Ships & The Night
Even after nearly nine months here Cartagena continues to delight and amaze. I’ll try and give you a taste of what passed this last week.
It’s no exaggeration to say that hardly a day goes by without some new sight, sound or experience.
Last night there was an event called ‘La Noche de Los Museos’ (The night of the museums). All of the many museums in Cartagena were free and stayed open until 2am. That was just one aspect of the evening.
Stages had been set up throughout the town and there was lots of live music. We watched a swing combo in front of the beautiful marble edifice that is the old town hall. As with every event we’ve been to here the place was packed with folks young and old. Babes in arms were bounced around in time to the music alongside an elderly couple dressed to the nines jiving like they were teenagers again.
Just before the band started their set we heard drums approaching. They got closer and closer, louder and louder, before stopping right in front of the stage. At that point the leader used his own drumsticks to ‘conduct’ the band through an amazing routine. As he moved his arms the drums rolled and rippled left to right, up and down. They played almost silently until building to a frenetic crescendo. As a finale the leader put his two sticks together mimicking a bow and arrow. He raised the ‘bow’ briefly before ‘firing’ at the band. The drums stopped instantly as all the drummers fell to the floor ‘dead’. It was very impressive.
At the other end of the scale we walked up to the path above the Roman theatre. There was an orchestra on stage playing music from the film ‘Lord of the Rings’. We stood and listened for a while soaking up the sounds, the atmosphere and the surroundings. In the far distance the mountains stood out in sharp hazy contrast against the bright orange sky as the sun set. The air was warm and still. Much has changed in the 2000 years since that theatre was built. But people would have stood on the same spot, watched the same distant mountains, the same setting sun. They would have felt the warm still air and listened as we did. It’s fair to say the connection to history is strong in this place.
The queues for all the museums were long but we joined a shorter one and walked around the Naval museum. It’s been on my list of places to visit since we arrived but I still hadn’t been in. It was fascinating. To be honest there were too many people to really enjoy the exhibits so we’ll go back another day.
It’ll come as no surprise that we were in bed long before the festivities concluded. Not that we missed the culmination; That would have been impossible. I was jolted out of a deep sleep by an explosion that I felt through the hullside next to my ear. It was followed by many others in rapid succession. I jumped up on deck. It was fireworks. They went on for 10 minutes or so and included some of the loudest I’ve ever heard. Ear splitting maroons that echoed around the harbour. As the last and loudest exploded high in the sky we heard whistling and applause from the quayside near the town. On my way back to bed I looked at the clock. It was 2:20am.
The fireworks might well have woken royalty.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to be precise.
His yacht ‘Yas’ had arrived that afternoon and was berthed not far from ‘Gleda’. It’s another unique aspect of Yacht Port Cartagena. Where else are you likely to see a humble Wharram catamaran moored up almost alongside one of the biggest superyachts in the world?
I spotted ‘Yas’ as she approached. She was hard to miss, just like ‘Sailing Yacht A’ that was here a few weeks back. First sight of such vessels is inevitably followed by a ‘WTF’ moment as you decide ‘WTF’ you’re looking at and whether you’re hallucinating or not.
Here are a few photos. See what I mean?
Aside from the striking superstructure there was something else about ‘Yas’ that stood out. Her hull seemed incredibly slim at the stern and beautifully flared at the bow. A subsequent Google search revealed why.
Incredibly ‘Yas’ was built on the stripped out steel hull of a 1978 Dutch Navy frigate HNLMS Piet Heyn. That’s some refit.
Oh and frigates are designed to be fast. ‘Yas’ can make 26 knots.
One thing that amused me though. For all the money and advancements in technology they haven’t yet come up with a more effective method of removing water from glass. The bridge on ‘Yas’ boasted what I suspect may be some of the biggest windshield wipers in the world.
Talking of old warships we saw another this week.
Ex US Navy anti-aircraft frigate USS ‘Mahlon S.Tisdale’ (FFG-27) now Turkish Navy ‘Gökçeada’ (F 494). She was in the area taking part in a U.S. commanded exercise down in the Albertan Sea. Commissioned in 1982 she did 14 years service with the USN before being given to Turkey. as part of a ‘security assistance programme’.
From what I saw she’s still working well. Whenever I see these ships I think of the crews who served in them, the places they’ve been and the history they’ve witnessed. I find it fascinating.
There’s always something new to see ashore and afloat here but this week I got a chance to see some familiar things from a different angle.
Our current berth neighbour is a lovely Irish fella called Dave aboard his boat ‘Golden Hours’. He’d been out for a day sail a few days ago and unfortunately his mainsail furler fouled up on him. The mainsail was well jammed into the mast and it was obvious that a trip aloft was going to be needed. As is always the way when a fellow yachty needs help a few of us rallied round to get the job done. As the smallest and lightest it was obvious who was going to be hauled skywards. Once again I used the climbing harness purchased a few weeks back to climb ‘Gleda’s’ mast. It’s proving to be a good investment.
The job wasn’t easy. I needed vice grips to prise the sail out. One of the thin fibreglass sail battens had been pulled into the track and twisted like a stick of candy. It needed breaking to get it out. It took well over an hour for me to free the sail so it could be lowered to the deck. David was very happy that damage was restricted to fairly easily repaired rips to the sail. I had a few days of aching muscles and a few bottles of nice red wine as reward. That and knowing I’ve banked some good karma for when I need help with something.
While hanging about I managed to get a quick piccy looking down. It’s a view of ‘Gleda’ I’ve not seen before and that’s saying something.