San Blas- Sailing from Panama to Colombia

 

Day 1

The time has come. This day we would finally get onboard the S/Y Quest and set sail to San Blas and then cross over to Colombia. I was already so excited when I woke up, but had to hold in all this excitement for almost the whole day, as we were only picked up by Captain Goeran in the afternoon.

Me and some of my fellow sailors spent the day wandering through Portobelo and getting all the remaining food and drink supplies for the next couple of days at a local supermarket. Even though we were provided more food than necessary on the boat (3 meals a day plus plenty of fruits), doubt always afflicts me last minute and I start to buy loads of unnecessary sweets I won’t manage to eat anyways (same thing happens every time I go to Poland: “You can’t get this shit in Germany, so buy enough to feed the whole family!”).

Loaded with all our backpacks, packs of beer, rum, instant noodles (in case the cooking turns out to be horrible and/or not enough) we were picked up by the captain in the afternoon and then brought onboard by dingi in small groups, as there were 8 of us. “So who wants to go first?”

Of course I do. I was the last, ‘missing person’ yesterday, so of course I want to be the first to set foot on my dream boat and spend as much time as possible on it.

 

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The S/Y Quest managed to exceed my expectations. Built as a sail-and-dive vessel and with room for 9 persons, this boat is a luxurious badass. Goeran has designed and built her all by himself, picking only the best from the best, and you can see that in every corner. There are so many well thought of details in every corner and as soon as we went below deck it was clear to all of us that claustrophobia didn’t have a chance. On 19 meter (64 foot) overall length you have three 2-bed cabins, each with their own reading lamp and a smart ventilation system with over deck hatches and small fans, two more cabins with a large single-bed, 2 bathrooms with hot-water showers (yes! hot-water showers!), a salon, pilothouse and cockpit. Yes, it was built for a maximum capacity of 9 people, but seriously- you could have easily fitted some people more in that thing- and I’m sure other captains would have done exactly that.

The best part for me of course was the dive deck. In the end, this is why I had chosen to cross to Colombia exactly on this boat: I wanted to dive! Naturally the first thing I asked the captain when I came aboard was whether he needed an experienced and motivated divemaster.

The Quest holds her own filling station, where the tanks can be filled right on the tank racks after a dive. Oh boy, were they smiling at me. Yes, I do see faces in things some times. And sometimes they even talk to me. But then the sad big news: No diving allowed in San Blas. Bubum. Have all my efforts to get on this boat been worthless? By no means, but the significance of my decision would only become clear to me during this trip.

“Just a quick toilet briefing so we are all clear on the rules: Don’t put anything inside the toilet that doesn’t come out of you.” All clear on that one I guess, so the hassle for the best cabins can start. After everybody has found their place and the night breaks in, we finally set sail to San Blas. Throw the dramamine in: we are finally off to San Blas!

The whole day I have been so excited, and now we are finally at sea. Just being on the boat makes me feel so happy. I love it. What a beautiful life…

 

 

The S/Y Quest

 

Day 2

You wake up to a salty breeze, step outside and realise that you are on a sailing boat, surrounded by 50 shades of turquoise and a few islands on the horizon- you take a dip into the crystal clear water before having breakfast. That is the greatest feeling in the world.

We arrive to San Blas and set anchor at El Porvenir. Fresh fruits for breakfast, and a pot of coffee to seduce the officers. Here is where we have to do the emigration from Panama. We go for a second dip after breakfast. The coffee seemed to have worked, there were no problems with the visas and we are all good to go to Colombia. Not that I would have worried for any particular reason.

Our captain, Goeran Persson, is an amazing guy. He is funny, easy-going, and so experienced. If my mom had met him, she wouldn’t have worried so much about me doing this trip, I’m sure of that. He has the most incredible stories to tell. Also, the instant-noodles were unnecessary. Goeran turns out to be an amazing cook, too.

 

El Porvenir

Breakfast in San Blad

 

The day passes quietly, we are enjoying the good life. Some snorkelling, hanging out at an uninhabited island, in the afternoon we visit another Guna island. Of the 365 islands that make the archipelago of San Blas, only about 50 are inhabited. The tribe has maintained their traditional way of life and their own language. Since their revolution in 1925 the Guna tribe is granted sovereignty and their territory belongs only to them.

 

 

Locals on their self built sailing boat

Kuna boy

Captain Goeran

 

 

Day 3

I can get used to such a life.

The crew is already starting to get closer and become a real team. We already saw some dolphins swimming by, a remora was hiding underneath our boat for quite a while and a turtle came by, too.

We went to this beautiful beautiful island, went snorkelling, played some beach volleyball and had a Coco Loco (yummy). The guys pretend they are hunters and need to provide food (as if we didn’t have enough), so they built their own spear and tried to catch some fish and lobsters. In the evening we share some strange stories, that only travellers can tell.

This is the good life. 

 

Captain Goeran- always happy

 

Day 4

More snorkelling, this time even with an eagle ray and squids. I had the chance to climb up the mast, because I wanted to take a picture from above, and then Goeran just left me up there while we sailed to another island. So this is how I’m leaving Central America. Who would have expected that?

The view is spectacular from up there and luckily it is quite calm, so I am only scared for one second. Until a storm approaches and I start to get soaked. The boat stops. I see the heavy clouds coming closer. “We’re gonna wait till the storm passes, do you want to wait up there or come down?”

Ehm…right, sitting on a mast of a sailing boat in San Blas seems like a brilliant idea to me. Sitting on a mast during a storm, not so much however.  

 

 

After lunch it’s time to start the 40-hour ride to Cartagena. The sea is rough and the boat very shaky. I couldn’t really get dinner down and some of us even have to say hello to their lunch again. I go to bed early and immerse into my dreams smoothly thanks to one of the million audiobooks I have with me. Those things never fail to get you to sleep!

 

Day 5

Whole day at sea. I got used to the waves. Like Goeran said, you have to become one with the boat. It’s great to have the sails set, feel the breeze. Read a lot, sleep a lot. Dramamine might help you with the dizziness, but it also works like a sleeping pill.

Dolphins were swimming right next to us and at some point there was even a shark behind the bait the guys had set to catch some fish. Didn’t catch anything.

The captain is busy navigating the boat so we take over cooking dinner. Was delicious, even though I suck at cooking. Maybe he’ll hire me after all.

 

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Day 6

Woke up to setting the anchor in Cartagena. It’s 6 am. The view is spectacular, but much more modern than I expected. I finally made it. I’m in South America!

I’m starting to get sad- this journey is over now. (Yet do I not know that we’re gonna be stuck on the boat till the afternoon, because we have not officially cleared in yet and this means we are not allowed to go to shore. Bummer!)

I really loved being on this boat! The people were so pleasant, the captain so funny and always smiling and just being aboard, watching the sails and the stars at night, was the most romantic thing and beautiful feeling. I can’t believe I finished university already 6 months ago, and now this is what I’m up to…also, what an end to Central America!

It couldn’t have been any better. This trip, I’m never going to forget. But it shouldn’t be my last adventure onboard the S/Y Quest

 

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