Setting Sail for the San Blas Islands on S/V Luka

Trip Start Jan 23, 2011
Trip End Feb 14, 2012

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Flag of Panama  , Kuna Yala,
Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tomek and Beata had asked Annie and I to arrive earlier than everyone else so they could show us around, make sure I (and they) was comfortable that I would be safe on board, and that I would not compromise anyone else's safety. They were very quickly comfortable with me and I soon knew where everything was so got to spend the afternoon relaxing on deck, chatting and getting to know our lovely hosts while they got everything "shipshape", and getting ourselves settled into our cabin for the cruise.

We were quite certain that we were in safe hands as, aside from having spent his life on and around boats, Tomek is in the Guinness Book of Records as being the last man to have sailed singlehanded, non-stop around the world the "wrong" way - AGAINST the prevailing winds! The only company he had for those 13 months was his small dog, Wacek, who really did have the "run of the deck" :-)

We also learnt the sweet story of their meeting: Beata used to just listen in on a Polish Internet chat site, especially to Tomek's singing which she really liked. One day she plucked up the courage to talk to him. After some months of Internet chatting, Tomek sent Beata a mobile phone so they could talk more freely. Then came the aeroplane ticket, and now, here they are, sailing the world together :-)

The fourth, but temporary, member of the crew was their young nephew who was lucky enough to be visiting from Poland for his summer holidays, what a great opportunity. Just not too sure about the haircut his uncle gave him half way through the cruise - more shave than cut. No, I did not allow him anywhere near my head :-)

Later Tomek went off to fetch our fellow passengers and, as the first lot were approaching we heard Zim-Aus Tracy say of the boat, "but it's so small!" She never lived that one down :-) Tomek, an enormous man himself, with even more enormous hands and feet :-), explained that actually, we were on one of the bigger boats of this class. We later learnt that to be true!

Also in the first load were Zoltan the Hungarian from Hawaii, Swiss Natalie and Hong Kong couple Nicole and Barry.

Next load came the family from Washington DC, Henry, Liz, Hannah and Jonah.

Crew and company all loaded, in fact overloaded as we were slightly overbooked with nephew and 11 of us but it was bound to be fun.

Final formalities included safety and rules briefing out on deck, handing over of payment for passage, and signing our indemnity forms.

The advice from Captain Tomek and First Officer Beata :-) was that we did not drink alcohol while underway, rather save that for while we are in the calm of the islands, eat just a light meal for supper, and take anti-seasick tablets, they are drowsy making so help you sleep as well as for "just in case". It seems we all heeded their advice and were better off for doing so.

There were a few rules that were non-negotiable;

- drink alcohol or swim, but not both,

- no-one on deck after dark while the boat is under way, and

- only girls get to shower!

For the first rule, we were told stories of captains who either got drunk themselves or allowed people to do daft things on board and end up in dangerous or worse situations. Again, we later found out from others who had sailed on a different yacht how true this could be.

The second rule would only be relaxed for anyone who was so seasick that they needed to be on deck, they would have a lifejacket put on them and be secured to the mast! Tomek told us that many men who fell overboard at night were, if found, found with their fly undone. The lesson: don't pee over the side when it's dark and the boat is under way :-)

The final rule was that girls could have 90 seconds worth of water to shower each evening but men could not unless, in Tomek's words, "you admit to being a pussy"! On a couple of occasions I did pour a bottle of cold water over my head just to get rid of the salt. On the last day the boys got to have a bucket shower on deck using some of the water in the barrels on the deck, drinking water kept in case of emergency but, with just one night left, we could use half of it as a wonderful shower.

Speaking of water, unlike many yachts, S/V Luka has an exceptionally sophisticated water "making" facility. They have a purifying filter system as designed by NASA for the astronauts so they can desalinate and produce drinking water from the very water we are sailing through., that's pretty impressive!

And then we were under way is what we got. We watched Cartagena disappear into the darkness and, as we were leaving the calm of the harbour, reluctantly left the cool of the deck breeze and went below decks to our cabins.

We would be sailing, well, motoring actually as this is the rainy-and-no-wind-season, for the next 36 hours so may as well get some sleep. the morning...

Something we had no idea but quickly learnt was how HOT the cabins got, we woke up wet from perspiration! Unfortunately a combination of having to close the windows because of rain, pretty ineffectual fans and plastic coverings on the mattresses (why?!) all contributed to this heat. Oh to have a mattress on deck :-)

Breakfast was our first real meal on board and a sign of many marvellous meals to come! Some of the reviews had mentioned that Beata is an excellent cook and that the food is plentiful, throughout the cruise this was proved to be absolutely true. After the cruise, when we met up with others from another boat we had seen, they told us how terrible and little their food was, including pot noodles for sinner one night, and how they had looked longingly at us eating so well! Tomek also did some of the cooking and, between them, made us some YUMMY Polish meals :-)

Our day at sea was spent mostly up on deck enjoying making our way through and being on the water, always a pleasant way to travel. The only downside was that the shade tarpaulin had blown away in a storm on the previous trip and not been replaced so there was practically no shade to sit under and something we all really missed in the beating sun.

As it must sound (read), some good, some not so good BUT we are heading for the San Blas Islands so it is ALL GOOD! :-) As I said to Annie, if we consider this as a bus on water taking us on a journey of a number if nights and days, providing us with place to sleep, feeding us more food than we can eat, and taking y to one of the most beautiful spots we will ever encounter, then it really is just brilliant :-)
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