It’s mental to do this but also mental NOT TO DO this. I mean 5 days sailing from Panama to Colombia. On a small yacht in the open ocean. With a Colombian captain and a tiny hole to take a dump in? Sure.
Sailing the San Blas Islands, the most epic sea adventure you’ll do. I got lucky. Sailed with a group of 9 other wicked people. We slept side by side in the yachts kitchen on the open ocean. Drank whenever possible and frolicked across the San Blas islands. For some reason they decided they could put up with me. So we continued traveling together for a fair time after the voyage. The San Blas Islands were, as everyone says and you’ll read, paradise. What made it more so though was the koala 2 boat we sailed on.
And so to sea
I set off from a tiny little village about 2 hours north of Panama City. Got there on a chicken bus arriving in Style. The boat, the Koala 2. Was sailed by a legend of a chap. A small, older Colombian fellow who was as chilled as Penguin in snow. But with a stern attitude towards safety. The trip began as it continued, drinking and fighting over who played the next song.
The 5 days went by pretty fast with the first 3 spent island hopping and the last two open water sailing. When I look back I realise what I did. Having no contact with anyone other than your fellow mates out on the open ocean. With no land in sight. For 5 days. Christ, it kicked ass. The feeling of freedom was insane.
Lazing, snorkelling, and drinking were pretty much my chores. The food the guys cook was better than most I had on land. I’m talking fresh fish, lobster, huge steaks. BBQs on the islands themselves. The cuisine was top notch for where we were.
- Research you boat well they vary from chilled, partying, small too big. And more so research your captain well
- Wrap the contents of your main bag in bin liners
- Take a smaller bag to hold what you’ll need for 5 days on the boat
- Take plenty of booze, I ran out of a create and a bottle of rum (in 2 days). Luckily I sailed with 2 Ozzies who brought plenty and were keen to sub to a POM. If anything just to prove they could drink more
- Take sea sickness tablets
- Expect rocking, big waves, ups, downs and sleeping side by side wedged together in the kitchen to stop you rolling out of your bunk
- Take snacks
- Take BCAA’s and Glutamine tablets to aid in holding onto muscle mass as you’re deciding when you eat
- Rush into the boat decision or skimp on price, it’s worth paying extra for safeness
- Over pack your small bag, you’ll be in the water or sun bathing 95% of the time, naked 5%
I look back at this journey as one of the best things my northern ass did and couldn’t think of a better way to enter South America.
The San Blas islands are many, I think over 2,000. We visited ones without hostels, hotels or common people on them. The whole place was ours, bar a few locals. Castaway ain’t got nothing on it.
Tips for healthy eats
- Take your own nuts, dried and fresh fruit.
- The food cooked on the ship (I can speak for ours) was fantastic. Fresh veg, plenty of fresh fruit available and very fresh fish.
How to get meat for that protein hit
- I can’t vouch for all the boats but ours had meat with every dish and there wasn’t a shortage of it. Failing that take on board a bag of jerky just in case.
- Pack glutamine and BCAA in your live aboard bag.
Where to exercise
I would say forget and use it to rest after doing one of my plans, which will leave you needing a rest ;). But I ended up doing push-ups on the boat as the captain laid down a challenge in stormy waves and being a competitive nut, I went for it.
Other than that you can easily do workouts, stretches, yoga etc on the remote islands themselves. You have most of the day at each one.