No-Moto-Boundaries-Latin America n' back n' da' TAT, un-planned, un-hinged, and solo

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by SeanPNW, Sep 12, 2013.

  1. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    Hey Charlie, yeah I called Fritz to see what the status was, as you said, they are bogged down in red tape on the Colombia side. He says maybe another month, but sounds like it's been this way for a while. Not going to sit around holding my breath. Maybe it'll be going by the time we need to come back though :wink:

    I met a guy in the super market today with a "Chiriqui" hat on, said he's been going there for 21 years now with his wife. You guys sure live in a beautiful area, maybe we'll get to do some more riding there another day.
  2. Montek

    Montek Eternal Noob

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    for your boat to come in!!!!!! its kinda odd not reading your rr daily!! its what i do at lunch time. Guess I have to hit the titty bar for entertainment a couple more days. Wife hates it when i have no rr's to catch up on cause i come home with that very distinct titty bar aroma:lol3

    Hurry that boat along for my wifes sake:rofl, and co-workers!!
  3. Scott_PDX

    Scott_PDX Leisure Engineer

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    Hey Sean - Just found your ride report and have been spending free time this week slowly digesting it. Love the writing, pictures and general attitude you have. Keep up the good work, will be looking forward to more reports in the future.
  4. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    Your wife can rest and you can scrub that titty bar aroma out of your clothes, just got in to Cartagena this morning.

    Thanks for the words Scott, I'm hoping to make more rides happen in the future as well, this stuff gets into your blood for sure.
  5. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    James and I made it into Colombia today. First thoughts...I'm intrigued, more than intrigued. We are in Cartagena and killing some time before we can get our passports back later tonight. Our bikes need to go through customs and thus will be on the boat for another day until we can pull them off. We are dirt bags and trying to save money so we'll be crashing on the boat for another night with the crew instead of paying for a place in town. The crossing was good, beautiful islands, and a fun open water crossing. I'll get a post up on the ride when I get more internet over the next few days.

    It's a bit bizarre being here in Colombia in South America. It'll be even more bizarre when we get to unload the bikes and turn the wheels. This place is beautiful. More later.
  6. theofam

    theofam Been here awhile

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    Glad you fellas made it safely! Eagerly awaiting some pics of the float south.
  7. damasovi

    damasovi Long timer

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    amigo Sean!!

    keep on ridding!! I keep reading, and now you have me thinking of going south instead of north for my next big ride...

    I hope SA treads you well, and say HOLA to the señoritas for me.

    Damaso
  8. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    Hey Sean, uploading pics now in a coffee shop, interwebs are pretty sluggish here. James and I are staying on the boat with the crew for a few days while we wait for customs stuff. It's nice getting to spend some time on the boat and with the crew in a more relaxed atmosphere and we are saving a bit of money as well. Staying on a boat means no internet, so will probably have a post up in a couple days.

    Hey Damaso, I look forward to reading your RR for your next ride, whether it is north OR south. Everything is new and foreign to me down here so I can't compare north to south too fairly right now. It's a whole other world in Colombia it seems, only been here for 24hrs now but it's quickly becoming one of my favorite places and most intriguing countries thus far. I'll let the ladies know you might be heading south :freaky
  9. Old Codger

    Old Codger Adventurer

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    Waiting for my daily, Adv. fix....This is one of the BEST,,,,:thumb
  10. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    Off the boat and on the road again. Found a place with good internet and cold beer :1drink, hoping to have something up today. :cob
  11. MrGoldfish

    MrGoldfish Been here awhile

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    Looking forward to it. Thanks for sharing.
  12. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    James and I had decided to head to Panama City where we hoped to be able to make some last minute decisions on what boats to take. James had a booking on Wild Card, I had a last minute cancellation that I could fill if I wanted on the same boat, and there was an opening on Jaqueline (another boat) as well. In addition, we hoped to hear from our friend Santiago as to whether there was space on his super cheap mystery boat, we could take the mystery boat 9 separate times for the cost of one crossing on the other options. Either way, we needed to be in Panama City as all boats would be leaving the next day and none of them were leaving from Portobelo where we were. We spent that night lounging with David and mulling over our options. After so many years sailing the open waters he has such a laidback attitude about getting around. Goodluck finding crossing to Europe David, all the best.

