Providencia is exactly the kind of place that you picture when first daydreaming about sailing a boat around the world. Great people, striking beaches, an untarnished landscape, coconuts and mangoes throwing themselves at your feet like some sort of delicious fruity sacrifice, the kind of view that makes you want to go outside first thing in the morning.You know, your basic tropical paradise postcard. Our motor-taxi BFFs, Leonardo and Livingston, even invited us to dinner on Sunday afternoon for a traditional meal of coconut rice and fresh crab. This is the island that makes everything worth it.
But it’s not always the easiest place to get the stuff you need as a cruiser. First of all, there’s not a marina in sight, so forget about any type of dockside amenity. There ain’t no cable TV, and if you’re looking for wifi, this probably isn’t the place. I’ve been using an internet cafe where I actually plug an ethernet cable into my laptop. Retro, no?
There is a municipal dock where the catamaran from San Andres comes in a few times a week and where the boats tie up that bring in every scrap of anything to the island. You should see the swarm of people that congregate around it on delivery day, stacking boxes of vegetables and giant sacks of rice into the island’s few pickup trucks. The dock doesn’t have water or fuel. And a laundromat is either nonexistent or invisible to foreigners.
We have had to dinghy jerry cans to shore for both fuel and water. We found diesel at the local gas station and water from a variety of sources including Mr. Bush. If you sail into Providencia, you will become well acquainted with Mr. Bush, a tall, bespeckled man who is the island’s ship agent. You have to use an agent to check into Colombia, and it costs between $120 and $140. We aren’t sure yet, since we haven’t paid. That’s right. We’ve been here for a week and a half and haven’t paid for our cruising permit, which shows the level of trust on this island especially since we could actually pull up the anchor in the middle of the night and be in international waters before Mr. Bush had his breakfast cereal.
Also, provisioning here is not the best of plans. The grocery stores do have food, but the produce begins to look a bit wilted well before the next shipment comes in. As an aside, I have never been unhappy with our decision to up Costco’s stock price by buying a mountain of food before we left. Yes, the world has grocery stores, but sometimes there’s not a lot in them.
It’s not that being on a boat here is difficult. It just takes more time to get things accomplished. We kind of guessed that this might be the case and have been working for the last several days on getting our tanks filled, a task not helped by the fact that the island’s two ATMs were out of order for a couple of days. The water we found was unfortunately only suitable for washing, and we’re having to use gallon jugs for drinking water. We have finally found someone to do our laundry for about $15, but that took some considerable hustling by Livingston, who is perhaps the greatest person ever. Of course, in exchange for some logistical difficulty, you receive an incredible gift - to be in this place even for just a few days.