Articles I Wrote



One of the most enjoyable aspects of cruising is the discovery of just how much beauty exists on our planet.  I have spent the last several years cruising the northern coastline of South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, and delight in the beauty and non commercialism of our travels.  When we arrived on the Colombian coastline, having just visited the outer islands of Venezuela, Bonaire and Curacao, we expected great beauty but nothing prepared us for the spectacular mountain ridges that line Bahia de Tres, one of five consecutive bays that make up the northern coastline of Colombia, at the northern tip of the Andes, just before you reach the resort town of Santa Maria.  


With hurricane season over, we were itchy to begin cruising again, discovering new anchorages, vistas and towns.  Our good friend, Peter Ratcliff, joined us for several months to assist in watches and give us the great benefit of his amiable company.  Having captained charters in the Caribbean for over a decade, he equally enjoyed exploring this new territory.


Approaching Colombia from the east the first thing we noticed was the continuation of what I call “feminine” mountain ranges as, although high in height, they are soft and rolly with no sharp juts like you find in the Rockies or Alps.  Mountains cover a vast amount of terrain in the countries that comprise South America and, although we think of the Andes as being on the western side of the continent, they actually extend some 4,700 miles, thus constituting the longest mountain chain in the world—across to the east, as one can see in Venezuela, and then north so that they are a highly visible part of the northern Colombian coastline.


Bahia de Tres is just one area of the excellent system of national parks that belong to Colombia, the only country in South America to border on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and one of the most biologically and culturally diverse areas in the world.  This diversity is well represented by the 54 natural areas belonging to the Natural Parks System that comprise Colombia with ten more areas being added to the list by 2012.  Bahia de Tres (Bay of Three) and the other four bays that make up this gorgeous coastline are all a part of the system.  We were met by the courteous and official National Park Guardia who patrols the area for added safety and security.  


Locals enjoy the bays and beaches on Colombia’s coastline.  On weekends entire families gather at the beach with umbrellas, BBQ grills, chairs, tables and lots of children to spend an entire day, or they bring tents and spend the weekend.  Add this to the large number of international cruisers now covering the area and you have quite a group.  


During our stay in Bahia de Tres, we were joined by 20 other vessels from all corners of the earth.  As is usual for cruisers, we got to know most of them before we left and even formed a tandem sail to Cartagena, which was fun and added to our overall feeling of safety.


Because so many of Colombia’s parks contain water and are well maintained, visiting yachtsmen and numerous fishermen and fishing villages are a common sight.  As more cruisers circle the Caribbean, many will discover the beauty of these bays and parks left in their natural state.  


In addition to national parks, Colombia has developed wildlife sanctuaries such as the Sanctuary of Flora & Fauna and the Flamingo Wildlife Sanctuary, where pink flamingos wade in shallow waters dotting the coastal areas.  


Nearby Cartagena is a lovely city with good facilities for cruisers, and all of these are things to remember when planning for hurricane destinations in 2009.  


Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 22 years.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, headed for the Panama Canal.


AAS - Bahia de Tres



issue of All At Sea


I have been living on boats in the Caribbean for the greater part of the past 23 years; thinking back, I recall that most of the other cruisers I have met enjoy this lifestyle.  For, once adjusted to the differences from living on land and the changing of mental attitudes from “wants” (the consumer society) to “needs” (what is actually needed to live aboard,) living aboard seems a sensible way to reside—outside the limits, that is.


Most cruisers are skilled yachts-people who have spent years dabbling in life on the water and additional time contemplating how to actually accomplish and pay for a life outside of their country—without a normal job, where one lives basically in isolation without the support of family, friends, community or your educational, spiritual, and political backgrounds.  Living aboard is like growing older—it is most definitely not for sissies.   As well, living aboard is definitely not for those who cannot abide their partners 24/7—this immediately cuts down on the numbers.


One of the most difficult issues women cruisers face is that of leaving the comfortable and safe confines of urban society.  I have met very few women farmers who enjoy boating so we could assume that most women who are cruising have left the delights of urban living—theatre, museums, community events, libraries, cultural centers, music and such—along with their families and jobs. They have chosen, as have male boaters, to live on the water, in almost constant movement, dealing with foreign counties that embrace varied cultures, lifestyles and economic backgrounds.


Cruising requires great self discipline.  There are very few things to socially enjoy while yachting other than eating and drinking; we all have lists of boaters who did not adjust well to these preferences.  Visit any beach bar in the Caribbean and take in the “rummies” as well as cruisers and charterers who think that drinking is just something one habitually does while on the water.  We all know that few countries have actually passed laws concerning drunk driving while at the helm.  MADD would have a field day with the fatal accidents that have occurred within the Caribbean caused by drinking skippers.


Another change in lifestyle is that boaters tend to be more politically liberal, although more fiscally and environmentally conservative, than mainlanders.  A great many of them want to live “outside of the limits” that bind/blind our current world.  They view what is happening politically within their countries and dislike what they see.  Although most responsible boaters vote in absentia, there are many who don’t.  If you are one of these please do not complain to me about the political situation in your country.  By not voting you have denied your option to help change the world.


Cruisers are frequently retired from high risk jobs and pastimes.  I know many cruisers who were pilots, motorcyclists, auto ralliers or racers, stockbrokers, firemen, etc.  Many company executives just want to get away from the rat-race when they retire.  They sell their homes, their cars, put their furniture and belongings in storage and run, not walk, to the nearest yacht brokerage to purchase their dream of the sea.  Most of them have had enough of commercial life to totally enjoy life on a boat, spending their spare time in reading, working on projects, provisioning for the next passage and figuring out the cheapest place to purchase diesel/gas.


I totally enjoy living aboard and cannot imagine giving up this freedom to live on land.  If we don’t like our neighbors or our surroundings, all we have to do is start the engine or raise a sail.  Life on the water has far more adventures than normal living; but I will be the first to admit that this life is not for everyone.  As cruisers we create our own limits – most of us totally live outside of the limits set for us by society.  I guess cruising is one of the last great lifestyles where one can be called a nonconforming individual—and lets just hope that with all of the new laws and regulations we can keep it that way.


Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 23 years.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, throughout the Caribbean.