Wed 27/02-2013 Day 407

With Capitán de Fregata Juan Aldana on the supply ship 'Buenaventura'


Pos: here
Loc: boarder Colombia/ Panama
Acc: Coastguard boat Panama
Dist: 33,1 km
Start: 7:20 End: 15:50

Tomorrow’s estimated landing: Jaqué

Yesterday evening, the Colombian Navy pulled out the last secret weapon to impress me on my final night for now in their country…

I fell asleep early as usual, at about 8.15 pm, being tired from the day’s regular workout. The guys just got the visit from the local “food service”, and they were chatting with the two young fishermen quite noisily…I put in earplugs, and my black sleeping mask was covering my eyes against the bright moonlight.

Still I heard at around 9.30 pm another boat coming to our side, and the happy chatting surely kept on going. I wish I had earplugs fully keeping out any noise…I stuck my head out briefly, and they told me this was another boat of the Colombian Coastguard. Ok…Carlos started to drive now at a reasonable pace, good for getting back to sleep. But where to?

My 'tiny' escort boat besides the steep wall of the 'Buenaventura'


I got woken again at around 11 pm by more chatting noise, as the other boat was obviously back. A bit annoyed, I stuck my head out again, and saw a HUGE gray wall piling up just beside my bedroom! Was I already in the locks of the Panama Canal?
Or did they drive the boat right into prison? The wall was even German in origin…

View of the 'Buenaventura' through our roof of the Coastguard boat


The huge gray wall belonged to the supply ship “Buenaventura”, and we were sitting just besides it. The small open coast guard boat was on our other side. When I was looking up in the moonlit night, I could see the massive dimensions of the boat. I am only estimating, but it may have been about 15 times longer and 10 times higher than our own boat! It really felt impressive to be in the night just besides such a giant!

Capitán Aldana over the crooked rope ladder steps...


I was invited if I liked a visit on the ship, the captain was expecting me! Sure! I am flexible, though just fallen out of sleep again. I quickly got dressed reasonably, and pulled out my appropriate Captain’s hat from Buenaventura. I had to climb a rope ladder with wooden steps hanging down from the side of the ship. With our own boat floating up and down, this was not the easiest job! At some point, it looked as if one guy and I waiting for a good timing to climb on, would get squeezed in between the roof of our boat and the massive gray wall…but there was enough space left, and I managed to climb on the ladder, and held well to the ropes, hoping they won’t break… About 10 steps only, but the first one was already rotten and broken…

The exit with the rope ladder leading down to our small Navy boat


I arrived successfully high on board, and got greeted by Capitán de Fregata Juan Aldana. He guided me through massive metal doors with round wheel door locks to the fancy Officer’s lounge. On chatting, it was eventually almost midnight, it turned out that the Capitán spent two years of his childhood in Germany, and even right in Heikendorf, my own small hometown close to Kiel! Amazing, how small the world is! We were similar age, so he must have lived for two years very close to me!

The proud 'Buenavantura' - the scary rope ladder is on the last stern section


The ship was German origin, and was running from 1968 to 1998 under the old name “Versorgungsschiff Nienburg” in the German Navy, until it got sold to the Armada de Colombia. I may have even seen it at some point in Kiel…They had 68 crew members on board.

The radar deck of the 'Buenaventura'


Capitán Aldana was offering me to stay on board for the night, thanks, very friendly, but I rejected, thinking it may be too much of an effort to get my personal things up, and it was close to midnight! Maybe I would have done better doing it, as our boat was squeezed between the huge one and the small one, and got every now and then quite a bump like some one is shaking you awake. And sure it was hot and humid, plus at 2 am I had to climb out to shut the heavy lid of my tiny compartment as it started to rain.

