San Andres. Meh.
So there we were in San Andres, Colombia. It’s a small island off of the coast of Nicaragua – almost due West (a long ways) from mainland Colombia. Mike and Laura on Gilana (from San Blas) were there and I was very happy for their company. They were enamored with San Andres. Me? Meh.
It was, certainly, our first touch with civilization for many months (excluding Cayman). To that end, we were quite happy to have access to Chinese takeout, good beer, Internet access, etc. The issue is that San Andres is a tourist trap. The kind of place that drives me insane after a couple of weeks. The antidote was Providencia – a smaller and more local island just North of San Andres.
The largest issue, though, was the lack of computer (two had taken a soaking, leaving me with none). There was a shop in San Andres and none in Providencia. That kept us in San Andres. So we dropped off both computers at a shop in San Andres. They told me it would be 4 days. To avoid boring you with the back and forth – allow me to shorten the computer story: nearly a month later I was still without a working computer. True story.
For a month we were in a constant state of limbo: it was possible we were leaving that day, possibly not. All depending upon the computer. To use a Texan expression – the computer repair shop was as useless as tits on a boar hog.
A month in limbo
So what does one do when in limbo? We drank. We ate. We provisioned. We picked up small things for the boat. We battled the watermaker and the freezer and the batteries and the lack of freshwater. We overpaid to have our clothes washed. We ate. We ate. We ate. We played lots of chess, averaging about three games a day. To blow off some steam we took a boat-break and took advantage of hotwater showers and good WiFi in a couple of hotels.
We made up games to play. One of them we called The Unicorn Hunt. Ana and I would spend a good part of the day drinking and people watching – the goal being to find a good-looking member of the opposite sex. Surprisingly it was pretty difficult in San Andres. Whereas in Cartagena, Colombia… well… I will say that Ana made a good point – apparently good-looking male Colombians are in shorter supply. The biggest issue in San Andres is that freediving is a challenge. Being that freediving is my recreation and my exercise – this was more than a minor inconvenience.
Eventually, after all of the delays and fighting and waiting and frustration with the computer – I just decided to head to Bocas and skip Providencia altogether. In Bocas life would be a lot easier, though more expensive. I could put the boat in a marina and relax for a bit. In Bocas I could surf and have some semblance of a social life. There were beaches to explore. There were bars to become regulars at. New friends to make, long nights to begin.
Eventually we got one computer partially repaired and got a refund for the other and loaded everything and took off on what we knew would be a crap sail.
The trip to Bocas
Very little to say. We knew we would have about 1/2 the trip motoring. I hate motoring. But since I’d had a month in limbo in San Andres – I knew exactly what we were getting into. Well. It was much the same as far as squalls.
So I was up most of the time, avoiding and managing squalls. The other part of the time I was up paying attention to the mechanical boatstuff (which is part of the gig when you motor long distances). Eventually Bocas came into view. I was so happy.
We had a reservation at Bocas Marina. So I anchored just off of the marina, went in and cleared everything, and then tied the boat up at the dock. Now, this is the first time I have ever (willingly) put NOMAD in a marina. Marinas are for softies or for storing your boat. The kind of sailing/cruising I like to do is a polar opposite from what you see in the marinas. But all of that said – marinas are comfortable. They have hot water and plenty of it. They have WiFi and electricity and people that can work on your boat. In a marina you have neighbors (for better or worse). It’s kind of a boat-neighborhood.
Even with all of the positives of a marina, they really aren’t my cup of tea. Nonetheless I chose a marina. I chose the marina because I was tired. Tired of fighting everything. Tired of fixing everything. Tired of crap crossings. Tired of squalls. Just f*cking tired.
And this relates to the lack of posting here as well. The truth is, I needed a break. Living this kind of life is challenging for even a strong-willed couple. Living this kind of life, and being responsible for so much, as a solo-sailor is an entirely different beast. Those moments of terror and those periods of negativity weigh more. Especially as a younger sailor. I would say the average age of the cruising crowd is between 50 and 60. Nearly twice my age. Not a huge problem – but I’ve been doing this for over two years, full time. All of this wears on you. Add in the constant drain on your bank account (the water-based money-pit we call “boats”)… Well, it was just time for a break.
Bocas Del Toro
Bocas is a rad place. A cool surf town. It’s got enough gringo to make things easier (and more expensive), but not so much that you feel like you’ve transplanted from one American beach town to another. I like it. That said, there is no real spearfishing. That’s a deal-killer, no matter how much I try to replace “spearfishing” with other things like surfing, kiting, etc.
Ana was on her way out. She had a job on a boat in San Blas. I was ready for a long Netflix marathon only broken up by surfing and eating. We did a bit of cleaning up. We did a bit of provisioning. I repaired a few things. And then Ana left and I started my Netflix/surfing/eating marathon. It was glorious and far too short.
In Bocas Marina there are three Lagoon 380’s, including the boat directly behind me on the dock. Interestingly enough the one behind me is owned by a young Israeli guy. My age, great surfer. I know freediving, he knows surfing – and shortly there was one of those “I teach you X, you teach me Y” pacts.
Possibly more importantly, I recognized that the folks on the Israeli boat probably know a bit about hummus. And when I say “a bit” I mean “a lot.” I love hummus. So I agreed to make a special dish for them if they’d come over and teach me hummus. All was agreed and set and I got my hummus lesson. There was much to improve upon, apparently. They have hummus down to an art. A very tasty art.
I made a typical Nate-blunder when it was my turn to cook for them. You see, I have an aversion to religion and all of the things that come along with it (divisiveness, strange hats worn for obscure purposes, food-rules established many thousands of years ago, early mornings, ritualistic cannibalism, etc).
And my special dish, which I was preparing for the Israelis, is a Filipino dish called Pork Adobo. Right. They are Israelis and I planned on cooking them pork and I didn’t, even for a moment, consider that some people don’t eat pork for religious reasons. The reasoning is simple: that’s a sacrifice I can’t imagine making. Not eat bacon? No pork chops? Insanity.
In Asia they eat dogs, but in America dogs are treated better than many humans in other countries. Nothing is safer than a pig in Jerusalem. In India, they’ll starve and let the cows live with them like Gods. The world is a strange place.
Needless to say, my pork dish didn’t go over so well with the Israelis. Having spent so much time in the Middle East – you would think that little hiccup would have been more obvious to me…
A Real Boat-Break
We’ve established that I needed a boat-break. Something, anything, off of the boat and without the daily fights and worries and challenges that come with managing and living (full-time) on a large boat in foreign countries.
The elixir came in the form of an invite from some very-good friends of mine, met in San Blas. We also cruised with them extensively, and often exclusively, in Cuba. Great people from a tiny and not-so-well-known country: Namibia.
You see, Jaco and Cristelle (said friends), were going home (Namibia) for awhile. I’ve always wanted to see Africa, but the real Africa. Not some organized tour-group the takes you between Radisson hotels and exclusive lodges. I want to meet the real people and travel the country in a real way. I want to see the challenges. I want to shop in the local supermarkets. I want to eat what the locals eat. Do what the locals do. I want to take an shot at really understanding some of Africa. Which is what Jaco and Cristelle’s invite offered.
Eventually, after playing with some budgets, I managed to squeeze water from a rock: enough dinero for the trip. Tickets were booked. I was flying halfway across the world to hang out with friends in their homeland. An exotic place, surely.
I’m here now. I’m in Namibia. In Africa. It’s both what I expected and not. Stark contradictions. A tough land that makes people tough. Namibia is not as “settled” as other countries and in this is it’s beauty.