The ups and downs of sailing life

October 30 – December 31, 2022; 9596 nm and 1381 days after departure from La Rochelle.

Its been a long time that I wrote the last blog. Oh yeah, I know! Now I have the problem that I don’t know where to start. My non-writing was not an issue of being too busy but of being not in the right mood. Sailing life is great and it was our own decision to live a life like that! And usually it feels like a dream but sometimes it just sucks! Mid November I texted my mom and send her some crazy beautiful pics like I often do. Only this time instead of writing back how beautiful they were she messaged me that my dad was in hospitable. Just like that out of the blue. What? What was going on? A MRT screen had showed a huge metastases at my dads brain which needed to be removed immediately. Diagnosis: lung cancer! Shocking! Why? So many questions popped up in our and especially my mind. What shall we do? Can we do something? How will the surgery be? Can my Dad cope with it? Why the hell cancer exists at all??? I hate it!!!
When I received the sad news we were at the most remote place we’ve been so far. The most remote and probably also the most beautiful place. Not that anybody would care in this situation. We hardly had internet reception and we were far away from any civilisation. After a few days of digesting the terrible fact I realised that this was exactly the situation I never had in my mind. I mean, I always thought if something like that happened I could just fly home immediately to be able to support. Instead we were chasing for better internet reception just to be able to stay in contact with my parents. I felt terrible! All the nice moments and incredible experiences we made were suddenly unimportant to me. I could only think of my poor Daddy and Mom and being worried about them. Fair enough, I probably would have felt the same when we still would have been in Germany but at least I’d be there to help. The difference is that WE chose that life and not my parents and that is also the reason I guess why I felt so bad and helpless. That showed that living your dream is not always just easy. 

Happy family with the kids at the island Waisaladup, Western Holandes / San Blas

Meanwhile, as you can read, my mood has risen. My Dad feels better, the kids spent Christmas with us and I fly home to see my parents in January. Having the kids aboard was a super special time. We were so happy to finally show them how we live. It was the first time we were all together and actually living and moving on the boat. I bet they do now understand why we live that life and that it usually does feel like living our dream. 
But what did we do after we arrived at Obaldía/Panamá? Well, we were blown away by the beauty of the San Blas islands. Already our first anchorage was absolutely spectacular. Fortunately the check in went very smooth and pretty fast. We bought a new sim card and off we were to Puerto Perme only a few miles west of Obaldía. A picturesque little anchorage in front of a Guna pueblo. It was such an extraordinary place! We kind of felt like being in paradise as the nature was so niiiiice. Imagine being anchored in a moon shaped small natural harbour surrounded by palm trees full of coconuts, a small Guna village, a horse passing by at the beach, donkeys eeeaaaaing, pelicans fishing and nature, nature, nature. Doesn’t that sound already good? Now, keep that all in mind and imagine getting up early in the morning, enjoying the sunrise with a nice cup of coffee your dear husband prepared for you AND being greeted by nosey dolphins circling around Altimate. That must have been paradise, right?! We were thrilled and had immediately fallen in love with San Blas😁.

