Santa Marta to San Blas

Published on 25 January 2024 at 18:41

We're en route from Santa Marta to the San Blas Islands, which are just off the north (Caribbean) coast of Panama. 


A journey of 2 halves, so much so that I've revised this blog! We had postponed departure by 24 hours mainly because of the weather forecast, but it didn't seem to help much, it was a very challenging first 24 hours!


All day yesterday and last night we had winds typically around 30 knots, occasionally gusting to over 40 (force 7, gusting 8/9) with waves typically up to around 15 feet, occasionally bigger, with quite a few breaking. Our course was not straight on to the waves which knocked the boat off course quite a bit, we were rolling a lot and we had plenty of waves breaking into the side of the boat giving a lot of spray into the cockpit.


3 of the other boats had waves right into the cockpit,  including 2 catamarans having their inner saloons flooded, but everyone is fine.


We also had a record 12 flying fish on deck overnight (including one that flew over the front screen into the cockpit hitting Harri on the shoulder - we managed to return that one to the sea alive!).


But no real problems other than a very uncomfortable rolly night. It wasn't quite as bad as the weather had been going into Santa Marta but more prolonged - I don't think Amanda enjoyed last night!


But whilst uncomfortable it always felt totally safe, the boat is fantastic, handling everything that has been thrown at it with ease.


This morning the winds eased to 20-25 knots (force 5-6), and the seas eased a little bit too, although the occasional wave still knocked us right off course and we were still rolling a lot


We had some drying out of our own to do too! We had a significant amount of water in the engine room this morning which initially worried us, but we've pumped it all out and identified the cause (when waves hit the back of the boat, some water is getting through the ventilation ducts, which is much better news than a leak or water leaking from the engine!). But we had rigged up a mobile pump to pump it all through a pipe which we fed out through a window - then a big wave hit us side on and came straight through that open window soaking everything inside. One step forwards, one back! But all sorted now.


Then a complete transformation this afternoon. Winds dropped further allowing us to fly Tom's new "Wingakar" sail for the first time - a bit like a parasailor, it's a free flying sail that incorporates a kite in the middle to help keep the sail shape and also lift the nose of the boat. And it has transformed things, unbelievably.


The boat is sailing  as quickly in 12 knots of wind as we were in 25 knots, but the rocking and rolling has almost completely stopped, the boat is now staying straight and level even when big waves hit us at an angle. It's almost too good to be true and has transformed life on board! Dilema is now the world's biggest kite sailer and the sailing is glorious!


We were planning to arrive at San Blas at first light tomorrow as arriving in the dark is not recommended, we need visual contact to avoid the "bommies" (coral heads) as we go through the reefs. But with the speed this sail is giving us we'll now arrive in the dark and just stand off until first light - we're very happy to be sailing now the boat has stabilised, and there is no forecast of stronger winds which would force us to drop this sail again


San Blas does sound idyllic so we are very keen to get there despite how good the sailing now is!

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Abi Attwood
5 months ago

Loving reading your blogs , give Amanda a hug from me !!
Just reading it to Richard , those flying fish sound awesome , how big are they ?
Love the orange sail , a stunning photo . Safe sailing all x

5 months ago

Cricky you’re cramming in a lot of excitement at the start of this trip!

When you get to San Blas you’ll only be about 360 miles from us ( though we fly off to Ecuador tomorrow tea time).

5 months ago

Great posting! I’m loving hearing about the new sail which sound’s really cool 👍 I was wondering when the flying fish would feature as it’s something I would love to experience!! Safe sailing and looking forward to the next update xx