26 November 2012

Follow the Fat Lady's Feet

A typical street scene in Cartagena's Walled City
Cartagena's Walled City is about seven blocks by eight, but using "blocks" as a descriptor lacks precision. The fantastically enormous wall undulates around the shoreline, compressing and stretching each "block." There are several plazas and parks, which might be square-shaped but are just as likely to have triangular or trapezoidal twists. Four-hundred-year-old churches anchor the plazas, monasteries have been made over into $400-a-night hotels, and the oldest and most substantial edificios are linked by crowded and narrow streets. The street names change at every "corner" - another imprecise term - and each name, each crooked block, comes with a story.

We have spent hours and hours wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere, people-watching, and snapping photos of colorful colonial-era buildings with giant doors and balconies draped with bougainvillea. You might think that after such extensive walking in such a small area, we would have some sense of how to get around. Alas, our refrain is, "we've been here before," but with no understanding of how it came to be so or what might come next. We have no schema.

06 November 2012

Raft-up: Step Away from the Broccoli

This month, the raft-up bloggers grapple with that oh-so-necessary aspect of the cruising life, provisioning. And a funny thing happened on the way to my writing about it: we changed our lives--for the better, me suspects.

When I volunteered to report in for Team JOY on this month's topic, I planned from the outset for it to be another in our inexhaustible series of hapless cruiser articles wherein I illustrate with a profundity of wit that we have no clue what we're doing. But alas, at times even I tire of our chronic ineptitude. And then there is my poor beloved who has with great forbearance waited for me to get over my need to confess publicly all our inadequacies. She needn't worry; there could hardly be enough time for that in just one circumnavigation.

If it weren't for the avocados, the others probably wouldn't stand a chance.
In light of wanting more admirable facts to work with, I posed a question to both of us recently. As a prelude to what was bound to be yet another rotely assembled grocery--er, provisioning list, I asked us to think back over the previous week's meals. "Forget what we bought to eat," I said "what did we really eat. Cause that's what we'll eat again this week and next and the week after. That's who we are". In truth (there I go again), it's who we've been singly and collectively since birth.

03 November 2012

A Sailing Lesson in Santa Marta

When the student is ready, the master appears. - a Buddhist proverb

Oh my, that's an awfully big rip you have there.  Lucky for us, That's s/v Juffa across the fairway.
For the past year and a half, we have been trying to learn how to sail. Most of our learning has been sans instructor, in The School of Hard Knocks. Our lessons have come accompanied by jammed fingers, stubbed toes, broken arms, rope burns, ripped sails, sunglasses overboard, frayed tempers, bruises, recriminations and tears. With rare moments of sheer terror. Oh happy days. Perhaps I'm painting too bleak a picture. Truth told, we've also had those magical moments, when we adjust our sail trim, pick up eight-tenths of a knot, and find glory in the ability to master the forces of the wind for our purposes. But anyway.

Early on, we did have some actual instruction on the art of sailing - almost all of it through the Hoofers, a sailing club at University of Wisconsin - Madison. Over Memorial Day weekend (2011), we took a beginners' course (ASA101) on Lake Mendota in a teeny little J-24, which we feared would tip over at any moment. We had a few more lessons that summer in Madison, and then in early July, we took ASA103/104 during a three-day cruise around Door County on a 47' Beneteau. ASA stands for American Sailing Association, by the way, and these are good basic courses that we did in a sort of slapdash rush. After we bought Joy, our broker came out with us one afternoon to give us an "orientation" sail on the South River. From that point on, until a couple of weeks ago, it was all on-the-job training with no adequate supervision.

And then we met Brits Bill and Caroline on s/v Juffa, a Fountaine Pajot Lavezzi that was parked across the fairway in Marina Santa Marta. Bill and Caroline's boat is newer and spiffier than ours, but otherwise quite similar. And Bill and Caroline Know What They're Doing. If there was an actual certification required to sail a boat around the world, it could be called ASA 9-They-Know-What-They're-Doing, and Bill and Caroline would have it. Or they would have the British version, I guess. We met them at our first cruisers' potluck - an important rite of passage (click here to read about it). Then we had drinks on their boat, and dinner together on someone else's boat, and they had drinks on our boat. As they got to know us, Bill and Caroline began to pity us - in the nicest sort of way, of course, and we took absolutely no offence, especially since it led to our Best. Sailing Lesson. Ever.

First Bill, who is good-humored and easy-going and does NOT act like a know-it-all, even though he is one, happened to notice that we were using our spinnaker halyard as a topping lift. Which is NOT tickety-boo, as they might say in the British Navy. So of course we told him our topping lift story, which Ean wrote about here. The upshot of that previous adventure: the line that holds up the end of our boom, which is subsequently supposed to go in to and down the mast so we can raise and lower said boom, had been pulled out of the mast (notice my clever use of passive voice here).

Then Bill watched us unfurl and lower our big genoa, so we could examine the two-foot-long rip in our sail. Our preliminary plan: sail tape. In Great Inagua, we had taped the torn luff of this same sail, and it had held up well for several hundred miles of sailing. But Bill, while admiring our tape job, had a better plan. Also, he couldn't bear to look at our jury-rigged topping lift.

02 November 2012

The Weight of Witches and Warlocks

We made our first foray to the Walled City, yesterday. It is a beautifully preserved section of Cartagena which dates back to the colonial period. Several (most, in fact) of Cartagena's  museums are there, one of which, the Museo Historico de Cartagena, occupies what was once the Palacio de la Inquisition. Though today, most of the grounds have been given over to more humane historical pursuits (the Cartagena Historical Society holds their meetings there), the Sala de Tormentos and the adjoining C├ámara de Tormentos house a few of the devices used during the Inquisition to Interrogate presumed witches and their conspirators.
Most of the explanatory signage is in Spanish. However, a couple of informational plaques are in English (only, oddly), including this one titled "The Weight of Witches and Warlocks". It enumerates the questions put to alleged witches in the 17th century during interrogations. (So as to not make presumptions regarding the intentions of the translator, I have copied the questions exactly as they appear on the plaque.)