(Note – this post was written by Ellen on December 19th as we were sailing through the San Blas Islands in Panama. We are now in Cartagena.)

Even in the rain I love being on the boat. Yesterday, we just went across a small channel, but I loved the feeling of the waves. I know it could get really bad when we go across the open water to Colombia, but I just love the feel of warm wind blowing through my hair (what little of it I have left), and the drop in my stomach as the wave peaks and we drop into the bottom of the wave. I love swimming six times a day, and having nothing more pressing than trying to cook good meals with bad ingredients (both bad in the sense of rotten and bad in the sense of quality and taste) and trying to ration our beers.

Rationing beer isn't that bad at all, really!

Rationing beer isn’t that bad at all, really!

Our copassengers aren’t ideal, as they seem to think that paying for passage gives them the right to order the captain around and demand control that isn’t even possible, let alone fair. They’re really lucky that our captain, Antonio, is so easy-going, or they’d be dropped off on some island and told to fend for themselves if they pulled that shit with other captains. Other travellers have told of bad seas, broken sails, broken motors, and lost bookings, so I can’t really understand how they expect to have control over every aspect of their travel.

They wanted to change the destination but it didn’t work out with our plans, or with the captain. I can’t really figure out how they can’t see the other side of the story. They got on the boat, planning to go to Cartagena, but got really seasick, so they changed their minds about the two-day trip over open water. But then we got on, still under the impression that we were going to Cartagena. They’re super worried about the open water, and expected to get dropped off at the other port on the way, based on their travel book and hearsay. Then the captain told them that the first port they wanted was too dangerous, after talking to other sailors on the islands. The other option for a port would cost them an extra $75 because it takes time to go into the port and changes the route to Cartagena. As far as I’m concerned, both of these arguments are totally logical and reasonable, but they got super angry that he’s “breaking his agreement”.

To me, they are just as guilty of breaking an agreement because every guide book tells you that the trip across open water is bad and the smaller the boat, the worse the waves and seasickness, so they decided to change their agreement in spite of knowing these things previously. Like Hannah said, it’s like getting on a bus, being the only two passengers, and requesting that it change its route since there’s no one else on board, then when other passengers get on, getting angry that the driver won’t go to the other destination that was never planned anyway.

Oh well… they’re kind of control freaks since they keep insisting on knowing exact times for departure, arrival, and other things that are totally dependent on weather and circumstances, then getting angry that the captain “doesn’t keep his word”. It’s a boat, we’re sailing through paradise, and they’re worried about the exact time we’re arriving in Cartagena.

It’s great that I’m such a happy camper, because this is exactly like camping, except without wood fires to cook over. Although, the night before last, the captain of another boat cooked fish soup over an open fire, which took from 8pm to 10pm to finally finish. We also got a nice bowl, although with skin, scales, and eyeballs all swimming around in the soup, hiding amongst the potatoes and veggies. It was a bit dangerous to be eating it in total darkness. I just stuck with the broth and picked out the obvious potatoes.

Yesterday we saw dolphins twice. Once about ten minutes after I’d been swimming in exactly that spot, just off the island of Chichime. I had even been thinking how terrifying it would be if I saw a fin, thinking of sharks. I can only imagine how much I would have freaked if I had seen one while I was in the water. The water is so blue-green and clear that I’m always sure I’ll see a shark just below me, or some other menacing creature. The second time we saw dolphins was when we were crossing the channel and a group swam by the boat, jumping and splashing. It was one of those awesome moments of indescribable beauty.

Ellen splashing around just before we saw the dolphin

Ellen splashing around just before we saw the dolphin

We also saw a sea turtle today. Hannah and I were at the front of the boat while we sailed past an island. We were nervous of some rocks ahead, which we seemed to be heading for. The boat was on autopilot and Antonio was down in the cabin. We agreed that we would clear the rocks without a problem, but we saw what looked like a large log floating right in our path. We called for Antonio, just in time for the turtle to slide into the water.

Just one of the gorgeous sunsets - we were too "busy" admiring them to stop and take pictures.

Just one of the gorgeous sunsets – we were too “busy” admiring them to stop and take pictures.

Today we stopped between two islands, one that must have been uninhabited, because it had so much jungle right up to its edges. It’s something so wild and beautiful that there’s no way to capture it in words or pictures. The sun set right behind it, with giant clouds sending down beautiful pink-orange-gold beams of light to the aquamarine ocean below. Waves are crashing into the trunks and roots of fallen trees, and for once, the palm trees can’t dwarf the jungle around them. In the water around us, thousands of fish of every size, shape, and colour teem in water that is the colour of a postcard, so clear and perfect, with coral and seaweed darkening the depths in patches. Yellow and black striped fish come to the surface by the dozen, when anything small lands in the water, and they circle the boat like a mirror image of vultures, waiting for scraps we toss aside.

Gorgeous water - I don't think I managed to get any fish in this picture, though.

Gorgeous water – I don’t think I managed to get any fish in this picture, though.

Other fish are jumping out of the water, and I can see pelicans diving everywhere the fish jump, taking mouthfuls of bounty along with the sea water. Groups of five to ten birds fly overhead in formation, alighting in the palm trees that dominate the second island. Its groves of palms with soft green grasses and white sand paths look welcoming, and I can’t help the pull of their enticing quiet solitude. Despite this serene and isolated exterior, I know that the natives that fish and trade their wares here, the Kuna, live on the island, which explains how the jungle has been kept back from the shore.

When we went walking on the island today after dinner, I saw a sting ray in water right by the beach. Hannah and Wilma were ahead of us, and they passed right by it, which is probably why it was on the move. It was about 8 inches wide and 18 inches long. The moonlight was bright enough to see by, and the moon was right overhead, so our shadows lay only below us, and the shape of the palm leaves was cast onto the white sand below.

I also saw one of the nicest shooting stars I’ve ever seen. Hannah had just gone in to get ready for bed, and I was lying back watching the stars. The night sky here is crystal clear, with no man-made lights to be seen. Half the sky was lit up with clouds bright from the half moon, and the other half was rich and black, full of stars, but they had a soft light that was overpowered by the strength of the moon’s rays. I saw the shooting star streak relatively slowly through the sky, with a long trail behind it and clearly defined fiery edges. I wish there was some way to capture it. I realized I actually have nothing more I could wish for!

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