Sailing to Colombia
Central America, Photography, South America, Travel

Sailing to Colombia on the High Seas


I always have had a sneaky suspicion that I was a pirate in a past life. Sure, my obsession may have started with One Eyed Willy from The Goonies, but that is besides the point. Sailing to Colombia was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I learned that I’m truly a sea dog who has a damn fine pair of sea legs.

Santana-45We sailed with Captain Gisbert of the fine catamaran Santana. After hearing horror stories of other voyages, was extremely grateful that luck was on our side. Let’s just say that another ship did not have a working bathroom and everyone on board had to poop in a bucket or in the sea.

Nothing I can say can really convey the feelings I had during the pinnacle voyage of my life. Here are some things I wrote down in my journal over a period of 5 days.

Day 1:
– Our ship embarked at about 8am. In true “Erica and Shaun bring rain everywhere they go” fashion, it is misty and overcast. All good though. Everyone is in high spirits. Looking around I’m super excited about the group we are leaving with – 4 Aussies, 3 Brits, 1 Japanese chick, 1 Canadian, 3 Germans (5 including the capt and crew!), and 2 Swissessssessss.
– We’re off to a rocky start. We have a few hours of sailing until our first San Blas island and Shaun is already knocked out and in bed due to Dramamine. He is feeling like hell.
– Caught a HUGE barracuda on the fishing line! I helped clean it and prepare it for dinner tonight.
Santana-15– A storm came out of nowhere. Wind, rain, and howling came up on us in a matter of 5 minutes. For the first time I could hear the ocean moaning. I cannot tell you how much I’m in love with the sea.
– The islands here are like out of a story book I read as a kid. You’re telling me there are actually islands made of only white sand and palm trees? AND starfish right off beach? I’m in paradise.


Day 2:
– I woke up at 6am on my own accord. Unheard of. I felt like a kid waking up on the day they are due to visit Disneyland for the first time. It is overcast and a bit cold. I’m holding a cup of hot steamy coffee as I look out into the ocean – smooth like glass with the occasional spinkles.
– I learn, in a rather disgusting way, that the toilet empties into the ocean without a filter. Floaters while swimming. Gross.
– The clouds decided to stay away for a bit, just in enough time to snorkel through crystal clear blue waters over a shipwreck. I can’t believe I’m here, living this life.
– Shaun is feeling much better now that we’re not over choppy waters. He has even come out for a swim!
– We arrive at a small island with 3 palm trees. Looking at the reef maps, we carefully maneuver between shallow waters and sharp reefs. Apparently most of the San Blas islands are surrounded by them and need a captain who knows the area.
– Tyson and Aaron (Aussies) jumped into the water and swam to shore. In a span of 30 minutes they managed to grab some coconuts from the trees and open them up using rock tools.
– A few casualties on board with some people swimming over sharp coral. All get named “Shark Bait” as we try to swim back to the boat faster than them.
– James and Christoph kayak to the island with a machete to recover some coconut juice for booze. It was a good night.

Day 3:
– More rain. More silent morning moments with coffee. I’m one of 3 people up (besides the captain) enjoying the solitude and beauty of the morning. I guess I really can be a morning person under the right circumstances.
– Aiden, an Aussie, kayaks to the small island with said machete to break open ~10 coconuts to use the juice and pulp for coconut cream rice.
– Shaun is having another good day. We’re cruising at a slow speed and he is able to feel “okay”.
– We sail to another island and local fishermen bring us 15 small lobsters and a crab for later. YES. I look at them and smack my lips.

Thank you Anna for the picture!

– No sun all day. How gloomy. It is almost too cold to go swimming.
– Last day to go all out. The boat busts out into a dance party. Tara and I go all out on Beyonce – it may have been the beer and rum. There is no shortage of booze. Should be an interesting day tomorrow as we make our 2 day straight trek to Colombia.

Day 4:
– Wow. You should see the hangovers on some of these people matched with extreme seasickness as we head into the 2 days of straight rough sailing.
– Shaun is laid out. Cold and clammy, he is not eating and I’m a wee bit concerned.
– The sun finally came out today… when we’re leaving and can’t go into the water.

Thanks for the picture Melissa!

– Dolphins came and played with the catamaran for a good 5-10 minutes. They weaved, dodged, swerved, and jumped. I’m tickled pink and my heart is full. Can this day get better?

– Tara broke out the ukulele. Sailing across the sea with the soft music – cliche – maybe a little but I can’t help but have a shit eating grin on my face.

Thanks for the picture Anna!

