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Colombian Adventures

by Chrissi

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I guess the big news is the recent disaster - we were struck by lightning in November '03.

A strong electrical storm packing wind gusts of 50+mph swept through cartagena. the damage to naga caused by this storm was tremendous. naga was hit directly by a bolt of lightning, exploding the antenna on the masthead and destroying just about every electronic gadget on the boat. neighbors who saw the lightning hit us said that sparks flew from the masthead like fireworks. the same bolt of lightning damaged electronics on three other boats within a hundred meter radius.

From inside the boat, it felt like and sounded like we were hit by a bomb. i really didnt appreciate or understand until now, the fact that thunder and lightning really do occur simultaneously. the antenna (vhf/stereo) exploded, the tricolor running light disintegrated along with the wind indicator, these sent shrapnel flying and parts of these gashed holes in the deck, missing the inflatable dinghy by six inches. the wind generator is fried, bearings, windings, whatever. the auto pilot is fried, including the wind vane sensor, the integrated navigation electronics are fried, (wind, depth, compass, gps repeater, etc) the single side band receiver, vhf radio and stereo/cd player are all toast. brand new chart plotting gps fried, back-up gps fried, and god knows what state all the wiring is in. all the rigging needs to be inspected for damage, we have heard of lightning strikes blowing chain plates out of the hull, but at first glance it all seems fine. Except for the backstay, where the ssb condenser thingy is broken and needs to be replaced. We have to fix this before we can go sailing again or the mast may fall down.

We had a lightning ground down, a stainless cable running from an upper shroud down into the water. we put it down every time there is a storm, but never knew if it was really effective. we still dont know, but perhaps it kept the boat from even worse damage? just dont know. our neighbors suffered some damage even though they were not hit directly. single side band and lap top computer fried on our closest neighbor, i was surprised they had it hooked up in that storm. also the alternator, radar, and i dont know what else. on another boat, the auto pilot, single side band and other stuff. it even melted the bilge pump switch on another boat a little further away.

So, massive financial setback for us, we are cancelling our trip to cuba, instead we will spend christmas here and buy ourselves some new electronics. that new mainsail we were just about to order will have to wait another year, and the impending haul-out will only be a quick and inexpensive bottom job now. there is an electronics guru in cartagena, we dropped all our stuff off at his shop with the hopes that perhaps some of it can be repaired, but the only things he thinks he will be able to fix are the wind generator and possibly the stereo. Everything else is trash.

Jack is very depressed over this massive setback, and its not just the financial aspect. we were so ready to sail into the pacific, so much time and effort spent on getting naga ready, and now we have so much more to do to get the boat back to her previous state. We still plan to transit the canal this coming spring. Just have to do a lot more work to get naga ready.

On the brighter side, i have been having a lot of fun with my new martial arts school. I take yoga classes three mornings a week, and aikido three nights. I just finished a 16 hour seminar on japanese weapons, learning some stick fighting and sword fighting techniques. Also, how to defend yourself and incapacitate your opponent with a pair of chopsticks, or a pencil. Without even stabbing them! Now that was interesting!

I discovered a fun mode of transportation here in cartagena, one i havent experienced before. Motorcycle taxis! Young columbian men with bikes will give rides to passengers for a very modest fee. They are cheaper than regular taxis and much faster than the busses. Since the men are all young and attractive, its extra special, not only do i get a bike ride to run my errands and get to where i am going, i get to wrap my arms around a nice young man too. Jack is still #1 of men i want to wrap my arms around, and he knows it, so i don’t think he gets jealous.


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