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    We got in to Panama City before noon and started making decisions real quick. Having heard from Santiago that there was no room on his mystery boat and that the captain didn’t know when they would sail next I opted to put the deposit down on Wild Card and lock in the same boat as James. We spent the afternoon walking around the city and buying a few snackums for the 5 day crossing. We were told to be in Carti at 7am the next morning for boarding so it was early to bed. We were up at the asscrack of dawn and on the road by 4am.

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    We got to the port of Carti before Wild Card did so had some time to kill. The Guna Yala (also commonly known as the Kuna or Cuna) are the indigenous people of Panama and Colombia and they own and run these small ports. The Kuna live in the three separate politically autonomous ‘reservations’ (sound familiar north americans?), with the most populated being the region of Kuna Yala which is also known as the San Blas islands. There are 300 some odd islands in the San Blas and they run off the caribbean coast of Panama all the way down towards Colombia. They are in charge of the ports here and there are several different ones each run by different families.

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    A 2-up v-strom rolled up for the same boat so we made friends with Bryan and Sonyea. We cut up a bit of rope and pulled strings to see who gets to be the guinea pig bike loader.

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    Our boat came into the port a bit later and we got our first sight of the Wild Card.

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    Bryan pulled the short string but he having the bigger of the bikes I ended up loading up first anyways.

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    The Kuna are people of big hearts and very small stature. If you want to feel like King Kong come hang out in Kuna Yala for a bit.

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    They pulled up a wooden launcha by the dock and Bryan, I, and 10 Kuna power lifted the bike down into the boat.

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    Guys were just as stoked as us that we didn’t drop ‘er in the drink.

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    We powered out to Wild Card a few hundred yards off shore.

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    Meet our Captain. He goes by Richard, but will forth be known as Captain Aquaticus.

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    We winched up the bike off the main sail and down via a strap under the motor and up onto the deck. No men in orange hard hats and walkie talkies needed here. Sorry no photos, busy picturing how to catch my bike in my arms like a falling 400lb baby if it were to slip. With my bike loaded we went back to pick up Bryan and Sonyea’s.

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    Again the 10 Kuna power proved more than formidable.

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    Last up was Jame’s bike, which turned out to be the surprising heavy weight of the bunch. It’s all brick and iron so I guess that makes sense. Those classics were built with a different idea of ‘featherweight’.

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    Will all the bikes loaded we could kick back and grab a soothing drink. Nothing more to do with the pigs until we reach Colombia.

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    We had a short sail to Kuna Yala were we would do customs and handle the exit paperwork for Panama. The boat had 14 passengers including ourselves and 3 crew so we took the time to make acquaintances.

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    After about an hour we made it to Kuna Yala.

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    Captain Aquaticus ferried us across to shore and explained how he would do his best to help us all not drown and have a great time over the next 5 days.

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    On shore he set us loose to go explore as he went to deal with all the paperwork. Richard knows all the ins and outs of the Kuna immigration process. A few gifts here and there to smooth over the process and the customs officials would be more than happy to take care of all our paperwork on the spot. In the meantime we went exploring.

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    It feels a bit uncomfortable to be here to be honest, but I can’t tell exactly why at first. I fall back from the group and watch the interactions from afar instead. Everyone is required to stop on this main island to go through customs, so it has become a bit of a tourist thing to walk about the small island as people wait to have their paperwork finished. It feels like a bit of a cultural ‘show’ though, that we are to walk through and see for entertainment, maybe snap a few photos of the primitive tribe of people with our best ‘wide eyes and surprised face’ on, then bring them back home to show our families and internet friends how ‘real’ and ‘natural’ an experience it must have been to be so close amongst a group of indigenous people. No one seems to feel the apathetic buzz of the older people living there, going through their daily lives with tourists walking through their community houses and homes as they try to relax. One small kid on the beach piles his face into the sand and runs around wildly as if he were tarzan, interacting with the white man for his very first time. Everyone gets excited by this and the photo frenzy ensues, the kid seems to know from previous experience what gets the tourists excited. I feel a bit like we are at a zoo of sorts, for us it’s very exciting, but for the people living there, ‘our’ presence, the outsiders that come daily to take pictures and then leave, has become somewhat of a stale experience for the people actually living there. Something that they tolerate for the extra money it may bring to their families, or that they may use to buy a few modern technologies. Maybe technologies or amenities that they wonder if they ever really needed in the first place.

