Daniel and his girlfriend Annalena visited us in Panama and spent two weeks with us cruising the San Blas Islands. Here is the blog post he wrote about it.
In August 2019 Dad and Heidi met up with us during their visit in Germany. Oh by the way, when I’m talking of “us”, I mean my beautiful girlfriend Annalena and me. We agreed that we would spend our holidays at the end of October 2019 on Artemis of Ileyn. We didn’t know where exactly it would be, but they could roughly tell us to book a flight to Panama. So time rushed by and we had booked our flight from Munich to Panama City via Paris. Yes! We were really heading to the Caribbean Sea just off the coast of Panama, to the San Blas Islands! After a 20-hours-trip with a lot of traffic jams in Germany and two flights, we reached Panama City Airport where we were welcomed by our taxi driver Vidal. He couldn’t speak a single word of English and neither does one of us two speak Spanish, but he knew where we had to go. So off went our trip from the Pacific through the jungles of Panama to the Caribbean side of the country, where Dad and Heidi were waiting for us. Although we weren’t able to communicate with Vidal, it wasn’t a silent ride as we had Spanish music on full volume for 2 1/2 hours. But Vidal seemed to be a nice guy and I wanted to stay awake to see a bit of the country anyway, so I didn’t mind the music. Annalena obviously didn’t too, as she fell asleep very soon. After a few hours driving along rough roads in the dark in a foreign country with hundreds dogs running infront of the car we reached Linton Bay Marina at 10.30pm, which felt like the end of the world. No one could tell me where Dad’s and Heidi’s boat was, no one could speak English, we had no internet, the security did not want to let us two good looking young Europeans into the Marina and I couldn’t reach Dad or Heidi on their mobile phone. By that time I thought “that was it, we’re stuck in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night and noone can speak English”. But then, luckily, our taxi driver Vidal, who I can call my friend now after helping us out, contacted the owner of the Marina, who I had booked the taxi over. And yes, he spoke English and Spanish and was possible to tell the security to walk through the Marina with us so I could try and find the boat. So off we went, said goodbye to Vidal, as he wanted to get back home, and after 15 minutes of searching we found the boat. Heidi was outside and recognized us in the dark and Dad followed her straight away. YES! We had found them! After telling them about our adventurous journey and exploring the boat and being awake for 23 hours, we fell into bed.
The next day we woke up to the smell of coffee and bread, which Dad and Heidi had made themselves. During our stay we found out that they do not only make bread, but even much more! After breakfast it was time to go shopping in the neighbour town. We were lucky as Dad and Heidi already knew a few people at the Marina. Shila & Susi were just on their way to the town we had to go to, so they took us in their car. Susi & Dad in the front and four of us stacked on each other in the back without seat belts. Welcome to Panama! After reaching the town we wandered through the streets, had a look at left-overs of an old fort and went shopping. We had to get enough to eat and drink for the next two weeks, as we were going to head off to the San Blas Islands, which are located north-east off the Panamaian mainland. After filling our bags and a snack on the street, we took a taxi back to the boat and stocked it up with our shopping. The rest of the day we visited the monkeys on a near-by island using the dinghy and played cards in the evening. The next morning it was time to fetch the new dinghy Dad and Heidi had ordered and I must say, it’s so much better than the old one. It has a hard floor and just looks great! I was in charge of taking it for a test ride. It’s such a good toy!
After placing the new dinghy on the boat and saying goodbye to Steve & Nelly, who is an American with his dog we met, we motored out as far as we could, but where it was possible to anchor, so we could leave for the San Blas Islands very early the next day.
The next morning had arrived and we left Linton Bay Marina at 6am as we had a long trip ahead of us. Dad worked out before that it would take us about 7-8 hours to motor, as their would be no wind at all. And he was right. After 8 hours out on the open sea, going up and down big waves, we reached an anchorage at Chichime Island, our first stop of the San Blas Islands. It was an amazing moment seeing these tiny islands appear on the horizon and getting bigger and bigger. Not only Chichime island, but all the other islands we visited, were that small that you could easily walk around one in about half an hour. Of course we had lots and lots of time, so it took us a lot longer. But who cares? We’re on holiday! The San Blas Islands really are how you imagine the Caribbean to be. Palm trees, white sand, blue water, local fishermen out in tree stumps fishing for any type of fish they can catch and no tourists whereever you look. For years there had always been something in my head wanting to see the Caribbean in real life, and now was the moment this “dream” came true! It is hard to describe in words how different but beautiful these islands are, but just have a look at the pictures and then imagine it being five times as good as the picture. That’s what it feels like being in the Caribbean, and especially being on tiny islands with only local people, sailing boats nearby and waves around you.
In total we then spent ten days and nine nights sailing in between the islands, mostly spending two nights at one island and then sailing to the next anchorage. We never had the feeling of being surrounded by boats or other people, because the most you had was maybe five boats at one anchorage. Many days we spent passing two or three boats and anchoring by our own or with one neighbour. It’s amazing how the local people live in these places. They go fishing in their tiny boats and ask the sailors before if they need any fish, then they also catch the fish for them and sell them for a bit of money. But money isn’t what it’s about out on their islands. Sometimes they just want to swap some fruits for a bag of sugar or their caught fish for a few bottles of drinking water. Seeing this just made me so happy, as at home in Europe money does somehow rule the people’s life and decides how you spend your life.
During our holiday we got to see so many things which we wouldn’t have seen back in Germany. Leaving our mobile phones in the cabin for most of the time made me feel completely free. Of course you don’t have the opportunity to quickly grab your phone when for example dolphins appear next to the boat. But you experience the situation in that moment and enjoy it even more. These memories will be in my head for the rest of my life and that is what is important for me. Just switching off from the daily routine, leaving everything where it is for two weeks, let work be work, let bills be bills, let stress be stress and just give yourself a break. We therefore spent our time enjoying monkeys jumping from tree to tree, dolphins swimming next to the sailing boat for many minutes, us trying to communicate with local people, playing card games and having a few sunset drinks, jumping into warm blue clear water, snorkeling through reefs, watching fish we had never seen before swimming around and meeting other sailors who tell us their life stories and about their sailing trips.
I think we have been able to freshen up our sailing skills after Dad and Heidi are experts now and you can just learn from them by watching. That doesn’t mean that we we’re only watching, no. Annalena helped Heidi with the anchor a lot and learned some new knots for the ropes. I mostly was in charge of steering and making sure that we don’t hit any reefs under the boat.
I really have to mention the kitchen on Artemis of Ileyn. Even in a tiny kitchen it is possible to cook amazing food. It must be because of Heidi’s “magic” (that’s what Dad calls it). From home-made bread and lasagna, lobster and pizza to Spaghetti Aglia e Olio and salad. Heidi did do a great job to make sure that noone on board has to be hungry and Dad did a good job cutting, but also making bread and coffee all by himself. That has definitely got better compared to what I can remember a few years ago! Good job Dad!
It definitely wasn’t the last visit on Artemis of Ileyn (I hope you’re alright with that Dad and Heidi). We found out that a day trip to the San Blas Islands costs more than 100 USD and we got a two week package including a bed and plenty of food. All we had to do was invite the two sailors out for dinner twice. Oh yes, if you want to pay for something when Dad and Heidi are around, you have to be fast. Otherwise they have paid before you even know the amount.
Thank you for an amazing time, it was great to see you two again. We will surely be back for lots of sailing, snorkeling and sunset drinks!