We and buddy boat Valentine are finally off on our most challenging passage yet and we've picked a perfect and rare weather window that will take three nights and four full days to reach Providencia, Colombia anchoring at night for the first time ever which we try and avoid at ALL costs.
Blown Away's Actual Route to Providencia
Why stop at Providencia? Well we'd have no idea that it even exists if we weren't cruisers and didn't see this small remote blip (see tiny red circles below) on Navionics while planning passage to Panama. Honestly, when we plan a passage, we look carefully for potentially dangerous reefs, rocks and land on our route and had we not really enlarged the chart, we would have never seen it which takes us back to why we REALLY LOVE ❤️ cruising. We're always pushing our abilities as well as learning about and visiting interesting and remote places that most will never know. An abstract parallel is childhood favorite Horton Hears a Who? Have you ever seen it?
(left) red circle indicate tiny spec Providencia (center) Isla Providencia with expansive reef system (right) Horton in Horton Hears a Who
Why is this passage so tricky? Sadly it's notorious for opportunistic poor fishermen in pangas turned pirate ganging up on a wounded vessel blown off course by weather and or falling prey due to engine or equipment failure. It's real and not to be trivialized so we have to plan our passage carefully and make sure Blown Away is in tip top working order. Also, we have to have a contingency plan in case we're attacked.
Ideal Short Route vs. Longer Safe Route
If We're Attacked - Defense and Evasive Maneuvers
Along with making sure engines and sails are in peak operating mode, we are also prepared with the following weapons and evasive maneuvers.
high powered laser with blinding light
grizzly bear pepper spray
high powered slingshot with steel ball bearing ammo
Spear gun (not shown)
Here's our strategy. First, we do all that we can to prevent a boarding. We plan to blind assailants with the laser while pelting them with high speed ball bearings while approaching our boat and if they continue pursuit of our craft and attempt to board, spray them with pepper spray and cut them with the machete. If they keep coming, we continue to steer the boat so they can't board. If we see a gun or hear gunshots, we use Paul's plan and strip naked and act like crazy psychos! 🤣🤣🤣
Here's a play by play of our passage . . .
Day & Night 1
(left) dolphins leaving Guanaja (center) nighttime setting in (right) 1st night location
As we depart Guanaja, we are bode farewell by a pod of dolphins. As night approaches and we're motoring sailing at 5 nm we approach the shallow Nicaraguan fishing banks shown in blue gray.
Day & Night 2 - Going Dark - Invisible to Pirates
(left) Valentine (center) 2nd night location (right) gps waypoints using Starlink & WhatsApp
Always close by to buddy boat Valentine in their beautiful Leopard 40. The best way to avoid attack and confrontation is to go invisible so the pirates don't even know you're there. That afternoon, we shut of AIS which is an electronic safety system that notifies other boats of your live position as we as alerts you to theirs. The reason we turn it off is because they use it to locate potential targets. In addition, we stop using VHF radio because it also indicates we are close by.
Because both of our boats just added Starlink, we used it and WhatsApp to plot gps locations every 30 minutes so we always knew where the other was. For this and many other reasons, Starlink is a real safety Godsend for cruisers.
Day & Night 3 - Fishing Net Hassles
(left) night 3 (center) Brown cutting off net #1 (right) GoPro video verifying rudder is free of net #2
We're turning the corner and the tradewinds are pick up and wind is finally on the beam, so all's well, right? Not so fast, both in the afternoon and late night our rudder is caught on a heavy duty fishing net 150 nautical miles offshore and the boat comes to a full stop! This is frightening because of the strain it puts on this critical steering mechanism combined with the fact that we've already lost a rudder. Fortunately, I use a serrated knife stored close by just for this purpose to reach over and cut us loose. In order to verify that we're totally clear we use a GoPro under water and then play it back for proof. Note that we had to also use a light when stuck at night. Paul was at the helm when it happened and being woken with that news was frightening. Luckily, we were sailing at low speed and the rudder suffered no damage, we think . . .
Day 4 - AIS & VHF Back On & Downwind Sailing!
Day 4 was glorious with downwind sailing conditions reaching 7 knots as Valentine puts on a clinic by example. We approach Providencia at 9 pm and due to well lit buoys and a super safe starboard approach we anchor for the first time ever at night.
Night Approach on Providencia Anchorage
Whew, that was close, but we arrived exhausted and safe and sound.
Join us next week as we explore this special unknown jewel of the Caribbean. See you then!
May your adventures abound!
Eileen and Brown
s/v Sailing Blown Away
"Proceed as if success is inevitable."
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