well over a half hour.
Just as I was thinking this sail could not be any better, the sun started to set providing a spectacular sunset!
We decided on 3 hour shifts for the night. Matt took the first shift at 2030 as I took a nap. The rest of the night rotated on and off with only one sail change around 2330. The wind shifted slightly so we had to jibe the sail. We turned the engines on to give us forward motion in order to take the kite down before resetting. All went smoothly and we carried on for the night with just the main and kite flying.
Matt was sleeping (or trying to) as I listened to my music during my 0500 shift. My mom, or the Heavens, or the universe were trying to get my attention, because as the sun was rising, “Alive” by SIA started playing and it just got my blood pumping. Hearing this song at such a majestic moment took my breath away. I am grateful for every waking moment of every day. But some moments are extraordinary reminders of just how far I’ve come – all I can say is “thank you!”
We rounded Peninsula de la Guajira just after sunrise with wind in our main and our spinnaker, we were on track to have a 200 mile day. We were averaging almost 9 knots and had a top speed of over 15! Just cruising along with good winds and waves.
Mid-morning brought another pod of huge dolphins that were out to show off. They were having a good ole time at the bow of our boat. Some would then jet out a 100 yards in front of us and would jump out of the water and flip around. So fabulously fun!
Just before 1100 the winds left us and our boat speed dropped to 3-4 knots. We limped along with both sails up and tried our best to maintain our course. Several hours later, we hit our 24 hour mark and here are our stats:
24 HOUR STATS for Columbia Passage:
- 187 miles sailed (we so wanted to hit 200)
- 15.5 Top speed (awesome speed for us!)
- 7.9 Average speed (far cry from 9)
It was a bit frustrating with just the spinnaker out and no wind. We were forced to use the engines so we turned on the port engine but it would not start! WTF? This is the engine with the new alternator, but that one charges the house batteries, not the starter battery. For $hit $ake. It was not worth running one engine so we continued to limp along without the engines until the winds picked up which was around 1500. We jibbed the spinnaker again and were clicking along at 7-8 knots. Yeah! Life is good.
Both nights were blessed with 95% moon (almost full) which produced a brilliant well lit sky and ocean for us.
Our original arrival time was between 2300 and 2400 when we were averaging almost 9 knots. But with the decreased boat speed, our arrival time changed to 0300-0400. About 15 miles away from our destination, we had to take the spinnaker down and turn on the engines in order to make the marina. To our surprise, port started right up (thank goodness), but starboard was not spitting water, which is not good. The engines intake sea water to keep them cool so spitting water is imperative. Matt primed it–nothing. He replaced the impeller–nothing. It wasn’t until he re-tightened the hose clamps and primed it again, that it finally started spitting water. We were back in business. We did not want to learn how difficult it would be to anchor or pull into a slip with one engine.
It is never ideal to arrive to a new place in the dark, but we had no choice. We slowly motored around the anchorage just outside the marina with the hopes of finding a shallow place to drop the hook. Luckily, I saw a boat just outside the marina entrance so we headed toward her, dropped the hook, and fell fast asleep! And with that, the Columbia Passage comes to an end…Good Night.
FINAL STATS for Columbia Passage:
- 278 miles sailed (we so wanted to hit 200)
- 15.5 Top speed
- 7.2 Average speed
- 38:45 Moving time