San Blas Islands and Cartagena
12.04.2015 - 18.04.2015
The next leg of my trip couldn't have been further removed from the rush of New York. I took a flight down to Panama, and from there met up with my accommodation for the next 5 days - Corta 2, a 43 ft yacht. The idea was to have a few days relaxing around the San Blas Islands before heading off on the 2 day open water trip to Cartagena, Columbia.
Following the fairly hectic and tiring schedule of the road trip, a bit of R&R was due, and what a place to do it in! I'd never heard of San Blas before, probably because the little semi-autonomous island nation of the Kuna people is largely untouched by the western world. We sailed around perfect tropical Island after perfect tropical island, with no buildings, hotels or resorts. This is the caribbean before it became a holiday destination. The only other people we met were local Kuna in their small wooden boats, and a few other yachts like ourselves.
Had a fantastic time with the Corta crew, sailing around, drinking rum, swimming and trying to decide which beach to lie on. The Islands and water were simply stunning, and with the locals paddling up in their boats to sell us the freshest seafood possible, the food was pretty good too!
We were also introduced to a new hobby - drift snorkelling. The gorgeous seas surrounding these islands can have surprisingly strong currents, and in certain places this coincides with gorgeous coral reefs. As if foating around snorkelling was too much effort, having to move yourself around and all, we spent hours "drift snorkelling", where Corta would anchor up down-current of a reef and we'd be ferried a few hundred metres up-current in the little tender. There we'd jump out and simply lie there and let the current drift us over the reef, back to the yacht. This did have the added bonus of meaning we could be pretty still, which seemed to scare the fish less, and we saw loads of reef fish, corals, rays and even a couple of small sharks.
3 days of doing nothing flew by, and I could have more than happily stayed here for another 3, but there was a few hundred miles of open water between us and Columbia that needed crossing. We'd been warned about the open water in a relatively small yacht, and I'd heavily stocked up on sea-sickness pills. As we got underway, everyone was enjoying the trip, and the conditions were relatively calm. Relatively calm on open water however, means swells of "only" a couple of meters, which after a few hours was more than enough to seriously sicken half the people onboard. I was really enjoying this, and when we got a decent bit of wind and got both sails out Corta really came to life. Unfortunately, as I wasn't feeling too bad, I felt obliged to take the forward cabin that night. The aft and middle of the yacht are far wider than the bows, so basically any movements of the yacht as a whole get amplified in the front cabin. This meant that my night in the cabin was like trying to sleep on the Big Dipper, with the bows being constantly thrown up in the air then crashing down on the waves again. Pretty good fun for half an hour. A bit tedious after 8.
Other than the lack of sleep the crossing was enjoyable and largely uneventful, save for an hour where a pod of dolphins decided to come and play with us. I love seeing dolphins, although they never stay still for a good photo! This was the first open water crossing I've done in a yacht, but I'll definitely be doing more.
After two days without seing another thing (save the dolphns) we arrived in Cartagena. What a beautiful city! Spent a couple of days here wandering the streets and admiring the architecture.
Had a night in a Salsa club where the locals were far too good dancers for us to consider trying to join in, but it was a great experience just watching. The next night after a few drinks we met up again with the Corta skipper Sebastian who took us to a more casual Salsa bar, where we tried out a few steps. I'm not sure the locals were impressed, but we had a great time!