BUT NO! Its was amazing!
OK, before I get into to the details, I have to explain ( or at the very least, try) my love of sailing. As most of you know I absolutely, wholeheartedly, and passionatly in love with sailing. Whenever I think about sailing... or any of my sailing expaeriences.. I get shivers running up and down my spine. (Even as I type this, after being on a sailboat for five days.. I still get excited and the shivers don't stop, not ever.) I have only a limited number of things that do this for me, There is Sailing, Snowboarding... and recently, Diving. Those three things are the only activities that make my body physcally shiver with anticpation. (Much like a dog does, just before you throw the ball... I know, I'm comparing myself to a dog, but its in an attempt to explain just how excited I get.) When I think of sailing (or either of the other two activities) I get a crazy twich that runs up and down my spine, I actually start salivating, and I lapse into memory of an event, nothing else in the world could possible make me unhappy, or even think of anything else for that matter. For those few minutes I am utterly absorbed in my thoughts, memories and future ambitions in that activity, I become entirely at peace.
Ok, so back to the present, We went north to Portabelo, Panama to board the Vagabond Prince, at about four o'clock in the afternoon. (after leaving my Tilley hat at the hostel and having to rush back from the Panama City bus station to the hostal, and back out the the bus station.. all in all took about an hour! But, I got me Tilley!) We arrived at about six o'clock at this pizzaria, in Portabelo, and had ourselves a pizza, while we waited for the crew of the Vagabond Prince to come in from the boats morrings in the bay. We probably didn't get aboard until eight thirty, at which point we headed to bed. Our bed consisted of a strange shaped.. possibly queen sized bed, which fit the three of us.. well tightly, if nothing else. We spen the entire next day lazing around on deck the next day waiting for Fabian, the capitan, whom we met in Panama City, to get back. We made a trip into town to get some supplies (which consisted of Gadorade, chips and a $3.75 bottle of rum, which was premium... this stuff was high quality.) and I looked for some kind of drugs since my throat was killing me! We had been told the night before that there was a storm brewing to the west of Cartagena, Columbia (Pronounced Car-ta-hen-ya) from the same drunk captain who told us that the Vagabond Prince wasn't even in the harbour! What it turned into was a miracle...but more on that later. The crew told us that we would probably set sail that night (Metaphorically since there was no wind that night) and arrive in the San Blas Archipelago early in the morning. Fabian finally arrived (not that we were that anxious to leave, we hung out on the boat soaking up the sun and just chillaxin!) and we paid him most of what we owed him so he could go grocery shopping and get supplies. That night at around 9 o'clock we weighed anchor and chugged our way to the most pristine and without question, the most beatiful place I have ever been. I awoke relatively late since my throat was bothering me still, but once I smelt breakfast cooking I was hightailing it out of bed! After a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, I hit the water with a snorkel and swam around looking for coral and fishes. After I re-boarded the boat, we headed to our the next Island on the agenda (The place we would anchor for the night) andfound ourselves in between three small Islands. (One was quite small, having only four or five palm trees and sand as white a snow!) The water had the visibility of pool water! Undeniably the most amazing place I've been, no doubt about it, you could se the bottom perfectly.. and it was twenty some odd feet down! The local tribes are called the Kuna and they live in small hut scattered about these small beatufil islands, harvesting coconuts and fishing in their dugout, seafaring, canoes! They also make some of the most intricate textiles we've seen to date, beadwork that covers their entire arms and legs, all of which they try and sell you by paddling up to the side of the boat and hanging all of it on the life lines of the boat. I felt bad because all I wanted to do was look at and take in the culture a bit, not actually buy anything, so they kept piling things on the boat and telling me prices. In the end I did buy a bead bracelet because I figured I needed something to remind me of these truly amazing people and the beautiful place they call home. later that afternoon, we took the dingy over to an island that honestly had no more than.. five palm trees on it, it was 30 ft long by maybe 20 feet wide, composed entirely of white sand. Had some good times trying to get a coconut down, and it took some actual planning to get down. I had to get a nearly dead palm and prop up a log against the palm tree and then climb the log and thrash at the coconut. It was worth it, I conquered that coconut good. That night was spent at anchor between these three stunning beach islands and let me tell you waking up and looking out a porthole to see an aquamarine colour of water is undescribable. It is as if you are in a caribbean magazine, living in those photographs. We sun bathed for a good portion of the day, and the Kuna continued to visit our boat which was very cool because Fabian knew most of them (Since he is there twice a month or so) and he was talking and joking with them. He even got into one of the canoes with the entire family and was given the little toddler to hold. I have agreat picture (which are few and far between for the Kuna people because they do not like pictures being taken.) of the entire family. When they were finally done trying to sell their fabrics and such, they asked if anyone wanted a ride over to the island. I was all over that because, as mentioned before, I was enthralled with these seafaring canoes. Once in the boat I was