Two Oceans Under Sail

8 Reviews

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Date of travel

January, 2016

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Travelled with

On your own

Reasons for trip

Getting to another destination

“I think we’re going backwards” said one of the passengers as the sails had been unfurled on the beautiful Sea Cloud 2 but with barely a breath of wind we were almost at a standstill. We had waited two days after boarding the ship and now we could gaze in wonder as the team from the crew had shimmied up the rigging to unfurl the sails; and a magnificent sight it was. 82 passengers had joined the Sea Cloud at Puntarenas, a port on the Pacific side of Costa Rica where we had driven for two hours from San Jose and a night in a hotel. Some passengers had spent a couple of nights in the Monteverde rain forest; well not actually in the forest, they had been in a hotel and had driven down to San Jose to join those of us who had flown in from London.

We sailed at night under motor and for the first two days went ashore for full day excursions to the Palo Verde National park on the first day and then to Granada a beautiful colonial town in Nicaragua, the second country on our itinerary. After these two busy days there were some mutterings about being on a sailing ship that wasn’t sailing. Hence the sails went up and everyone was happy, even though we were hardly moving. We had a leisurely morning on board as we had to pick up Immigration people to get back into Costa Rica from Nicaragua. In the afternoon we went ashore in zodiacs (inflatable dinghies, also known as ribs) to a beautiful beach where our very efficient Tour Manager had arranged and paid for us to enjoy sunbeds and umbrellas. It was great to have a swim in the warm sea and to relax in the sun. Some people went back to the ship early, presumably not wishing to miss afternoon tea on board!

Another morning in a park, the Manual Antonio National Park was somewhat disappointing. It was very crowded and noisy so most wildlife had decided to leg it, or fly away, to the more peaceful interior of the park closed to visitors. We were split up into small groups each with a local guide. Ours was not very helpful and would say “Look in that tree” without explaining which tree. In the afternoon the sails were put up again and we went out in the zodiacs to see the ship from the sea under full sail and take photos. The Sea Cloud has three masts and the sails are folded around the yard arm. There is a team of 15 who, wearing safety harness, shimmy up rope ladders to the rigging to walk along wires and untie the sails which then unfurl downward, as opposed to being pulled up. Sailors amongst my readers will be groaning at my inability to use the correct descriptions.

On to our third country: Panama. We started off with another visit ashore to a beach and a chance to snorkel. In the afternoon we took to the zodiacs in shifts, only three zodiacs on the Sea Cloud made for quite a lot of queuing, for a quiet potter around the shore of the Coiba National Park to look for bird life. We had not gone ashore on this island having been told there were dangerous snakes. Or was it crocodiles. Or perhaps someone had forgotten to tell the authorities we were coming! Back on board we enjoyed a barbecue on the open air Lido deck. After dinner “The Sea Cloud Sea Shanty Singers Sing Salty Songs” Members of the crew were dressed in sailor suits and sang sea shanties and we sort of joined in with very out of tune voices.

Then followed a full day at sea interspersed with meals and lectures by the Guest Lecturer and the two naturalists. As the Captain was to be busy for the next three days with navigational duties we had the Captain’s cocktail party and farewell dinner today, halfway through the cruise!!

We were to make a couple of stops on land in Panama, the first being in the Golfo San Miguel in the Darien area of the country. Here we went ashore in local motorized canoes to a local village, Embara, where we were greeted by musicians and the entire population of the village sporting elaborate tattooed designs on their bodies. Small children took our hands and my hesitant knowledge of the Spanish language was enough to learn that my little friend was called Albert and went to school locally in the village where he learned Spanish as well as his local language and that he had sisters and brothers. At which point we ran out of things to say. Several of the villagers were making baskets, wooden bowls and various artefacts and offered to paint tattoos on us. I was the only one who accepted and I asked for a butterfly on my upper arm. It was very realistic and was painted on with a herbal dye guaranteed to last for two weeks. It did. After some local dancing we were chivvied back to Sea Cloud by the Cruise Director as he said the Captain was concerned that we would miss the tide to get out of the bay and might miss our slot to go through the Panama Canal early next morning.

Everything went to plan and at the entrance to the canal we took on a local guide who gave a commentary as we motored through the canal, a journey which took about nine hours. We were going from south to north, or maybe it was east to west, and first we went through the Miraflores locks. Here there was a webcam where friends and family at home in the UK could watch our progress on the internet so some of the passengers, who had pre-advised people back home, were jumping up and down and waving frantically at the cameras. Motoring on a short distance we went through the next set of locks, the Pedro Miguel which brought us up to the Gatun Lake, a very large man made lake where we began to see the ships which were transiting the canal from north to south, or is it west to east. Finally we went through the Gatun Locks and into the Caribbean Sea.

Our final stop in Panama was to the Bocas del Toro, an archipelago of islands which we explored in local boats, going ashore for a walk through the woods and then to visit a local village. Once again small children took our hands to show us round their school and where they lived.

Finally we were back in Costa Rica and we docked at Puerto Limon and said goodbye to the beautiful Sea Cloud 2 after an enjoyable ten days on board.

Dinah Holland

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