Back to Emma Jo in Bocas

Bocas Marina
Bocas del Toro, Panama

Getting back to the boat was fairly straightforward – Barcelona to Madrid to Guatemala City to Panama City to Bocas del Toro…with a stay in one of the sleaziest hotels never to be frequented again in Panama – Hotel Riande Airport. A dump of unworkability priced at about $92 per night, it’s the only hotel conveniently located five minutes from Tocumen International Airport. Stench of mould covered over with Lysol, irregular surging from the air conditioner, and a non-functional toilet. After coming from the state-of-the-art Independence of the Seas, the third world was an abrupt comedown. Eeesh. [Read more…]

First Explorations of Starfish Beach

Bocas Marina
Bocas del Toro, Panama

With just a few hours notice, we decided to pull out of the slip for awhile and explore the area on the north end of Isla Colon that we missed last time. We were joined by Neil and Kathy on Attitude and Tommy and Cynthia on Moondancer at a lovely anchorage at a perfect swimming beach known by the local expats as “Starfish.” The water is deep up to 15 feet from the beach, sloping up just like a swimming pool, with a clean sand bottom and a good protected anchorage a short dinghy ride from the restaurant at Bocas del Drago. On the way north, we passed Steve on Serenity cruising south. We stopped for a chat and anchoring instructions, and Steve asked if we planned to do any fishing. When we said “no,” he tossed over a light pole with a little lure on it, saying it might be fun to do a little jigging – he caught and released a lot of fish just for fun. We thanked him, found the anchorage, and Ole started jigging. No fish. More about THAT little experiment later. [Read more…]

“Wild Hogs” in Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro

Wild Hogs! Five of us on four scooters, each of which had its own unique mechanical problem. Mine kept stalling in idle; Trevor and Sandy’s was smoking like a chimney and stinking up the place; Jennifer’s handlebars were crooked; and Drury’s had minimal suspension. At $60 for half a day, it was pretty expensive, but off we went. [Read more…]

Our New Bocas Home

Bocas Yacht Club & Marina

At the Dock
Bocas Yacht Club & Marina
Bocas del Toro, Panama

After a leisurely morning and lovely cruise through the islands we stopped at Twin Cays, a parentheses of mangrove islands with coral reef in between, before settling in at Bocas Yacht Club & Marina our new home. We think we’ll like it much better here. While the price per foot is a bit more, the metered electricity, available water, reliable internet, calm and reasonable management, and evening respite from reggae club boom boom boom will make for a much more pleasant stay in Bocas del Toro.

Where the Chocolate Trees Grow

Green Acres Chocolate Farm & Factory

We chose to anchor near Camryka because we had heard of a little farm called “Green Acres” that happens to be their neighbor. Cruising friends had strongly suggested stopping in for a walk around the property, as Dave and Linda Cerutti, the owners, are manufacturing chocolate from the cacao trees they found when clearing and improving their property. We were a bit shy about just going over by ourselves, but when we saw a lancha speeding up to their dock with some tourists inside, we jumped on the phone and asked if we could join them for a walk. [Read more…]

First Look at Dolphin Bay

Camrykaland, Dolphin Bay

At Anchor, Dolphin Bay
Bocas del Toro, Panama

This morning we explored Ground Creek by dinghy, but again, too late in the morning for any serious wildlife spotting. We decided to head about 2 hours south to Dolphin Bay on the mainland, departing about noon. [Read more…]

Exploring Conch Bay, and an Expensive Lunch!

Punta Caracol, Bocas del Toro

This morning we opted to explore the head of Conch Bay by dinghy, following a creek for nearly a mile through the jungle. It must have been too late in the morning, as we didn’t see or hear much in the way of animal or bird life, but we rowed over to a stilted palapa full of hammocks belonging to the lodge at Punta Caracol and decided to follow the dock/path to the lodge itself. The path crossed the tip of the peninsula, then turned into a dock running about 100 feet from shore, creating its own crystal clear lagoon. The stroll to the restaurant took us past the charming accommodations – little private 2-story cabanas built right on the pier, each with its own veranda facing the bay equipped with kayak and snorkel gear. We stopped at the front desk and inquired about rates — $300 per night for lodging and 2 meals a day. Eek. Lunch at Punta Caracol was superb – but expensive for Bocas. Seafood stew with lobster, calamari, shrimp in a coconut base for me; grilled fish for Ole, 2 pina coladas and 2 glasses of wine — $50. Setting and mood – priceless. A lunch like that called for a major nap, after which we headed north to the next bay of Isla Colon, Ground Creek, where we anchored for the night.

Repairing Your Boat in Exotic Locations

At Anchor, Conch Bay
Bocas del Toro, Panama

Ole worked on the outboard for most of the morning, hoping to identify the annoying sound and lack of function of the cooling water pump. No luck. And out of nowhere, we lost our GPS signal. He checked every connection, traced every wire, ran every reset problem, and called Raymarine for help, to be told “you’ll have to find an authorized repair person.” In the process, he disconnected the antenna/receiver, and found it was full of water. After some hours of drying, he reassembled it and poof, we have GPS again. Wish he could do the same with the motor! While he worked on the mechanical parts, I worked on updating journal entries for the log.

Hitchhiking for Boat Parts

Punta Caracol, Bocas del Toro

Just after lunch, we motored back to drop anchor in front of Bocas Marina, and called a water taxi to pick us up from the boat to get into town. When the taxi didn’t show after about 30 minutes, I stuck out my thumb as a lancha full of tourists was zipping by – and who knew – you can hitchhike from your boat here! New impellors in hand, we motored an hour up to Conch Bay to anchor for the night. At the entrance to the bay is a wonderful resort, Punta Caracol, built on stilts across the mouth of a shallow lagoon. We glided past it into the bay, then up about a half mile to a quiet, narrow spot in the mangroves. There is not a soul up here but us.

A Few Days Cruising the Bocas Archipelago

After a quick blast through town for provisioning, we left Marina Carenero to explore the area for a few days before moving over to the Bocas Yacht Club and Marina.  Who knew that just an hour’s cruise from here there were absolutely deserted bays where the only sound was the howler monkeys hooting back and forth.  Superb!  We dropped anchor at  Big Bight, the first of the three bays north of here, and were stunned by the quiet – and the noise!  We figured we’d stick around here until tomorrow, do a quick run into town for the new impellors, then head for the next bay up tomorrow night.