immiadiatly asked what my name was, how I was doing and if I liked the islands. I responed and asked what their names were, which I would never be able to pronounce again even if I tried. It only took a few minutes to get to the beach of the island and once I was aground, I was quickly handed the babies. This absolutely blew me away because they were opening up quite easily and it was as if I was just another person... not a backpacker to get money from. I was trusted (not that I shouldn't be!) to carry the little ones ashore and as a cultural experience, definately rates as one of the highest. After lunch on the boat, we all headed to the island to explore and take in the beauty. We found that the side facing the opposite directrion had a beach to die for and we swam around for a good houros so, marvelling every five minutes how incredibly stunning the views were. Also worth not, we saw a one palm tree island. Yup, thats right... just like out of the cartoons. That evening after eating dinner, we weigheed anchor to begin our journey east, towards Cartagena, on which we would lose sight of land completely! I had been told on the island by another sailor that the winds were changing and would be comming from the north, whereas usually they come from the north east. I was ever hopful that the winds would blow this way because that would mean that we would SAIL!!! After having gone to bed that night, I remember hearing the motor shut off, and the boat healing over. (means Leaning to one side for the landlubbers out there) I was only barely aware of these things, and contuinued to sleep blisfully, until i was rudely awaken by Fabian yelling my name. "Ryan" and then having Alex one of the crew come towards the cabin saying the captain wants you. AHHH, what did I do.. I was asleep! I headed topside (Again, for you landlubbers, means up on deck) feeling a sensation of complete and utter excitment. We were sailing! I was in a bliss moment while I recalled the incredible sensation of flying through the water, all by the power of the wind, all natural yo! Fabian was half asleep, but he stayed awake long enough to tell me "your on night watch, two hours" WAHOO! I felt like I was part of a crew again! I looked around us and there was nothing but darkness, we were on the open ocean, nothing in sight but the stars and the ocean itself. I watched our speed, cruising around six knots and watched our little triangle move across the map towards Cartagena and every once and a while, I popped my head out from beneith the canopy to look for other ships. At around 3 am I was relieved by one of the crew and I headed straight to bed. Not even the adrenalin could keep me from my bunk.The next morning I awoke to the same sensation of being tilted over 20 degrees and crashing into the swells. Now that it was light out, the fact that you could no longer see land became very clear. That entire day consisted of sun tanningm and breaks underneither the canopy to make some hemp necklaces. As mentioned before, this change in wind direction was a miracle, it was if mother nature knew I wanted to sail. Fabian called me a (excuse my use of language in this quote) "lucky mother fucker," because he never gets to sail going from Panama to Columbia. I damn well felt lucky, because here I was doing my absolute favorite thing in the world, and doing it in the caribbean, one of the most beautiful places in the world. I spent a lot of time with a sailing harness on at the bow of the boat holding on for dear life itself and having the time of my life doing it. There were a few times that the entire bowsprit (landlubbers this is the protrusion off the front of the boat that allows a sail to be larger tha just the length of the boat.) was submerged I I was up to my knees in sea! I suppose I must have loked funny up front, just standing there with a stupid grin plastered on my face, since other than going up and down the waves, there really isn't much else going on. Its hard to describe why I love the sensation of sailing, but what I can say is that it is similar to the sensation of weightlessness when you come crashing down overtop of a swell. Because of a sailboats design, it is a "water cutter," if you will, and you never feel as if your on somethig significant, and thus, you get a senastion that you aren't actually going through the water, but simply flying through air. Then a large wave comes, covers you in seawater and you are brought back to reality with a crash of the hull driving into the next wave. And it all starts over. I would then return to the canopy with all of me smiling and simply briming with adrenalin, to the other people aboard. I believe with such passionate views, my feeling on sailing is infectious because noone could help but smile back at me. That night I found it hard to go below to sleep simply because I knew the sailing was comming to an end, the next morning we would arrive in the port of Cartagena. I finally let my exhustion take over, and I stumbled into bed. A few hours before sunride I heard the engine start up, and I knew we were very close to the port. Eventually I crawled out of bed and got my first view of Columbia, and boy, did it ever look similar to everywhere else I've been! The colonial architecture is just on a larger scale. The majority of the day was spent waiting around for the port authorities and immigration to decide we could come visit. Finally, our time on board the Vagabond Prince came to an end, with a free ride from Fabian's taxi company to our hotel. Fabian gave us his phone number, cell number and even his wifes cell number saying if we needed information on Columbia, don't hesistate. We also wereintroduced to his wife and son. (his daughter is a divematser and was at work.)
And thus, ended one of the most memorable experiences I've head down here. I will cherish this experience and when i sail again, it will be one of the memorries that takes me to that place of utter and complete contentment.
Happy trails all,
enjoy the reading,