Malucos do Mar – Silvia and Steban 

It’s perhaps a bit early to tell, but having spent a little less than 2 months in a sailboat, I’ve decided that the sea is populated almost entirely by people who are absolutely crazy,  os malucos do mar as I call them.  For good or bad, there’s either something that calls these nut-cases to the sea or something about the sea that chips away at their sensibility. Either way, the voyage on the Chufa and our interactions with the other boat people in Cartagena and San Blas have introduced a whole new world, the secret life of the sailboats, of which I’ve only begun to scratch the surface.  Since the encounter, I’ve also begun nursing a pipe dream of buying my own boat and becoming a captain…which begs the question, “Am I crazy or just poised to make the tranformation?”

Anyway, I decided to profile the ones that I’ve had access to and finally begin a section about people I’ve encountered on the road because they are, after all, what makes the experience the most interesting.

Silvia and Steban

happy couple in san blas, panama

Some couples look and act alike, Silvia and Steban* are definitely one of those couples, equally crazy and serving as the reigning king and queen of the sailing community in Chichime (pronounced chi-chi-may), what I like to think of as Chi Chi Mania.  They seem to know everyone and are the life of the party, friends with the sailors and the Kuna indians who populate the islands.  Once the fiesta begins you’re almost certain to find it still going 24 hrs later and there’s no vacation for the hosts unless they leave the island and park themselves in a super dangerous area surrounded by reef.  Since we arrived in the islands with Silvia on board, they have quickly become some of our best friends here.

Sara, 40 years, Colombiana

woman in hatShe’s almost nonstop in everything she does, hardly ever seeming to tire, whether it’s work or a party.  Silvia was the marinera – cook/cleaner – on our outing to Islas Rosario and the charter from Colombia to Panama.  From the moment she began making breakfast to the minute she finished with dinner she was almost always working.  Any time she wasn’t occupied there was a beer or cigarette in her hand, sometimes both; during the voyage she probably killed a couple six packs herself and went through several boxes of Lito’s cigarettes.  I don’t remember having seen her eat a plate of anything in the month that I’ve known her despite the kitchen being her realm.  A combination of these habits and genetics has kept her rail thin, but for all intensive purposes stupendously happy.  She seems akin to the indians here, with dark eyes and brown skin.  Her home is in Santa Marta where she runs a hostel and has a young daughter, but she’s worked for eight years at sea and knows her way around the boats as well as any man here.  She’s a constant for laughter and jokes and high-fives you at least three or four times in a five minute conversations.  Though she’s “with” Esteban here and is clearly head-over-heels in love with the guy, she’s also well known for having numerous lovers in the boat community and likely on land in Colombia as well.  In fact, the only reason we met was because she had once slept with our Brazilian boat neighbor, Gabriel.  Last time they had a fight, or so I’ve heard, she took all the money and passports from the charter and threw them in the water.

Steban, 45 years, French

man painting nails

Though he knows Silvia isn’t always faithful, he doesn’t give a rat’s ass, he adores her even more hopelessly than she loves him.  He’s her perfect mail counterpart, thin and tanned, but strong, every bit of him covered in lean muscle developed from years working on boats. He has the air of a pirate and certainly looks it in many a photo.  Currently he lives on a catamaran, slightly larger than the Chufa, serving as the captain for the absentee owners who drop by maybe once a year for a week to take the boat out for a spin.  They don’t pay him any wages and he lives off the 70% that’s left on every charter he does in San Blas (these run $250/day per person).  From what I can tell this amounts to maybe a week of work every month and relaxing in paradise the rest of the time.  Once upon a time, he supposedly sailed with the famous French mariner Éric Tabarly who completed several solo voyages around the world, competing in several races, and even constructing one of the boats that’s anchored here before falling into the ocean to a watery grave.  He’s the go-to-guy here, helping people wherever he can and hosting people for meals as often as pure revelry.  If you fall asleep on his boat on any of these occasions he takes the liberty of painting your hands or toes with nail polish.  I don’t know if he fell asleep or if he just liked the look, but the past couple days he’s sported blue polish on his left foot and orange on the right.

boat party in san blas, kuna indians

*Fictional names… real characters

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