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    I definitely didn’t feel unwelcome though, and there was nothing negative in the air that was obvious or anything like that. Maybe it’s just because I was here a few years earlier and now on return was less overcome by the oddity of it all, and thus instead saw the interactions from a more neutral perspective. Or maybe I’m just reading into it too much. In any case, I decided to make my own way around the island in hopes of making a smaller wake and capturing a few subtle photos. Some families have jumped on the tourist bandwagon more than others and there is a decent spread of living arrangements. Everything from newer brick and mortar homes to the more historical palm thatch huts.

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    Sandy paths connect the homes.

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    And all toilets seem to overhang onto the water.

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    This flag is flown everywhere. It could be a cultural Kuna flag, or a beer company. Your guess is as good as mine.

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    I went back to the main dock where I found James, he had picked up on the same sort of feeling as me and opted to sit and watch the water views instead.

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    A large boat loaded to the gills with propane, fruit, mattresses, and home supplies showed up. I asked the guy what they sell and how often they come. He says they take orders when they drop stuff off and then bring what is requested on the next trip. They come up from the border of Colombia once a month through the chain of islands making deliveries for what the Kuna have requested.

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    A beautiful decay was on the hull.

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    Once the paper work was wrapped up we hopped back to the boat. I don’t want the tone of this post to be a negative one though, but I do want to write what I picked up on while on this little modern ‘city’ of sorts for the San Blas. The experience here wasn’t a bad one, I just picked up on something that felt slightly askew while lurking in the shadows. The next day we would be off in the more rural islands of San Blas where we would be sure to find a better balance.

    Back on the boat with the paperwork formalities done, people wound down the night and had some drinks and got to know the people we would be living with in close quarters for the next few days.

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    In the morning the boat was underway early. Captain Aquaticus runs a well oiled ship here, but the environment is fun and relaxed. Like going out sailing with your cool uncle, the itinerary is flexible and open to change depending on what people want to do.

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    We were headed for a group of islands for a breakfast stop over and morning dip if anyone wants to go for a swim.

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    It’s a sweltering morning, the unanimous response for a swim is ‘yes’. All snorkle gear is provided so some people go out and explore the reefs as well.

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    After a dip and breakfast the boat gets underway again. We are now headed further down the chain of islands to a place called BBQ island.

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    Here we are told we will have a BBQ shindig with another boat that will also be in the area.

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    Meet most of the crew, ‘Tuna’ on the left (Romania), Captain Aquaticus (New Zealand), and ‘YouYou’ (Poland). Amsa (New Zealand) the onboard master chef is not pictured here unfortunately, she was busy working her magic in the kitchen.

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    We sail on.

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    Drink some beer.

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    Meet some dolphins off the bow.

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    And eat some snacks on deck.

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    On a boat there isn’t a ton to do so a lot of lounging and relaxing is invested in. Not half bad to be driven around from activity to activity if you ask me.

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    Captain Aquaticus comes and stirs the Ozzy vs Kiwi pot every now and then to be sure everyone is lively.

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    Land ho, BBQ island ahead.

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    The captain of the other boat, Bae, comes by us as we pull in. She’s got a boatload of drift wood from an uninhabited island near by to burn.

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    The island looks beautiful, the bikes are probably jealous they can’t go play on it. Sorry ladies, salt will wreck you.

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    Captain Aquaticus bought a bag o’ live lobster from the Kuna for the BBQ.

