Colombia

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An online cruising guide for yachts sailing to Colombia.

Colombia
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Map
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Flag
Capital Bogota
Language Spanish
Currency Colombian Peso (COP)
Time zone COT (UTC−5b)
Calling code +57

Colombia is the only country in South America with coastlines on both the North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Lying to the south of Panama, Colombia controls the land access between Central and South America. With Panama to the north, Colombia is surrounded by Venezuela to the east, Brazil to the southeast, Ecuador and Peru to the south west. The country was named in honor of Christopher Columbus, although he never actually set foot there.

The background and history of Colombia is best observed on Wikipedia

Charts

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Chart Number - Chart Name
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Chart Number - Chart Name

Weather

The climate is tropical along coast and eastern plains; cold in the highlands; periodic droughts. Colombia is an equatorial country, so there are no seasons in the common sense of the word. Temperatures do not vary much throughout the year. What Colombians normally refer to as the winter is the rainy season. Cities such as Bogotá, Tunja, and Pasto have been known to reach temperatures under 0 degrees Celsius, so if you are sensitive to cold weather be prepared.

On the Caribbean coast, there are generally two rainy periods (April-May and October-November) and two dry periods (December-April and July-September). Mean air temperatures for the Caribbean coast are less than 24ºC (IGAC 2002).

Tidal range along the Caribbean coast is a mixed semi-diurnal type, with maximum amplitudes of 60 cm (Invemar 2003). The tradewinds predominate, mainly from the east, north and northwest, at the Guajira Peninsula, and from the northeast to northwest, south of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (IGAC 2002). Net shore drift along the Caribbean coast of Colombia has a dominant southerly component, minor reversals to the northeast occurring during the rainy periods when south winds become dominant in some sectors.

The Caribbean coast of Colombia is out of the zone of direct influence of tropical cyclones, but it is affected by perimeter influences.

Sources of weather forecasting:

Passages

List popular passages/routes, timing, etc.

Islands

Communication

Also see World Cruiser's Nets

Submit details of Cruiser's Nets and VHF operating/calling channels here.

Navigation

Add any navigation notes such approaches, dangers etc here. If this section does not apply remove it.

Entrance

Yachts must clear in and out between major ports, and will be given an outward clearance (zarpe) for the next port. Visiting yachts must clear in with the Port Captain in each port. Customs and Immigration formalities are completed only in the first and last ports. Yachts clearing in or out of Colombia must use an approved agent (fee of $60 - $100, negotiable) to complete the formalities for Customs, Immigration, Port Captain and Health. On departure, the agent will take the papers and return them with a zarpe.

An exit stamp from the DAS (Security Police) MUST be obtained on departure.

Immigration, Visas & Customs

Immigration

Visitors from most countries whose stay does not exceed 60 days, do not require visas; extensions for a maximum further 3 months may be issued by the DAS (Security Police).

If visas are required, they can be obtained on arrival, and are particularly easy to obtain if an agent is used.

Cruising permits and visas can be obtained from any Colombian embassy or consulate. The consulates in countries en-route such as in Venezuela is handy, and in particular the one in Colon, Panama which is accustomed to arranging documents for cruisers heading for Colombia.

Always carry some form of identification (authorised copies are acceptable) on yourself.

Customs

A yacht may stay duty free for up to 1 year (if the temporary importation is arranged on first entry)

Firearms and ammunition MUST be declared on arrival.

PETS: Dogs and cats must be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to arrival in Colombia. A Rabies Vaccination Certificate is not required for pets arriving from Rabies-free countries. Pets must be vaccinated against Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis and Pavovirus and a Health Certificate is required from a recognised Veterinarian to confirm that the pet is healthy, free of parasites and there is no evidence of communicable diseases to humans. It is advised to check the latest requirements from Pet Travel

Health & Security

Health

Drink only bottled water outside the major cities. The water in major cities is safe. Anywhere else, never get drinks with ice cubes in them, and always make sure that the water you are served in restaurants comes from a bottle (they should open it in front of you). Doing anything else may result in health problems.

In the coastal cities you had better watch what you drink in streets or at beaches.

