It’s the third day of our return to Cartagena’s Club Nautico marina. We lucked out with the current space tie-up and are actually alongside the dock (rather than bow in with no side ties, see commentary below). Our shorelines are tied to vertical cement columns on starboard; we have one line to port from a submerged source (can’t explain this line—it’s not ours but we have it). Getting on and off the boat is challenging, especially in low tide.
Club Nautico marina floats in the Bahia de Cartagena and its core dock is attached to Isla Manga along the Avenida Miramar. There are few traditional slips at Club Nautico. Boats pull up perpendicular to the jigsaw walkways built off the core dock. Once a boat arrives, crew and marina staff perform a frantic dance to thread port and starboard shorelines from either the bow or stern—depending on whether you’ve chosen to come in forwards or backwards—through the latticed boards in the walkways. The crew must then get their boats’ other ends’ shorelines to a diver who ties off to rebar hooks imbedded in concrete bollards laying on the marina’s sea bottom.
Most of the boats moored here are power—set up for fishing or partying—vessels. The spaces they occupy are reserved long term. But, transients like us are allowed to squeeze in if there’s space.
When we first arrived here almost three weeks ago, we stayed for a few days in the anchorage just outside Club Nautico. The marina offers a nominally-priced package of services—dinghy dockage, showers, garbage drop, water, wifi, laundry—to anchored vessels. Given that there are only two marinas (and one of them is private) close to shopping and the old city, Club Nautico is being very generous.
After worsening weather and huge seas forced us to abandon our Kingston, Jamaica transit last Saturday and return to Cartagena, we were surprised and grateful that Club Nautica staff welcomed us back and found us space to recharge. So, I am taking this opportunity to thank Dock Captain Bellasario, for your patience and Marcello Mastroianniesque cool; Kiko for your brave dives into the bahia to securely fasten Cetacean; and, Katiya, Club Nautico Marina Office diva, for helping us find the right resources to survive Cartagena’s bureaucratic jungle.
We hope to leave soon for Kingston, Jamaica. But, we also realize that we need to have back-up plans in case the weather window stays shut for this season. So, today we took a six-mile round-trip walk to a shipyard in El Bosque district. We’d never been in El Bosque before.
We’d no idea what we would encounter along this walkabout; or whether the shipyard was worth seeing. Like any other big city, Cartagena has places that are wonderful to experience; other places that may not be so great. However, we’ve found that Cartagena consistently presents two particular characteristics, and they were definitely in play as we headed for the shipyard. First characteristic: The roadways—residential, city, or highway—they’re ruled by fast moving, impatient truck, bus, automobile and motorcycle operators. Pedestrians are the lowest members of the the mobile food chain. Sidewalks are often unavailable or
narrow, or damaged; or, covered by food carts, construction projects, or parked vehicles. Being a pedestrian can be somewhat terrifying, especially crossing streets. We did a lot of running today!
But there’s that second characteristic: the kindness of strangers. As we neared the shipyard, the neighborhoods became less prosperous and more rundown. The streets were disintegrating and flooded. There was lots of refuse. And yet, we were greeted warmly by everyone we passed, even though we didn’t look like anyone else.
We turned the last corner where we thought the shipyard was, but things were even more rundown and it wasn’t clear where things were. I suppose we looked a bit overwhelmed or lost because a man asked us, “Marina?” and then pointed to our left. He grinned when we nodded and thanked him. How did he know what we wanted?
The shipyard—Marina Club Manzanillo—is much smaller than Club Nautico, doesn’t have any fancy facilities or close-by shopping. It seemed, at first glance, a bit worn. A yard guy came over and said it was “Almuerzo” (lunch) and the office was closed until 1 p.m. And then, he led us to a shaded space, pulled up some chairs and instructed us to wait for just “diez minutos.” We were immediately set upon by six or seven friendly dogs. Looking around, the boats were well-cared for, the yard equipment was sturdy. At 1 p.m., we walked to the office and met Dolores, the office manager. She was another warm and helpful person, asking us all the right questions and then telling us an apartment was available if we chose not to live aboard in the yard. The lift operator explained how Cetacean would be taken out of the water, showed us how her forward shroud would be handled. We felt welcomed and confident we’d found a place to safely keep Cetacean if we couldn’t make Jamaica this season. We had our back-up plan.
We’ll see how it all goes.