Photo by Felix Malo, December 2009, taken from a highrise in Boca Grande. The district of Manga where Club Nautico is, is in the foreground. Backdrop is La Popa, with a monastery atop it. Between the two is the district called Pie de la Popa, where there is much traffic and commercial activity.
The anchorage at Cartagena is capacious; I’d guess there are well over 50 boats there now, over 100 during the holiday season, maybe more. If there ever were a city in need of a decent marine facility, it’s Cartagena.
Actually, it has one: Club de Pesca looks terrific, present repairs not withstanding, but it is perpetually full of the nicer local boats and has a waiting list of years for the visitor.
Then there’s the Club Nautico. They say it once had a restaurant, showers and other facilities. Then it was set to be renovated. Now it is what you see here, in limbo. There’s a complicated story of feuds and lawsuits; the demolition is nearly complete but for whatever reason there is no reconstruction on shore. There are still slips, and water, and electric, and docks ‘with character’. The most salient feature for the visiting boater anchored out is the dinghy dock, and sometimes, access to a water spigot, a place to put trash, and a very helpful dockmaster, John, who is probably starting to feel like a polar bear whose floe is melting.
And there’s more. Lots of worlds intersect on this patched concrete slab on the waterfront.The women who sell fruit are often there. All the day workers congregate, ready to paint or polish or repair. Backpackers arrive in groups looking for boats to the San Blas. Others look for shade, and the Internet. The customs and clearance agents hold court. Things are hauled up and down the dock.Usually there’s a boat repair project or three off to the side. There’s a big TV, so if there’s football there’s a gathering. A man with an eye patch is ready to sell emerald jewelry. The cruisers meet in the evening for happy hour, and if there are children in the fleet, there are scooter races, sword fights, etc.
Outside on the sidewalk you can get a taxi, of course, but also breakfast or lunch, shots of coffee, bags of juice, more fruit including the jumbo-est strawberries I’ve ever seen, and, my personal favorite, raspado, shaved ice, with tamarindo syrup.
This is a perpetually smiling and cheerful man, but when he knew he was going to be photographed and get a copy of the picture he closed his mouth I think to hide his few teeth.
Off to the side there’s space for projects. This fellow’s inflatable dinghy had leaks that couldn’t be repaired, so he built something new from scratch, knocking out this stitch and glue plywood pram, here on its maiden voyage, in about a week, with plenty of peanut gallery supervision.
Sunsetting view towards Boca Grande. You should see what powerful passing wakes can do. It takes a shoehorn, and sometimes a man in the water to deal with underwater moorings, chains and lines, to tie up.
The VHF cruisers net on channel 68 (unless a ship is using that channel to relay docking info) is a wealth of information about where to get things, what’s available, who can do what work, and the eternal favorite, Treasures of the Bilge. The cruising community even has a culture maven who’s up on the latest exhibits of art, theater, films and literary affairs.
So Club Nautico is a pretty good institution in search of facilities to match.If you want to make a fortune (and have one to begin with), build a marina in Cartagena with proper slips and shoreside amenities. The cruisers will come. In fact, they're already here.