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For 4 days we will be playing pirate on a sailing vessel built in 1903.

A recomendation of a colleague and a birthday present for Markus.

We didn't quite know, what to expect having heard a lot of good ("San Blas islands are a dream come true!") and bad things ("The crew was drunk almost all of the time...") about the ships sailing between Panama and Colombia.

Well, we were about to find out! :-P


After a very short night in a hostal in Panama we are picked up at 5:15 am by a driver who had already woken the complete hostal because we weren't waiting outside yet. New learning: 5:15 am in Panama means 5:00 am sharp. And I thought we Germans are punctual. 

Picking up another 5 people (all of them late) we cram into the aged Jeep and drive off into the Panama jungle. Something tickles at my knee and I brush it away seeing seconds later a giant cockroach crawling away, escaping through the open window. Yuk! Will tell Markus later ;-)

After 4,5 hours on a bumpy and winding road we arrive at the shore and climb into a small boat steered by a Kuna indian, that will bring us to the Stahlratte.

Stahlratte3.jpg Stahlratte4.jpg  

First impression of our new home for the next days:

Dear Lord. Hope that rusty thing will make it across the ocean. :-)


The ship


The Stahlratte was built in1903 in the Netherlands, has a length of around 25 meters and served as a fishing vessel. In 1984 a german non profit foundation (aka a hippie commune ;-)) bought and rebuilt it. There are 25 beds now, each equipped with a fan and a power plug, a solar panel and a desalting plant to produce fresh water. It is driven by a 4-cylinder 280 horse power engine made in 1955 which actually sounds like a steam train. 




The money earned by taking passengers and motorbikes from Panama to Cartagena and vice versa is used to maintain the ship. And as it is a steel boat, this is perpetual work. Maintenance alone costs around 6000 US$ a month.


Stahlratte37.jpg  Stahlratte7.jpg


Stahlratte10.jpg  The cabin with - how cute - our names: Stahlratte6.jpg There’s actually a lot of space on the boat. There are 12 bikes tied on deck but you can always find a quiet place to read a book or take a nap. For example in a hammock or the bow netting... Markus7.jpg  Stahlratte41.jpg

The crew


Captain Lulu sails the ship for 22 years now, the last 10 of them in the Caribbean. There are also 2 volunteers, Lisa and Michael, that work for bed and board.


Lisa tells us some time later how she was „hired“. She got an official invite from Captain Lulu saying she was invited for dinner on the Stahlratte and should dress up for the event.

When she arrived Lulu greeted her in underpants and a too short shirt saying:

I dressed up for you! I am wearing a new pair of underpants and my best shirt!




She said, she fell in love with him immediately. 





Getting on board we are greeted by the Captain Lulu, the crew and about 18 bikers (from New Zealand, Australia, Chile, England, Ireland, Austria and Germany) having breakfast at the big table on deck.


Being awake now for 6 hours without any coffee we gratefully join them.


First thing Lulu tells us: If you have a watch, leave it in the cabin. We are on „island time“ now.

Then we set off to the San Blas islands.







Stahlratte11.jpg ... to be continued soon!    






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