Feb
08

Island Life

After being at anchor since early December we’ve settled into island life. The days seem to melt together punctuated by boat chores, snorkeling trips, dingy adventures, pot lucks and the occasional trip to town. We’ve moved from one idyllic anchorage to another whenever the whim struck us. Here’s a typical day:

Robin is the early riser. She’s up with the sun making coffee and sitting in the cockpit in the cool of the early morning. When we’re in an area that that gets internet this is the time that it works the best. We get internet through cellular and there are two towers in the San Blas. During the day the system gets overwhelmed and you yearn for the days of dialup on AOL but before 7:00 am it’s usually pretty good. At some point Mike stumbles into the cockpit with a cup of coffee and we survey our realm until the sun gets to intense. That’s usually a little after 8:00 and we move on the Panama Connection net. The net is on the single side band and comes on at 8:30. We get a weather update, local news and information and where people are and where they’re headed. After the net we fire up the generator to charge the batteries for a couple of hours. Robin is often starting the bread machine so we’ll have fresh bread by lunchtime and cooking what we will eat later in the day. The rest of the morning is all about boat chores. There’s always something to do from tinkering with the engine to polishing the stainless on deck.  Many days we are visited by locals in their ulus (a dugout canoe) selling whatever they have caught that day: lobster, conch, crab, octopus and an occasional fish. Believe it or not, we have grown tired of lobster and Robin has been perfecting different recipes for conch fritters and crab cakes.

After lunch it’s playtime. We often start with a little chillaxing before heading out. Usually it’s off for a snorkel on a nearby reef, a walk on one of the white sand, palm lined beaches or a get together on another boat. Mike has been on a mission to identify every fish on the reef for several weeks and has spent many hours poring over his Caribbean Reef Fish book. Robin just likes to look at the pretty fish. Over the past few weeks we’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Lanny and Ginger on Swiftsure as well as Kyle and Shelly on Blowin’ Bubbles. Kyle and Shelly were dive instructors for many years and Kyle had a compressor onboard to refill tanks. He and Mike spent many days diving on the reefs near Esnasdup where Kyle took it as his personal mission to rid the reef of Lionfish, an invasive species that is decimating the fish population in some areas. Lanny and Ginger, both very experienced divers, joined them for one of the dives while Robin and Shelly snorkeled nearby.

Back at the boat we get a shower on the transom and the sun sinks it sundowner time. Over the past month our favorite has been rum and soda with the juice of half a lima. A lima is a cross between a lime and an orange. It looks like a large lime but the meat is orangish and the flavor is a refreshing mix of orange and lime. Of course, it’s not always cocktails on Mermaid. We put away a few brewskies on Blowin Bubbles and you can’t beat Lanny’s gin and tonics on Swiftsure.

Most nights find us reading or watching the stars until cruiser midnight or around eight o’clock. However, we’ve enjoyed several jam sessions aboard Blue Sky with Breeze playing the guitar, Mike blowing the harps, Robin pitching in on a variety of percussion instruments along with other cruises. One night we even had an impromptu jam session on the Mermaid with Blowin’ Bubbles and their guests.  Kyle and Bob played dueling ukuleles, Kelly had dynamite vocals and Mike tried to keep up on the harmonica. Big Fun was had by all.

It’s great to meet other cruisers but part of the deal is that cruisers are transitory. Both Swiftsure and Blowin’ Bubbles headed for the Panama Canal to transit to the Pacific and head for the South Pacific this spring. We’ll miss them but look forward to new friends and new adventures.

