Caribbean adventure ended up in Panama

March 7, 2007  
Topics: Cuba, Panama

Originally written for



In December last year we got a dream to sail the Caribbean Islands. We were lucky and found a trimaran with an English captain, and thus got from Mexico to the first Caribbean island – Cuba. Unfortunately, short before getting there this sailing boat broke down and the captain brought it alone over to Key West (Florida, US) for repairs.

We had 5 weeks of getting to know Cuba, its people, culture and limited freedom system. Traveling for foreigners is also limited. The Cuban system forces tourists to stay only in paid accommodation. Theoretically, camping is forbidden, unless you will get a permission from the immigration office (which is unlikely). But we did camp in the bushes. Was a little bit stressy, as we always had to walk far out of the towns and wait for the sunset. We did not want anybody to know where we are.

During five weeks one of the main activities was to search for another sailing boat, which would bring us OUT of Cuba. Yes, we wanted to escape Cuba. Not beecause of the people or experiences. This part we liked very much. The problem was that it is extremely difficult to travel low-budget, as we do normally – hitch-hike, sleep in a tent and cook for ourselves. Let’s not be pessimistic: low-budget is possible in Cuba. We gathered several tips and tricks how to do that and have published them here “CUBA with low budget – a short guide”.

Back to the boats. We checked 4 marinas on the Southern coast of Cuba. Finally, we spent 2 weeks in Cienfuegos, as in that marina time to time arrive yachts that leave to Jamaica or other Caribbean islands. Cienfuegos marina is an international-exit point for the sailing vessels. Many boats were heading towards Mexico or neighbouring countries. After chating with different boats, we found out that current and wind are the enemies of the ones heading East, towards other islands.

After checking marina one week long. having no potential boats heading towards other Caribbean islands, we got ourselves to consider heading back to Central America. Actually, there was one luxury yacht sailing towards a couple of other Caribbean islands in the East in the middle of March, but it was an expensive charter boat, and we were not sure we would feel comfortable having no experience and working together with a professional paid crew.

The 12th of February was a lucky day. We met a French couple with “Cheeca-Bey” 44 feet yacht almost ready to leave to Panama. They agreed to give us a lift and one week later we were officially registered as a crew of the boat. Before heading to Panama, we stayed a couple of days in Cayo Largo island of Cuba. This place is designed only for tourists, life of locals does not exists, no markets, no bakery, nothing.

all the time on an angle

all the time on an angle

The non-stop sailing to Panama took us 6 days, meaning 144 hours at sea with no ships, no other islands, no birds or any other living creatures. Only wavy sea and sunset in the evening. Well, once we were only 30 nautical miles away from Cayman Islands, but the captain was not interested in this destination. We do not want to generalize saying sailing was boring, but for us it was. One of the reasons – it was our first real sailing and our bodies were searching for a balance for several days. The only thing we could do was sleeping, eating or sitting outside and watching the sea. As soon as we started reading or doing similar activities, the stomach tried to call our throat for duel. We were getting feelings of being sick. In the end of the trip we felt that we are feeling every day better, making it possible to read or work on the computer. In all, we were happy having got to experience REAL sailing. We think that next time we come aboard, it will be easier. Our bodies will meet known conditions and adjustment to the sailing in-balance will happen quicker.

Today we are in Panama City. This city was in recent history very much influenced by the US. As always, we are not sure where our destiny brings us next. We would like to jump into South America, but before we are thinking to make a short, 1-2 months tour, through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. Afterwards we might go back to Panama and look for a boat willing to give us a ride to Colombia or Ecuador.