I froze, or rather went limp, as if preparing to dive, unable to move, watching the afternoon light dazzle huge schools of bait, circling down and around us as we dove. I found it hard to think about finding fish as they were there, everywhere, but I was a mermaid too, part of it. This is where childhood kicked in, not fears, but dreams. And into it floated a sea turtle, unaware that anything out of the ordinary could be happening for these strange mer-creatures, flying along the reef, diving down out of sight. Schools of small tuna, giant torrential rain droplets shattering the surface above, golden lightbeams piercing the depths and illuminating, nourishing - and shooting a beautiful grouper. Matty came to the surface grinning like a child. I think I was crying. I hadn’t gotten over the turtle, and the swirling schools, and the light, and licking sheets of rain from my face as I came up for air. Building lightning on the horizon thundering closer cued our paddle back, stoked and refreshed and still bursting through underwater light. The reef came alive during that late afternoon storm; one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced. The ocean gave us a life, that we barbecued over hot coals and shared with new friends from the island. This is Bernard, a French sailor who has been traveling and living all over the world since he was 19, for the past 40 years. He was anchored near the community island we stayed on, and has been living there for the past 2 years. He had some beautiful things to say about a life unbarred by convention, following your dreams, and even age-old pirate wisdom that stuck with us: Back in the day, all pirates wore a gold earring. Wherever they went they would always have one item that held universal monetary value, that they could sell when times got tough. Being a modern day pirate, Bernard chooses a Rolex… Truth was, Bernard is more of a gentleman than a pirate, and if ever you are looking at sailing in the San Blas, we’d suggest getting in touch with him. We were now fully inspired to become pirates, and needed to find a way to get to Colombia, as crossing the Darien Gap in the rainy season is not feasible on bikes. Maybe in a stealth dugout to get you past the jungle sentries and cartels. Maybe.. but not with our bikes in tow. We called up the Stahlratte (Steel Rat), and booked our passage on the old Dutch 120ft, 1903 steel-hulled sail training vessel. The ‘Steel Rat’s’ history ranges from training youth as sailors, use as a sailing fish boat, serving in both World Wars, and use as a Greenpeace vessel. The historic value (and ability to carry motorcycles!) led to its current use as a non-profit ship, with volunteer crew, to transport hopefuls between continents. After loading 12 huge bikes onto the decks in a tension-filled afternoon on the mainland of Kuna Yala, we set off through the islets to the first few days’ anchorage, nestled between two remote slices of paradise on the edge of the Kuna Yala archipelago. It was a hugely positive experience for me to meet other motorcycle adventure riders. From when I started in Mexico, I was pretty convinced that I would probably die on a motorcycle somewhere in Latin America. Meeting 10 other people who were doing similar things made my chances seem… at least 10 times better. After a few days of relaxing in tranquil paradise, …being fed lovely tropical food, monkeying around, ...and helping out with ship’s duties now and again, we set off early one morning into the horizon. We awoke to some pretty rough rocking, and the sounds of last night’s dinner being violently ejected from many stomachs over the side of the ship. Matty the pirate does not get seasick, and I had brilliantly taken Dramamine, which managed to ward off any nausea I may have experienced. Thus piratized, we were able to experience the thrill of bouncing up and down in a huge ship, on wilder seas than I’ve ever experienced in a boat other than a ferry, and fall in love with the open ocean. At one point, at full sail, engines off, a huge pod of dolphins gathered around the bow and swam with us for about a half an hour. We guessed there must have been at least 50… We even got to climb to the crowsnest, and near the end of the voyage Matty espied land!!!!! We’d reached Cartagena, Colombia, and 3 days of customs and immigration procedures, and SOUTH AMERICA!!!!!!!!!! Chat soon! x
The calmness of meditating on the deep ocean's surface before a dive. The determination of powering yourself down into the depths further than you've been before. The unknown of an underwater oceanscape, waiting patiently for a dark silhouette. Holding breath. The stillness of taking aim. The appreciation of looking straight into his eyes before taking his life. The adrenaline of firing and conflict. The short pang to your heart when you're holding the struggling fish and see the fear in its big eyes. The instinctual end to its pain with your knife. The ritual of cleaning. The process of fire-building. The art of cooking.
The reward of a healthy and delicious feast to share with your friends.