Mermaid in Cambombia

Mermaid in Cambombia

Gorgidup

Gorgidup

Robin and Mike on Gorgidup

Robin and Mike on Gorgidup

Robin snorkeling

Robin snorkeling

Mike heading out for a dive

Mike heading out for a dive

This is Gorgidup but we renaned it Gorgeousdup

This is Gorgidup but we renaned it Gorgeousdup

Herman's house on Cambombia

Herman’s house on Cambombia

Hanging out in the Easnasdup Lagoon

Hanging out in the Easnasdup Lagoon

Robin collecting sand dollars near Sabudupored

Robin collecting sand dollars near Sabudupored

Esnasdup LAgoon

Esnasdup LAgoon

Mike at the Esnasdup lagoon

Mike at the Esnasdup lagoon

The veggie boat at Swiftsure with Lanny and Ginger

The veggie boat at Swiftsure with Lanny and Ginger

Snorkel treasure, a sand dollar with a brittle sea star

Snorkel treasure, a sand dollar with a brittle sea star

Kyle and Shelly on a dingy adventure

Kyle and Shelly on a dingy adventure

Buying lobster from a local.

Buying lobster from a local.

Robin with Lanny and Ginger on Greene Island

Robin with Lanny and Ginger on Greene Island

Mike cleaning a Lion Fish

Mike cleaning a Lion Fish

Jan
05

San Blas At Last

It took us more time than we had hoped to get to the San Blas Islands but it was worth the wait. The San Blas are a group of islands located on the Caribbean coast of Panama adjacent to the Columbian border. The islands are scattered in an archipelago near the coast with several main island groups separated by only a few miles. It’s a picture postcard tropical paradise. The Islands are covered by palms with white sand beaches and often surrounded by reefs. The water is clear creating that azure water in the shallows that always looks so inviting.

The area is inhabited by an indigenous people called the Guna (pronounced Kuna). The government of Panama created a semi-autonomous state called Guna Yala that includes the islands as well as the mountainous interior. The Gunas have a distinctive culture that is the best preserved of all the indigenous societies in the Americas. The society is hierarchical with the Sailas or chiefs of every village controlling all the activities of everyone in the village. Many Gunas still live in the traditional way and many still wear traditional dress however, some villages have adopted more western ways as technology and tourism have encroached on the area.

Our first anchorage in San Blas was at Yansaladup.  We’d only been there a few hours when a dugout canoe that the locals call an Ulu pulled alongside. It was Lisa, a master mola maker peddling her wares. Molas are a hand stitched rectangle of cloth that are made from different layers of colorful cloth. Each mola is unique and usually has a geometric pattern or abstract form of a bird, fish or other marine life. They are traditionally worn by Guna women on the front and back of their blouses but have become Panama’s most famous handicraft. Interestingly, Lisa is a well-known transvestite. Transvestites are not uncommon among the Guna and apparently carry no stigma. Robin, who’s been looking forward to mola shopping, invited her aboard where we sat in the cockpit going through many dozens of molas. After much discussion about quality and price Robin became the proud owner of a couple of Molas. Over the next few days we were visited by several other ulus with Guna selling molas. Robin added to her collection with purchases from Venancio, another master mola maker as well as something from everyone who was hawking their goods. Most of the islands are uninhabited which means the small stores are very few and far apart. We provisioned in Bocas and Colon but get our fresh goods from the locals who come out in their ulus selling veggies, fruits, Guna bread, sea food and occasionally eggs and chicken.

Jake and Jackie from the sailing vessel Ho’kolea out of Redondo Beach sailed into the San Blas. They left Redondo back in 2010 and having sailed across the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans were nearing the end of their circumnavigation. We spent a memorable day on a hike up to a waterfall on the mainland guided by Lisa, the transvestite mola maker. The water was clear and cool and there was a very nice swimming hole just below the falls. We jumped off a big rock around 20 feet above the water and over rocks sticking out several feet. After enjoying their company for a few days Ho’kolea headed for the Canal and the trip back to California.

Of course, everything didn’t go as planned. We started having issues with the generator proving the old adage that cruising means working on your boat in exotic places true yet again. Mike spent many hours fussing with it and talking to other cruisers about the issue to no avail. We eventually got in touch with Mike on Gillana, a South African who was formally an engineer on a diesel submarine. After only a few minutes he diagnosed the issue and it wasn’t good news. The pulley that held the timing belt on the cam shaft was slipping due to an improper installation. Ugh. We were thinking we’d have to head back to Shelter Bay and perhaps be in for a long repair. Nope, Gilana Mike turned out to be an engineering genius. He fabricated a part we needed from a spare that he had on hand, then installed it on our generator. Viola! The genny was back in business. It’s amazing the people that you run into “out there.”