I only caught one of the guys in time

If I remember right we stayed 2 nights and enjoyed this peaceful area. We went ashore and had our first encounter with very nosy sweet Guna kids. They were always so curious they asked where we came from and always wanted to touch us. Unfortunately the Gunas do not allow to take pics. Our next stop was for a couple of days close to Suledup. We anchored in uninhabited area of small mangrove islands 16 miles further west of Perme. All alone with the mangroves, birds and fish. Sometimes some Gunas came by in their ulus to say hello or to ask for some water. November was the month of celebrations of lots of independence days in Panamá and Guna Yala. Every village was celebrating. At Caledonia we had a short stop to visit the island village and to try to get some fresh food. A guna who previously had collected our anchorage fee (sometimes the villages collect some money for the village) had invited us to visit his village. Not yet properly docked with the dinghy, we were literally pulled out of it and immediately had a can of beer in our hands. Friendly welcomed by gathering guna men who were obviously partying already for quite a while😉. The communication was a bit difficult as we hardly understood, but for them it was easy. They just kept talking and explaining who knows what. Fortunately the man who invited us was there too and he was still capable of speaking. With our slowly improving Spanish and him speaking fairly clear we managed quite well. He proudly showed us his village and introduced us to many people. On the other side of the island (it took 2 min, just to give an impression of the size of the island) we got served another beer right next to their baños-toilets. That was very funny to us, but we thought may he wanted to show us the view to the other side. Who knows? The toilets are small wooden huts kind of hovering over the water. I bet there is just a hole in the floor and the business directly drops in the water. With my meanwhile two cans of beer in my hands we continued our guided tour. We got shortly introduced to his family. That was very interesting as we were allowed to see their houses, well huts. There was not much in it. Some hammocks a small table, some chairs an old sofa and an old manually driven singer sewing machine. But after sitting for a few minutes and trying to communicate a little we were brought back to our dinghy. That was a super friendly and fast visit. I even managed by that time to drink the two cans.

that was the only pic I was allowed to take😂, well at least one can get an idea of how guna villages look like

Our next destination was Ustupu where our friends from Ruffian were waiting for us. That was great as they had spent already a couple of days there and could show us around. Ustupu was a comparably big village with some bakeries, grocery stores, several schools and many, many curious kids. I loved that! As soon as we came ashore the kids were greeting us, trying to talk to us and of course wanted to touch us. A kind of “high 5 ” was always welcomed. Toyo a teacher who spoke a little English helped us to get some fuel but also showed us the village and told us were to find what. A very nice person, though, I have to admit that everybody was always extremely friendly, welcoming and helpful. Toyo as well invited us to visit his school. That was so sweet! When we went to visit the school, the kids had prepared a little communication with us in English. Every pupil said hello, introduced himself and asked where we were from … The best part was that they actually seemed to enjoy being visited by us. Very, very nice!

Toyo the teacher, and the kids in their beautiful and amazingly clean school uniforms, very traditional

A few days later we lifted the anchor again and headed with Ruffian to an island called Achutupu. (Ain’t the names great???) Here we met up with two other boats. Free spirit which we had already met in Santa Marta and Basta which we didn’t know yet. A sweet young couple from Colombia and Canada. Alex and Mike were a great help with communicating as they both speak fluent Spanish. That helped a lot to get even better connected with the locals. They invited us for a special event. Girls seemed to be very important in the Guna religion. The first hair cut for a girl will be celebrated by the whole village. And the celebration takes 3 days! As far as we understood the girl gets her first haircut when the parents can afford the party as they have to feed the whole village. But I’m not absolutely sure about that I’ll need to find out more about it. Anyhow we were allowed to watch for a while the ceremony and a nice Guna explained a lot to Alex and showed us where we were allowed and where not and where to wait for the vips. All in all the celebration is about getting drunk with Chicha (or similar), a sugarcane fermented beverage. We were allowed to the main house and were even introduced to the chiefs! After that and some rituals for men and women the chicha was served. They had fermented it in a guna ulu (wooden boat) which was now in the main house and a special master served the chicha first to the chiefs and important people and then to everybody in the house including us. It was not my favourite drink but definitely a great experience. After that we got escorted back to our dinghies.

not a pic of the celebration but from a few of the many kids often surrounding us, on the right me, Alex from Basta with her dog Theo, Fiona and El Capitano

We spent a few more fun days at Achutupu with the 4 boats tribe. We did some workout together with Waga a Guna lady from the small island Uagidup and had as well a nice bbq there We did some snorkeling and enjoyed the company of other sailors. then we headed off further west… but more about that in the next blog.


One thought on “The ups and downs of sailing life

  1. guélennoc hubert

    toujours content d’avoir de vos nouvelles. Bonne continuation .
    Hubert , le breton. (on s’est croisés aux canaries début 2020)


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