Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sailing the San Blas

A sailing trip in the San Blas Islands offers a far better value than doing the trip across to Colombia. You can save a lot of money by doing a trip with me and buying an airline ticket to Cartagena. I will take you to the exact same spots in the Western San Blas that all the boats crossing to Cartagena visit.

My trips are geared towards the traveler who is willing to help with the work in exchange for a lower priced trip. There are many other higher end full service oriented San Blas sailing trips and you can contact me for a recommendation.

Meals are not provided. You bring and cook your own food of choice. The boat, Pelican, has a full galley(two burner gas stove with oven) including a small refrigerator perfect for cooling drinks and vegetables but not ideal for bringing loads of raw meat... It is possible to buy live lobsters, conch and fish from the Kunas. I´ve got basics like salt, sugar, cooking oil, etc so you don´t have to go crazy with the provisioning. Drinking water is also on board, straight from the tap in Portobelo. I drink it and so do all the locals in town... If in doubt, you can buy bottled water.

Pelican can sleep three comfortably, four is possible and five starts to be crowded. There is a spacious V berth forward that sleeps two and there is a settee in the salon. I have also improvised a sleeping area in the cockpit that has the advantage of being outdoors. Another option is to sleep on one of the islands with a decent sized two person dome tent I have onboard. There is a small toilet but no shower. I have very basic dive masks and snorkels and only one set of fins... There is also a JBL medium length speargun and a Penn International 50 reel and rod for trolling. Plenty of assorted gear for hand line fishing. There is one eight foot hard rowing dinghy and another Avon inflatable eight foot dinghy with a small 3.5 hp two stroke outboard. There is also 220 volt or 110 volt electricity for charging laptops, cell phones, ipods, etc..

The trips I have done in the San Blas tend to be about three days long. First day is an overnight sail from Portobelo to Chichime. The second night is spent at Chichime and the following day we do a day trip to Dog Island (2$ per person Kuna charge) and then sail to Banedup in the afternoon. We spend the night in Banedup and the next day we sail to Carti. Transportation from Carti to Panama City is available for $27 or $28 dollars($2 or $3 for the launch and $25 for the jeep). It may also be possible to sail back to Portobelo with me. The Robeson islands are very close to Carti and additional days could be spent exploring this group. I am very open to other destinations and if there is a specific group you are interested in, contact me, so I can see if I have the relevant Nautical charts.

Transportation from Panama City to Portobelo is cheap and easy. Take the express bus from the Albrook Mall for Colon. The cost is $2.50. Get off at Sabanitas, which is a busy T junction. Infront of the Rey supermarket(this is where you buy your food for the trip), wait for one of the local buses going to Portobelo. Portobelo is clearly written on the windshield. The cost is $1.00.

It is best to call instead of emailing as internet is not so realiable in Portobelo. Cell phone in Panama (507) 60837084

The boat, Pelican, is based in Portobelo and if you want to couch surf for free while in Portobelo before heading out or just to come up and check things out, put in a request through the CS site.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back in Portobello

Latest San Blas trip was great. Must have something to do with not having that tedious Cartagena passage. I will be either here in Portobello or in the Puerto Linton, Isla Grande area which is right next to Portobello. Will head back to the San Blas if I find folks interested in going....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I´ve been in the Western Carribean a bit now. Long enough to have met plenty of cruisers to get a feel for this particular breed. After the normal questions (how many years out, where you´ve been), I always ask if they are headed through the canal. I am surprised by how often the answer is an emphatic ¨no.¨ It is almost like a thorn in the side that the canal is there otherwise they would have a very valid excuse for remaining on this side. The feeling I get is that by the time Panama is reached most of the American and some of the European cruisers have done several seasons already and they have a ¨been there, done that¨ attitude toward cruising. Even some of the younger cruisers feel that the expense of the canal and the additional huge commitment of doing the Pacific just isn´t worth it. It is kind of a shame, but in retrospect, I feel really glad that I did the South Pacific first. In my case, if I hadn´t have had the few experience I did have there, I wouldn´t have had the stamina to do the other oceans. I still believe that the cruising one dreams of is still possible there, although off the ¨milkrun¨route. I´ve repeated it throughout the blog before and I will repeat it again that the South Pacific is the true cruising ground.

In other news, it is a bit too early for me to cross the canal so I might try doing some low budget sail trips within the San Blas. It is really easy to undercut everyone else as the prices asked are over the top... The ¨great recession¨ can´t be all that bad if flashpackers are shelling out nearly 100 a day to camp out on boats like Olivine, the 30 foot version of my boat that has seven people aboard when full!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Other cruisers that made the choice...

I first met the Craftons in Richards Bay, South Africa. I sort of knew that they didn´t fit the standard mold when it came to cruisers. I never saw them at any of the yachtie functions. Later, Tom confided in me that hanging out with other cruisers was not a high priority - why go cruising to hang out with people you can easily meet at the local yacht club? I have met a small minority of cruisers whom I would describe as people who see the cruising lifestyle as an alternative to the ¨system¨instead of how cruising is being defined more and more, as a reward for having done well within the ¨system.¨ It is interesting how the very same ¨system¨will co opt those who look for an alternative. The Craftons are now in the limelight with many news articles being written about them as well as interviews on CBS, ABC and other TV shows (Dianne Sawyer and Early show on CBS).