With the Generator back in business we turned our attention to more mundane boat chores and having fun. We settled into a routine of a couple of hours of boat maintenance in the morning followed by a fun activity in the afternoon. We took dingy adventures to walk the beaches of nearby small islands or went for a snorkel on one of the many reefs. The snorkeling has been good bit some of the reefs have been quite effected by coral bleaching. However, we did spot a multitude of interesting marine wildlife: an octopus, a big moray eel, a monster sting ray, lobsters as well as many colorful reef fish. Mike spotted a large French Angelfish under an overhand that was 18 inches across.

We visited several anchorages and found Eric Bauhauses’ “The Panama Cruising Guide” exceptionally well done. It’s a must have for new cruisers to the San Blas. There are many reefs and sand banks and the water depth can go from 100 feet to 1 foot over a very short distance but “The Panama Cruising Guide has excellent charts and navigation information that allows you to plot a safe course and keep the boat off the bottom. After beginning our stay near Yansaladup in the Lemmon Keys we moved over to the “Hot Tub” anchorage in the Hollandes, then on to the Coco Banderos before heading to Cambombia in the Naguarandup Cays where we spent Christmas and before heading for Waisaladup. For Christmas we gave some small toys to the seven kids living on the Island who frolicked on the beach with the water toys and balls. Robin arranged with the locals to have a pot luck on the beach Christmas afternoon which drew a big, international crowd. We had Americans, even a young couple from Oklahoma, Italians, Norwegians, Portuguese, Brazilians as well as a big contingent of Gunas. New Years Eve found us aboard Blue Sky for a fabulous pot luck followed by a jam session where Mike shared his lack of Talent on the Harmonica with everyone.

Our first month in San Blas was a memorable one. We overcame a challenge with the generator and enjoyed the beauty of the archipelago both above and below the water. We also caught up with some old friends as well as made some new ones. Many people ask us what our plans are and we usually say that our plan is that we don’t have a plan. We find somewhere we like and we stay there until we want to go somewhere else. This is a place we like.

Robin takes a leap of faith

Robin takes a leap of faith

Robin and Wilson

Robin and Wilson

Starfish

Starfish

Gunas sailing an ulu

Gunas sailing an ulu

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Dingy landing at Waisaladup

Dingy landing at Waisaladup

reef near Cambombia

reef near Cambombia

Octopus peeking out from under a rock

Octopus peeking out from under a rock

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Robin and the Conch

Robin and the Conch

flower lip boys

flower lip boys

Flower lip girls

Flower lip girls

Dingy snorkel trip at the Hot Tub

Dingy snorkel trip at the Hot Tub

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Mike jamming on New Year's Eve

Mike jamming on New Year’s Eve

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Snorkel selfie

Snorkel selfie

It's Langosta for dinner tonight

It’s Langosta for dinner tonight

Gallana Mike checks out the generator

Gallana Mike checks out the generator

Heading for a hike to the waterfall on Rio Sidra with Lisa

Heading for a hike to the waterfall on Rio Sidra with Lisa

Mike finds a sea urchin

Mike finds a sea urchin

Robin checks out the brain coral

Robin checks out the brain coral

P1030918 P1030919

Dec
31

FINALLY LEFT BOCAS!

We departed Bocas Marina on Friday, November 20th. We know what you are thinking… they left on a FRIDAY!? Yep, we did. The weather window was good for our course to the San Blas Islands, Mermaid was provisioned and ready and we wanted to get out before something else made us stay… again. Robin was not happy to begin the voyage on a Friday, but old salt superstitions aside we left. We most likely won’t be starting any voyages on a Friday again. It seems the old salts know what they are talking about.

