Die Stahlratte adventure–life on the ship (from Panama to Columbia)

Passing the Notorius Darién Gap on our motorcycles is not an option, because the Pan-American Highway is a system of roads measuring about 30,000 km (19,000 mi) long that crosses through the entirety of North, Central, and South America, with the sole exception of the Darién Gap. The Darién Gap is a break in the Pan-American Highway consisting of a large swath of undeveloped swampland and forest within Panama’s Darién Province in Central America and the northern portion of Colombia’s Chocó Department in South America. The gap begins in Yaviza, Panama and ends in Turbo, Colombia, stretching between 100 km and 160 km (60–100 miles) long. Roadbuilding through this area is expensive, and the environmental cost is high. Political consensus in favor of road construction has not emerged. Consequently, there is no road connection through the Darién Gap connecting North America with South America and it is the missing link of the Pan-American Highway (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dari%C3%A9n_Gap).

Instead we went oversea from Carti in Panama to Cartagena in Columbia with Die Stahlratte

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When we got to Carti Die Stahlratte was already waiting. We just had to take all the luggage of the motorcycles and load the motorcycles on the ship.

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Loading the motorcycles on the ship

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It is a four day trip including a trip to the San Blas islands:

20th of July loading the motorcycles, getting comfortable on the ship and jumping into the water
21th of July visiting the San Blas Island and getting to know the crew and the other travelers on the ship
22th of July visiting the San Blas Island and taking off towards Columbia in the evening
23th of July sealing towards Cartagena in Columba in open water, arriving in Cartagena before midnight
24th of July in the port of Cartagena fixing immigration and import of the motorcycles to Columbia, unloading of the motorcycles

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Meet the other travelers: Juan from Spain and the two girls from Germany

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YES – here we are again, but meet the crew: the standing girl, Anna (Holland) and the captain Ludwig (Germany) sitting in the back of the dinghy

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Meet the ship: Stahlratte was born in 1903 in Holland, but today its homeport is Bremen in Germany. At birth the ships dimensions was 24.41 x 6.55 x 2.80 meters (left picture), but it has grown since, and today its is 38.50 x 6.60 x 2.85 meters, with a weight of 128 tons. The ship operates worldwide as a sail-training vessel, which means that you can apply to volunteer on the ship. It can carry a maximum of 22 people and up to 17-19 motorcycles. It has a lot of life experience, serving as a fishing vessel for 80 years and in 1984 the non-profit Verein zur Foerderung der Segelschiffahrt e.V. bought the ship.

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In 1998 the ship was sailing for Greenpeace

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Life seen from the view of Die Stahlratte

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Just spending time on the ship and in the water… it is warm and humid, with a temperature at 30 Celsius I just had to cool down with a Radler (beer mixed with lemonade), or jump into the ocean.

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Just relaxing…

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All meals was prepared and included in the trip

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Ending the two days at the San Blas islands with lobster and fish (we think that it is a barracuda)

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Anna doing all the hard work, but the result was amazing! (Anna is vegetarian, so more lobster for us)

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The local people are called “the Guna” (pronounced “Kuna”). The Guna people have lived in the eastern part of Panama for more than two centuries. Their language indicate that the Guna migrated to San Blas from Columbia after the 16th century. Today there is an estimated 50,000 Guna, where almost 32,000 live on district’s islands. The Guna inhabit only 49 of the 400 cays, but all the islands you see with coconuts is farmed by the Guna, who export coconuts to Columbia. Don’t take anything from the islands, because it is seen as steeling from the Guna. The locals often come and visits the ship and Captain Ludwig is respected by the Guna.

Ludwig made a deal that they would clean the ship on the outside…

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The Guna worked for several hours, and off course they were paid for their work, on top of that Die Stahlratte also pay to anchor the ship in the area of San Blas Islands. BUT… sometimes the Guna just came by to get food or beers. So the crew have given the Guna the nickname “Guna-aches” like the cockroaches, because they sometimes just come onboard to clear out the refrigerator.

Here leaving with a six-pack of beer

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Climbing the mast on the ship, and Esben taking pictures

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But everything comes to an end… and we had to leave the San Blas Islands to get to Cartagena in Columbia… not even one hour after leaving the San Blas islands I was seasick, and YES I did take medicine against my seasickness, that should prevent me from getting seasick. I felt so bad that I took another pill again three hours after the first one (one pill should last 8 hours). I still felt sick, and for the next 30 hours I looked like this.

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Not able to do anything, everybody else helped setting the sails, which makes the ship made staple on the ocean. Just saying that we had the perfect weather for sailing almost no wind, the waves that made my sick, was just the natural movement from the ocean. The Caribbean ocean is big, and the natural movement is a lot bigger than what I have ever tried in Denmark.

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I survived and finally we made it to Cartagena… those 30 hours felt like forever! In the port of Cartagena the water was still, and I felt better.

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Panoramic pictures of Cartagena, night and day

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The next day we could unload the motorcycles a 5 pm after immigration and import of the motorcycles was fixed (Yes, off course it took ALL day to get ALL the papers in order). After an amazing but tough trip over open water we was finally back with soil underneath the tires.

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Comments

  1. Great article! I saw in the picture that it looked like someone was sleeping on the deck. Is that possible?

    Also, what are the normal sleeping arrangements like?

    Good looking out.

    • esbenboell@gmail.com

      You are allowed to sleep pretty much anywhere on the ship. There are both beds for 1 and 2 people under deck, but when it is really hot it is nice to be outside. There are some sunbeds also.

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