25th August 2022
Spanish Waters, Curaçao
The sail from Curaçao to Colombia is reported to be the 5th most difficult sailing passage in the world. The high mountains create massive katabatic winds that reach far offshore, the Punta De La Guajira on the Venezuelan border funnels the trade winds leading to massive wind acceleration, and waves build to colossal heights above the steeply rising seabed. Finally adding to this ‘fun’, heat from the south American continent manifests itself in constant unrelenting lightening. Traversing these phenomena was to be Ruffian’s next challenge and so we were playing a waiting game hoping we’d not be beaten up too badly.
Usually when we wait for weather it’s a simple case of watching the wind. This time we had a whole new index to watch; the cape index. ‘Cape’ shows how much energy is in the air and if this energy mixes with moisture, then thunderstorms and squalls increase. We therefore had to watch wind, waves, cape, moisture, and temperature allowing us make a decision as to when to leave.
While waiting, weather webcasts* were constant companions. Every day we watched and every day we waited. While waiting we conducted rib checks, replaced string, changed knots for splices and checked and rechecked Ruffian.
Hoping that he had resolved all the navigation lighting issues back in Bonaire, Iain decided to once again check that all was well at the top of the mast. As darkness fell, in turn all the lights were switched on making Ruffian look like the Blackpool illuminations and all but the most important lights worked. Corrosion was still an enemy and corrosion had made its way into and through the deck fitting.
Iain decided the only way to beat the corrosion was to get ‘agricultural’. By the end of his fettling, gone were the tiny brass connectors, gone was the thin rubber boot and gone were the fiddly screws holding fragile lengths of wire. In time, when Ruffian gets back to a world of marine stores and Amazon, the state-of-the-art** connections will be reinstated, but in the meantime, butyl tape, chocolate boxes and whole heap of over engineering will have to do.
The continued waiting took us to beaches and water where huge anchors sat waiting to be discovered, wrecks asked to be explored and wildlife simply ignored us. In the warm shallows we happened across schools of tiny thumb sized juvenile squid who changed colour in an instant and, in the deep blue water, eagle rays swam and danced hoovering up every morsel of sustenance that they could find.
One big problem with all this waiting were all those goodbyes we made in Bonaire had to be made again. Boat after boat who we’d said goodbye to anchored around us and once again we were forced to say ‘cheery-bye now’ over happy hour beers while the sun set.
Keeping a constant eye on all the weather variables we could see conditions which would allow us to get to Colombia and so we started setting up for our departure. As Chris Parker started his webcast in his comfortable Californian home we were sitting outside customs, laptop in hand, waiting for his A-Ok. When he gave it, the waiting could stop, the check-out could begin and another country would soon be on the horizon.
* Amazingly Chris Parker offers free daily webcasts giving a detailed view of the weather and we’re so impressed that we’ve actually subscribed to his extended service for a year.
** Not really state of the art but 1988 Dri-Plugs that are as rare as chicken’s teeth.
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