We had light winds on the nose and large seas on the nose so it was a motor sail, but it was a beautiful, hot day and we were happy to be making our way to San Blas. Just before 1:00am our oil pressure dropped. Mike checked the oil and was surprised to find it a gallon low. He added a gallon and we decided to check it again in a half hour and went back on our way. A half hour later the oil was gone again. Hmmm, we decided to sail and not run the engine. The only problem with that decision was that there was very little wind and good size seas so not a comfy or fast sail. When daylight came the wind died completely and we were rolling so much that we were blowing out the slugs on the mainsail (the slugs are the sacrificial plastic thingies that attach the main to the mast. They are sacrificial to keep the sail from tearing.) so we dropped the main and hung on as we rolled while going nowhere. We called Shelter Bay Marina near Colon to see if they had a slip and a diesel mechanic and were happy to hear yes to both. The downside to heading to Shelter Bay was that it is inside the Panama Canal Zone and the authorities do not allow any sails up which meant we would have to use the engine from the entrance to the marina. After rolling for hours we decided to try the engine one more time to get us in, but found sea water in the oil – not good at all! We let the marina know that we would not be able to use our engine and they called the powers that be and arranged a tow from the entrance to the marina. A little wind came up and we managed to make it to the entrance of the Canal where we met Red Dolphin, our tow. They tied a line off our bow and towed us inside the breakwater where they then put us on a side tie tow to the marina where we were very happy to tie up and head to the pool for a float before a shower and a burger and cold drink in the bar.

Our engine mechanic came to Mermaid the next day and diagnosed with Mike that the problem was the heat exchanger and not anything as serious as we had worried. Those of you who follow our blog might remember that this same heat exchanger issue happened when we left Hawaii in 2004 and caused us to sail all the way to Long Beach, CA. When we arrived in Long Beach we bought two replacements so we would have a spare on the boat incase this ever happened again. So, we spent the next couple of days digging through every nook and cranny aboard Mermaid looking for the spare exchanger. Then we looked again finally deciding that we must have helped some cruiser along the way and couldn’t remember it.

Wednesday afternoon (the day before Thanksgiving in the USA) we ordered a new one and stressed to them several times how urgent it was to fedex out today otherwise it wouldn’t happen until Monday. We did not get a tracking number or confirmation so we assumed that it had not been shipped. Oh well, we’d make do with our time in the marina and get other boat projects done. Plus there was a cruiser potluck on Thanksgiving, which turned out to be great fun. Also, every afternoon the cruisers gather for a cold one in the pool and we made new friends and heard some good stories.

Friday night we got a call from a delivery guy that he was in the marina parking lot with our part. Wow! Two days from the US to Shelter Bay Marina! Thank you FedEx International! We got the old part out and the new one in. We changed the oil several times which meant several trips to Colon to buy lots of oil and filters as well as finished the other boat chores we had started (replacing the slugs on the sail, re-seating a window, lots of laundry and a few other chores) and ran the engine for a long time to make sure all was well.

San Blas is only around eighty miles from Colon but we wanted to arrive around mid-day so we’d have good light to navigate through the reefs. We decided to break up the trip into two segments. We’d head out in the afternoon to arrive in Linton Bay, around thirty miles down the coast before dark, then head out from there just before daylight to arrive in San Blas around noon. Finally, on the afternoon of November 30th (a Monday!) we departed Shelter Bay Marina and motored out of the Panama Canal Zone while keeping a watchful eye on the oil pressure before hoisting the sail. We sailed into Linton Bay in the late afternoon. We dropped the hook, went for a swim and had a lovely evening in the cockpit enjoying the stars while listening to the parrots and monkeys ashore.

