San Blas Islands (Panama part 2)


Last I left you, Bart and I took off from Portobelo, Panama on the Victory, a regatta-style racing sailboat, racing our car (on a container ship) across the Caribbean to Cartagena, Columbia.  Our Subaru would not however stop for three days in the Sandblast Islands off the coast of Panama.  These islands have been called paradise by many, and other then the lack of cell service, it was difficult to argue.

We were lucky to have a wonderful crew of 10 passengers from England, Australia, Ireland, Israel, Switzerland, and America, plus three crewmembers from Columbia and Argentina.  We quickly became great friends, which was important because it would be 6 days before any of us showered again.  On the islands we passed the time by swimming and snorkeling in the clear turquoise waters – it became a practice to jump into the cool waters every morning as wake up ritual, playing volleyball and soccer on the beaches, napping in the shade of trees and the boats mast, eating and drinking, and enjoying one another’s stories of travel and home.  We also ate with, and bought fish from, the indigenous people, and explored deserted islands and shipwrecks.  I’m convinced that traveling is the best way to know why home is so important.  With all the sun, water and sand, nothing can amount to the joy of family, friends and home – but this was pretty close.

After three days in the Islands, and an engine failure, which required our captain to fly back to Panama City to pick up a new starter, we took off on the two-day sail to Cartagena, Columbia.  This potion of the trip was less enjoyable – amidst bouts of nausea, we bounded over and across the waves toward the East.  While there were moments of enjoyment found in conversations and views across the ocean, most of these 45 hours were a blur of stomach and head discomfort.  Add to that the constant sweat and salt of the ocean and I will say that it was an experience I’m glad I had, but do not need to have again anytime soon.

We awoke at 3:30 AM on the third day of sailing as the anchor clicked down in the port of Cartagena.  The city was aglow all around us and we could hear the noises of the port loading and unloading containers from giant ships.  Around us anchored hundreds of sail boats that like us were finishing or beginning adventures to destinations across the Caribbean and no doubt around the world.

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