My time in Guamal has ended and I am off to Panama! I will be going there by boat and touring the San Blas Islands along the way. When I arrived at the boat dock around eight at night, there were already a bunch of other travelers huddled around the picnic tables. Following standard procedure, I was first asked where I was from, followed by a less important question, “What is your name?”. I’ve never been told that I have an accent before, but as soon as I said California, two guys replied “Oh, yeah. I can totally tell.” Our captain, Umberto, quickly briefed us on the itinerary and safety procedures while introducing the staff. The first crewman, Brenden, was from France, and our chef, Encino, was from Italy… Score! We waited a bit longer to put our bags on the boat as the police were supposed to inspect them, and everyone made jokes about the Californian needing to throw all her marijuana overboard. The police didn’t show up after all, thank God… (kidding, kidding!) However, after loading the boat, we still didn’t take off. Umberto said that the winds were too high to sail out of the port that night. We’d leave around four in the morning. And with that, we were free to buy last minute supplies at the nearby grocery store.
I was so tempted to buy rum for the trip. I’ve always wanted to sail the Caribbean and legitimately ask “Why is all the rum gone?” in Jack Sparrow fashion. I opted out of this idea and am I ever glad! No way would I have been drinking any of it for the next few days…
I fell asleep quickly that night but woke up promptly to the sounds of the crew wrestling with the sails. I tried to fall back asleep, but the room was so hot, and I was starting to feel quite claustrophobic. I went out to deck, and Umberto kindly showed me around the sails, and explained how they worked. No one else was up after we left port, so I fell back asleep on the deck’s couch. I slept here the remainder of the trip.
Around eight, people started crawling out of their holes and I woke up to their ruckus. I sat up and looked around me. There was nothing around us for miles. I had just woken up in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. And as spectacular as this was, it didn’t keep me from noticing the nausea in my stomach which stayed with me all day and night. Fortunately, not once did I actually throw up. But this was not the case for everyone else on the boat. We were all miserable. The only way to truly combat the nausea, was to lie down. Therefore, most of the passengers stayed in their beds all day. None of us ate much, and certainly no one was drinking. This was honestly one of the longest days of my life. It did have some highlights though!
The first was the family of dolphins that stopped by to play with the boat. The second was my sailing lesson. Umberto taught me about navigation, how to steer the massive 50-foot boat, and the concepts of longitude and latitude. He even taught me a little astronomy that relates to sailing and what to do if there is no map. He is extremely knowledgeable, and I have much faith that we are in qualified, experienced hands.
I guess it has been a good day. I can’t really complain. After all, I’m in the Caribbean. I just hope this pounding nausea will leave me soon.
I slept on the deck’s couch again that night. However, this night was more difficult as we were still sailing, and the waves kept knocking me around. Encino told me I could sleep on the kitchen counter, but after falling off the four-foot platform because of the intense swaying, I slept on the floor of the deck, hoping I wouldn’t fall into the ocean.
The next morning, almost everyone’s sea sickness had vanished and right after lunch, we spotted land. Wow, what a beautiful sight. Tiny shadows dotted the horizon. Our once quiet boat, afraid to open our mouths in case of vomiting, now erupted into cheers and chatter. Once at the islands, Encino took a couple of us out on the raft to go snorkeling. We got dropped off 100 feet from the boat. Immediately after taking the plunge, I gulped up a huge mouthful of salty sea water. I looked around me, and everyone was at the reef, standing up. I followed their lead, letting the current take me. Before I knew it, I was also standing up on the coral. It was way too shallow. Huge waves were pushing me over, and I continuously took an ass full of sharp rocks every time they hit. My knees were getting scratched up, and walking was almost impossible with the flippers. I felt trapped. After treading across this coral desert, I finally made it to deeper water. What I did see of the reefs was incredible, but at this point, I just wanted to get the hell out there. Stepping onto the boat, adrenaline losing its grip, I felt an immediate stinging pain radiate from the back of my upper thigh to my bum. I looked around my body and I was completely lacerated. The worst pain was that of my backside. There were huge white, swollen blisters dotting my ass. I let out a little cry and the captain came running. “What!?” He yelled, looking at where I pointed to. He replied, “Oh. Jellyfish.”
He poured boiling hot water on it, and I may or may not have used whiskey as my pain reliever during the process.
I also made the mistake of underestimating the Caribbean sun. Did you know it was possible for your kneecaps to burn?
Sleeping that night was difficult because of my carelessness. Even the tiniest movement sent me into tears. This is absolutely the worst burn I’ve ever had. The jellyfish sting didn’t help any. I woke up in the middle of the night, vomiting, and breaking a sweat. I had told the captain the day before that I wouldn’t be needing sunscreen as I’m used to California sun.
“But this is Caribbean sun. Much stronger.”
Needless to say, he had every right to say “I told you so” all day, which he did…
On the bright side, I will certainly be ready for California sun this summer.