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Sailing on the Stahlratte, Part 2: Cruising the Caribbean

Sailing, Stahlratte5 min read

May 10 - 14, 2010

Setting sail on Day 1 of the voyage.

The jungled mountains of the Darien staying close as we hugged the coast heading down the San Blas Archipelago.

Ship detail on an island.

Arriving at Isla Moron (in Kuna language: Narrasgandup Dummat), our destination for the first night. Bike was covered to protect against the salt spray.

As soon as we dropped anchor, Steven here jumped in.

Getting ashore and exploring the island.

The steel rat, rusting a bit and requiring regular care, but a handsome sight nonetheless.

Heading ashore in the dinghy to prepare dinner.

Roli in the dinghy. I basically stuck to Roli and helped in whatever he asked.

The girls collecting shells on Isla Moron with our home for the next few days anchored offshore.

Pristine beach all to ourselves.

Eliza and the Stahlratte.

Roli getting a chicken barbeque going.

Mmm, barbequed Jamaican jerk chicken. Besides Cartagena, Ludwig also makes trips to Jamaica and gets some good spices while he's there.

Having dinner on the island as dusk grew into night.

Sailing about two hours the next morning to our destination for the day, Coco Bandero (in Kuna: Ordup).

An island for the day.

Too small, ok, here's another one nearby. Amazing to see so many small islands across the landscape. This is all protected area and the Kunas harvest the coconuts from all the islands.

If you're really bad, you might get castaway on this two-tree island.


One of the cyclists, Parker having a swing on the boom line.

Letting go...

...and plunging into the Caribbean.

View down from the crow's nest up on the main mast with people relaxing in the net up front.

Looking back at the ship. Black netting was put up to provide shade.

While anchored for the day, Ludwig had some Kunas scrub the side of the ship.

View of our island for the day from the crow's nest. I tried snorkeling here for the first time and really liked it - nice window into the world under the ocean surface. It was also my first time swimming across deep open waters and I'm not a strong swimmer but managed to make it to the island from the ship.

Preparing orange juice in the kitchen with the passengers whose turn of kitchen duty it was. Along with Roli and I, about four people took turns each day helping with the food duties. The guy in the middle is Seth, the organizing cyclist and the three girls are sisters: (L-R) Maddie, Hannah and Eliza (Seth's girlfriend). Everyone on board was super friendly and cordial. Giant Roli getting in on the picture.

Seth is actually sponsored by fishing companies for his cycling trip and they're all about fishing in interesting places. He and Steven caught these two fish on the island and Roli is cleaning them up for dinner.

One of the girls, Danielle, wanted to learn how to clean a fish and Roli is showing her how to make fillets.

Fried fish for dinner. Along with the fish Seth caught, we had barracuda.

Dinner on top, the night before setting sail for Colombia.

Cleaning the ship, getting ready to sail.

Breakfast with a view.

After breakfast on the third day, we got the ship ready for the open water voyage. Ludwig got a weather report from his agent in Cartagena that there were 3-4 meter (10-13 ft) swells on the voyage ahead. If it had been greater than 7 meter (23 ft) swells, Ludwig said we would wait it out.

Roli cranking the bow motor to reel in the anchor.

The anchor raising up and we're underway. Note the rich blue color of the water.

Hoisting up the sails to add stability to the ship. To move forward only with the sails would take longer and since the ship was on a schedule, it was an engine-powered voyage.

Dolphins surfing the bow of the Stahlratte!

A huge pod of them kept us company for a while before breaking off. The ship was moving wildly up and down and we were wondering how they know not to get hit by the ship.

Ludwig at the captain's wheel with the sails fully deployed.

The swells on the first day were quite impressive. The ship pitched up and down as she rode the swells. We would see a big swell coming our way and everyone would brace and yee-haw as we went up and over it. It was wilder than any roller coaster ride I've been on.

Everyone got a little sick and some people were not feeling good the whole voyage. The mood became quite somber as everyone found their place of comfort on the ship and tried to sleep it off. It was better to be up here in the back than in their beds down low in the front. I started taking sea-sickness pills before getting on the ship, but it was still too much for me and I had to hurl twice. But I felt much better after that and keeping busy also helped.

Preparing breakfast on Day 4, last day of the voyage. My usual duties were to cut tomatoes, pineapple, prepare the cheese and meat plate and anything else that was required. I actually enjoy cutting vegetables, so it wasn't so bad. And I liked how Roli placed importance on presentation as you eat with your eyes as much as you do with your mouth.

The stove with supports to prevent the pots from moving while we were underway. The three little pots on top were used to make espresso - good strong coffee.

The view from the kitchen. I had to keep an eye on the horizon to quell my queasiness.

Getting sprayed with salt water as we crashed down from a swell. Good thing for that bike cover, but my rotors still got rusty. I was told to spray the bike down with WD-40 before getting on board to protect against the salt, but forgot about it as I was repairing my flat tire.

Dolphins again as we neared Cartagena.

Looking back from the bow (front).

Ludwig keeping a watchful eye on the waters ahead. He and Roli took turns through the night to man the ship. I asked if I could help, but they said they still needed to be on watch because I wasn't experienced in this, of course.

Reading up top by the captain's wheel. After I got over my queasiness, I spent lots of time up here with a great view all around.

Looking ahead on the starboard (right) side and first land sighting ahead on the right.

Everyone feeling better as the swells died down near Cartagena.

Sun setting on a wonderful voyage across the Caribbean Sea from Panama to Colombia.

The tattered German flag indicating where the ship was registered.

Heading into Cartagena with a cargo ship chasing us. If he caught up, we would need to let them pass, since they have higher priority for getting into port.

Beautiful colors over Colombia.

The modern Cartagena skyline, as we pulled into port around 7 pm.

Passing by the cargo ship terminal, Colombia's largest port.

The next morning, Ludwig heading ashore with my bike papers to process the temporary importation. He has to work through a shipping agent and takes care of all the fees. He also got all our passports stamped into Colombia.

Waiting a few hours for my customs papers to process. sanDRina, say hello to Cartagena.

Bringing sanDRina ashore in the dinghy.

I hoped there would be a crane to help unload the bike, but that was wishful thinking.

We just hauled and dragged her onto the pier. Good thing she's not a pretty bike and doesn't mind a few scars.

Sneaking a picture at the customs office.

On the ground at last in South America! Good to be back on two wheels and happy to have voyaged across the Caribbean sea on the Stahlratte.

Next: Colombia, Part 1: Cartagena

Previous: Sailing on the Stahlratte, Part 1: Getting On Board


Jammin thru the Global South was the 3+ year, 100,000+ km ride Jay did from the US to India via Latin America, Europe and Africa. Explore the photojournals at the Journey Posts tab.

Jammin Global Adventures is a tour company run by Jay Kannaiyan. He organizes small group, premium motorcycle adventures in Peru, Kenya, Mongolia, India and more.

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