This post is aimed at those intending to follow us by boat to Columbia. It explains the way we experienced the formalities here. Talking to other sailors we meet here, it would appear that there is no standard system and the time line varies enormously.
On approaching the port of Santa Marta, we called port control on Channel 16 and were asked about previous port, number of people on board, registry, etc. All in English and all professional. We then called the marina who ignored us. Port control obviously heard as they called the marina and told them who we were and that we were coming in fast Spanish.
We arrived at the Marina Santa Marta who acted as our agents for clearing. They asked all the standard questions and gave us a few forms to fill out. This was Friday but by the end of the day we had immigration stamps in our passports without seeing any officials.
During the weekend nothing happened but on Monday there were lots more forms to sign. They were all in Spanish and all filled out. By Friday (seven days after arriving) we had a temporary import permit for the boat. On Wednesday we had applied to clear out of Santa Marta – you have to clear in to and out of every port – and that was also there on Friday so we were clear to continue. We paid about €30 for all the work and forms.
Leaving Santa Marta, we once again called port control who were friendly and spoke English.
Arriving off Barraquilla we called their port control about ten times but never got an answer. We didn’t feel discriminated against. Both port control and the pilot were ignoring most calls. As we anchored in the bay at Puerto Velero we were met by the navy coastal patrol who asked if we had reported to port control. We explained that we would love to but they were ignoring us. Turned out their radio was defective so we should call them by phone.
Marina Puerto Velero took copies of all our papers and cleared us in with the Baranquilla port captain. They also did all the paperwork to clear us out of the country. For this they charged us not a lot but I am no longer sure of the actual price as it was included in the marina bill.
Finally we had to take the eight o’clock (only) bus to Baranquilla to get an exit stamp from immigration. Then wait for the four o’clock (only) bus back which was an hour late. The marina organised an appointment for us at eleven but the officer didn’t look overly busy.
So tomorrow we can officially leave for Panama.