Saturday, October 12, 2019


Providence, Columbia


Slowly northbound

Providence Island is about sixty sailing miles from San Andres, about fifty miles from north point to the south point so it makes for a good overnight sail if you do not sail too fast. As it turned out that was not our problem.

We untied our Med moor lines and with help from Stephan from Coco Prinz and Guillermo from Nene’s we untangled our anchor rode and headed south down the entry channel. Mags was great on the helm while I manually cranked the windlass retrieving our chain. The repairs to the solenoid were working intermittently at best. A project for Providence….

We arrived at the Providence entry channel way point in the early morning having motor sailed in near calm conditions, doused our sails and motored past Morgan’s Head on the west coast of Isla Santa Catalina into the anchorage. It is always a joy to arrive in an anchorage to a radio welcome, in this case it was from Mike and Michelle on s/v Minuet, friends from Bocas del Toro who we had not seen for more than a month. They were in the process of clearing out of Providence while we were clearing in. Mr. Bernardo Bush is the sole agent for the island and you must use an agent. After completing the forms at his office which is in the small town of Isabel beside the anchorage we then rode by motorbike to the Capitan del Puerto, to sign forms and get a new stamp from the Immigration officer who had obligingly come to the Port Captain’s. Because Mr. Bush had business elsewhere it was agreed that she, the Immigration Officer, would give me a ride back to town on the back of her motorcycle. These have to be the most accommodating, friendly people anywhere.

Kanilela, second from right with the locally named Morgan's Ass in the distance

Mike and Michelle were not leaving until early the following morning so we went to an excellent restaurant, Miss Francia’s on Isla Santa Catalina where the barracuda was superb. Also, the opportunity to visit with Mike and Michelle and get a wealth of local knowledge was greatly appreciated. They were headed to Isla Mujeras, Mexico so our next shared anchorage could be well into the future as our paths diverge.

Providencia, or as the locals often call, Old Providence, has a small island, Isla Santa Catalina, attached on the northwest corner by a floating foot bridge called Lover’s Lane. The names are further confused by the locals calling it Ketlina Island. The waterfront sidewalks are lined with brightly painted hand rails and many small alcoves with benches and shade trees on both islands. Everything is so clean and well maintained, the civic pride is obvious. 
At the Providence end of Lover’s Lane Bridge a collection of motorcycles are parked because no vehicles allowed on the small island. The finished sidewalk goes right for about 200 meters past approximately ten homes ending with an ancient cannon that had no doubt seen action in the days of Captain Morgan who lived on the Island.
stairs up to the Virgin Mary statue
 At the bridge, the sidewalk also extends to the left about 800 meters along the coast past a few restaurants and small hostel type hotels and another ten or so local homes ending with a steep, 81 step, promontory lookout with a statue of the Virgin Mary. Miss Francia’s is along this coast and the sidewalk has a small public dock. From the Statue the finished trail drops down to a beach with clear water for swimming and snorkelling. A dirt trail continues to Morgan’s head, approaching from above giving great views of the coral heads and sandy places for the dinghy anchor.

Downtown Santa Isabel

On our walk we met a lovely couple from the San Francisco area who were staying in one of the hostel/hotels and we agreed to meet for dinner at Miss Francia’s. Back on the boat we were visited by a Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, couple, Randy and Dawn on a classic 51’ ketch s/v Renceinte who had already been in Providence for one month followed shortly by a visit from the newly arrived m/v Fish Vicious with Doug and Nancy from San Francisco. Doug and Nancy agreed to join us for dinner with Ron and Susan our recently met land travellers. Another fantastic meal at Miss Francia’s with engaging conversation with our newly met friends.

The crews of Zverver, Renceinte, Fish Vicious and Kanilela

As the week progressed we enjoyed numerous snorkeling opportunities and had the pleasure of a new arrival to the anchorage, a beautiful Dutch ketch Zverver with owners Diederik and Ilsa. As a group we visited sites around the island spending time in engaging conversations and enjoying the incredible local hospitality.

Of course, no stop occurs without the obligatory boat repairs. There is an oft repeated line that 9 out of 10 times windlass problems are in the solenoid. As our exit from San Andreas with the rebuilt solenoid proved, we were the 1 out of 10 exception. After removing the motor and separating the gear box the problem was still not obvious but in checking everything possible it became apparent that the housings for the four brushes were all corroded enough to inhibit the springs designed to provide tension of the brushes to the rotor. Lofrans is purported to be one of the best built windlass brands so I was a little disappointed that the brushes housings were made with a stamped mild steel material located in one of the most moisture plagued parts of the boat. Cleanup done and the fight to reinstall the windlass in an impossibly tight location completed, all was working fine. Providence/Providencia ranks at the top of our list of favourite ports of call for Kanilela.

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