Sailing the San Blas Islands

We did it, finally! After five months of fantasizing about sailing from Cartagena to Panama, we are proud to announce we made it and on a Cat no less. And no, when we say “Cat” we do not mean one of the cuddly feline variety but rather a beautiful, 49.5 foot Catamaran sail boat. We set sail on the aptly named Fritz the Cat (captained by Fritz) and arrived in Panama four lovely, star-filled nights later. We indulged best we could in the beautiful crystal blue waters and white sand beaches of the San Blas islands, while soaking up as much sun as possible. And even though the entire experience was magical because of the location and sights, it was also a test of spirit.

Like all incredible memories in life, this one was full of trying moments. Apart from the two of us Canadian backpackers, our sailing crew consisted of the Austrian Fritz and his first mate, an Australian couple, a British solo traveler, one very jolly German and the “American.” Not to mention one very smiley deck hand, cook and general task doer from Panama. After introductions and pleasantries, our group settled into our new home for the next five days.

Unfortunately for this girl, I succumbed to a vicious bout of sea-sickness right off the back and was forced to retire to my quarters for most of the two days of sailing. Gillian fared much better considering her years sailing on the open sea and even stayed up to do a three-hour night watch all on her lonesome. Some things, she says, you just can’t trust to a group of “negative Nancies.” And ensuring we don’t run down another boat in the middle of the night is one of those things. To make things even more interesting, the first night we sailed through one of the worst lightening storms Fritz had seen in the area.

By the third day we were back in action, I was slightly thinner but ready to enjoy every vomit-free moment of our time in the San Blas. Just off the coast of Panama, San Blas is a group of 378 islands inhabited by the Kuna Indians. It would be an understatement to say that the islands were kind of beautiful. We snorkeled, we swam, we jumped off the boat, we beached ourselves on remote islands and lounged in the warm Caribbean waters.

Unfortunately, not everyone on our crew enjoyed themselves. They’re were some complainers and some naysayers. The general attitude of our fellow travelers was one Gill and I aren’t used to experiencing. But the best defense against a negative attitude is to launch an offence of one almost irritatingly positive attitude (and lots of smiles). Our fabulous five day sailing trip was not going to be ruined by the complaints of others and we were determined not to have our spirits broken so Gill and I set out to have the BEST TRIP EVER. All in all, I think we succeeded.

Leaving the big city of Cartagena behind. Goodbye South America

The Colombian flag during Gill's night watch from 3am to 6am

The sunrise peaking through the clouds at 5:30am

The red sky at night was a sailor's delight on the second night of sailing

The sunset on the second night of the crossing with a big fishing boat in the distance

Arriving in the San Blas Islands

Getting into the turquoise water asap

The clearest, bluest water ever

Showing off our scandalous new Colombian suits...just getting into the culture

Doing some snorkeling along the pristine reefs

Some brain coral and sea fans

We loaded up on the sunscreen on our bottoms while snorkeling

When you come close to these guys, they suck themselves into the coral.

The setting sun during our first night in the San Blas Islands

Bronzed best friends. Life is good.

Doing some more amazing snorkeling with a little help from the abundant starfish

All smiles in the underwater garden

Getting an underwater thumbs-up from Gill

Lots of interesting coral to explore

Leah showing off with her breath-holding techniques

Gill giving a very lucky starfish a hug

Off to our next beautiful locale and spotting some dolphins

Gill was SO EXCITED to be sailing

Our next stop was a gorgeous secluded island

Leah lying low with our jolly German crewmate

Gill jumping for sun-kissed joy

Leah getting into her book while watching the setting sun on the last night

Gill got everyone acquainted with halyard swinging

Watching the sun set on our last night on the San Blas. Off to Panama!