Climbing aboard the ‘Sacanagem’ a forty three foot sailboat we were greeted by Captain Hernando Higuera and his partner Maria. “El Capitan” appeared to be a mixture of Captain Jack Sparrow and your seriously crazy uncle …. he ushered us on the boat all the while constantly tugging up his loose fisherman pants and proceeded to, in a very creative mixture of fluent Spanish and basic English, give us the lowdown on how things work on his sailboat. Once finished, he brushed his long almost dreaded hair out of his eyes, winked at us and cracked a fresh beer – with that we were on our way to sail through the turquoise Caribbean waters of the San Blas Islands to Cartagena, Colombia.
We spent the first couple of days on the island of Chichime. After El Capitan had effortlessly directed the ship through the shallow reef and loosed the anchor he piled up beer, champagne and Maria in the dinghy and paddled off to land to start the first of three days of sailorly drinking. We went snorkelling in the clearest warm water, catching a glimpse of a sting ray silently rolling through the depths, then headed to land to have drinks and dinner with the Captain. Arriving on the pristine white sands, we were a bit startled to find a group of Spaniards raucously drinking in celebration of Semana Santa (Holy Week). Even more startling was the fact that they had eaten an entire pig, offering us the remnants:
Dinner (which was much nicer than pig leg) was freshly caught red snapper, garden salad and the most delicious coconut rice created by the Kuna and Maria.
We spent the next day lazing in the sun, snorkelling and perusing the molas available for purchase from the Kuna on Chichime. El Capitan was anxiously awaiting the arrival of his daughter and seem right depressed until he spotted their boat on the horizon. Out with more beer and champagne and party number two started… hoping to get fed we headed to the island to join the party where pulpo (octopus) was being chopped up in preparation of our meal. A bit apprehensive about eating octopus salsa I was surprised to find that, if not for the suction cup bits, it wasn’t too bad. El Capitan kept everyone entertained and explained the boats name ‘Sacanagem’ … in Portuguese it means ‘orgy’ and, according to El Capitan, una grande fiesta sexual in Spanish. After that description he cackled away, took another swig from his champagne bottle and proceeded to get thoroughly trashed.
On our third day we sailed to a cove reputed to be a hideout of Captain Morgan himself. Before arriving we stopped in Porvenir to stamp passports and, in the process, picked up two young guys from Korea who spoke neither English or Spanish but had a Sacanagem business card in hand. Presumably (since no one on the boat spoke Korean) they had been waiting for days to find the boat. They joined us all on the ship putting our number to an intimate 12.
We left Captain Morgan’s cove early the next day heading straight into the wind, which made the two day journey to Cartagena a wee bit rough to say the least. However, according to Maria and the Captain, this wasn’t the worst voyage by far. I kind of liked it, but for a few it looked like it was hell on water. Everyone but the Captain was taking Dramamine, although for some this didn’t seem to be enough and the Captain’s beers seemed to last a little longer than usual. But, amidst the uncomfy hours, there were moments of beauty — three times dolphins came close to the boat and swam alongside jumping and playing. Being one of the only ones awake at times I snuck in some Spanish practice and chatted with El Capitan who constantly referred to me as flacita (skinny one) or just “you!”
We have heard that sailing from Colombia to Panama with the favourable winds is a little easier, but for us it was an amazing adventure, the San Blas are the most stunning Caribbean Islands we have seen and we intend to return one day soon.