Early the next morning we departed Linton and sailed and motorsailed to San Blas. We anchored in Yansaladup behind a large sandbar, some reefs and some tiny islands. We were so happy to finally be in the San Blas Islands where clear water, white sand beaches and small, palm tree dotted islands greeted us. It took us about a year and a half longer to get to the islands than we had planned but that’s all part of cruising life…

Bird near Shelter Bay

Bird near Shelter Bay

Guna Island in San Blas

Guna Island in San Blas

Linton Bay

Linton Bay

Mike navigating through the reefs in San Blas

Mike navigating through the reefs in San Blas

Final provisioning run in Shelter Bay

Final provisioning run in Shelter Bay

Taking a dip

Taking a dip

Getting towed into the Panama Canal

Getting towed into the Panama Canal

Hope our part isn't on this truck.

Hope our part isn’t on this truck.

Nov
20

Zarpe in Hand!

Domino Collge

Domino College

Courtney at Work

Courtney in his office…

No Dink Parking Sign?

No dink parking sign?

Bocas 150831 001

Mike enjoying a snorkle

Jim Rohn

Jim Rohn in the jungles of Panama…

Bocas 150831 015

Harmonica Playing Man

Bocas 150831 021

Mike playing in the band…

After a long year of dealing with health issues (our own as well as family). We are finally heading out of Bocas. We visited family, returned and have gotten Mermaid provisioned and ready for sea. Our intention is to head out tomorrow after breakfast, overnight at sea and arrive Linton on Saturday. We will rest and sleep before heading to San Blas early Sunday morning.
Bocas has been a great place to be stuck but it is time to get back to the cruising life we love so much… Bocas 150831 019 Bocas 150831 013 Bocas 150831 002

 

Aug
17

Once in a Blue Moon

Our friend Jessamine Lewis came down for a getaway on Mermaid and she didn’t want to miss the opportunity for the blue moon over Bocas. We celebrated the blue moon at the Calypso cantina where Mike joined in with the band for a couple of songs on the harmonica. The next morning Mermaid headed out to explore the Bocas archipelago. We spent a couple of nights anchored in Porras Lagoon near the Rana Azul restaurant. Rana Azul (blue frog in Spanish) is a local institution with its affable, very German owner serving up pizzas and cold beer from a thatch covered palapa only reachable by boat. We dropped the dingy in but couldn’t get the outboard going so we rowed in. It was later discovered that a crack in the fuel tank cap had allowed rain water in and the outboard didn’t like that. The Jungle surrounds the well-manicured grounds and after getting directions from the owner, the girls set off in search of the elusive blue frog. There’s lots of very colorful tree frogs in the area and they didn’t find the blue frog but did come across some very cool green and black ones. We’d come across a different variety near Bocas Del Drago on Isla Colon a couple of days earlier and the girls would also find a red frog near, where else, Red Frog Beach. When it was time to move on Mike went up on the foredeck to hoist the anchor but found the windlass motor wasn’t working. After hauling in the 75 pound anchor and heavy chain under the tropical sun Mike declared, “I’m not doing that again” so we headed back to Bocas Marina.
Undaunted, the girls found a young guy on a catamaran who did day charters and signed up for a trip out to the Zapatillo Cays. The next morning dawned with scattered squalls but we decided to head out. With wind blowing 15 to 20 out the southwest we were having a nice sail as we skirted the squalls. The middle of the trip took us through a maze of mangrove islands with numerous reefs and shallow spots. Our mighty skipper told us he liked to go between two of the mangrove islands where the depth was five to six feet. No problem as the cat drew just under three feet. However, with the all squalls making landmarks impossible to see all the islands looked alike and the mighty skipper got a bit lost. We headed between two mangrove islets with the main up and went hard aground on a sand bank. We quickly doused the main that was pushing up further into the shallows when the skipper said “Time to get out and push.” Mike and the skipper went over the side into the waist deep water. We deployed anchor back in the deeper water and Robin did yeoman’s work hanging on and pulling us off. It took a couple of hours but we managed to inch off the sand and back into deeper water. Exhausted, we headed back to Bocas agreeing that we’d try again tomorrow. The next day was bright and sunny and with the skipper deciding to skip the shallow spot we had a nice voyage out to the islands. The Zapatillo Cays are a pair of small, palm covered islands with pristine reefs stretching out into the Caribbean. We dropped the anchor, lunched on a tri tip we grilled on the way out and the girls swam in to explore. The water was clear and blue and Jessamine frolicked in the surf with the waves pounding on the beach. It was getting late before we headed back, just getting through the shallows before dark. We arrived back at the marina well after dark but none the worse for wear.
We had always wanted to check out the Blue Coconut, an over the water bar and restaurant over on Isla Solarte. We picked a sunny day, piled into the dingy and headed over for lunch and a snorkel on the nearby reef. As we pulled up there was nobody in sight and a big sign that said cerrado. That wasn’t a good omen as cerrado means closed in Spanish. We were just about to turn around when a guy appeared on the dock. Robin asked him “¿esta abierto o cerrado?” He didn’t reply, just walked over and turned over the sign so that it read open. We were tied up and sipping a cold cerveza in a matter of minutes. Of course, we also had to sample a blue coconut, their signature drink, a mixture of lots of rum and blue curacao but decided one was our limit. After lunch we had a nice snorkel before packing it up and heading back to Bocas.
Due to the fact that Jessamine’s visit was during the rainy season it wasn’t sunny every day and one rainy day the girls headed into town for a pub crawl. They hopped from one waterfront bar to another between downpours but their favorite libation was the ginger rum, a frothed up concoction of ginger, lime and rum at Taco Surf. Another day they got a water taxi to Red Frog where they hiked the trail to the beach and had lunch in the jungle. Another rainy morning our friend Rosemary took all of us on a tour of Isla Colon. We saw lots of birds and sloths and had a nice walk on the beach. Rosemary dropped us for lunch and went on her way while we dined on some nice fresh fish. We caught a small, overcrowded bus for the trip back. Each evening in Bocas we would join the local expats for happy hour at the Cantina before retiring to Mermaid.5Isla Colon Frog

