Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
96Trip End Apr 16, 2011
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However, Gordon in particular was still nervous about the first part of the trip as it would involve 36 straight hours at sea and we’d heard horror stories of how rough it could be. With Gordon’s record for sea-sickness we’d spent the last few weeks trying to gloss over this aspect of the trip so it was especially helpful to catch Sarah’s parents on skype just before we left and have her father explain to Gordon that there are two stages to sea sickness; the first where you’re worried you’re going to die and the second where you’re worried you’re not going to die.
We left Cartagena late one afternoon and our first night at sea was a very quiet one as we’d all taken heavy doses of sea-sickness pills which pretty much knocked us out. It was an enormous relief to wake up the next morning to find no land in sight but to realise that we were all feeling fine. The weather was thankfully absolutely perfect and there was barely any swell at all. There’s not an awful lot to do while the boat is underway but on the first morning we had a diversion as one of the fishing rods we were trailing out the back hooked something. One hour and some very tangled lines later we finally got a glimpse of what we’d hooked and not only was it a fish rather than an old boot or something disappointing, but a massive yellow-fin tuna
We whiled away the rest of the afternoon teaching the others the Dyce scoring rules for Contract Whist and towards the end of the afternoon the sea started to get a little bit bigger. By supper time it was quite bumpy; so bumpy that Ariana liked her homemade lasagne so much that she decided to taste it twice and spent a while hanging over the back of the boat. Despite not feeling fantastic Gordon managed to keep his down and we went with the approach of dosing ourselves up again and sleeping through it.
Next morning we woke up to feel the boat moving through calm waters and went upstairs to find that we’d survived the crossing and arrived in the paradise of the San Blas islands. Frexie at this point got quite excited and as soon as we were anchored jumped in the water and swam to the nearest island – at which point we realised that she is the dog with the most amazing bladder control in the world as she’d managed to hold it in the whole 36 hours we were at sea.
The San Blas islands are also called KunaYala, or land of the Kuna Indians who inhabit some of the islands and own all the coconuts (no, really, you’re not even allowed to touch them). The part we’d anchored in consisted of a group of four tiny picture perfect tropical islands with white sands, palm trees, coral reefs in between and even a shipwreck in the distance
On what was meant to be our last night in the San Blas we all swam over to one of the islands after dinner for a huge bonfire, complete with s’mores (for the non-Americans that translates as fire-roasted marshmallow stuck between biscuits with chocolate, ie yum) courtesy of Anna & Jeff. Talking to people on the other boats we were pretty smug in our luck in getting beds on the Desdemona; the food on the others didn’t sound a patch on ours and they were invariably more cramped and crowded. One boat in particular was absolutely tiny and it turned out didn’t have room for all the passengers to sit comfortably, let alone sleep, and so they set up tents on the islands each night. Goodness knows what they did on the crossing. Talking to one of Anna & Jeff’s sailor friends, Phil, he was very scathing about the boat as on other times they’d visited the area he’d gone to the islands the next morning to find they’d left behind not only rubbish but, behind a palm tree, several little mounds of sh*t
In the blazing sunshine of the next morning with very fuzzy heads and stomach muscles that were sore from laughing so much the night before we weren’t feeling quite so musical. Phil aided our hangovers though by taking us all our tubing behind his zodiac – an unusual but highly effective hangover cure. Sitting having a picnic lunch of fajitas on the beach of one the islands none of us felt like leaving in a hurry so it was something of a no-brainer when Anna & Jeff said they were having fun and would we all like to stay one more day. Urr, yes.
And so we had an extra day of paradise and another night of rum, bonfires and “Don’t Sh*t On My Island” – including this time some quite spectacular pole dancing on a palm tree from Sarah which led to some equally spectacular tree-hugging bruises the next morning
Sadly this time we really did have to go as several of the group had flights to catch and so we had to bid first the San Blas and then the others goodbye and return to the slightly-more-real world. After an epic night’s sailing from Jeff & Anna we arrived in Portobelo, Panama, Central America. What a way to arrive in a new continent.