Why you need to take the Stahlratte from Panama to Colombia

There are a number of ways to cross the famed Darien Gap seperating Panama from Colombia on a motorcycle. The easiest is to just put the bike in a crate, get it on a plane and fly there. Alternatively you can try to find some space in a container, those readily available. But let’s be honest here, that would be boring. The most exciting option(outside of actually trying to go through the gap which is almost impossible) is to take one of the Sailbots that “commute” from Panama to Colombia. The most famous of these is the Stahlratte. The Stahlratte is a more than 100 year old(built in 190er) converted german commercial vessel that is run by a non-profit organization in germany. The sole purpose is to keep the ship afloat.

View from the Mast

A brief Overview of the Trip

Introductions made, this, by a long shot, is one of the most amazing experiences you will have on your trip. The 3 day trip includs anchoring in the absolutely amazin San Blas Island for swimming, chilling and generally just having a good time. Theres fresh lobster, you can explore the tiny islands(Be mindful not to steal any coconuts), snorkle on the countless reefs and just enjoy life at its best. You can climb the mast when its calm, take a nap in the hammocks or just chat with the captain who has some stories you wouldnt believe.

The “Bedroom”

Inside the Stahlratte

The Interior of the boat isnt too crammed alltough everyone sleeps in the same room. Earplugs may be advisable and you shouldnt be too delicate about odour. You will share a single toilet with everyone else onboard(up to 27 people) so prepare for queuing in the mornings and evenings. They do have a fridge so theres always cold drinks to be had ranging from non-alcoholic to beer. The crew makes the cooking a communal effort and everything they put on our plates was declicicous. One thing to be advised about tough is that seasickness is a real possibility here. I’ve been on boats and ships numerous times and even in heavy storms in the north atlantic on the way to iceland i never got seasick. On the Stahlratte I did. Not a big deal, just something to be aware off. Take a pill, sleep for 2h and you’re going to be fine.

Sunset in the San Blas Islands


The real reason you should go

The real reason you should take the Stahlratte however is the social aspect of it. Most likely you will meet 10-20 other bikers, all on the same trip as you ranging from twenty-something to retired. There will be more stories to tell than you can remember and you may even find a ridding buddy or two for the coming weeks. In my case I ended up with 3 more guys attempeting to tackle the road to Punta Gallinas(and fail). There is no barrier on the boat, you’re all here for the same reason and if theres nothing else to talk about you talk about the bikes. But more often than not youll just sit outside on the deck discussing life, the universe and everything as Douglas Adams put it.

It’s a wonderful experience that if you have the time and coin to afford you should definitely take into consideration. I’ll leave you with a Video of those absolutely marvelous 3 days.


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