Jessamine Chillaxing

Jessamine Chillaxing

5Local Fashion

Robin Relaxing

Robin Relaxing

Lunch at Blue Coconut

Lunch at Blue Coconut

We Saw Venus at Blue Coconut

We Saw Venus at Blue Coconut

Rana Azul

Rana Azul

Green Frog

Green Frog

Local Experts

Local Experts

PUSH!

PUSH!

Robin Kedging

Robin Kedging

Bottom Paint on Mike's Shirt

Bottom Paint on Mike’s Shirt

Blue Coconut

Blue Coconut

Lobsters!

Lobsters!

Mike Grilling Underway

Mike Grilling Underway

1Blue Moon

Blue Moon in Bocas

Mike in the Band

Mike in the Band

3Crowded Bus

Aug
12

Hanging in Bocas Town

Bocas is at the end of the road and it draws an eclectic group of ex pats. It’s a great place to just kick back, hang out and watch the world go by. We’ve spent our days doing boat projects, trying to stay out of the rain and keep the flies out of the ointment. Of course, we haven’t been entirely successful in that last category. We’d hoped to head for the San Blas Islands this summer but the weather hasn’t been cooperative and just when we thought we had a weather window a little pin on the chart plotter broke off and Mike had to run back the good ‘ol United States to get it repaired. While Mike was in the USA, Robin worked hard to get all the boat projects done. Oh well, you roll with the punches.

We celebrated the 4th of July Bocas style, with a fun night at the Calypso Cantina complete with fireworks. There was also a great impromptu jam session the evening a pair of young ladies showed up with a ukulele and coaxed all the single handers out with their guitars. Mike even joined in with his harmonicas! Most days we soak up the local scene hanging out with the ex pats drinking dollar beers at happy hour trading tales of past adventures and the local gossip. There has even been a little excitement. One night a six foot long Boa Constrictor showed up curled around a beam near the head of the dock causing a bit of a stir.

