Crew and company on the Andiamo.

Our lancha (small motorboat) to the Andiamo was called “Fliper 3” which is a darn good stab at dolphin homage. As the rest of us gathered our things and paid for our Kuna lunch, Fermin (the Venezuelan) stood shin-deep in the water and without fanfare or expression shouted “Fliiiiiii-per!” then climbed aboard.

Captain Robert

We followed after and were soon climbing onto the Andiamo, where we were greeted by Robert, the new captain of the ship. Technically from The Netherlands but raised in Aruba and the US, I enjoyed chatting with him a bit in Dutch. We found each other’s accents entertaining.

The old captain was Fabio, from Italy, who was heading home in a few days for the first time in years. He looked sun-worn and water-weary, though surprisingly young. The third crewmember was Dino, who felt like the team’s anchor with his calm Kuna self assurance and rare facial expressions.

Robert gave us a little speech, trying valiantly in Spanish until we told him that our most-spoken language was English, at which he was relieved, although he had trouble adjusting, with Spanish phrases relentlessly creeping back into his spiel. He took the wheel and we pulled away from the island just as the Mission Impossible theme came on the sound system (aka Fabio’s Ipod). Dino baited a hook and let it fall into the water to trail behind us to start shopping for dinner.

I’d been onboard only a few minutes but it already felt like someplace I wouldn’t want to leave.

Where should we go? I dunno. How about…that one?

This notwithstanding the impressively casual attitudes of the crew. I had an English student in Belgium who was taking a sailing class, and used to explain to me what he was learning as practice. Charting a course on precise maps, compensating for current and wind, calibrating the compass to adjust for the variance between geographic and magnetic north, calculating depth from tidal charts, and navigating via reference points and harbor stats. None of that on the Andiamo.

When Fermin asked Robert where the map was, he pointed at Dino and said “he’s not allowed to fall overboard.” When we asked where we were going, Dino waved vaguely off to the right. (Sorry: starboard.)

We cruised for awhile on diesel then cut the engine, Dino showed me which rope to heave on, the sail was raised, and we were sailing in the San Blas Archipelago. Absence of combustion engine noises, the slap of water, wind all around, soft soft, and our bodies relaxed. The crew facing forward while the passengers chatted about Carnaval.

Lotsa swimming, few pictures. Fernando & Mariana
on the boat, Jessica swimming by El Diablo Rojo,
the boat’s dinghy, which trailed along after us. 

We had the Argentinean couple, gently peaceful auras and nothing but kindness in their lives as far as I could tell. Instantly likable, they were exactly the kind of people you want as companions on a tiny boat at sea.

Jessica was my valued companion from before, who I met a few hours after landing in Nicaragua on my first day, then who reappeared a month later with superhero timing as I began to flounder in the Meat Market Madness of Bocas del Toro to save my sanity with intelligent conversation and mature companionship.

Fermin can look comfortable anywhere.

Fermin rounded out the passengers. A Venezuelan former cell-phone magnate of some sort, he fled the country when Chavez came into power in 1999. He had the extrovert ability to chat and playfully harass anyone he met, and had an interesting perspective on anything the conversation touched. He could also eat more lobster than anyone I’ve ever seen. When a Kuna canoe pulled up next to us the next morning with a hull full of live lobsters he told Robert “you take what we need, I’ll buy all the rest.” He had five of them for lunch, and shared several with the rest of us. I’ve never had peanut butter and jelly…and lobster before. (Actually I had never eaten lobster before Bocas del Toro. The ship was my second time.)

Made for an odd combination.