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 Responses to “Sailing to Colombia on the High Seas”

  1. Randy Bullis November 30, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    absolutely freaking amazing.

    • Erica November 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

      @Dad: Thanks pops!

  2. Carlo+Geneva November 30, 2011 at 1:03 am #

    Beyond awesome. We’d definitely want to check this out!! Let us know details pretty pls 🙂

    • Erica November 30, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

      @Carlo+Geneva: Hit me up at if you want the skinny on all the info. Like, what information do you want? It is quite a bit.

  3. The World of Deej November 30, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    What an insanely awesome adventure…

    • Erica November 30, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

      @Deej: Totally worth every cent.

  4. Patricia GW November 30, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    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?

    • Erica November 30, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

      @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.

  5. Jarmo November 30, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Woah, that sounds like a pretty sweet sailing trip! I so want to do that next time I get to that part of the world!

    • Erica November 30, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

      @Jarmo: I think it is a must for sure! Just make sure to do a lot of research on the boat you want to take. We were so lucky!

  6. TheWorldOrBust November 30, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Wow, what a trip! I’ve read about people making the voyage from Panama to Colombia via boat and hard nightmare stories, but your pics look pretty fairytale-esqe, so kudos.

    • Erica November 30, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

      @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.

  7. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures November 30, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    Wow wow wow what an incredible adventure that I soooo want to do now! AMAZING pics — you’re looking muy caliente in your bikini chica.

    • Erica November 30, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

      @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.

  8. Tricia(Geeky Explorers) November 30, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    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…

    • Erica November 30, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

      @Tricia: I really wish we could have taken our furbaby with us while traveling. Maybe one day.

  9. Leslie (Downtown Traveler) November 30, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    Looks like an amazing sailing trip! Love the photos 🙂 We didn’t take to the seas in Colombia but we did go to Cartagena. Crazy how much the port looks like Miami! (Though the rest of the city, not so much)

    • Erica November 30, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

      @Leslie: Yeah – I said the Miami thing as we sailed into the harbor.

  10. Peggy McPartland November 30, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    Wow! I so want to do this! It looks like a fabulous experience. And I love the shot approaching Cartegena. What an awesome way to arrive. Con gusto indeed! 🙂

    • Erica December 1, 2011 at 1:20 am #

      @Peggy: Approaching the city was epic. Land appeared out of nowhere and you could see the buildings from miles away!

  11. Amanda December 1, 2011 at 12:14 am #

    Poor Shaun! Seasickness can really be rough…

    I really love how you presented this, though. It sounds like an amazing adventure!

    • Erica December 1, 2011 at 1:21 am #

      @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. 🙂

  12. Heather December 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    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

    • Erica December 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

      @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!

  13. Sebastian December 4, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    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 🙂

    • Erica December 4, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

      @Sebastian: It really was surreal to be experiencing your dream/imagination. These places ACTUALLY exist!

  14. dtravelsround December 4, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    So cool!!! What an amazing experience!! I love the pics, especially the one of the swirling gray clouds and the little, bright island below. Absolutely gorgeous.

    • Erica December 4, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

      @D: I wish it was more sunny but it did make for some very serious dramatic backgrounds.

  15. Ayngelina December 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    I did a 7 day sail and it wasn’t easy the last two days on the open water but I am so glad I did it. Looks like you had a great time too.

    • Erica December 4, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

      @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.

  16. Stephanie - The Travel Chica December 4, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    I am soooooo jealous! I booked some flights in advance before I left for my trip (including my flight from Panama to Colombia). When I started hearing from other travelers how great the boat trip is, I realized my mistake!

    • Erica December 4, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

      @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.

  17. Nomadic Samuel December 7, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    If that’s not an adventure I don’t know what is! Very cool!

  18. Alan Horton December 8, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    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.

    • Erica December 9, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

      @Alan: Thank you! I’m glad the journal like aspect of it was enjoyed and that my pictures didn’t go to waste. <3

  19. Abby December 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    You guys do the COOLEST stuff… I’m obsessed with that vertical shot of the island. WOW.

    • Erica December 11, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

      @Abby: lol! I’m glad someone thinks so! It was a perpetual trip of eye candy for sure.

  20. Trans-Americas Journey December 12, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Great post guys! This trip is on our list as our Trans-Americas Journey 200,000 mile working road trip heads (slowly) south! Will definitely give your boat captain a call!

    • Erica December 14, 2011 at 2:24 am #

      @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.

  21. Hogga December 19, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    A) I hate you guys.
    B) I love your bikini Erica.

    • Erica December 20, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

      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.

  22. Rebecca December 27, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    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!

    • Erica December 30, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

      @Rebecca: If you do, we have the man for you. An unforgettable experience for sure.

  23. Melinda McDowell December 6, 2016 at 6:58 am #

    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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