Putting up Garlic

Putting up Garlic

Theft Prevention

Theft Prevention

Mike with Bill & Joanne

Mike with Bill & Joanne

4th of July band

Alonzo Cleaning the Mast & Spreaders

Alonzo Cleaning the Mast & Spreaders

Boa on the Dock!

Boa on the Dock!

Food Truck in Bocas

Food Truck in Bocas

Nice Light on Bocas

Nice Light on Bocas

Confused Tourists??

Confused Tourists??

Fresh Crabs for Lunch!

Fresh Crabs for Lunch!

Jam Session at the Cantina

Jam Session at the Cantina

Jul
13

Boquete

This was the first time we had ever left Mermaid for such a long period and she seemed quite unhappy about being alone. There were so many boat projects to get done! We worked outside the boat one the rare days with no rain and completed inside projects on the days of rain. It finally occurred to us that as cruisers we were supposed to be relaxing and enjoying life not just working… So we took an inland trip to Boquete.
There had been so much rain that on the day of our departure we were sent back to Mermaid because the road had washed out and was closed. We left our bags packed and hoped they would open the next day. We took two water taxis to get to Almirante where a van picked us up and drove us up the hills to Boquete. We could see where the road had washed out in several places. It was raining hard and we were quite relieved to arrive at out hotel without washing off the road.
The hotel was a small, lovely boutique hotel. The grounds were beautiful and the staff quite friendly. They had several hummingbird feeders around and we saw more hummingbirds than we had ever seen in one place. They would fight for possession of the feeders and we had a blast watching them. We took many walks and thoroughly enjoyed the cool weather. Boquete is dubbed the “Napa Valley of Coffee” so we drank lots of coffee. They even have a famous coffee that sells for $325 a pound. We didn’t try that one…
Our time in Boquete came to an end all to soon and we took a bus to the city of David to get some supplies for Mermaid. We stayed in a hostel (first for us) and it was fun, funky and very basic. David is not cool like Boquete so it was back to the heat and rain. We ran around town to the hardware, fabric and big grocery stores.
You know it rains a lot in this part of Panama when you show up for your bus and it has a snorkel! We boarded our completely full bus and headed back to Almirante. Every seat on the bus was full but that didn’t stop the driver from picking up loads of locals and school children for parts of the ride. It made the adventure interesting and a bit more fun.

Veggie Delivery

Veggie Delivery

Coffee

Coffee

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

River Behind the Hotel

River Behind the Hotel

The Inn at Palo Alto

The Inn at Palo Alto

Nice Cool Walk

Nice Cool Walk

 

Jul
13

Back to Bogota!

We returned to Bogota for Robin’s surgeon to do two (one wasn’t enough?) oral surgeries to complete the process that was begun back in October with her big surgery. We spent eight nights in a top floor terrace suite of a hotel. The terrace was huge and overlooked the park, but it had no furniture so we didn’t get much use out of it. We spent most of our time lounging (recovering) and watching movies. There were three movies in the city in English so we saw them all. We took long walks enjoying the cool weather that was such a change from the Bocas heat and humidity. The one site we did get out and enjoy was the Botanical Gardens. They were beautiful and the plants were so different from North and Central American plants. We even renewed our marriage vows in the prettiest part of the gardens we could find. We figured that we got married (36 years ago) on the North American continent so we should do the same in South America. It was beautiful and quite romantic. The park was almost empty and it seemed we had the place to ourselves.

Stone Carving

Stone Carving

Married Again!

Married Again!

Thinker?

Thinker?

Ajaico - Colombian Sunday Dinner

Ajaico – Colombian Sunday Dinner

Pretty!

Pretty!

Paper Airplanes Everywhere

Paper Airplanes Everywhere

Mike in Doorway

Mike in Doorway

Funky Trailer

Funky Trailer

Jun
22

When it Rains it Pours!

