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Open seas and the San Blas Islands

March 7, 2012
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A few hours before we were scheduled to leave, Silvia had somehow arranged to find 2 more people to come on the trip with us.  Better yet, they were both girls.  Up until now, it was 2 couples and then me and Fletch.  Fletch and I thought it was going to be kind of strange traveling travelling on a boat full of couples so this was a nice relief.

The first couple we met earlier in the week and they had been waiting at our hostel.  Anna and Mauricio were from Uruguay and they had traveled the entire world studying architecture.  They both speak English pretty well and since they are from Uruguay I can understand their accent a bit easier.  Anna is really funny because if I don’t understand a word that should be simple, she’ll yell at me like “Don’t you know Yoghurt!!?”.

The other couple is Shane and Rachel.  Rachel is from Ohio and Shane is from England.  From what I can tell Shane is on the run from Mexico for trying to extort money out of the last school he worked at and Rachel left with him.  They work at schools for English speakers in other countries.  So, if you were a US citizen living in Mexico, you would send your kids to these schools.  From what I gather, he was fired from his last job but then he tried to extort extra severance from the school.  I won’t go into the rest because it was pretty weird.

Around 10pm (we were supposed to leave at 6pm) we left for the dock to take a dinghy out to the sailboat.  There we met with the other 2 girls.  Pretty much instantly Fletcher and I realized that we were now on a boat with 3 couples.  The couple was from Northern California and had spent the last few years doing borderline illegal stuff to save up for traveling.  I actually didn’t learn anything about them until about 2 days into the trip because the girls only left their cabin for meals and to puke.  When they did come out to talk they would go on about spirituality, unicorns, the joys of not shaving your legs, and so on.

An awkward sleeping arrangement.

When we arrived on the ship the captain showed us to our beds.  He told me mine was in the back of the boat with the girls.  I went to the back of the ship and found the door locked.  I knocked and told the girls inside that my bed was in there but they told me that there wasn’t room and I would have to sleep somewhere else.  The bed in the back of the boat is the master cabin so it’s really big.  Larger than a king size bed.  Juan Carlos, who is the first mate, goes back to talk to the girls but ends up having them come up top to speak with the captain.

If sleeping with a lesbian couple wasn’t awkward enough, I now had to listen to them discuss in Spanish why it was unsafe for me to sleep in the same bed as them.  To be honest, by this time I hadn’t shaved in 4 days so I probably did look a little creepy.  The captain explained to them that I was a “healthy boy” and that if I was bad they would throw me overboard.  Anyone that could understand Spanish got to listen in on a pretty weird conversation.  I wanted to explain to them that I was from DC so sleeping with lesbians was nothing new for me, but I decided to not bring that up.

The captain said I would take his bed for the first 2 nights and he would sleep up on the seats up top.  Sleeping in Captain Israel’s bed is a pain because Captain Israel is really short.  He makes the joke to me in Spanish “little captain, little bed”.  The bed ends up being so uncomfortable that I can only sleep about 3 hours a night.  After everyone wakes up I hot rack and sleep in one of their beds.

Heading to the Islands

Part of the trip is going to the San Blas islands.  Three are about 3000 tiny little islands throughout the Carribean that have pristine beaches and coral reefs.  The next day we’re awoken by a rooster at about 6am.

You may be wondering why we have a rooster on the boat.  I honestly assumed he was there for dinner but it turns out that Captain Israel trains roosters to fight and this rooster is his newest trainee.  It must have taken me over an hour to figure out that he wasn’t joking.  He even showed us these spikes that they glue onto the roosters feet to help them kill the other rooster.  He treats the rooster like a baby and often you will see him coddling it or talking to it sweetly.  I think if the boat went down, the coast guard would be rescuing 10 people and one rooster.

Getting to the San Blas only takes about 8 hours or so and we’re passing through relatively calm seas.  I assume since I was in the Navy for 6 years that I won’t be getting sick on this trip at all.  Nope.  There I am puking up my peanut butter and toast breakfast just like everyone else.

We  pull into the first island and it’s like a little town.  It’s nice but there’s not really a pristine beach.  Then the captain tells us that we’re here for immigration.  There’s a police station on this island and we’ll be getting our passports stamped here.  Once we stop Juan Carlos buys a huge fish from a fisherman that drives up to the boat.  This is dinner and man can Juan Carlos cook.  That meal was just about the best ever. 

Over the next 2 days we visit a couple of other Islands.  Apparently, it’s pretty hard to navigate around here and the captain points out sunken ships as we’re passing through reefs and sandbars.  The second island has one of those perfect beaches that you see in Corona commercials.  There are a ton of starfish up next to the shore and you have to actively look around so that you don’t step on them.

The next island is for snorkeling around a reef.  Captain Israel gives us some snorkeling gear, but unfortunately the snorkels look like they have mold in them.  I spend the first 5 minutes in the water cleaning out my snorkel but then I head for the reef.

Open water to Cartagena

The next two days we would travel over open water making a straight line to Cartagena.  The seas are supposed to be rough but actually aren’t bad.  No one gets sick for the rest of the trip.  It’s possible that this is because I broke out a bunch of Dramamine and gave it to everyone but we’ll just assume that everyone has a strong stomach at this point.

We do watches when we’re underway going across open water.  I’m now sleeping in the bed with the girls at this point and Juan Carlos comes to wake me up so I can stand the watch with Fletch.  He makes fun of me for being huddled into the corner of the bed when I’m sleeping.  He hasn’t quite figured out what’s different about the couple and tells me that I’m living his dream, sleeping with 2 girls.

Fletch and I take the watch and it’s kind of like the ones in the Navy.  You just sit there and chat for a couple hours and then go back to sleep.  When the captain explained the watch to us, he said just look for lights.  It’s really doubtful, but we might see a boat out here somewhere and we don’t want to hit it of course.

After a couple of days at sea we pull into Cartagena late at night.  We pull in just late enough so that we can’t get off the boat (though we can hear a Carnaval party going on the shore).  Israel and Juan Carlos jump onto the dinghy and leave for shore.  Someone has the bright idea of breaking into Israel’s stash of Oreo cookies and eventually we all go to sleep.  The next day we’ll be unloading the bikes and staying on land again in Cartagena.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anna's grams Len permalink
    March 7, 2012 9:52 pm

    Sounds like you are having quite a trip. Glad you are keeping in touch….we love to hear all about where you have been and seeing the beautiful pictures. Keep in touch and stay safe, Anna’s grams Len

  2. March 8, 2012 7:53 pm

    Matt, your post was great. You took some great pictures too. Glad to hear that you were prepared with the Dramamine!

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