Therefor i also checked flights, but the flight would have cost me USD 350/ EUR 310. Maybe it would have been cheaper if i booked earlier but i just couldn't commit to a date when i would leave Colombia!! So sailing was my choice of transport. Last time i sailed was with my aunt when i was maybe 7 years old. So i had no idea what to expect. I did do some further research though and read about some horror stories about Captains drinking heavily when leaving Colombia and all the way to Panama, falling a sleep. Also read about overcrowded boats and captains being coked off their head. I didn't let this stop my choice though.
There are several departures a week to different ports in Panama. The sailing boats range from sail boats taking 8 people to big catamarans taking 18 people. In the end I booked with a boat called Mintaka. Main reason for doing so was that it was sailing to Portobello and this was the cheapest place to get to Panama City from. A plus was also that all meals were going to be cooked, on some boats you have to take turns in cooking. Another plus was that the owners are German so assumed it would be nice and organised:)
Day of departure we all met along the pier as instructed, Manfred who is the Captain came and brought us and all our belongings to the boat. But before doing so we all had to remove our shoes and we wouldn't see these until 5 days later when we set foot in Panama!
Once onboard we stow away our big bags and was only left with what was needed for the crossing. After that we all tried to small talk while Petra, the wife of Manfred (the captain) started making us dinner. Manfred organised a few more things and then we set out to sea at around 7 PM. The majority of conversation this evening was around sea sickness and who had taken their sea sickness pills. I was the only one who hadn't and i started to wonder if i should have done so. I believe it took about two hours to leave the harbour of Cartagena and reach open water.
The calm sail we felt when we were leaving the harbour was over. Now the waves and wind had taken over and i was just hoping that it wouldn't get worse. I felt fine until i went down to the cabin or what ever you call it to pick up my scarf. Down below deck i could feel the sea sickness get its grip over me and i hurried up to the "cock pit" again. After about 15 minutes just staring out over the waves, i started to feel better again. We were lucky to have full moon and a cloud free evening so the moon acted as one big torch over the sea. I quickly learned that the best way to fight sea sickness was just to continue starring at the dark dark waves and sea.
Lets just say that i wasn't looking forward going to bed! But eventually I had to do so and this was surprisingly a good thing. As long as i lay down i was fine. The only challenge now was to find a position that actually let me lay still since the waves rocked me back and forward. I was the only one in a single bed and i don't know how the others did it because i was basically rolling in to one wall, then back to the other and so it went on. At least i had a super cosy place to sleep in, I would say it was 60 cm wide so i didn't roll to far in-between bumping in to the walls. Eventually i managed to get in to the right position but i can't say i slept well that first night.
The next day was also spent on the open sea. The wind had slowed down and so had the waves. There was still no way that i could read or do much more and not many of the others did much either so this day was about just lazy around on deck, starting to get to know each other and being summoned by Petra to the cock pit when it was time for a meal. In the afternoon i managed to spot some dolphins swimming along the boat. So everyone got very excited and we all watched the dolphins playing, jumping and swimming along the boat for an hour or so. This was defiantly one of the highlights for this day and also one of the highlights of the whole trip.
Evening came and then we all went to bed early, think we were all tired from lack of sleep night before and also being out in the fresh air not doing much takes it out of you! This night i slept all through the night and i was surprised to see that everyone was on deck when i got up the next morning.
The waves had prevented our morning coffee the morning before so we all got nearly as excited as when we seen the dolphins when Petra said that we would get coffee this morning. We were also all very happy that we would reach the San Blas islands of Panama around noon. This meant no more open sea for three days. So after breakfast we all started to look out for land and surely soon we started to spot something at the horizon.
As soon as we had anchored at some islands, a couple of fishermen came rowing. Petra bought some lobster from them at a price of USD 5/ EUR 4.50 per pound. There is normally a fishing ban on lobster this time of year so we all agreed to eat them with a bit of bad conscious. 10 minutes later another man came around asking if anyone wanted to buy wine, thats what i call service:) This day was spent snorkelling at a reef, since we were anchored and the boat wasn't rocking to much I could finally read a bit, we went to one of the islands and played some frisbee. Finally dinner was served and oh I'm telling you, that lobster was one of the best i ever had, Petra served it boiled with just melted garlic butter and bread. It was just heaven and unfortunately i must say that i doubt any of us felt any guilt of eating them because they were just so delicious.
The next day we sailed to another set of islands and the day was spent pretty much the same as the day before. The only differences was that we went to an island to get fresh coconuts instead of playing frisbee. Oh and we didn't get any lobster for dinner so the lobsters were safe. Petra came prepared and after we all taken a few sips from the coconut, she toped it up with rum. The snorkelling this day was much better as well compared to the first day. We spotted lion fish, manta ray and a lot of other colourful fishes.
Third day in the San Blas islands and it was time again to move to another set of islands. This time we did anchor by a set of islands that had cabins on them. Not as beautiful as the others. Still not a horrible view, shouldn't complain. After todays snorkelling, we headed to one of the islands for some volley ball. Great fun but i doubt any of us would make pros! After Volleyball and a drink it was time to head back to the boat to get ready for departure that evening.
So after 3 days in the San Blas islands, it was time to hit the open sea again and make it over to main land. Slowly but surely it started to get bumpy, i was well impressed with Petra who made us some tasty sandwiches. A couple of the people in the group started to get sea sick. Most surprisingly it was one of the ones who had no problems at all when we had our first encounter with the open sea. We all went to bed early and i think everyone was thankful that none of us had consumed much wine this day.
In the early morning i woke up from a big bang, my first reaction was that we hit something. Manfred the captain didn't shout or anything so i just turned around and fell asleep again. Before falling a sleep again i did notice that we were in calm waters again. Getting up in the morning, I was met by a hazy view of the port of Portobello in Panama. We had already reached our destination and the big bang i had heard was the anchor being lowered at 430.
After our last breakfast together we had to get all our stuff together to get ready to leave the sailing boat behind. Our group of 7 plus Manfred and Petra had five amazing days onboard and it was a true experience doing this trip. Our group got on so well which i guess helped making the trip even better. It was defiantly the right choice to chose sailing over flying from Colombia to Panama.
I will shortly post another post with more details on the how and what to bring etc. Think this post is long enough now:)
I decided that it was time for a career break. So handed in my notice to the company who I worked with for the last ten years. It's time to pack my bag and depart from Amsterdam which been my home town for the last 4.5 years. -"Amsterdam, it's not you it's me and I need a break!". Read more
WHERE AM I?