One thing we learned during the biblical rains in Bocas was where the leaks were. When the skies cleared we spent many hours reseating windows and deck hardware and we’re keeping our fingers crossed but so far so good. We also have the fridge working great thanks to some long distance help from Rich at Cruise Ro / Technautics. Also, finally got all the parts for the aft head and the stove and they are working.In between boat projects we found time to squeeze in some fun as well. We headed over to Old Bank on Bastiamentos, a neighboring island, for a local festival. It was a bit rainy and we weren’t really sure about what events were going to take place but we took a water taxi over and after a walkabout we found a nice table at an on the water restaurant run by a very nice, young couple from Argentina. We kicked back and sipped on a cold Balboa while just down the street a youth boxing tournament got started. The crowd was quite enthusiastic but we never made it down for a closer look because the day’s main event, panga races around a set of buoys set up in front of town, was getting underway and Robin just couldn’t watch fighting. There was a lot of pre-race trash talking before they lined up and roared off. After bouncing around the course the winner grabbed the checkered flag and paraded it in front of the crowd. In her spare time Robin has talked the marina into setting aside a small plot for a cruiser’s garden. She’s recruited several boats that want to pitch in and has planted basil, culantro (a central American version of Cilantro), oregano and a tree of life (an interesting plant local to the Caribbean).Hamburgesa Magma Grill on a Porch

Old Bank

Old Bank

Cruiser Swap Meet

Cruiser Swap Meet

Feria

Feria

Watchin' the Races

Watchin’ the Races

Improvised Tool?

Improvised Tool?

Local Transportation

Local Transportation

Winner!

Winner!

Toy Boat on a String

Toy Boat on a String

May
16

We’re Baaaackkk…

After spending the past several months ashore we made it back to Bocas del Toro, Panama. We flew into Panama City and spent a couple of nights and took a room at the Cruiser’s Casa, a high rise penthouse apartment located in the heart of Panama City. We spent the days running errands and getting used to the heat and humidity but found time to visit our favorite ice cream shop and savor our favorite frozen concoctions on the planet. Gran Clement is a must see the next time you in the neighborhood. It located on a small street in the Casco Viejo section of Panama City and is a great place to stop in, cool off and savor the creamy goodness. Robin’s go to selection is basil ice cream, yep basil. Even Mike who’s not a big basil fan says it’s good but he went for the frijol de vanilla, that’s vanilla bean for you hillbillies. We had planned on taking the bus back from Panama City to Bocas because we had a boatload of bags full of stuff and the puddle jumper airline charges out the wazoo if your bags weigh over 30 pounds but after sober reflection on the all night bus ride we booked tickets for the 40 minute flight and sent our bags cargo. We found Mermaid patiently awaiting in her slip at the beautiful Bocas Marina adorned with flags and banners out there by Paul and Pam on Tug Tub welcoming us home. Robin was so glad to be back aboard she did a jig on the foredeck when she climbed aboard. Bocas has two seasons, rainy and rainier but we enjoyed several days of beautiful sunshine and managed to get in a great snorkel one afternoon between boat projects. One project we were very excited to complete was the hanging of our Tlingit Mermaid that John Katasse carved for us. We spent several evenings up at the Calypso Cantina enjoying a cold Balboa when one night none other than Mr. Jimmy Buffet showed up at the next table. Not sure if it was the heat or the Balboa beer, but we didn’t even notice Jimmy sitting right by us. In fact, not one cruiser in the marina bar noticed him! What are those odds? The Bocatoreans were all atwitter with Jimmy sightings in Bocas Town and Robin got to spend some quality time with him when they shared a ride in a water taxi a couple of days later. Jimmy climbed in, turned around and said “Hi, I’m Jimmy” as they chatted all the way to town. Our camera rule aboard Mermaid is “don’t leave home without it!” Oops, Robin broke the rule…

Andy on the Steel Drum

Andy on the Steel Drum

Bill Cooking Conch Fritters

Bill Cooking Conch Fritters

Caught in the Rain!

Caught in the Rain!

From John Katasse

From John Katasse

Happy Birthday Pamela

Happy Birthday Pamela

Moon Over Bocas

Moon Over Bocas

Welcome Home!

Welcome Home!

Home!

Home!

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