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

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

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

 

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

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

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!

Bogota, Colombia

We’ve always said that our plans are written in the sand at low tide… Oh, and we don’t make plans any more, just intentions… While getting Mermaid provisioned to sail to San Blas, we got the word that the most recent surgeon we had been in contact with could do the surgery and we needed to get to Bogota ASAP.
Bogota is a gritty, bustling city of 9 million people nestled in a high valley at 8,500 feet of elevation. We came for Robin to have surgery to replace an implant in the joint that connect her jaw to her skull. This was put in after a car accident around 20 years ago and has been giving her problems for a while. We did a lot of research and selected a doctor in Bogota who has a great reputation for this procedure. We booked a hotel in Candeleria, the historic part of town for the first week. There was a lot to see within walking distance and we spent the hours when we weren’t meeting with doctors wandering the streets. We visited the Museo Del Oro, ate local food and found the Bogota Beer Company near our hotel. This isn’t a tourist town and our Spanish was routinely stretched to the limit but we muddled through and really enjoyed our stay in Candeleria. Note the sign in the picture next to the Public Beer House that says cerveza $1500. Wow, sounds expensive for a beer but one dollar gets you 1,900 Colombian pesos so it’s really only about 75 cents. Not bad. Robin’s surgery was in a modern facility in the Usaquen section of town so we booked a furnished apartment near there and moved in just before the surgery. The 6 1/2 hour surgery was a success and Robin’s recovery and physical therapy is going well.$1500 Ajiaco Soup Ajiaco Along the Street Big Bib Bogota View Florist Grafitti In thes Street Llama in the Square Military Museo Del Oro Music Lesson Police Dog Rum & Coke Shopping Statue Street Scene Street Scenes Sweets

Back in Bocas

We returned to Mermaid in Bocas after a nice family visit to Alaska and Texas. We spent a little of each day on boat chores but there was plenty of time for exploring town, hiking, snorkeling, hanging out in the Calypso Cantina and checking out local events like the chili cook-off and Oktoberfest at Rana Azul. Oktoberfest at Rana Azul was interesting.  Rana Azul, which means blue frog in Spanish, is a remote bar and restaurant on a secluded bay south of Bocas Town. We got a group together and chartered a panga for the day and it was around a half hour boat ride to get there. This was a Panamanian style Oktoberfest. Lots of local beer but no um pa bands or chicken dance. Instead they had a local guy blasting 70’s disco music from a huge bank of speakers. We went to the Chili Cook off at the Bocas Brewery and tasted way too much chili. Some was really good. Mike was very happy to have found American football in English! Always something interesting going on in Bocas.
We also got Winston from the marina to do some touch up to our toe rail and other varnish. He would put on headphones while he worked and sing – loud. He was our entertainment and he did a good job, Mermaid looks much better. We began provisioning for San Blas. Once we arrive in San Blas there won’t be much other than a veggie boat and some fish, lobster and crab, so we want to get as much as we can carry with us.10641287_296558547204091_2804786231807989834_n American Football in English! Bocas Brewery Bocas Gazebo Bocas Town Calypso Cantina Fun Finds on a Hike Kuna Necessities Octoberfest at Rana Azul Panga Bow Paparazi Snorkeling Touring Botanical Gardens Weekly Vegge Boat Winston Working on Our Toe Rail

Alaska

It’s hard to find two places more different than Panama and Alaska so it was in interesting place to visit for a couple of tropical cruisers. It was cloudy and cool and we never quite adjusted to the temperature but it was nice to get to hang with the kids, grand kids and grand dogs. Kaash was just learning to crawl and it was special to watch him begin to explore his world. Our oldest grandchild, Autumn was celebrating her third birthday and Stacy had everything ready for a Minnie Mouse birthday party. The house full of toddlers were a little intimidating for Autumn at first but she quickly warmed up and had a great time playing pin the bow on Minnie, eating cupcakes and grabbing loot from the piñata.
We went camping (ok it was more like glamping) one night at a small cabin on the banks of the Eagle River. The river runs down from the Eagle glacier just a couple of miles upstream and dumped into the ocean around a quarter of a mile downstream. The place was appropriately named. It was the end of the salmon run and there were lots of eagles, as well as other birds, feasting on the salmon carcasses. The night we were there was clear and cool but we missed the northern lights by a couple of hours when we turned in around midnight. On a nice hike the next morning we found several very large bear prints in the sand but luckily, no bears. We packed up the next day carrying a load of delicious smoked salmon and headed south back to warmer climates but won’t forget Alaska’s natural beauty, the flavorful bounty of her waters and the family that loves life there.

Stacy & Autumn Selfie Great Dinner Eagles Were Everywhere! I'm 3 Autumn on the Beach Dominoes Smores Our Cabin Art Project With Leaves Frank & Kaash Camping Grandaddy & Autumn Kinder, Gentler Pinata Pin the Bow on Minnie Watch Out World Tutu & Swords Autumn's Birthday Party

 

The Lone Star State

For anyone who lives far away from their extended family it’s a special time whenever you return to the nest. It took a couple of long flights but we made it back to the Lone Star state for a family visit. Our great friend Jessamine picked us up at DFW and allowed to stay at her place the entire time we were in Texas. Our Daughter Stacy flew in from Alaska with her two children Autumn and Kaash for the first few days we were there. Stacy really was a trooper, flying down on passes with two small kids and all their stuff in tow. It made us really proud to see how well she handled the entire journey and how well the kids behaved. It was special to have four generations together. Nano’s great grand kids took to her like ducks to water, crawling up in her lap for a bedtime story. We had a couple of nice afternoon swims but the highlight was a trip to the Fort Worth Zoo. The Zoo’s come a long way from our childhood memories and it was a great experience for Autumn who was just about to turn three. She liked the baby elephants, feeding the birds and the marine touch tank but was a little scared of the bears who were only a couple of feet away from us. We decided that living in Alaska and being warned of bears caused this. Mike had a nice visit with Poppy on afternoon. His health may be on the decline but it was fascinating to hear about his life experiences from growing up in rural Oklahoma, playing basketball on the NCAA championship team, flying jet fighters for the air force before becoming a captain for American Airlines where he became a pioneer in the design and use of flight simulators for training pilots.
We celebrated Jessamine’s birthday week in style. We ate and drank out a lot. Jessamine drove Robin all over town picking up supplies for the boat and for the two of us. Living on a boat is hard on clothes and we don’t get many opportunities to shop so Robin made up for lost time and we took home a whole new wardrobe.Ft Worth Zoo Cousins Autumn Swimming Jessamine Enjoying a Birthday Swim Nano & Kaash Little Gymnist Big Babies Legacy Picture