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The First Leg of Ian and Fiona’s World ARC Circumnavigation

From rough seas to lazy sloths, we get an update of the first leg of the World ARC

Our World ARC tour leaders Ian and Fiona are on an epic voyage around the world along with a crew from all over the world. The first leg of Ian and Fiona’s World ARC has finished, and we caught up with Fiona to hear all about their adventures.

Read on to relive their crew’s experience:

After much anticipation, we kicked off our journey from St. Lucia to Panama. Our first stop – the historical city of Santa Marta in Colombia before hopping across to Panama and the beautiful San Blas Islands. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. 

The weather forecast as we left Rodney Bay for the 825-mile passage across the Caribbean Sea towards Colombia had promised steady winds and 3-metre seas for a speedy but comfortable downwind passage. However, this was not quite what we got. Within 48 hours we already had 3 reefs in the main, as well as the genoa, with 4 metre seas and gusts of over 50 knots. 

But Asante is a ‘true blue water yacht’ so while other yachts in the fleet were struggling in the rough conditions, we ploughed through steadily, rounding the corner for our approach to Santa Marta at 1 am. Unfortunately, the marina was still closed for the night and we had to drop anchor under moonlight at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains – our unfortunate timing had turned into an incredible anchorage.

The following morning we finally made our way into our berth and spent several days exploring the area. Some of us decided to head inland to swim in the refreshing pools at the base of waterfalls or watch the beautiful birds that call the area home, while others went to learn about the city’s rich history as one of the oldest cities in South America.

After Santa Marta, we headed west to the San Blas Islands. Sadly, our departure was delayed because even the most beautiful of locations may have rubbish floating in the marinas and we found a plastic bag blocking the water intake for our engine. 

A plastic bag was the least of our challenges though, as the sea conditions had shown no signs of improvement since we arrived in Santa Anna a week earlier. In fact, it had gotten worse, with 5 metre seas and strong winds. But challenging conditions are par for the course and we headed out under the genoa, thankfully staying dry in the cockpit with good food and surprisingly sound sleep.

After four days of challenging conditions, the calm coral archipelago of San Blas was a welcome respite, and we snorkelled over the beautiful coral reefs, stared at nursing sharks lazing below and bought fresh lobster off passing fishermen. This place is a true paradise.

Recharged and ready to go, we made the short passage around the northernmost point of Panama to Shelter Bay Marina to prepare for the Panama Canal transit. 

Eager to explore the area, we went on a trip upriver to visit a local indigenous tribe, toured a disused American military camp learned of the area’s strategic significance in World War II and kept a sharp lookout for crocodiles that frequented the marina – it’s these kinds of experiences that make the World ARC such a great adventure. 

A few days later we left for our two-day transit through the Panama Canal, an experience in itself. Asante has a powerful 160hp engine so we were tasked with being in the centre of a three-yacht raft that accompanied a massive ship in each lock. 

We had a Canal Advisor on board who orchestrated the transit. They left us at night while we picked up a buoy before rejoining us the next day as we navigated the line-handling protocol of the lock system before making our arrival in the Pacific Ocean. It is quite incredible to see how this important thoroughfare operates and the absolutely massive (and small ones like ours) navigate through its narrow locks. 

With our Panama Canal transit done and dusted, Panama City beckoned for tours around the Old City and some significant provisioning that we now needed to do to prepare for the next leg of our amazing journey. But the best bit – a large two-toed sloth hanging from the rafters in the marina greeting us. The world is a truly wonderful place.

If this sounds like your type of adventure, join Ian and Fiona on one of the next legs of their round the world adventure. Check out our World ARC trips leaving soon and join this epic adventure. 

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