by Nick Marshall July 2005 Issue
Yacht Club of the Month – Club Nautico Cartagena
Club Nautico Cartagena, the marina, was founded over 20 years ago by Candelaria Trucco de Bennett and her Australian husband, Norman Bennett.
Although few (adventurous) cruisers visited Cartagena at the time, staying at the established Club de Pesca, things began to change with the new marina Candelaria and Norman were developing for the cruising sailer. They had already established a successful tour operation using their locally built schoonerSilva when they decided to take over a run-down dock and improve the facilities with their moderate savings. A new Palapa bar restaurant was built including pool table and cruiser rest rooms.
The first two years were pretty slow but the word eventually got around and by the early 90s things were humming with mainly American and Canadian arrivals. Dock space was limited and the Club utilized a wrecked Brigantine and a forlorn 70-foot steamer to allow more vessels to tie up. The steamer became the MV Simon Bolivar for Nostramo, a feature film with Claudio Cardinali and Albert Finney.
The Club Nautico style was improvisational but fun was definitely to be had; the place soon rocked! The family marina established its reputation; cruisers could see first hand the inner workings of a Colombian family as well as enjoy the parties and appropriate facilities offered by the marina in making cruisers feel welcome and secure.
Recently, the character of the marina has changed as it welcomes proportionately more European visitors. The numbers coming from California were affected by the changes in the running of the Panama Canal.
Running a marina here can be a delicate matter since they are all concessions approved and overseen by the state under the auspices of the Direccion General Maritima. Concessions are granted after approval by the local mayor, the local barrio inhabitants, the environmental authority, the health and safety authority, the transport authority and the local Port Captain. The local neighbourhood can complain if the marina runs foul of local objectives (hence we have had to turn the volume down on our parties). The local mayor appears to have plans to develop a cycle way to add to the promenade that passes in front of the Club. It appears that this is being used as a pretext to hold up the concession extension that is now due. The President of Colombia sent a note of recognition to Candelaria and with this support we are sure our differences with the local mayor will soon be cleared up giving us the green light to proceed with our development plans. Meanwhile, we continue to welcome new arrivals in our inimitable way, making them feel part of our family.
Co-founder Norman, an avid sailer, was key in devoping local sailing interest. The Club Nautico Regattas were famous for being the most fun, with submerged sit-down dinners and tricked-out boats with no engines, lifelines and precious little else except too much sail. Sadly, Norman had to leave five years ago but many are nostalgically awaiting his return for all the fun and experience he brought to the local scene.
Without doubt, the main attraction of being here is the history and beauty of the Old City, only 15 minutes walk from the marina. There are many other reasons to be here; the quality and value of local labor, the security of the marina neighbourhood and anchorage, the haulout facilities, the charm and openness of Colombians who really do enjoy mixing with cruisers, the local Colombian rules (perhaps a variation of the former Norman Bennett rules) regattas (currently PHRF), the local cruising grounds (Rosario and San Bernando Islands and San Blas, Panama), International airport, Colombian sights (the lost city, Sierra Navada, Eje Cafetero, Amazon) and of course emeralds! If we favor any group of cruisers it is happily united couples (and their children). So don't feel intimidated, this is really a nice place to be. Don't be conned by bravado!
With thanks to John Halley, Dockmaster
For information on prices, regulations and services, go to www.clubnauticocartagena.com