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Life aboard

The Navigation

The trip includes 30-50 hours of open sea navigation between Cartagena and San Blas and an additional 7-10 hours if your trip departs from/arrives to Puerto Lindo or Portobello.

These are sailboats and rely on the wind but they also have engines. If there is no wind, it’s likely you will need to use the engine for at least part of the crossing. If there is a counter current or the wind is against you, the navigation can take longer so it’s strongly recommend to leave yourself a flexible schedule. Please be patient with your captain and allow them to operate the navigation in the way they deem most appropriate. They are doing their best to get you to your destination as quickly and safely as possible.

During the time on the open sea, the boat does not generally stop. This is a good time to read a book, socialize, relax, hopefully see some dolphins and maybe do some fishing. Depending on sea conditions you may be able to move around and sit on deck but once the sun goes down the captain will restrict being on the fore deck.

The captain will ask that you keep hatches closed in the boat during the crossing. It may mean the cabins get a bit stuffy but please listen to your captain and understand that certain rules are in place for safety, not to inconvenience you.

If you are concerned about seasickness, you can take tablets, which serve as a preventative. It’s similar to any motion sickness, some people feel it more than others. It is completely normal to feel a bit queasy. If you start feeling sick, get some fresh air, lie flat on your back and stay hydrated. You should feel much better during the three days of island hopping, as the sea is more sheltered.


food

The trip includes three meals per day and the boats generally serve very good food but please do not expect 5-star dining. During the crossing meals are likely to be simple (sandwiches, pasta salads, soups) and in the islands the crew will provide a variety of dishes, including fresh seafood when it is available. At certain times of year fishing is illegal because of breeding seasons for lobster and fish. The captain should also not purchase lobsters if they are undersized and may refuse to buy them even if available, please support this decision.

The crew do their best to accommodate to passengers who are vegetarian/pescatarian, vegan or celiac, but we will need to be informed of any special dietary needs in advance. It can be difficult to find gluten free and vegan alternatives, so please bring extra snacks with you.

If you have a genuine allergy to any specific foods or something in the environment, you should inform us and take appropriate measures.

Meals are served at scheduled times. If you sleep late or miss a meal for any reason and food has been cleared, please inform the crew. They are there to accommodate you but most cannot read minds, guest participation and assistance is appreciated.


Accommodation

For the entire trip your accommodation will be your designated berth on the boat, which may be a single or double bunk, in a shared dorm or private cabin. There is limited availability of private double cabins and you can book a specific bed based on availability. If you are not given the specific bed that you reserved, it is important to inform the crew. This is likely just a mix-up and can only be resolved at the start of the trip.

You will be sharing a relatively small space with people you may have just met, so please be flexible. Single travelers may be required to share a double bed with another passenger. If this is a concern for you, please advise us before finishing your booking.

Some boats use the salon area for additional sleeping, usually at a discounted price. Though it’s not as private, the salon has good airflow and is a good option for those concerned with seasickness or claustrophobia.

It is normal that the crew sleeps outside on mattresses or in the common areas. They often prefer to be outside to keep an eye on the weather conditions and hear any changes to the wind. Please respect this as their sleeping area.


General Comfort on Board

Most boats are not equipped with proper showers and fresh water is limited so everyone needs to conserve it. You will have the opportunity to rinse off on deck with fresh water at the end of the day and a few islands offer shower facilities that you can use for 1 or 2 USD, a salty bath in crystal clear water is free.

The captain is in charge of the water supply and at any time may change the rules if deemed necessary. Your dishes will likely be washed with salt water. Fresh water is like gold on a sailing boat, once it runs out you cannot get more (unless it rains) so please be flexible and conscious of water consumption e.g. do not leave the water running as your brush your teeth.

If something has not first traveled through your body, it should not go in the toilet. Boat sanitation systems use salt water so you do not need to worry about how many times you flush, but contents will be re-circulated back into the sea. Please avoid putting inorganic items into the toilet; this includes toilet paper, tampons and sanitary napkins, and garbage. Traditional boat toilets have manual pumps that your captain and crew will explain how to use. Please pay attention and if in doubt, pump more times than you think necessary. If you have any problems, don’t be embarrassed to let a crew member know, chances are they have dealt with it many times before.


The Crew

The trip is not a guided tour but your crew is there to provide the tools you will need to make the most out of your time onboard. Safety is priority one and then comes your comfort. Please understand that the crew may not always be available to socialize or entertain as they have many duties they need to carry out. Each captain has their own way of doing things, but their main responsibility is to operate the boat and get you safely from place to place.

Many boats have hired captains and these are subject to change sometimes just like in any job. Please ask us if you are interested to know who your captain will be.

Many of the captains are local sailors while others are foreigners that have relocated here. There will be an English-speaking crewmember on board. You can read a bio of each captain here (linked).

It is extremely important to communicate with your crew if you have any concerns or questions during the trip. Passenger support and attitude go a long way. If everyone works together as a team and helps out the crew, the trips are much more enjoyable for everyone.

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