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The journal formerly known as ...Latin America

Panama to Colombia

PANAMA | Monday, 25 October 2010 | Views [2996] | Comments [1]

Woo man…here we go again! This will be another tough one. It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything…I believe Sophia wrote a nice review of our time in Panama City. It was nice, but the whole time, we kept thinking about the upcoming sailing trip that would deliver us into South America (a big excitement on its own). We departed Panama City and arrived into Puerto Lindo on the Caribbean coast. Here we started to get our first look into the life of a recreational sailor (cruisers as they call themselves). Seeing how I have never met a person who lives on their boat and travels constantly, I was really interested to see what a person like that was like. Turns out, there is quite a bit of diversity, we met a couple from Ireland & France that cashed out a business of questionable legality, we met an American guy making money fixing other people’s sail boats, this had kept him living on the boat for 30yrs. We stayed at the hostel of a German couple that spent 16yrs on their boat, eventually going to land to start a family. And Finally, JP our illustrious captain from St. Martin, but of French decent. This is someone that has lived his whole life in the Caribbean and knows it perfectly.    Many sail as couples, some as friends and some solo…some solo because they choose to and some solo because they don’t really get along with other people. Although our time in this world was brief, I do feel like I have a better understanding of the culture and at least a glimpse of the freedom that these people live their life by.

So…we had planned to leave around 10/13 until we got an e-mail alerting us to the departure of a boat called the “El Gitano Del Mar” …a 47’ Catamaran, and absolutely gorgeous! It wasn’t leaving until the 18th, but we decided it would be worth the wait…besides, we were having a great time in Panama City. Many people have done this trip and we had read many reviews of many boats…in a lot of cases, these boats only have 1 bed and 1 bathroom (or sometimes no bathroom). This boat (as you’ll see in the website) has, 4 double cabins each with its own restroom.  Some reviews were incredible experiences while others were miserable, so waiting for this amazing boat, with a captain with a good reputation was definitely worthwhile.

Where do I begin with the trip…turns out we couldn’t leave until the 19th as the only other confirmed couple at the time was arriving late on the 18th…so that night, we met them (Martin & Lina) a super nice young couple from Sweden and JP our captain. JP shared with us some news that because we had so few people on the boat, he would like to spend an extra 1 or 2 days in the San Blas islands, looking for more passengers…an extra day or two in paradise…we were ecstatic! Next day, JP picked us up in the dingy and we came aboard…the boat was anchored in the cove near Puerto Lindo, in between the land and a large island.  So that we would arrive into San Blas islands during day light, we spent most of that first day and evening relaxing on the boat, playing in the clear Caribbean water, kayaking and searching for monkeys on neighboring islands.  After dinner and some tequila, we set sail for the San Blas islands. The next morning, I opened my eyes and got the first glimpse of 3, small to medium sized white sand beach islands lying in clear blue Caribbean waters.  We dropped anchor near 8 or so other boats.  I laid back down for a couple hours and was awoken to the call for breakfast. After a great meal it was time to explore…we grabbed fins, snorkel and mask and dove off the boat to discover great diversity right underneath…there were star fish everywhere! I have never seen so many! We explored underwater, we took the kayak and explored the almost completely uninhabited islands.  The Kuna people that inhabit the San Blas archipelago live primarily clustered on a few islands, but they place at least 1 family on each island, to keep watch of the coconuts and any activity that may occur. Keep in mind that a huge amount of the cocaine from Colombia going north has to travel through these islands…making it all the more important for the Kuna’s to keep an eye on their islands. About 2 hrs from sunset on this first day in San Blas, we got our first taste of one of Sophia and I’s favorite activities…harpoon fishing! JP let us use his 2 harpoon guns and a small group of us headed out hunting…what a rush…diving down to 20,30,40ft. with nothing but lungs full of air and 4ft. harpoon gun. We didn’t get any fish on this first trip but got a hang for how the guns worked. Luckily for us, a couple of Kuna’s showed up to our boat with 9 small lobsters and 1 crab, we bought the whole lot for $15 and feasted! The next day, Sophia was the first to strike, in her over excitement for her first kill, she shot a parrot fish…we were told the meat of the parrot fish was no good for eating, but she was committed to not leaving that water empty handed. Besides that, we had some trouble finding suitable kills and had also successfully wounded 3 other fishes in our attempts to find dinner.  So after a picture, the parrot fish was returned to the sea…luckily, Martin got a good sized snapper so we all headed back to the boat happily. Again that night, the Kuna’s showed up with the days find, today was 3 huge spider crabs and a 3ft long barracuda…for $10 and a case of beer we were ready for another feast! I finally got my first fish the next day (My birthday)…it took a few tries but I was eating my own kill for a b-day dinner. Our first and third nights on the island, at my request for my b-day, we headed to neighboring islands for a beach bonfire…there is not a lot of wood on these islands, since there are only palm trees, but with enough leaves and enough gasoline…waa la..bonfire. In addition to that, by now, we had picked up 4 other people, 2 of them plus JP our captain and his girlfriend Angelica are all fire dancers…they put on amazing shows for us each night and even let me have try with a couple of the fire toys (no burns!) The rest of my b-day was awesome…JP gave Sophia and I a free session on the hookah, not the smoking the kind, but an oxygen producing engine that floats on top of the water, attached to 2, 30meter hoses that you can use to basically scuba dive without the tank on your back…it was very cool, we swam through coral reef until the motor ran out of gas and we made a quick ascent…no problems J The crew even cooked me up a pineapple b-day cake with a candle and everything…it was really nice to get something like that from people I hardly know.  Sophia’s love for animals is really coming apparent on this trip, I always knew she was into cats and dogs, but now she plays with monkeys, hunts fish and while snorkeling she even caught a lobster! It was too small to eat but you should have seen the look on her face when she came up with it…so cute! You also should see the look on her face when while looking for fish in cave about 10ft under water, she peeked in the hole and spotted a nurse shark starring back at her…it was awesome!

After the b-day bonfire beach celebration we put up the sail and started a 38hr trip to Cartagena…this was the real sailing part…decent waves and the constant rocking of the boat…it does take some getting used to. But no problems there, actually, no seasickness for anyone on the boat…only sickness was Sophia’s now confirmed Sun Poisoning…we both got burned pretty good while hunting for fish. I noticed that she had developed a sun rash and then on the last day she wasn’t feeling so hot. At almost the perfect timing we arrived in Cartagena on a beautiful day, went to shore and after a 12hr sleep she is feeling back to normal.

So, the pictures will really tell the story on this one…I hope you enjoy them. Also, if you’re a traveler who finds this while looking for San Blas sailing info, feel free to e-mail me rdefst@hotmail.com if you have any questions…but yes, I would highly recommend JP & the El Gitano del Mar.

Adios for now…El Brett del Mar

Tags: backpackers, el gitano del mar, harpoon fishing, sailing to colombia, san blas islands




OMG, Brett, every new update exceeds the other....your trip has been AMAZING....! I have to admit we were anxious to hear from you and know that all was well. Can't wait to Skype soon! Love you so, Mom

  Gay Oct 27, 2010 5:54 AM

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