Sailing on the Wildcard from Panama to Colombia via the San Blas Islands

Panama and the San Blas Islands 
Day 8-12 of our South America trip

How we arrived:
After saying an emotional goodbye to Ed and Lilian, we got a 3 hour bus from Panama City to a small port town called Portobello. Portobello is an absolute shit brick and the less said about it the better. We booked the boat trip online prior to arriving in Panama. After extensive research, it was decided that Blue Sailing was the most secure place to book through and that the Wildcard was the best boat in terms of size and meeting people. You can now book directly with the Wildcard boat.

Our sailing trip awaited with 19 fellow sailors. Cozy.

The Wildcard sail boat - Panama to Colombia

Quick overview:
After what felt like two years of waiting in the not so beautiful town Portobello, we boarded our worryingly small sailing boat, which also had three motorcycles strapped to the front of it. The boat was called the Wildcard and we were greeted aboard by the crew that consisted of Captain Charli, his wife Natalie (also the cook) and his son Keenan (my new best pal). Prior to setting sail, I popped a good few sea sickness tablets as my paranoia following an ill fated ferry trip to Hollyhead in Wales last month played on my mind. The first meal before setting off was spaghetti bolognese… a lovely choice to settle the stomach… or not. That night we sailed towards the San Blas islands to arrive the next morning. Of the 16 passengers, 10 saw their bolognese again. Thankfully myself and Heather were not one of them! Some say, I’m a bit of a sailing legend.

After a rough night in our ten bed cabin, we woke up to picturesque views and crystal clear water that gave you that “wish you were here” postcard moment. It is said that there are 365 of these idyllic islands scattered off the Panamanian coast, one for everyday of the year and most of them uninhabited. The ones that are inhabited are owned by an indigenous tribe called the Kunas.

For the next 3 days, Captain Charli dropped us off at a new island every morning where we would bring books, snorkels and beer and just hang out, play volleyball and football for the day. We also sampled some ‘Coco Loco’ which is basically rum in a coconut. The loco certainly made the coco taste nice. Gwan. Three memorable days and the photos hardly do it justice.

The last 2 days were spent sailing on open water enroute to Cartagena, Columbia. For this part of the trip, we had 14 fallen soldiers, but much to our amazement, myself and Heather didn’t vom. Some people were in seriously bad shape by the end. Open water sailing is not fun. If I was to recommend this sailling trip to anyone, I would definitely recommend the Wildcard as Charli is a great guy and excellent captain and Natalie is an unbelievable cook, considering she has to cook in a tiny kitchen with massive waves moving the boat in all directions. But I would consider the trip a big no-no for people prone to sea sickness of any level. There’s a speed boat option that goes along the coast which ends up costing the same but without the puking passengers.

Accomodation:
60 foot sail boat, we slept in a ‘double’ bed in a shared dorm and I spent most of my nights with my head smushed against a wall as the boat was sailing sideways.

Rory’s rant:
I bought a lovely Panama hat the day before the boat trip. The first night on board Heather slept on my hat. A truely devastating moment and the hat will never be the same. You just can’t teach ignorant people.

Heather’s highlight:
The boat trip was a memorable experience to say the least. I had never been at open sea before and I won’t be forgetting about it anytime soon! We met a lot of fun people on the Wildcard sail boat from all over the world. Because of seasickness we didn’t get to share too many drinks on the boat, but we made up for it on Christmas and New Years when we met up again.

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