5 Things to Prepare for before Sailing San Blas

I guess at sea, you have to be ready for anything. We don't want to be negative, we just want you to be prepared. If you haven't already read The Top 8 Reasons You Should Sail the San Blas, it's sure to be more uplifting than the information that follows ;)

Nonetheless, we want you to be prepared...

1. The Facilities

There are no showers, but maybe you knew that. The ocean is your shower and on the 40-hour stretch of open sea, you just grab the bucket on the back and pour it over your head.

Have you ever had to pump a toilet 40 times with EACH use? Maybe you have, I don't know. I hate to even write about it (sorry mom) but let me just say… when the captain tells you to warn the swimmers outside the boat before you flush, you know you’re in a unique situation. I don't really think I need to elaborate.

2. Seasickness

It’s real. I’ve jumped out of an airplane twice and I would live at Six Flags if they’d let me, but 185 miles of open sea on a 50-foot sailboat is another story. When we first boarded the boat, we asked the captain how many people usually get sick. She didn't even hesitate when she said “everyone”. You’re not allowed to throw up in the toilet either, you have to stumble up the stairs and hang on at the back (because if you go to the front, the wind will blow it back at you… fact).

But can I just say that Dramamine is the best thing anyone has ever created? And we had the most impressive group of people onboard. I did NOT feel good, but out of all 17 of us, the ONLY person who ever actually got sick was our chef, Lucy (we beat the odds!!) And the incredible Lucy walked her butt right back downstairs after each episode to continue preparing amazing food for her 14 grown children. Lucy, we love you.

3. Shipwrecks

Also 100% real. We left for our 6-7 hour journey to San Blas around 2pm so we didn't arrive until after dark. Some guys on a dingy showed up with flashlights to guide us into the bay but it was too late. After a loud crunch and a sudden jolt, the boat came to a stop and we all lurched forward. Our captain frantically tried to reverse but after another abrupt collision with the coral reef underneath our boat, there was no getting out of it. We were stranded on top of a coral reef, teetering back and forth each time a wave passed by.

All 17 of us were directed to the side of the boat where we had to hold on to the edge and rock in unison with the waves hoping for a big enough wave and enough manpower to dislodge the boat. Finally after no luck, we were evacuated in small groups and taken to the islands where we waited until midnight for the captain and our boat.

In the morning, they assessed the damage, and sent messages for new parts. We were able to sleep on the boat (fingers crossed for no leaks or a slow capsize). 

4. Delays

These are natural consequence of a shipwreck of course… But you also have to consider the wind and the current (even if your boat has a motor and is operating normally).

The parts arrived from Panama on day 2 in the islands and our captain repaired the rudder with one of her crew members using snorkeling gear, plywood and ratchet tie-downs. This meant leaving one day late so we could sail back with a fellow boat in case of an emergency. It also meant chugging along at meager 5 knots (5.75 mph on the water) using as much wind energy from the sails as possible.

The final trip usually takes between 27-30 hours but ours took 40 and apparently it has taken our captain as many as 60 in the past.

5. Language Barriers

Unless you speak great Spanish (which no one on our boat did), get ready for a little bit of frustration once you realize your captain didn't understand a word you said about your car being shipped from Panama to Colombia. Come to find out, she was under the impression we had simply reserved a rental car in Colombia (which explains why she wasn't overly concerned when we asked if we could catch a ride on another boat that was leaving on our original departure date). “No you’ll be fine, don’t worry, I’ll send a text to my friend in Cartagena to let them know you’ll be late… but really we’ll basically be on time”… give or take 60 hours. Her explanation made no sense but what else can we do? 

It can't always be smooth sailing right? This journey was NUTS, but I have to admit we'd do it over again. If for no other reason, than to laugh at our own misfortune. Oh and those SUNRISES!! One more time...

See you down the road!
Meg (+ Tyler)

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