After months of waiting we got a weather window to make the overnight passage from Bocas Del Toro, Panama to the island of San Andrés. While this island is off the mainland of Nicaragua, San Andrés as well as Providencia to the north are part of Colombia. In fact, San Andrés is to Colombia what Hawaii is to the US.
What promised to be calm seas for the entire passage were anything but. Our first day out we had washing machine conditions which had me tossing my cookies by noon. By late afternoon the seas calmed down but then we started to see fields of household debris. Lamp shades, shoes and the like. A very large gnarly tree limb about 10 inches in diameter and 40 feet long floated close by the boat. With it getting dark, Gary decided to slow the boat down thinking if a tree hit us it would do less damage if we were going slower. We had a sliver of a moon so our chances of seeing anything coming up were pretty slim.
The slow down plus going east a bit to offset the current set our arrival time back two hours after dark. With no desire to enter a shallow windy channel after dark, our plan was to go in a little ways and pick a spot to anchor off it until morning. About 10 miles from the channel Harbor Control for San Andrés spotted us on AIS. They hailed us wanting to know our intention. He was very nice even welcomed us to the country but thought we were crazy for staying outside the anchorage. He told us to stay in the middle of the channel, at the end head 020 degrees, and drop our anchor at the coordinates he gave us. Sounded easy. We were most worried about the anchorage because we knew it was littered with wrecks, shallow spots and fishing boats. But our real challenge turned out to be following the channel that zig zagged back and forth around the numerous shoals. The blinking green and red channel markers were hard to see with the town lights behind them. At approximately 2.25 nm it took us at least 30 minutes to reach the anchorage we were going so slow. This was our first encounter with channel markers showing up on our chart plotter as AIS spots. Very cool but sometimes they would disappear!
We dropped the anchor at the location provided and as we suspected drifted back way too close to another boat. So raise the anchor, move over and repeat. The next morning we woke up to find this off our stern. We went right by it the night before and never saw it. Luckily we are far enough away.
Checking in was a breeze. You must higher an agent, but what a friendly guy. We have a good size town to walk around a bit touristy but a nice change from sleepy Red Frog. Now if we could just find a good pizza place……..