The weather forecast called for rain in the afternoon but it turned out not to be the case. We had all the rain in the morning and it only dried up close to lunch time when all the guests were returning to the ship, as departure was scheduled for 1300 hrs. It gave a very sunny sail away, but a rather wet port call. For those of you who are familiar with the area; when it rains, it does rain, better said, it pours. The rain might be warm but you still get soaking wet. The ship was docked by 0700 hrs. in the morning to give everybody maximum time in port and most guests took indeed the opportunity to do just that. I normally have breakfast at 0700 hrs. in the morning but it was standing room only in the Lido and thus I awaited a better time. Never interfere with people ready to mount an invasion.
Cartagena is located partly along the coast of the Caribbean Sea, the lower West part. That is the Western side of the City but the port is located around a large inland bay, which for the city is laying at the East Side. It is a very large bay and it is sheltered. It takes nearly an hour to get from the entrance to the cruise dock in the top of the harbor. As long as you can get through the entrance, you are in safe waters.
The entrance is narrow and is called Boca Chica. What is narrow can be easily controlled and defended and it is this combination of narrow with a very large bay, which made it a coveted place. Already in the 16th. Century the world powers were quarreling over it. The British fought the Spanish here, the Dutch created mayhem here; basically everybody who was somebody in the good old days had a go at the area. However the Spanish influence has always been the greatest as can be seen nowadays from the fact that it is a Spanish speaking Country. Gun emplacements and Forts are located on either side of the entrance and date back to the days of the Spanish.
I have been coming here since 1982. The first call was with the old Statendam (III) which was then on her last voyage (Capt. Aad Hess) before being sold to Paquet cruises. I had heard the stories but now I saw with my own eyes what a real Middle American (or a northerly located South American port) looked like. Cartagena had not yet made the transition to a container port, security was non existent and cleanliness was a word mainly found in a dictionary. The docks were still covered by the old sheds from the days that all the goods were stored there until loaded by hand onto the ships. As nobody really cleaned up I saw the biggest rats I have ever seen. But according to most crew on board it was a happy place. Happy Shopping, Happy Prices, Happy Hour, plenty Happy Ladies……… and plenty Happy Rats. I was not impressed. Although the city itself was very beautiful and interesting.
Things were not really that safe in the following years, due to the emerging drug cartels which used Cartagena as an export base, and for a while afterwards the cruise ships did not call anymore. Then containerization came and with it the whole port was cleaned out. Now there are nice docks, good infrastructure and the ships started to come back. I think that most of the Happy stuff is still there as well but it is now far removed from the Container Port; which now doubles up as the Cruise Terminal.
As mentioned yesterday, we have to get to the canal on time and thus we sailed at 1300 hrs. The schedule for the Transit has come in and tomorrow 28 Oct., is an early one.
0500: Breakwater at Cristobal
0630 – 0835 Gatun Locks
1335 – 1415 Pedro Miguel Locks
1430 – 1445 Miraflores locks
(Which means we could be back in open sea by 1600 hrs.)
The weather forecast gives a “chance of rain” and that is always a safe prediction. If we do not get rain on one side of the Continental Divide, then we will get it on the other side. As Capt. Hess of the old Statendam would say; I have no idea what the weather is going to be, but I can promise you a Zero percentage of snow.