It is highly recommended to be vaccination against Yellow Fever and to take Malaria prophylaxis. Please note that Colombia is a high risk area for both Cholera and Hepatitis - take precaution.

Security

The crime rate in Colombia has been significantly reduced since its peak in 1992, however, major cities in Colombia have very high crime rates, but if you just take some usual precautions you should be fine. In the downtown areas of most cities it is not rare to encounter problems and it is very important to exercise extreme caution in the less developed parts of the urban regions. If you want to take a taxi, ask for it using a phone service-- it costs the same and your call will be answered rapidly. If you want to travel around the country you should research the areas you intend to visit and contract a bodyguard, since some distant parts outside the cities are not recommended for tourists or even locals. If possible speak to a trusted local.

Berthing

Notes (East to West): Make landfall after a trip from the ABCs at Bahia Honda. There is minimal anchorage at Bahia Honda in the lee of Punta Soldado.

A few miles west is Pto. Bolivar coaling station with heavy commercial traffic but no pleasure boat facilities. Then, several miles farther is Cabo Vela. South of Cabo Vela is several miles of west facing beach which is excellent anchorage for transiting boats. There is a fishing village in the region and visitors may be greeted by curious fishermen.

125 miles west of Cabo Vela is a rocky section of coast called the Five Bays. In between offshore of Riohacha there are two oil platforms that must be given five miles sea room per Colombian Guarda Costa rules. A rhumb line transit from Cabo Vela to Five Bays will keep voyagers well clear.

The middle of the five bays shelters the small village of Guyraca, and the home of Reynaldo Garcia - a long time friend to passing sailors. Just around the corner (possible to pass inshore of the rocks at Pta Aguja but hair-raising if the current is running), is the town of Santa Marta. This is a potential check-in port, but has been rarely used by visiting sailors. In recent years, the Guarda Costa there has been hailing all passing sailboats to track movement - very courteous.

West of the five bays about 80 miles is Barranquilla and the mouth of the Rio Magdalena. This is a busy commercial port and not a yachting destination. There has been much speculation about debris carried out to sea by this large river, but we have seen only lots of muddy water and the odd line of foam in our four passages through the area.

Beyond Barranquilla a few miles is Punta Hermosa. The town of Pto Colombia was formerly a major port on this coast and protected by Isla Verde, but the island is gone and the town has no harbor anymore. At Pta Hermosa to the west, there is a large sandbar not shown on older charts. Pta Hermosa has been the location of several piracy incidents against yachts in the past decade and should be given wide berth.

30 or so miles west of Pta Hermosa is a potential rest stop at Pta Galera. We anchored there once on an eastward trek. It was rolly but good for a night's sleep.

The end of the northwest facing coast of Colombia is Punta Canoas. It has shoal water for more than half a mile to the northwest and west. South of the point, there is plenty of anchorages, but few stop there because it is only about 10 miles farther south to the Boca Grande entrance to Cartagena. A separate entry is needed for Cartagena - very popular destination and much to be said of it.

20 miles southwest of Cartagena are the Rosario group of islands. Lightly settled and formerly the abode of drug kingpins. The main attraction of these overfished reefs are the Oceanario (a sea aquarium) and a free aviary on the southwest corner of the largest island (Isla Grande). The island "Isla Rosario" which is southwest of the rest of the archipelago is off limits as a nature reserve.

20 miles south along the coast from the Rosarios are the San Bernardo group of islands. Some have resort facilities and others are deserted. Punta San Bernardo on the mainland offers excellent protection in the waters south and east of the point.

35 miles southwest of Pta San Bernardo is Isla Fuerte. This small island has a fishing village on the southeast corner and numerous vacation villas around the rest of the island. There are cock fights on Friday nights. Anchor off the village, around on the southwest side if the wind is strong from the north or NE (rare), or along the east side but beware in the latter location of scattered large boulders rising to 5 foot depth in water of 10 foot depth all about.

The end of the Colombian coast on the Caribbean side is the enchanting village of Sapzurro (Zapzurro) at the border with Panama. There are no roads to this town of very friendly people. There is a nice hike up the power line route to the next village south at least to the overlooking ridge above the village (as far as we went - took about 45 minutes for the hike up through lush rain forest).

Friends

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Forums

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Links

References

Comments

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