Pirate of the Caribbean

Trip Start Mar 29, 2010
Trip End Jul 31, 2010

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Where I stayed
"Fritz the Cat"

Flag of Panama  , Colón,
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Well the trek from South America to Central America was made, on "Fritz the Cat", a 50 foot catamaran. To the best of my memory the 5 days went something like this :

Day 1 - The bike was loaded the day before and a custom officer met me at the boat to stamp the Shadow out of South America. Next day I loaded my remaining gear, (most had been taken to the boat the day before) and made my way to the dock. I was first there and wondered who would also be on the voyage. Fritz had told me various numbers as he was waiting for people to turn up. I was hoping on less than more as I could tell it would become cramped very easy. As the rest arrived we had a fairly mixed bunch. A German couple who also had their bikes strapped down on the deck, a dutch couple, an American/Japenese couple who lived in Japan and the usual young swedish backpacking girls, no trip is complete without them !

We finally set sail (or motored) out of Cartagena and into the open Caribbean Sea. There was no real wind to speak of so although the sails were up the motor stayed on. For the next 5 or 6 hours it was about getting used to the boat and each other. We ate and drank a little and worked out who would do what shift for the night as we were told we each had to watch for 1 hour as Fritz, and the girlfriend just seemed to sleep, with the boat of auto pilot all the time. All went well and as my watch started at midnight I was feeling good. At 10 past 12 the wind picked up and all of a sudden the auto pilot went off, beeping and flashing "no drive". I woke Fritz and together (well I just pulled down covers and hatches) we battled the storm until the auto would stabilise and set then Fritz went back to sleep and I stayed until 2, when I woke the next shift.

Day 2 - The whole day was about the same, a bit overcast and threatning storms around but still bugger all wind. Sometime during the day I noticed a dolphin jumping next to the boat. As I told all the girls there was a mad scream and rush to the front....not just 1 but at least 20 dolphins playing with the boat...that kept everyone occupied for about 30 minutes then the dolphins decided they had enough. Auto pilot just went all day.....in the late afternoon a storm hit, winds and waves grew and we finally started to sail !! For 30 or 40 minutes we were really moving and it was great, then the storm was past and we motored on into the night. Around 10, in the dark we slowely moved between some islands using the electronic gear to guide us. We anchored and had a nights sleep without the hum of the motor.

Day 3 - We all awoke to the Caribbean dream.....in the middle of all these beautiful little islands (San Blas Islands), clear blue water and white beaches. The snorkling gear was out and an hours reef viewing before breakfast. Some more swimming after to the islands, meeting some locals and general relaxing in the sun (code for getting burnt !). Fritz speared a shark so it was shark for lunch before moving 1 hour to another reef. There we all acted as spotters for Fritz and managed to get 5 lobsters and 2 crabs which made for a nice evening meal. We then moved on to our destination for the night.

Day 4 - Awoke to be surrounded again by beautiful island settings, (getting a bit boring now....not ) A bit more fun in the sun and we motored (not sail) to the Panama Immigration which was on some little island (imagine that !). We then backtracked a little to a bay where there were many boats and took the dingy to the main one to play volleyball. Six games later, 2 in a storm we had a quick beer at the hut/bar and back to the boat.

Day 5 - The motor started at 6, waking everyone. The day was overcast and threatning rain, we had been so lucky that the 2 days we had around the San Blas Islands were perfect weather. The day was spent talking in the covered area until the rain stopped then chilling out on the deck. The coast of Panama was visible most of the day, looking like something out of Jurassic Park. We arrived in Portobelo around 3 but the dock was blocked by a fishing boat. Luis (deckhand/cook/dogsbody) took the backpackers ashore while us bikers needed to wait. We found out the fisherman were drunk but would move for us, so we motored into the dock, waited for the trawler rust bucket to move and docked. We were them told that the drunks on the dock owned the jetty and we had to pay to get the bikes through. Usually boats anchor in the harbour and winch the bikes into these guys canoes and they take them ashore...and charge $20 so they figured they were losing out, which they were....but bikes into a canoe wasent good either. We unloaded the bikes while Fritz negotiated with the jetty boys...eventually we gave then $10 each and the Shadow was on Central American soil for the first time.....
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