From Panama to Colombia, sailing the San Blas Islands

Once we got Vida tucked away safe and sound in a shipping container on Thursday, it was time to get ourselves from Panama City to Cartagena, Colombia.  Of course we opted for a sailboat with George being the sailor he is and me being a wannabe sailor who is determined to nip her chronic seasickness in the bud.  Our shipping partner Eric ( worked some magic and managed to get us on the 85 foot (18 meters) Independence sailboat on Friday morning (originally the Independence was set to leave on Thursday).  We would sail through the San Blas islands populated by the native Kuna people.  Incidentally, the Kuna won independence from Panama in 1925 to govern themselves.  They are ranked as some of the happiest people in the world and have managed to find a balance between maintaining their traditional ways and supporting their people through entrepreneurial efforts.

A jeep picked us up at 5:30 am on Friday morning from a hostel in Panama City.  We would drive to Carti, a very small port on the Caribbean Sea and from there take a water taxi out to the Independence.  We had heard the road out to Carti was terrible, but it turned out to be a much shorter ride than we were anticipating.  They didn’t spare us from some carsickness on the windy steep road though.  Soon enough we were off weaving through the river and then out into the open water to hop aboard.  After the anxiety of shipping the car, we were all ready to kick up our feet and relax.

Being a large boat, the Independence had ample room to whittle your hours.  The captain was a character, which seems like a job requirement to be a sailboat captain.  He was originally from Slovenia, and had been sailing for the last 30 years.  He took to the G very quickly as they swapped sailing stories and dirty jokes.  After months in the car with me, G finally had an audience that appreciated his material.  I tried to ignore the captain’s conspiracy theory rants, but was entertained by his sailing stories.  There was talk of a mutiny once on his ship that he forcibly crushed and some funny stories about an all female Swedish crew.  You can use your imaginations.  The food included a lot of fresh seafood and the small crew did their best to prepare vegetarian meals for me. George and I had our own cabin, but really limited our time there.  It was dirty and run down, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see any cockroaches.  I quickly dubbed it the roach motel.  We ended up sleeping on deck every night, which worked out well with the fresh sea breeze.

The next few days we swam, snorkeled, and visited a small number of the Kuna islands.  Many of the tiny islands are occupied by a single Kuna family.  We had the pleasure of enjoying a bonfire on one such island.  Two young sisters played around the edges of our circle, the best of friends and not a care in the world.   It’s not difficult to understand why the Kuna people are so content with life.

On Monday evening, we anchored in front of Cartagena.  In the morning, we would depart on the next leg of our journey. All things considered, our little shipping party had an amazing time touring the San Blas islands and getting introduced to the Kuna people.



Go Corvo!

We are with you Corvo! Swiftsure 2013. I hope you have great wind all the way around the course! I would say ‘If you make it in before the bars close the drinks are on me… “, but I think you are doing the long course …

In the meantime Teresa and I are on a remote beach in Costa Rica cooking at 90F. Butch, you know what would make this better ? … nothing 🙂 /ok, maybe if there were no land crabs it would be better…/

Good luck guys and stay safe!


The Battens are coming, the Battens are coming

I had known for a long time that the parental unit wanted to visit us on our journey.  They knew when they could visit which helped us focus in on Belize & Guatemala.  I was a little over exuberant in suggesting that we drive through Guatemala together.  Soon after they purchased the plan tickets, I started experiencing waves of anxiety.  No turning back … – what the f%$k had I done.  I was thinking about the border crossing into Guatemala, the bad roads, the long distances, and the simple (I’m being very kind) accommodations.

I planned for 4 dramatically different stops.  The first of which was Ambergris Caye, Belize for a little fun in the sun before driving into Guatemala.


They flew into Belize City, and then hopped on the Tropic Air taxi to Ambergris Caye.  We picked them up at the San Pedro airport with cold beer and a golf cart (basically the only form of motorized transport on Ambergris Caye).  We were off to a good start.

The parents landed in Ambergris Caye in time for carnival.  The main attraction seemed to be painting each other with colorful water paint.  The local businesses had prepared for this by covering everything with garbage bags.  I absolutely had nightmares of mom getting tagged with colorful handprints.  The kids were respectful though and gave us a fairly wide birth.  Phew.

On the first evening, G and I introduced them to ceviche (I love, love, love ceviche).  The following morning, I took mom for a massage to loosen her up for what was to come.  We then took out a small hobie cat.  George was a champ with 3 deadweight passengers.  We walked the hobie cat out through the sea grass and muck to clear the peers.  After a few false starts we finally got on our way.  We lucked out with great wind, so we were flying along pretty well.

On a recommendation from Catherine and Dan after their wonderings in Ambergris Caye, we went to get lobster burritos.  Also delicious.  Some locals (some women, some men in drag), were making there way down the street performing for donations which was lively entertainment for dinner.

The next day we planned a snorkel trip to Ho Chan and Shark Ray Alley, but decided not to share where we would be snorkeling with mom and dad.  Ho Chan was unfortunately a little disappointing because of the strong current and hordes of tourists.  As we headed to Shark Ray, the parents didn’t realize there was still another stop.  Shark Ray did not disappoint.  There were tens of sharks and many more rays.  I have to admit, I didn’t man up and jump in until dad took the plunge.  George, being George, was the first one in.  We finished up the day with another great dinner.

The following day, we would be packing up, taking a water taxi to Belize City to grab the truck, and driving across the Guatemalan border to Tikal.  I could not relax…all that was on my mind was the truck being taken by armed banditos (…no matter how irrational the thought).



Back to Utah

After a week in Sint Maarten we are back in Utah.  We arrived around midnight last night to the campsite.  We found the truck under a pile of leaves and branches but in pretty good shape.  She started right up and there were no leaks after 6 weeks of sitting in the cold.  I cannot say the same for us though.  We came from 32C to -2C.  Neither of us slept much last night.

We have a lot of videos and pictures to post from the Caribbean.  We will be updating the blog quite a bit in the next week.  Here is a quick video I put together as a teaser :).