At 4 am, the small boat left with lots of noise, and my guys got also already going and were driving wherever to. The plan was to take some pictures in the early morning, and to have breakfast with the captain! So where are we going? All right, just driving in a circle…

The helicopter deck of the 'Buenaventura'


Back alongside the ship at 6 am, I climbed up the suspect rope ladder again, this time it was even hanging quite low on one side. Climbing was an acrobatic act…

A German woman on an old German ship - now both are in Colombia!


I got a tour of the ship, saw the storage rooms with the cranes, the helicopter pad, the two big canons in the front, and everything else belonging to such a huge marine supply boat. What is it used for in these days without war with other countries? Just driving patrol out there? Maybe they need it now to collect the seized drug runners, put up by the small patrol boats, craning the boats up for storage, and imprison the bad guys for a while? No idea… 🙂

We drove back on my usual small boat to my stop point from last night, and I was hoping this was the last high speed run on this boat! I will survive also this drive, waking me at least up form my interrupted sleep session last night.

I had ugly 15 knots north head wind for the first two hours, then a lull, but the headwind came back soon with 10 knots. Not really a fast ride today! A huge fish swarm was escorting me for long hours, jumping frantically up and down. Why do fish do this?

My new escort boats from Panama!


My goal was to reach the Panama boarder, where the crew would change to the new country’s coast guard. I was mourning again all those beautiful bays and beaches I could not land on… About 2 km before the boarder, a small motorboat with about fifteen people came by, they had a TV crew on board, coming from Jurado! Amazing where they have TV crews stationed…I smiled into the camera, waving with my coast guard boat in the background, and kept on paddling toward the Panama boarder.

To the left my old Colombian boat, to the right my new Panamanian boat


Their coast guard boat was already cruising along on the horizon for some hours, waiting for me to show up. They were actually two boats, a big “real ship” one towing a smaller fast runner, similar to the one of the Colombians. It was time for me to finish the day early at 4 pm, my kayak got lifted up to the big boat via the small boat by many helpful hands of the 16 men on board. Welcome to Panama!

I got a bed in the officer’s room, air conditioned, with a real hot shower. Luxury! No problem I had to share the room with the captain of the boat sleeping in the other bed 🙂 I was again just feeling sorry for the second officer I was kicking out. Thanks for offering me such hospitality!

My only problem was that the boats kept on driving all evening and will go on all night, patrolling the worst guerrilla and drug runner area of the boarder of Colombia/ Panama – I so easily get sea sick! I actually had to lay down for a while and to shut my eyes before I was able to have dinner and to write this long update…but all good now, but still lying in bed…

6 comments on “Wed 27/02-2013 Day 407

Frances Price

While I, too, mourn the missed beaches because of all the lovely photos you can’t take of them, I am relieved to know that you are safe in a dangerous part of the world. I am thankful that, since the sad fact is that you do need protection, the protection is there for you. Happy paddling!

Ricardo Hoffmann

Ich freue mich auch auf die hervorragenden täglichen Berichte. Alles Gute, Freya!


die Welt ist klein. Aber toll, dass man so etwas erleben darf. Freut, dass die Armadas der Länder so gut auf Dich aufpassen. Das ist echt 5 Sterne Service 🙂 🙂 🙂
Bin gespannt wie Dein Abenteuer weitergeht, da meine ich Deine Durchfahrt durch den Panamakanal. Wir sind 1973 durch gefahren. War spannend! Für Dich im Kajak wird das noch toller werden. Freya mach weiter so, bist einfach nur spitze und eine grosse Inspiration.
Freue mich immer auf Deine Berichte
liebe Grüsse aus DK

Mark Harrison

What a day( and night!) But Panama at last. Yippee.

Sorry to hear you still get seasick. Big boats and small boats. Many years ago somebody gave me some Stugeron (tablets) It really worked for me. Just a small dose at the start of each sailing season and I was fixed for months, Just a suggestion.

Enjoy the canal!

Randall Lackey

It sounds like the Panamanian Navy will be taking equallycgood care of you while in their waters.Enjoy the hospitality.Safe paddling.

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