Wednesday 28 January 2015

Santa Marta to San Blas guest written by Sarah Rose

When asked to write a guest blog I wanted to try and find a theme to hang it on – that hasn't really worked, but perhaps this hotchpotch is a fairer representation of a novice sailor thrown into a completely new experience.

Firstly an update on our progress.

Arriving in San Blas in pitch black on Tuesday night was both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.  This magical archipelago just off the Panamanian coast has not been officially well surveyed which means the available charts are lacking in detail and not to be relied upon.  Approaching any relatively shallow land mass/reef area in daylight needs to be handled with extreme caution but throw darkness, no prior knowledge of the area and no clear markers into the mix – and it becomes extremely nerve wracking.  Anyway we made it – crossing the finishing line at 21.52 – first boat in (slightly embarrassing but we’ll cope...)  Waking in the morning and seeing the proximity of the beach confirmed that our concerns were valid.  We had expected to spend two nights at sea to avoid arriving in darkness, so the prize for braving it was a gorgeously peaceful night at anchor – hatches open for breeze, super calm sea, no more rocking and rolling or water crashing onto the hull port inches from my face. Bliss...

Our journey was speedy (another record breaking number of miles chomped through in one 24 hour period) –the strong winds we experienced between Santa Marta and these islands suit Juno’s penchant for downwind sailing.

We have six nights here now –it is proper Robinson Crusoe of the islands closest to us, less than half a mile away has one inhabitant – a crocodile.  Apparently he will not attack humans but relies on dogs and cats – personally I am not sure how cats get to a small desert island in the middle of nowhere which may mean he’s extremely hungry – and we have decided not to visit!

Yesterday we were taken snorkelling on the reef by a local resident and his wife (a South African couple who have lived here on their boat for 2 years whom, rather bizarrely, Frewy got to know in Palma – I have learnt that these coincidences happen regularly in the yachting community). Kerry and I were thrilled to see a small nurse shark and the others saw a MUCH bigger (obviously) version closer to the reef.  We were surprised by the lack of colour in the corals but the water is beautifully clear and there was plenty of life – my favourite was a common ray wafting his way majestically along the sand.  I admit to feeling pretty nervous when I saw someone swimming towards me wearing a black wetsuit and toting a spear gun – shades of Dr. No – but it was used to kill a lion fish.  Being a total weed about creature killing of all sorts this would normally reduce me to tears (pathetic I know) but these fish have no natural predators and are in real danger of overrunning the waters.

Regular blog readers will know how high the standard of catering is on Juno – in fact it is probably more useful to know how to peel and roast a red pepper and toast pine nuts while on passage than to tie a bowline – luckily for me.  At the marina in Santa Marta we girls much enjoyed a “detox smoothie” for breakfast and with the help of  Thermo (Caroline’s super duper blender that you were introduced to in an earlier blog) we have tried to recreate it on board.  Green apple, mint, cucumber, lime, ginger, spinach smooshed together – resulting comment from Frewyits not unpleasant Saz, and if it’s doing me good I’ll make myself drink it...” – nice, heh?

One of the most surprising and enjoyable aspects of this World ARC rally is the meeting of and getting to know other participating crews.  There are boats from many different countries with  mostly people of a similar age either having retired or taking a sabbatical to do this amazing journey.  In true Frew style everyone’s names need to be adapted (aka Caroline to Fatty, Kerry to Kez and Sarah to Saz)– poor Andrew who is still struggling to master the original version threw up his hands in horror when Jean (Swiss French) became Jambon and Maureen from Oz became (inexplicably) Gertrude.  In fact the default position is to call every skipper John – of which there are 4.

Before I end I must make mention of my cabin mate and acknowledge how well, in my opinion at least, we have adapted to sharing our quarters.  Juno is a luxury vessel and therefore all sleeping zones are extremely spacious – by boat standards.  Any “normal” couple would find it a doddle BUT Kerry and I are both terrible sleepers.  All conditions have to be in alignment to allow us to doze off – temperature, noise and light levels, ventilation, proximity to others etc – and that is in our own bedrooms at home.  Chuck us on a boat and none of these are quite so controllable – add in lee cloths which are essential at sea, particularly on the top bunk with a 4ft drop. When you do eventually fall asleep – just for a nano second – you realise (girls of my age will sympathise with this) that it is time for a visit to the heads.  This involves undoing the two knots securing the lee cloth at either end, crawling out of the top bunk, levering oneself onto the adjacent cupboard – with boat lurching precariously – trying not to stand on the by now wide awake occupant of the bottom bunk, going “ouch” “oops sorry did I wake you” and so on – heading out and then back to do the whole thing in reverse! The only way this can get worse is by falling against the light panel next to the door to the heads and inadvertently turning on all the lights in the saloon – which as most cabin doors stay open, can wake the entire crew!

I am making too much of this I know and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Frewy fills a nervous sailor with great confidence and calmly teaches in bite size pieces and he and Caroline are brilliant and generous hosts – Andrew is in his own words “charmingly consistent” and calm (well mostly). Kerry and I now know we could spend the rest of our lives together – or maybe just the nights!


  1. Great to hear the news and fantastic writing by Saz, Thank you. Makes a snowy day more bearable! Keep the news coming. Love ASTP xx

  2. Great stuff Saz, and here's to a clean sweep of "First Boat"s. No pressure.

  3. Well written Saz - Katie and I shared the same experience last summer. Only one thing worse then that tortuous journey to the heads is lying in your bunk not sleeping and contemplating the journey!! Looking forward to seeing you at about 5pm in Shelter Bay 'Suelo xxx

  4. Excellent & evocative blog, Sarah! I definitely stumbled into that light panel several times amongst my many novice sailor errors! Congratulations to all Juno crew on speedy crossings and safe arrivals.... San Blas Archipelago sounds awesome and a world away from icy UK. Looking forward to you recreating the detox smoothie for us on dry land! Much love and safe travels for all leaving/ remaining/arriving on wonderful Juno... Big hugs Katie xoxox