Exploring Almirante Bay

On October 1, we cheerfully left the dock, picked up 100 gallons of fuel, and headed out with four other boats from the marina for a week to ten days’ worth of relaxation. In the group were Pamela Jean, a 50-foot Formosa cutter from Texas with Bill and Pam aboard; Mariah, a 63-foot Choy Lee sloop with Evelyn and Dave from Key West; Serenity, with Steve (who’s the staff captain on NCL’s Norwegian Jade); all following Guavi, with Ariel and Michelle from Puerto Rico out to some of the islands and anchorages in Bahia Almirante.

Cayo de Agua (Water Cay)

Our first stop was Cayo de Agua (Water Cay), where one of our marina-mates has property he’s hoping to turn into an eco-resort. The weather was fantastic – the sea flat as a table – which was a good thing, because Cayo de Agua is right up against the Caribbean. We anchored on the south side of the cay, off Daniel’s dock, where we were greeted wildly by his three mixed-blood hound dogs who have the run of the place when Daniel isn’t there. [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…]

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.

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.

Ole Returns With Boat Parts

Marina Carenero
Bocas del Toro, Panama

Ole got home this morning at about 9:00, with something on the order of 75 pounds of luggage, including boat parts, charts, books, dvds and mail from home. It’s quite the hop, requiring travel from Orlando through Miami to Panama City, then an overnight, transfer to a smaller airport, and a puddle jumper into Bocas. Even so, it’s not quite as adventurous as the 7 hour bus ride to Guatemala City! It sure was great to have him back – it gets lonely without him! [Read more…]

Spanish Lessons in Bocas del Toro

Marina Carenero
Bocas del Toro, Panama

I decided to take advantage of a language school here – Spanish by the Sea – run by a Dutch woman and her Costa Rican husband. It’s not bad — $130 a week for four hours of instruction five days a week in a class of three. I’ll be going in the afternoons from 1:00 to 5:00, and interestingly, they’ve placed me in an upper-intermediate level exactly where I was when I stopped studying Spanish at the University of Washington 35 years ago. Just goes to show you the brain retains. Compound verbs here I come…

On the marina front, several of the boats that were here when we arrived have left – some for the other marina, some to anchor out, and some to continue their journeys toward Colon and the Canal.

…In Which Ole is Press-Ganged into the Colombian Navy…

Albuquerque Cays, Columbia

Wow.

We are sitting at anchor in the most amazing place. The Albuquerque Cays are two tiny (less than 600 ft wide) coconut-fringed islets surrounded by a circular reef about 110 miles off the central Nicaraguan coast, and about 30 miles south of San Andres. We are at anchor between and a little to the west of the two cays, in about 25 feet of the clearest water I’ve ever seen.

The northern cay has an outpost of the Colombian Navy – 9 sailors – who man a communication station here. We were asked to come ashore and register with them, so as our dinghy pulled up, all nine guys, in uniforms consisting of khaki shorts and dog tags, came out to meet us and escort us to their commandant. They speak no English, but were gracious, charming, and hospitable, posing for a photo for us, then escorting us on a tour of the base. At the end of the tour, one of the young men asked me to go back with him to the camp, where he offered me my pick of small, beautiful shells. Apparently, the guys are stationed here for 30 days at a time, ferried here with a month’s worth of provisions and DVDs. The site of a pleasure boat, and the chance to talk to tourists, breaks up the monotony for them.  [Read more…]

Exploring Santa Catalina, Providencia

At Anchor, Catalina Harbor, Providencia

We’ve been here a week, and three days of it were “boat bound,” due to some pretty brisk winds that threatened to drag us (again). Friday evening, after a great day of scootering around the island, we went over to Attitude for happy hour. As soon as we stepped aboard, Neil and Dale (s/v Orangi) pointed and shouted simultaneously “You’re dragging!” which prompted a hasty three-man rescue attempt to try to prevent Emma Jo from blowing into Attitude. Cathy, Dillis and I sat and enjoyed the show, but the wind continued upwards of 20-30 knots through Monday and we didn’t’ feel comfortable leaving the boat to go into town.

Ole did make it to town yesterday morning, though, to pick up the repaired heat exchanger for the port engine. Cost was 200,000 pesos (more or less $100), and the leak was small – the repairman only had to plug about 3 of the little tubes. That was the good news. [Read more…]