Captain One-Eye wants to show you something

It was too hot and manly to take pics in the actual yacht harbor, but these are the same Cartagena visit.

It was too hot and manly to take pics in the actual yacht harbor, but these are the same Cartagena visit.

I hear “yacht harbor” and think elegant buildings, fancy facilities, and perhaps a cravat or two, tied around the necks of pretentious men who call themselves “Captain” and yet still expect to be taken seriously. With the possible exception of the nickname, nothing on that list was in Cartagena’s yacht harbor.

Instead of marble counter tops and basin sinks in air conditioned bathrooms, there was a porta-potty next to a tilted concrete slab, where our cracking plastic lawn chairs were clustered under a well-punctured tarp. Around us were heaps of bent and rusty rebar, spilled like intestines out of the shattered ribs of half-built concrete pillars that stood in the sun, resolute and confused.

They had been part-way through the construction of a new bar/restaurant when the money ran out and the project was halted. Four years ago. Now it was a construction site with no construction.

A few people moved among the boats, but nary a cravat was to be seen. The young wore bikinis or board shorts, and had tan skin glowing almost orange on lithe bodies. Their elders wore faded Hawaiian shirts barely buttoned over paunches that hung over belts, and had the blotchy wrinkled skin of people who have spent their lives in the direct sun, curly chest hair bleached golden by the elements and eyes squinted shut against years of reflected glare.Cartagena 12

A swarthy fellow with an eye patch came over to talk to us. Yes, an eye patch. The Australian father and son I’d shared a ship with didn’t speak much Spanish, so One-Eye zoned in on me as the translator as he pitched us a van tour of the city. When we didn’t bite, he moved on to apartments for rent, then to evening tours to “El Titty Bar.” We all just kind of looked at him on that one.

Captain Eye Patch’s Tour to El Titty-Bar? Almost worth it, just to be able to say “I did that.”

Somehow from his Hawaiian shirt he produced a small case of emerald and silver jewelry, which sparkled in the patch of sunlight he expertly placed it in. QVC can’t make ‘em shine like that, but again, none of us were buying.

Cartagena 07I was curious what the next pitch would be, from him or any of the other half dozen world-worn men sitting around, eying us like hyenas considering a bleeding zebra, when out of the cracked concrete Serengeti came Rudy, our captain, our lion, to save the day.

One-eye greeted Rudy, his body language clearly showing respect, but even a lion can’t stop a salesman.

One Eye: “My jewelry is very fine. Rudy knows. He bought my jewelry, isn’t that so?”
Rudy: “Yes. A long time ago.”
One Eye: “A long time ago.”
Rudy: “When I was a tourist.”
One Eye: (Gives a long appraising look, then laughs and shakes Rudy’s hand.)
Rest of us: (Glad we didn’t buy anything.)

Rudy and One-Eye talked yacht harbor shop (and gossip) while the Australians and I sat in our growing puddles of sweat, waiting to see if our passports had been processed, so we’d finally be legal in Colombia…