Sail away, sail away, sail away - Having a Blast in the San Blas

San Blas Travel Blog

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Suze, Hannah and Jen plus the beasts of bags we have waiting for our ride to Fritz the Cat

After a lot of agonizing, researching and procrastinating I finally met the infamous "Fritz the Cat".  After clearing the bank balance i paid my $820,000 pesos ($395 USD), handed over my passport and stepped aboard the Catamaran with sea legs firmly attached.

The captain of "Fritz the Cat" is Fritz, not to be confused with Fritzel, which would frankly be rather alarming.  Fritz is part chef, part trumpet player and all Austrian Captain.  Larger than life and a true character he put me at ease and filled me with confidence straight away.  Despite unfavourable reviews online i found him to be entertaining, straight talking and a great personality.  For the faint hearted, yes you might take offense, but he is everything i would want from a Captain.

Our home for 5 days
  His deck hand, Luis, is a true gem and with his big smile and easy going nature was the perfect compliment to Fritz.

The 15 passengers were an interesting bunch, two Argentinan guys biking from Ushuia to Alaska and another German couple doing the same thing (so technically we had three more passengers in their bikes).  Oliver and Dagma, a German couple who were frankly rude, uptight and lacked any concieveable sense of humour, patience or interaction skills. Anne and Rhys a lovely Australian couple who I liked instantly, despite Rhys´s interesting facial hair!  Adding testosterone to the boat were three Swedish boys - Nicholas, Henrick and Phil who were thoroughly entertaining and then there were Jenny, Hannah and Susanne a lovely trio of girls who i met in cartegena and Taganga and who were sure to make fun sailing buddies.

Fritz

After our safety briefing and instructions (including the only showering for 90 seconds every 24 hours rule!!!) we set sail and left the shores of Colombia and South America for pastures new.  It was an emotional moment for me, but i will return to Colombi and South America.  We settled into the boat which was fortunately very comfortable.  With two trampolines at the front, a cock pit with a large table (although not large enough for everyone to sit around) and a large sofa inside there were plenty of places to spread out to and relax.  So we settled in to enjoy our idyllic five day sailing trip.

The Carribean sea is not to be underestimated.  It can be rough and downright hellish if the winds are bad.  Fortunately we were running from Cartegena to Panama which is meant to have more favourable winds and an easier passage.

The ladies at sunset (L-R) Anne, Jenny, Hannah, Me, Suze
  Even so, i paid $23USD to get a special sea sickness patch just in case, as hanging off the side of the boat vomitting isn´t my idea of a good time.  I wasn´t alone and many of us wore the patch.  Fortunately our two days at open sea were fairly calm with only a minor storm and none of us were sick, the vodka flowed and we enjoyed good music, excellent food and general tomfoolery.  My sunrise watch at 4am on the second night (each person has to take 1 hour at least to "watch" whilst at open sea  cue lots of "iceberg ahead" jokes) was just beautiful and i thanked my lucky stars for the smooth passage.

Day three broke with clear skies, sunshine and Fritz playing the trumpet announcing our arrival to the San Blas islands. There are 365 islands that form an archipelago off the Carribean coast of Panama.

Birthday cocktails at 10am! Feliz Cumpleanos!
  They are home to the indigineous Kuna people who are known for their colourful dress, artwork and the fact that many of their traditions remain unchanged.   In short, it´s an incredible version of paradise.  The water is bath warm, clear and turquoise blue.  The islands have white sand, palm trees and no inhabitants on many, Robinson Crusoe eat your heart out.  We dived in and spent the day snorkelling, swimming and exploring the tropical paradise. 

The 3 days in the San Blas were truly idyllic and relaxing.  However, we never really got the opportunity to stay on the islands or interact with the Kuna people which for me was the only real disadvantage of the trip.  So much said about the islands revolves around its native people that i felt I missed out on a big part of the experience.

365 islands, 365 days a year. No coincidence!
  Still we sailed between islands and the days activities pretty much flowed as follows

Eat, swim, snorkel, eat, snooze, swim, snorkel, eat, drink, pass out.

So playing in the San Blas had all the ingrediants of a good time! 

NOTES IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING THE TRIP

From Cartegena to Panama you have to pay $25 USD to get a jeep to Panama City on top of the fare.  It is included if you go from Panama to Cartegena.

Despite reviews about the reliability of the boat and Fritz´s ability as a captain, in the indominable Captains words himself ... "things break, i fix them.  It´s a boat.  The thing to remember is we always arrive"

The cabins are pretty small and being underneath the boat can make for a rocky ride, although a catamaran is smoother than a yacht.

No wonder the Kuna people live long lives!
  If you are all inside due to tight weather it can be a bit "cosy".  I opted for the sofa in the kitchen which proved to be a pretty good choice.  You can also sleep on the trampolines which many of the guys did.

The food is excellent!  There is a big net full of fresh fruit and veg which you can help yourself to whenever you wish.  There is plenty of food at all meals and any dietary requirements are really well met.  I was amazed at how much good food comes out of the tiny kitchen .... even a birthday cake for Hannah! 

There is only tap water from Cartegena aboard.  We never went without water and there was no shortage of water available but some of us did get sick which we suspect was from the water.  I suggest you bring your own, have purification tablets just in case or discuss with Fritz about alternative options.

Bounty ad?

Don`t forget this is a backpacker option and you are at open sea.  There are some things beyond anyones control and it`s certainly not a luxury liner.  However, with the right people and the right attitude you`re bound to have a great time.

www.fritz-the-cat.com

 

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Suze, Hannah and Jen plus the beas…
Suze, Hannah and Jen plus the bea…
Our home for 5 days
Our home for 5 days
Fritz
Fritz
The ladies at sunset (L-R) Anne, J…
The ladies at sunset (L-R) Anne, …
Birthday cocktails at 10am!  Feliz…
Birthday cocktails at 10am! Feli…
365 islands, 365 days a year.  No …
365 islands, 365 days a year. No…
No wonder the Kuna people live lon…
No wonder the Kuna people live lo…
Bounty ad?
Bounty ad?
Panama with suntans!
Panama with suntans!
Fritz as the sun sets on our time …
Fritz as the sun sets on our time…
The ever smiley happy Luis prepari…
The ever smiley happy Luis prepar…
Another hard day at the office
Another hard day at the office
Sigh
Sigh
Tropical paradise ... another one!
Tropical paradise ... another one!
FHM shoot 2010!
FHM shoot 2010!
San Blas
photo by: LensTravels