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San Blas - Cartagena, my first oceanic sailing

With the season over, San Blas / Kuna Yala was a true heaven. Empty anchorages, more deserted beaches and great diving conditions. Summer, December until April are the busy months. Trade winds, great sailing conditions.


The rest of the year it rains a bit more, the winds are erratic and diving is great! The trade winds generate constant waves. Once the fetch disappears there are less waves and open ocean diving begins!


Amazing conditions, thriving corals and plenty of fish! Lots of eagle rays, plenty of reef fish great visibility!


During these months I did all my homework as far as boat repairs and parts. Took my time to research the spares and stuff my boat would need and got it all on the boat. Months!


My first tentative date went by, my second proposed time went by and eventually it was time to go.


Oddly enough in Panama there were mayor protests because of inflation and the country was paralyzed by people blocking all mayor access roads.



Getting all the paperwork was an ordeal!


Took a speed boat to Miramar, caught a ride with the baker to Puerto Lindo to get my Zarpe and got to Portobelo for customs. Stayed at my friend's.


Getting back meant waiting for a panga to go back. Samuelito allowed me to join him and his son. They take their boat loaded with fruits and veggies to come back loaded with fish. Once they sell everything they go fishing!



I had been preparing the boat for a couple of weeks now. Had my list with all the things that needed to be done.


People had been talking about joining, nobody followed through.


Got a little bit more diesel just in case (had three times the amount I needed...) and off I went.


I had something in my eye bothering me, right eye. Sensitivity to light, tearing and I couldn't see well.

Nothing visible.


A buddy who is a doctor told me to make a patch. To get artificial tears and an antibiotic in case it worsened.


So I left San Blas full pirate mode!


Fronts on the forecast, low wind.


Honestly, there was a better forecast for a few days later. I was hoping that the low wind from the west would take me there.


Nope, engine all the way.


The first night it was a bit shaky. Wind from the west with waves from the NE... Added to that rain and I had to move in. It was a bit uncomfortable with the mixed waves so I took an anti motion sickness pill. Just in case it got worse I wanted to be well.



During solo navigation I do 25 minute rest periods. I set an alarm, wake up, check course, look around, check engine gauges. Back to sleep.


AT the beginning it is difficult to consolidate rest in those 25 minutes. After a while it is good sleeping and by noon I was fully rested.


The adapted autopilot (Raymarine 1000 working on an added arm to the secondary tiller, my Pacific Plus wind vane). I keep the keeling arm outside of the water because the engine makes it vibrate and the added arm to the rudder makes it turn.

100% functional and at 15% of the cost of an auto pilot system for a boat that size...


The second day was calm. I imagined that this is what the next window was going to be like. Hindsight is 20 20. Did understand that better conditions are always better! Why rush it? Even though I was hoping to sail part of the way.


There was a small front that met me on the way out and another one on the forecast for my arrival to Cartagena. Had my main up a couple of times and had to bring it down. Almost no wind and the boat swinging from side to side.


Then towards the evening of the second day it began to blow. The front coming in at 3am. Quite punctual!


During all this time there were the odd boat and several transatlantic cargo boats passing me. Having the Mer Veille radar detector was a big bonus. Specially since I never got the AIS to work.


Arriving to Cartagena was interesting. Two hours away I could smell the city, the gas and fuel factories. Actually went in to inspect the boat when I smelled gas.


Dolphins! Lots of them! Two groups of dolphins came to hang out with me for a while.


40 hours 7 minutes from my anchorage in Yansaladub, Lemon Keys to Cartagena when I entered through Boca Grande.



Lost my antenna during the sailing. Did not inspect it before leaving - added chore to the before serious sailing list. Used the hand held to give notice of my entrance and anchored by the Club Nuatico Cartagena.


Unforgettable experience! Glad I did it alone.


Glad my boat made it and the engine performed perfectly.


Arrived on Saturday. Sunday the ophthalmologist was closed. Monday I had a piece of plastic removed from my eye. That is why I could not see what I had, plastic slivers are almost transparent. Immediate relief.

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