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Old 08-31-2010, 12:48 PM   #1
Misery Goat OP
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Joined: Jun 2003
Location: Paradise Valley, AZ
Oddometer: 75,735
The Stahlratte (Steel Rat) Experience - Or how to enjoy crossing the Darien Gap

I'm devoting a thread to the Stahlratte since crossing the Darien is one of the more common queries for folks traveling to and from CA and SA. And in my experience it's simply one of the better options out there for transporting across the Darien Gap.

A link to the ship's website and info is contained in the post below. If you have any info to add or want to share your experience on the ship, feel free.

Cross post from my ride report

The Pan-American Highway ends in Panama and if you want to ride to South America you need to contend with the logistics of the Darien Gap. The ~100 mile strip of undeveloped mountain rainforest and swamplands make it virtually impassible by motor vehicle. That leaves flying and sailing as available transport options for moto riders who arenít compelled to underwrite an expedition through the Darien to get to Colombia. Both methods come with their logistical challenges and depending on the carrier can be a source of frustration for some travelers. After combing through the stories of other riders and talking with friends I made my decision.

The Stahlratte (German for Steel Rat) was built in 1903 and spent most of its service life as a fishing vessel based out of The Netherlands and Norway. A German nonprofit organization purchased the ship in the 80s and it underwent extensive renovation to become the schooner we know it as today. In 2004 the Stahlratte and crew embarked on a voyage from their home port in Germany to circumnavigate the globe. Theyíve been in San Blas, Panama since 2006 spending much of their time ferrying tourists between Panama and Colombia and exploring the beautiful islands of San Blas. When you sail with the Stahlratte you become part of a collective experience that began in the 80s when the concept of the project was born. There are no activities directors on this ship and youíre expected to pitch in and help out with the day-to-day tasks of the shipís operations. The Stahlratte ainít no cruise ship and thatís a good thing.

Transporting a motorbike requires some coordination with the captain to ensure you arrive at the dock at the appropriate time (a day prior to sailing). Once there his crew takes over and expertly handle the loading and storage of the bike(s). When in Panama the ship is anchored at Carti (San Blas) and as of August 3, 2010 the road to the dock from the PanAm (turn off is at El Llano) is newly paved and in good condition. I like river crossings so I wasnít too disappointed the bridge was not yet complete though it appears to be near finished. Our particular trip suffered a setback when the rider (John) I accompanied from Panama City took water in his 12GS while crossing the river and the bike was left incapacitated. We were unable to revive the bike so I made for the dock. I was collected by the ship and the captain made arrangements for a few of the local Kunas to retrieve John and bike by canoe. Once on board the captain made the shipís tools available to us to work on Johnís bike. The captain and crew of the Stahlratte are just the folks you want on the job when plans donít work out the way you intend.

I thank my friends at advrider for sharing their experiences and recommending the Stahlratte to me. Captain Ludwig and his crew made crossing the gap a highlight of my trip and you can definitely consider them moto friendly.

(The road actually goes all the way to the coast but bing maps isn't getting it done)

"So what you gonna do when the novelty is gone.."-- Joy Division

Same as it ever was

My Wanderlust
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