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    This is Bae’s dog Wacek, he goes wherever she goes. This not just any dog though, Wacek is the only dog to circumnavigate the world non-stop. OK the dog didn’t do it on his own, but Bae’s late husband Tomek did, and Wacek was his only companion for the entire time. Tomek was the sixth person in the history of sailing to circumnavigate the world, non-stop, and in the wrong direction. Let me explain what this actually means, just so we are all clear. He got in his sailboat, loaded with enough food and equipment by his loving wife to last him the entire journey, whistled for his dog to come on board, and then proceeded to sail non-stop around the fucking globe. I mean non-fucking stop, no anchor, just sail, sleep with the boat on autopilot, wakeup, sail more, repeat. He stopped only in one port at the very end of the trip. That one port was the one that he started in 13 months earlier. In addition to this he did it in the opposite direction that most people circumnavigate, he did it going in the opposite direction of the prevailing wind trade routes, so he had to tac the entire time to get anywhere. Tough guy, and this dog is no normal pup either.

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    After dropping the rest of the group off on the island, James, Tuna, and I went over to collect some more firewood for the BBQ tonight.

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    We found some wood, and James found a rather large sand dollar.

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    We took our haul back to the boat.

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    Here Captain Aquaticus showed us how to murder lobster in the most humane way possible.

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    We took our haul over to BBQ island and met up with the rest of the group and the people from Bae’s boat.

    Here we got a fire going.

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    Drank rum and coconut milk out of coconuts.

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    And feasted on yet another delicious meal masterfully prepped in the boats kitchen by the amazing Amsa.

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    Eventually the fire burned down and the bottles of booze were emptied of their contents.

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    Some people slept on the island and some went back to the boat. tonight is our last night in the San Blas islands, as tomorrow night we would start the 30+ hour open water crossing to Colombia.

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  13. SMC

    SMC Adventurer

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    Great update!
  14. joenuclear

    joenuclear Planning.....

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    Yup, Thanks for the excellent RR.
  15. mopulga

    mopulga Been here awhile

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    Awesome! I just finished a few minutes ago "beads in the headlight's" chapter of crossing into Colombia. Looks like you have a much better captain.

    Thanks for the update!
  16. vintagespeed

    vintagespeed fNg

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    i really enjoy your writing style, and your comments. except for the bit about those damn "tourists".

    just remember that on the boat right behind you is the next "natural" and "genuine" and "entrenched" and "legit" tourist to come along on his motorbike to take "unique" and "genuine" and "natural" pictures to document in his internet blog.

    it's a bit elitist of an opinion.
  17. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    Hey Mopulga, I haven't read that one yet, but Captain Aquaticus is a great Captain. Any boat that he or YouYou is sailing will be a top notch experience.

    Hey Vintagespeed, thanks for your comments and you make an exacting point. This idea is something that I struggled with describing in this post, as even in writing it I could see the hypocrisy of the account. I asked myself "Why does being here on Kuna Yala, walking through the homes and playing with the kids, all of a sudden feel different than what I've been doing previously? We are all just trying to experience something about a different culture, and maybe learn more about a people that we didn't know about before? Us here as a group aren't really doing anything different than what I myself have been trying to do during this trip? So why then do I feel weird about it, why does something feel amiss??" As blogging travelers, we are all doing the same thing, voyaging through foreign lands and cultures while documenting the experience in hopes of learning, recording, and sharing those experiences with others. What then makes one situation of documentation feel off, or different than another? Is the sole difference the intent that we have while documenting? Or maybe, is it our awareness as to how much of a willing participant the other people we are engaged with (the Kuna in this case) are, that makes or breaks when something feels appropriate or not?

    This is something that I struggled with understanding for this post, and something I still haven't figured out. I appreciate you bringing it up.
  18. oldswimr

    oldswimr Flatlander

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    Sean, I've been following you from the start, and have enjoyed each post, and all the images you've posted. Your writing is clear and you don't bog down.
    Each place you've stopped and visited for any short period of time will be developed around what goes on there, what the people do to get along, from one day to the next. You're just getting a small slice of it, in your time there.

    Some will be more positive than others, perhaps depending on the mood of the community you're in. Are they oppressed, are they free to go about their day un-harrassed?

    I've travelled a bit in my life, and at 55 I'm still learning that the way I feel about my experiences in different or unfamiliar situations has so much to do with my expectations and experiences before I get there.

