Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dinghy adventures: the Darien Gap crossing on board the Wayward Sun

After all the shit I went throuhg in LEGO city I wanted to leave Panama City immediately. I can say that I was really lucky because Lana found a boat and she asked the captain if I could tag along. 
Had some difficulties at the end of my stay but everything went down smoothly and I was on my way to Portobelo to meet with the captain. We met. His name is Greg, Canadian rig builder that is sailing solo all over. The name of the sail boat is "The Wayward Sun". He wants to sail all the way down to Cape Horn and the Northwest Passage.

There was another hitchhiker he told us he was going to meet. Also Canadian. In the end, we weren't just three on board the boat but 6, 3 Canadians, 1 Dutch, 1 Chilean and yours truly + 1 motorbike (also from Canada)

We got acquainted in Portobelo for the next couple of days until it was time to sail away! Destination: San Blas Islands. On the way there Tim, one of the Canadian caught a fish. First time in my life that I ate something so fresh! yummy.

I've seen photos of this place. The islands are something else. They look like they are not real. The water is turquoise and crystal. It's impressively beautiful. The weather was nice. Everything that could have gone good, went good. Except that I should had used sunblock... We spent two days on the islands. We stopped in a group of islands called "Holandes Cayes". Not really sure if some of the particular group of islands and inhabited, but we anchored where there were a couple of uninhabited islands. 

But since we needed to get to Cartagena, even though we were not in a hurry, we all decided to sail to a different island. We reached Diablo Island. This island is big and is actually a pair of islands joined by a bridge that from the distance seems like a building. Apparently, this island is very important, has it's own airport on the mainland (the mainland is only a couple of hundred of meters away) and I saw that it had at least a flight daily, coming most likely from Panama City. Maybe carrying passengers and/or supplies. Later I found out that this is one the places that you have to stop if you want to hitch a ride in one of the cargo boats delivering supplies to all the islands. I asked a local that was giving us a little tour how long was to Puerto Obaldia and he said "a week". 
We took the dinghy and venture into the Diablo river. I think we needed some sort of fresh water source (and a bath). We starting going upriver until the river was blocked with several branches so we couldn't keep going. We stopped and rest and, why not, have a bath in the river!

From Diablo it was an all night sailing voyage to Puerto Obaldia, the last town in Panama where we would get the exit stamps. It was a nice sail. Finally, in the morning we reached what we thought it was Puerto Obaldia but it was really Playa Blanca. I thought that after Obaldia was only Colombia. A boat wanted to charge us 20$ return (each) for taking us to Obaldia which was only "around the corner". Fuck the stamp, let's go to Sapzurro, which was around the other corner. It turned out that you can't get the entry stamp to Colombia there, you have to go to Caparguná, which was around the corner. Why go to Caparguná when you can start sailing to Cartagena? This was the worst night. Very rough seas. Very strong winds. The wind reached speeds up to 30 knots (55kph). The waves were about 4-5 meters tall. The boat was bouncing from side to side. The sails had to be taken down and Greg decided to keep the motor running. But I was fine. I only took sea sickness pills a day before sailing and once again when we were sailing. I didn't feel bad or anything during this.

Morning came. Greg received a call from US Warship 55 (from now on know as US Wanker 55). They asked questions. Greg answered them. Suddenly the said that they were going to board us. "What's the ETA?" Greg asked. "2 minutes" and then we say a dinghy coming our way the the ship about 200 meters away. They started telling us what to do. Finally they boarded the sail boat and stayed for 3 hours! They were either bored or doing some kind of training. Or most likely just trying to be annoying. The boarded the ship (even though the captain is Canadian) because the ship belongs to the US (we were in international waters) because it is registered in the US. Some of the "tough" coastguard men were throwing up once they boarded The Wayward Sun. Some of their teammates were making fun of them and taking photos or videos! They were looking for drugs. Eerr, isn't the drug traffic the othe way around, from Colombia to Panama, we thought? Finally the US Wanker 55 people left and we could keep going to the scorching heat of Cartagena.

By the way, I was unfortunate enough to run into these people again in a restaurant in Cartagena. Although I have to say that one of them (he always stayed aboard the dinghy and looked 14) was really nice and even got up his seat to greet us.

That was our last night together. Greg bought us supper and we had a great time. Greg is one of the nicest people I had the pleasure to meet. I wish him good winds! Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's my kind of adventure.