Finally, our once in a lifetime experience is coming closer. We were planning this trip for a longer time already or were at least dreaming of it when we were still in Germany, we are excited and looking forward to spend 5 days sailing from Panama through San Blas Islands to Colombia. But lets start from the very beginning.
Our meeting point was set up from Blue Sailing company (the organizers of the boats and departures) to be at Portobelo, which is approximately a 3 hours bus ride from Panama City, it took us actually 4 hours since our last bus connection picked up a million passengers along the route to the village. Finally we got there, climbed the small hill to Captains Jacks restaurant to meet our co – passengers and our captain. Captain Borja, a guy from Barcelona who we imagined to be just as you imagine a captain to be – old, wise, wit a beard, calm. Well, not exactly the description we would use for our Captain. He, maybe in his mid-thirties, arrived a little bit late and very hectic, seemed to be very confused and looked like he just got up. 🙂 So he would be the one keeping us safe on a boat for the next 5 days…our health insurance would be so worth it! He started to collect our passports with a really short and ‚trustful‘ explanation that the customs office is closing shortly and he doesn’t have that much time to do the immigration, so we should just give him our passports and wait there…so we did as the captain said 😉
Waiting, eating, drinking and waiting…hmm the captain is already gone like 3 hours and we are still waiting, getting to know each other – without passports.
The co – passengers (what an amazing group – you guys made these 5 days as special as they were :)) we immediately found very sympathic and slowly the nervousness stopped. We actually had a good feeling about the upcoming 5 days together – no more nightmares of annoying passengers getting on our nerves and killing the trip for 5 days on the same boat!
„The Captain is coming!“ – we heard from behind our back. Pfuuuf finally, and he even brought our passports back and didn’t sell them to some Mafia as we had already guessed…He finally gave us some brief instructions for the boat, short but useful information, and also told us that we now need to take a taxi to another port….?! Hmmm why our boat was there and not in the port where the organization sent us to is a mystery to us until today 😉
So after a really long day of transportation and waiting and transportation and waiting we finally got boarded our boat at around 21:00 – the AMANDE 1 – 6 Atoll sailing boat with 4 rooms, for the group of us10 our home for the next 5 days. Safety instructions – again short and direct, from which the 2 most important rules were:
- no drugs allowed on boat (and he was deadly serious about that!)
- no sleeping in common seating area
Our crew consisted of 3 persons in total, from which was one Captain Borja, cool, experienced but little bit short in giving information, then Dani, sailor and cook, always smiling and preparing such delicious food all the time and Dani’s brother Dario, who was actually on vacation but helped on the boat.
OK guys, we start the trip, fasten your seatbelts, we are going to be on San Blas Islands in, hmm, maybe 8 hours , said the captain. As all of us were well prepared for a sailing trip, we opened the first bottle of rum and enjoyed our first sailing impressions, getting to know each other even better. After a couple of cups of rum most of us decided to have some rest and go to the bed, others would refer to their bed as being a coffin(extremely tiny bed stacked in the room). 😉
“Aqua – viene Aqua!!” Although our spanish has approved the last weeks in central america, it is still not the best, especially when it is 03:00am and we’re half sleeping. But to hear these words (which mean “water comes in!”) in the middle of the night made us somehow being awake all of a sudden. We hear the engine is not running, our crew is running around like crazy to the front and back and front and back, yelling something more in spanish – Daaaamn we are going to sink! “Ellen, get your head lamp and be ready to evacuate the boat!” – YES, I really said that. Ellen looked at me with panicked eyes and asked me “Whaaat?!?!? Are you f*#%ing kidding me?? We cannot evacuate, there’s only water around us!!”
Ok, Ok before behaving appropriately in such a situation, which would mean waking everyone else up and running around the boat, screaming “we all gonna die!”, I’m going upstairs on the deck to check the situation up there.
The captain is covered in sweat and running around, Dani as well but they don’t look like we’re about to evacuate the boat. Turned out that not the water comes in the boat, there’s, but no water is leaving the engine’s cooling system, which means no cooling of engine and because of that no running engine.
Sleeping in that night would not be happening, since our boat crew needed to fix this problem very fast and one of the closest access to the engine was through our room! The worst on the whole situation was that we were a couple of kilometers out of the coast and no help was close by. In the end, after 3.5 long hours of working on the engine, receiving help through WhatsApp voicemails from other sailors, our crew changed one part of the engine and the calming roaring of the engine was back on – victoryyyyy, we can finally continue to the Paradise San Blas 😉
The next morning, we finally reached the calm waters of San Blas Islands and eventually realized what everyone who did this trip was talking about – it is Paradise. Around us only islands full of palm trees, cristal clear water and sailing boats and catamarans. The water so refreshing that after the first jump in, you don’t want to come out ever again – for next 3 days we can do exactly this.
We sailed from Island to Island, snorcheling, swimming, eating delicious food prepared by our Cook Dani in an unbelievably small kitchen on the boat and just enjoyed paradise. On almost every visited Island there are ‚Kuna‘ families of local habitants living and selling fish, lobsters and hand made souvenirs to all visitors.
Snorcheling in this waters was a great experience, discovering the wonderful coral reefs, watching mantas, colorful fishes, ship wrecks and that beautiful clear water.
Our very romantic evenings we spend on the boat or on the Island, watching the sunset and having a cup of Panamanian Rum with anything what was available, just paradise. 🙂
“Time to leave guys!” – that sounded like the captain violently wants to pull us from the paradise. Everyone knew what is going to follow and we knew that we need to continue to direction Columbia. 2 days on the open water on our Amande boat – what terrible stories we heard of sick passengers, feeling ill for 2 days and vomiting without end! Challenge, here we come. Most of us were well prepared and bought seasickness pills, some of us tried alternative ways eating ginger and pressing the P3 point on both hand wrists according to acupuncture studies (James, what a luck that you found that book on the boat!). After dinner we headed to the open waters and expected that our boat will be turning into a zombie boat – pale people making weird noises, no talking, walking dead, eeewww.
To shorten this story a little bit – we survived, and in the end it wasnt that bad at all! For most of us the pills helped a lot, making us sleepy and calming us down. The biggest effort was probably to get over the immense heat in the small rooms, but being surrounded by great people who all felt the same, the coast line of Cartagena appeared earlier than we thought. On the last evening on the boat, we were even joined by dolphins jumping at the front of our boat and made a wonderful end to this amazing trip.
- take seasickness pils
- Choose a boat according to your requirements (Party/ Chilling Boat)
- Extra dolars for beers and rum on the island
- As the showering water is your drinking water – No shower 😉
- Bring book or something to keep you busy
We would highly recommend this trip, as it was an amazing experience for us. But, to be honest (Ellen’s opinion): once and never again. 🙂