A journey to forget

I thought we would die, but we didn’t.

Hypnotised by harmonic waves, I could clearly visualise myself (a predominantly land based mammal!) bobbing away into the darkness of the Caribbean sea.

We were forced to spend two extra days in the almost cartoonishly paradise of San Blas Islands, waiting for the weather to settle before we set sail for Colombia.

With more than a little trepidation palpable on our creaky, paint flaking 40 foot yacht, patronisingly named “Victory” we passed around a rum filled pineapple and bonded with liquor squirming faces. We were first timers, 10 of us aboard yet to earn our sea legs.


“The waves are rough these days” our Colombian captain forewarned but we had to make a move and he had “seen worse” before. He later told us that he hadn’t actually taken passengers in conditions as bad and that the experience referred to was in fact while serving in the Navy, on a boat full of sea hardened sailors.

At 5 am, less than 1 hour into an estimated 30 hour journey as our yacht skimmed across 6 metre waves, it was clear that we were in for some ride. Bouncing around my bed space in the hull was punishing enough until a particularly unkind wave hit; a panel smashed through and gallons of water began to pour in, drenching all of us and rendering our baggage a salty, soggy mess.

After a panicked patch up job, we regrouped top-deck and took up various foetal positions along the bench. It didn’t take long for the rum tinted haze to fade.

As pitiless waves flung us about, our yacht hitched at 50 degrees and it was time to hold on tight. It was the longest 30 hours of my life and not just because it ended up taking 55 hours to complete our journey.

Our captain’s 2 crew were among the 8 on board that were sea sick. 16 hands gripped the metal bars of our cockpit and heads hung limply overboard for the next 20 hours.

Wave after wave hit me through the night, as I dared to doze I woke gulping, my face relentlessly torturously slapped. I had never felt so helpless and pathetic but my stomach held strong.

Wave after wave.


For every minute of the next 10 hours I was surely going to slip over board; our snoozing captain wouldn’t notice, I couldn’t swim and the sea shouldn’t care.

Sunrise brought some hope. We were going to make it, we had gotten through the worst of it and although we were still hopping over waves I began to feel confident that our boat would hold up.

Now 4 hours from Colombian shores, having no sailing experience didn’t preclude me from the role of substitute shipmate. I was fit, my stomach was holding up and I had passable Spanish, so my CV was sufficient. I was shouted at to pull various ropes, winching the sails, sliding from left to right across the bodies of my salty, green faced, companions.

The ropes ate into my salt battered, sun roasted skin and just as the crew sprung back to life to help; the winch jammed and with it the wind came out of my sails. I couldn’t move the ropes an inch despite our captain’s insistence and 4 nauseating hours of bouncing our way sideways to Colombia had just become 10…

This post was written by eddiesmithphoto