– There was a break in the clouds at about midnight and my breath was taken away. In an instant we had wind in the sails and the light of the full moon reflected on the ocean’s surface as the stars stared down from the sky. I was experiencing the sea as sailors saw hundreds of years ago. No amount of words can describe the experience. Sublime.

He makes faces like this.

Day 5:
– Weird to think how quickly time has passed by. I’m not ready to see land. I’m not ready to part with our new friends. Poor Shaun, he is extra corpse like today and hasn’t left the bed for hours.
– Gisbert won’t tell us what time we will arrive – something about superstitions or something. I can live with that. I’d rather not be lost at sea.
– We come up to Cartagena at about 3pm. The skyscrapers can be seen from miles away. I had NO CLUE that this is what the city looks like. How metropolitan!

Thanks for the pic Anna!

– Sailing up to a city is probably the best way to experience a new part of the world. Welcome to South America – and we’re bringing it in CON GUSTO.
– Shaun came out of the cave known as our bed. He is so happy that he is about to set foot on land.

– It turns out that no one on the boat had reservations for hostels and we’re showing up on the 200th Independence Day of Cartagena. Crap.
– All good. Gisbert pulled some strings for us…

Thank you again and again and again Anna!

Our next adventure? Trying to survive the craziness known as Cartagena Independence.

For those of you who are looking for a boat going from Panama to Colombia or vice versa, let me know. I couldn’t have asked for more with our captain and boat.

Thanks for the pic Anna!

46 thoughts on “Sailing to Colombia on the High Seas”

  1. What an amazing experience!! Poor Shaun, it sounds like he had a really rough time with seasickness. The entire journey must have been a swell of all different emotions. What was your favorite moment on the voyage?

    1. @Patricia: He doesn’t want to step foot on a boat for a while and I totally don’t blame him. I couldn’t imagine going into something where you knew you were going to be sick. My favorite moment was sitting on the bow of the ship at about midnight on a full moon. Everything was just perfect then.

    1. @TheWorldOrBust: From what I understand, the other boats WERE a nightmare! I couldn’t imagine. I would have died and made sure that my bloggy goodness was put to good use.

    1. @Andi: It was so phenomenal – like, my words can’t even accurately describe the experience. And thanks! I’ve been losing weight and feeling good about myself.

  2. Setting sail was going to be our first adventure. Since our furry kids are still with us, we’re doing the RV thing for now. We SO can’t wait to be one with the sea. Sorry Shaun was not feeling so hot during the passage…

    1. @Amanda: Yeah, he is going to avoid boats for a while. I think he even said that if I wanted to, I could go on a trip and he would meet me at the end place via plane. Thanks for the compliment – I thought I would try something a bit different. 🙂

  3. Beautiful photos!! This is one of the posts I’ve read that’s made me stop and say “I want to do this!!!” And Erica, you’re looking fabulous <3

    1. @Heather: This was one of the big things I was looking forward to on our trip for sure. Totally worth it if you ever get the chance. And thanks lady! Being more active works wonders!

  4. OMG these islands look like paradise, I totally understand how you felt. Just by reading your article I remembered that I imagined paradise to look like this!! I gotta go there 🙂

    1. @Ayngelina: 7 days? I think Shaun would have DIED if we would have sailed that long. There goes my dreams of crewing (although the cruise ships are still not out of the question). It was so fantastic. Your post is what made me decide I want to do it.

    1. @Stephanie: I’m glad we decided to bus all the way down to Argentina so we could have that flexibility. You can always do it again – I know a girl who did it for the experience and then flew back to Panama a few days later.

  5. Thanks for this post! The amount of detail you went into was amazing. I also loved the quality of the photography, those lobsters look yummy. What an adventure you had. I followed you on Twitter, so I look forward to reading your tweets.

    1. @Trans-Americas Journey: It need to be done! Let me know if you need any info in the future. He is definitely a cool guy to get on board with.

    1. @Hogga:
      A) I love you too.
      B) Thanks! I run into an issue where I can’t buy colorful suits because I start looking like a clown with my tattoos.

  6. One Eyed Willie!!! That brought back such great memories. Now, the boat. I soooo wanted to do this when we were in Panama but no tengo tiemp 🙁 Next time though – and will definitely be coming to you for advice!

  7. Hi Erica!!! Thank you for sharing your story so in detail. I know your trip was 5 years ago, but I was wondering if you have any of the information from your trip. I am going to do the same trip in February and I am looking to sail on the Santana with Captain Gisbert. It was nice to read your review. I am thinking to book with Mamallena. Before I do book, I thought I would see if you may have the direct info to Captain Gisbert so I can book directly with him. Please let me know if you may be able to provide me with any info. Thank you!!!! 🙂

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