I was on the fence as to whether I should sail from San Blas Panama to Colombia. The accounts of the trip were polarizing; some people had a disastrous time with cokehead captains beaching their ship on sand bars while they spent the entire time seasick but then there were those who said it was a highlight of their trip.
When I arrived in Panama City I decided to suck it up and instead of taking the cheap $100 flight, I would shell out four times as much for my first sailing expedition.
Our hostel said the trip was 5 days with 3 days in San Blas Panama, islands which are just off the Caribbean coast. Interestingly, the indigenous Kuna Yala tribe have self governing authority over the islands and a part of the mainland.
It’s a must-see in Panama so I figured for San Blas Panama alone the sailing trip would be worth it.
Plus I really wanted to wear a big floppy hat.
Day 1: Porvenir and Chichime
Season joined me on the trip and we met our shipmates – a couple from England and an Aussie from Melbourne who once managed one of my favorite bands, the Cat Empire.
Along with Captain Mike and First Mate Dan, also from Australia, we sailed out to the first island. Taking time to swim in the bath-warm water we were treated to a postcard perfect sunset as Captain Mike and Lach brought out their guitars.
There are moments traveling where I feel so fortunate to be have these experiences and to see things many people will never see. This was one of those moments where I sat back and just enjoyed the moment.
We had a few drinks and went to bed at midnight. Well not all of us. The first mate started drinking the local rum and it made him a bit loco, I think he was up all night.
Day 2: Dog Island
On the way to Dog Island a group of 4 dolphins came to swim alongside the boat for 20 minutes. I’ve been mesmerized with dolphins since I saw the documentary The Cove.
If you are ever considering swimming with dolphins at a resort I urge you to watch this film first as it may change your mind on the well being of these animals who should really be left in the wild.
Day 3: Coco Bendeeras
We traveled to Coco Bendeeras and I spent most of the day reading in the sun. We bought red snapper from one of the Kuna’s and caught tuna along the way so we had a feast of fish on the beach that night. After a day in the sun we all called it quits around 9pm.
Day 4: Coco Bendeeras
We found out that this was not a 5-day tour but a 7-day tour and would be spending another day here. This wasn’t good news for Season who was supposed to be meeting a friend in Cartagena and had a hostel booked.
Everyone seemed surprised but didn’t want to complain as we were in paradise.
Captain Mike was able to buy some lobster from the locals and it was a bit of a test for me as a seafood lover. At first they wanted to cook it in a black bean sauce, which I thought was a terrible idea as it would mask the flavour of lobster.
Black bean sauce usually accompanies chicken, vegetables, tofu or other bland items. But I held my tongue. Lach was more vocal and suggested a garlic and oil sauce with some tomatoes, unfortunately it ended up being lobster in a generic tomato sauce with overcooked noodles.
Day 5: Open Sea
I’ve been seasick a few times. It isn’t pleasant and the worst part is that even when you vomit you still don’t feel better.
When Captain Mike asked if we wanted to take bets on who would be seasick first I said it was no contest, it would be me.
As a preventative measure I took one motion sickness tablet and then passed out in the cabin for 8 hours. I woke up to have an orange, slept for another 4 hours.
As we were traveling for 24 hours straight to Colombia, we all took shifts watching to see if any other boats were in our path (we had GPS which steered the ship but no radar to warn of incoming traffic).
Fortunately I had the 10-12pm shift; unfortunately it seems Season who was on deck with me, lost the bet and was sick for most of those two hours.
Day 6: Open Sea
I was feeling a bit better but the boat was still rocking quite a bit so, like Season, I spent most of the day horizontal. Thankfully I had a full set of podcasts to listen to and had downloaded Parks and Recreation to keep me amused.
Day 7: Cartagena, Colombia
We arrived in Colombia at 6am but didn’t get off the boat until 10am. While we all had a great time we were so glad to get off the boat. Later on we went for drinks but everyone was quite, after living together 24/7 for a week we had nothing left to say!
Note: Thanks to Season for the video and Lach for the photo of me passed out in the cabin.
Have you ever visited San Blas Panama? Is it worth the rocky sail?