I’m On A Boat: Sailing Panama City To Cartagena On The Jacqueline
So last year with christmas in Bocas Del Toro done and New Years Eve fast approaching. the thought of spending another year in a packed city crammed full of party go’ers was becoming less and less appealing. Which was when I decided that seeing as I wanted to do the boat trip from Panama City to Cartagena through San Blas islands anyway, What better time to do it then over new years.
After various research online on places to book a sail boat I found the following websites.
http://colombiapanamasailing.com (They have a specific page on the Jacquiline here)
In the end I booked through Hostel Mamallena as it was really simple as they were generally pretty quick at responding to emails. They also provide a shuttle service from the hostel to the boats plus you can book your stay with them before you leave.
It turned out that the Boat Jacqueline captained by the Austrian Fritz was leaving on the 30th which suited my timing perfectly. After extensive research online about the boat and coming up with mostly positive reviews I booked the trip. This was by far the most expensive activity I have done on my trip. at $650 USD for 6 days it was pricey.
However that price included
- Transport from Panama City to Cartagena (which between christmas and new year would have been really pricey)
- 3 meals a day including all you can eat fresh fruit and lemonade.
- A small bed to sleep on for the duration of the voyage.
- Ice for your alcoholic beverages.
- Snorkel gear.
With the boat booked and just 2 days away I was fortunate enough to meet up with three other fellow crew mates who were also going to be on the same voyage. After many discussions and crazy list making we went to the store and stocked up on supplies for the cruise ranging from pirate wear, crazy sunglasses, chips and of course the vitally important booze and mixers.
However we may have gone a” little” bit over board (Haha see what I did there) as for the four of us on a 6 day cruise we had the following alcoholic supplies
- 20 x 1 litre bottles of rum
- 1 x bottle of Tequila
- 1 x bottle of Sambucka
- 1 x bottle of jagermeister
- 1 x24 cans of beer
- 20 litres of coca cola
- 10 litres of ginger ale
Booze for the Cruise
Ok so having to average at over a litre of spirits a day was maybe a bit intense haha and granted we did come off the boat with a couple of bottles of rum left each but for $6.25 USD a bottle why not. Plus sharing is caring right?
With all our supplies ready we woke at the ungodly hour of 5:30am and loaded up all our backpacks and box’s of “Supplies” onto the roof’s of a bunch of 4×4’s and departed on the 3 hour journey from our hostel in Panama City to the boat pickup point at El Porvenir.
After a arriving and taking a short boat ride out to the awaiting anchored Jacqueline everyone boarded and was assigned a bed. We then lifted anchor and set sail towards the san blas islands while our captain Fritz played melodies on his trumpet as other ships passed by.
The captain Fritz trumpeting it up!
The Boat & Accommodations
The boat was really well laid out and clean and despite there being 14 of us on board it always felt like there was plenty of space and somewhere to go and relax in quiet if you didnt feel like drinking and socializing
- Outside dinner table at back of boat
At front of the boat there were these two hanging plastic trampoline like area’s where you could relax.
On side of the boat
In terms of beds on the boat it was predominately small single beds with a couple of double bed’s. I was in a single bed in the main kitchen lounge area which was cool because it was a lot more airy compared to the more stuffy below deck beds. But regardless as there was no air conditioning and the temperature was quite warm in san blas a lot of us opted to sleep elsewhere each night. I spent two awesome nights sleeping in my sleeping bag laying on the trampoline under the open stars. I even spent a night sleeping out on the cushions near the table at the back.
My bed in the main cabin area 😀
When it came to food on the voyage I’d have to say that the quality of the food was good however the menu choices seemed a little bit random and off. Every morning we had a selection of freshly baked german bread various condiments meats, tomato, onions and jam along with coffee and tea which was amazing for the first day but after a couple of mornings of the same breakfast choices it started to get a bit old and by the end of the trip I couldn’t even look at another piece of german bread.
Fresh German bread for breakfast each day
In terms of the lunches and dinners there was a great variety from hamburgers, ratoutoie, pasta’s to some more random things like crepes with sugar and syrup as a dinner and another night a fruit salad and chopped up pieces of cake which felt more like a dessert than an actual main meal. However despite the couple of more desert like meals the quality of the food was great and the portion sizes were huge. There wasn’t a time where any one went hungry and Fritz always encouraged everyone to eat as much as they could and there was always left overs.
There was also as much fresh fruit as you could eat between meals ranging from banannas, pineapples etc and each day they made fresh icy cold lemonade for us to drink
So what was bad about the food? My biggest complaint about the food was that besides 2 meals where we had a tuna pasta and another where we had some fried fish there was not a lot of seafood. I’m not sure if this was because during the voyage although fishing lines were out we got unlucky and no fish were caught.
This could have just been bad luck for our particular trip and not how the food generally is. I was just surprised as I had talked to people who had done other sail trips through san blas and they had talked of eating lobster and other awesome seafood meals
One of our meals aboard the Jacqueline
The trip itself was enjoyable we spent the first few days traveling between different parts of the san blas islands doing snorkelling and we even stopped off to see a kuneer tribe village. Despite a bit of rainy weather the islands were amazing. So many picturesque little tropical islands scattered about and with the boat anchored each night you could sleep out the front of the boat being slowly rocked to sleep while u gazed up at the stars.
Beautiful San Blas Isles
For new years we anchored amongst a group of other ships near a small group of islands and after much drinking majority of the people went ashore to one of the islands to join locals and people from other ships to party on the island.
However being the party animal that I am I decided to stay aboard the boat with Rosie a girl who I met in Panama city who was also feeling as anti social as I was. So we sat there sipping our Jager bombs and watched the fireworks show going off above the island lighting up the Caribbean sky. It was a pretty surreal and nice way to bring in the new year and is definitely one of my favorite new years I’ve ever had.
New years fireworks from the boat
The next morning everyone was a little worse for wear and we even heard stories of how one of the guys from the boat got so drunk that he decided he was sick of being on the island and instead of waiting for the small boat to come and pick him up from the island he would swim the few hundred meters to the boat. needless to say he never made it to the boat, however he did manage to swim onto someone else’s boat where he was woken up in the night and driven back on to the island.
The next morning everyone awoke a little worse for wear but after a hearty breakfast of German bread we began our journey to the open sea on our 36 hour voyage to Cartagena Colombia. But not before loading on a couple of motorbikes….
Getting Motorbikes on boat
The trip was pretty uneventful we were lucky to have very calm water and only one person ended up vomiting over the side of the boat which was great seeing as the captain said on his last trip across it was really rough and every single person except himself and his crew were vomiting. It also helped that most of us were taking sea sick tablets however these seemed to have the unfortunate side effect of making everyone just want to sleep. I don’t think i’ve ever slept so much in a 24 hour period in my entire life.
Sunrise at sea
However eventually we made it to Colombia and even spent a night anchored off in the beautiful Rosario Islands off the coast of Colombia before heading into Cartagena in the early morning.
View of Cartagena as we arrived
Upon arriving in Cartagena Fritz the captain organized taxi’s for us all and we went to Colombian immigration where we got our stamps and our passports back and we were on our way. It still took about 2 days for the weird swaying feeling of the boat to go away.
Reccomendations to people taking this trip
- Bring lots of booze, its better to take alcohol off the boat then run out mid voyage
- Bring lots of snacks like chips etc, Because even though there was lots of food provided we were really craving potato chips when sitting around drinking.
- Be sure to bring seasick tablets if you suffer from sea sickness