    For me it's easier to take things as they come, note my feelings about it and move through, pull something valuable from each spot along the road.
    Trust your gut. A good friend of mine told me a long time ago that the time to trim your sails is when you first think about it. Don't wait until the excrement hits the blades. Fair winds Sean.
  19. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    Hey Oldswimr, taking things as they come and always pulling something valuable from each spot is important. Getting bogged down in one aspect can draw attention away from gaining something of value instead. Thanks for the wise words :deal.
  20. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    After our night of BBQ’n on BBQ island we took the morning to lounge a bit and recover some elektrolytes.

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    The island isn’t very big, but it’s got palm trees, clear blue waters, and that caribbean flare that is to be expected. Hard to not enjoy. This was to be our last stop before turning away from the San Blas islands and into the open sea headed for Cartagena.

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    Found a boat full of live snails (I guess they are snails right?)

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    They were flipping around trying to get the best placement in the water. They have a claw type thing that looks quite strong and stiff to flip over and drag themselves around with.

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    We soaked in the sights, played some frisbee, lounged, and then headed back to the boat. Captain Aquaticus pointed us out to see and took a bearing towards Cartagena. In 30-36 hours we should be rolling up. Until then though we had two full nights out on the sea.

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    We got some obligatory last photos of the islands.

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    And then hit the open seas. Thanks for the good time you sweet sweet beautiful place.

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    This boat is unique because it has all of the rigging equipment in the pilot house. This way in poor weather or heavy seas, once the sails are up, you can control everything from inside the boat.

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    Once out of the protection of the islands and with the sails up the boat takes it’s native form.

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    The seas look good and the weather couldn’t be better.

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    I spent a lot of time on boats out on the ocean growing up, but being inside just wasn’t working for me on this boat, after 5 minutes trying to sleep down in the bunks at the bow it just wasn’t working for me. I saw the crew sleeping out on deck and this seemed much more preferable to me, monkey see monkey do. With the fresh cool air and open sky’s full of stars, I slept like a baby. This was Tuna’s spot for the night.

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    In the morning the sky’s were clear still and the wind was going at a nice breeze. The boat was moving up and down and side to side, but Captain Aquaticus said this was the normal. The big steel hulled boat felt sturdy, like we go go through walls with it if we wanted.

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    Throughout the day we relaxed.

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    Met some more dolphins.

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    And caught some tuna.

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    Bryan is a fisherman up in Alaska so he had everything under control in the filleting department. We tried a bit raw and it was pretty damn good in my opinion.

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    We kept motoring through the afternoon. The rocking of the seas providing a constant UP….

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    ...and then DOWN. The boat cutting through waves like a big heavy steel cadillac.

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    As night came the winds picked up a bit so Captain Aquaticus brought some of the sails down to decrease the amount the boat keeled over during the night.

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    The waves seemed to get bigger with the evening wind coming in, but the boat simply plowed through them.

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    With the boat at a steady rhythem, Tuna portioned up the tuna.

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    With the tuna portioned and ready, we brought it down to our chef and cooking goddess of the seas, Amsa. She worked absolute magic cooking up the rice, stir fry, and tuna on rolling seas and a constant tilt. Thanks for all the delicious food Amsa, it was much more than expected and you went over the top creating a restaurant on the seas.

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    There was a bit of rain later that night and the seas were a bit rougher so I opted to sleep inside. When laying down, sleeping up in the bow was just fine, almost like being rocked to sleep in an adult crib...just the rocking was much more vigorous. In the morning we awoke and came up on deck to see land. Cartagena, Colombia, and South America, after so long...hello there.

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    We spent the day unloading gear and then exploring town. That evening we all got drinks together and cruised the town people watching. We need to wait a couple days for the customs place to be open so Captain Aquaticus said we could hang out on the boat for a few days while we did some bike maintenance and waited to unload them. This place is special, and there is a thick vibe in the air that I haven’t felt on this trip yet. As so many people have spoken about before me, there is something that is very different about Colombia, something special. More on that later though. For now, the calm rocking of the boat in the harbor, and a good nights sleep are in order. Fucking stoked to finally be here in South America.

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