A fine mostly sailing passage from Portobello to Bocas Del Toro back in early July brought us a new sailing ground. We were anxious to check out the archepeligo after having heard about it from our twins. They told us it was a great surfing area in the right season, which in mostly winter months. The other fact we heard was that it rained alot and had severe thunderstorms. So we set out to explore the truths of these facts.
First a few facts about Bocas Del Toro. It is in the NW corner of Atlantic Panama and 30 miles south of the Panama/Costa Rica border.It is made of 2 very large bays with 8 big islands and 250 smaller islets. Picture the area of 25 miles E to W by 25 miles N to S roughly. Lots of open spaces of water and greeeen rainforest hillsides sprinkled with beaches, coconuts and a few town areas. Some say they have a wet and dry season other say they only get wet and wetter. I can now tell you that July had 26 inches of rain and August 27 inches of rain. Luckily we were gone for most of that so it did not bother us much. Lots of English is spoken here.
We entered first into Laguna de Bluefields and anchored off this small villages for the night. our goal was Bastiamentos but the wind lightened and Bluefields was manageable before dark. Wooden canoes with kids fishing (and begging) came to greet us. we could offer cookies which they were happy to recieve. Sleep was the priority so we did not explore here. Very green with some cows grazing and few villagers around. Next morning we headed for day sail to Bastiamentos and entered a channel well marked and apparently accurate but no buoys where our chart suggested they be. Hence why we enter in daylight.
Just under Punta Bastiamentos we anchor in calm water and a small village in the lee of the point. We had heard of wizard beach being on the windward side and we could see surg rolling in there so we decided to hike up and over, a 10 minute hike according to a guide book. Hike we did but it took way longer than 10 minutes and quite treachorous as it was a mud fest. Another adventure but i cant find a picture of it.
On Wizard Beach looking Northish.
This is proof we made it however. A beautiful beach and a viscious riptide. The swell at knee deep knocked me over and luckily i was carrying nothing so no damage except i got wet. A welcome but unexpected surprise. Hiked along this beach a long ways working out the kinks of a few boat bound days.
Found hidden art prizes in the swampy beach area.
After a quick look around we entered the Bocas Marina and started the tasks of preparing Maraki to be left alone for 2 months in a wet, humid but safe from weather environment. We bought a used AC unit and timer, put up tarps and sunshade and headed off to the states.
Fast forward 2 months and we are back to Maraki who sits just as we left her.
We have to adjust to the heat and humidity again but we also have Mike Knape coming for a week long visit in a week. So pleased to find no mold and mildew thanks to the AC and the formaldehyde packs we left inside the boat.
The day after Mike arrived was the Birthday Celebration for Bocas Marina(15 years old i hear). This includes a swap meet for boat parts, food and drink, entertainment from Capt Ray and his juggling a(including juggling 3 bowling balls) and games for adults and children.
Ray was a famous juggler in his day -fire, bowling balls etc. He performed for the NFL halftime shows including the 49ers . Just try to juggle 3 12lb bowling balls, hard enough to hold them!
Mike and I were runner-ups in the egg throwing contest hoping to win the botttle of red wine. Oh well, i got the egg on me when i caught it in front of my face.
Mike tried to find a surfable wave, (surfing requires so much patience),did a bit of snorkelling and then watched a spectacular lunar eclipse.
from the boat, very still water.
Next off to Red Frog Beach to find wave. Very little wind so it’s a motor trip..
Searching, searching, is there enough to surf?
Spear fishing as well although not with a lot of success. We found clear water at times but best was over by Zapatilla cays off of Bastiamentos Island. Snorkelling was interesting but not fabulous. I guess we are quite spoiled now.
Mike spent quite a bit of time up at the spreaders and helped us to navigate through the Crawl Channel from there. It is the perfect spot to see the shallows from. He also used the GoPro to record the view.
Bocas has good walking trails especially in an area down by Dolphin Lagoon that is owned by the Smithsonian. Here are some of the sights we saw hiking around there.
little green poison dart frogs, many of them. They have a unusual lifecycle. The frog eggs are laid on land and when they hatch into tadpoles, the little ones jump on mothers back and she carries them to a pool of water in a flower called a bromeliad. She neds to bring them food and make sure there is water in the flower. After 6 to 8 weeks the tadpoles emerge into frogs and return to the rainforest floor. We saw mothers with their babies nearby. Tiny but brightly colored.
Fancy dock where we could rest and cool down after our hike, only the caretaker was around and he was an 80+ year old panamaniam gentleman who looks after the place. The land was owned by an American who when he died donated all the land to the Smithsonian.
A week goes by very fast .
soon it was time to bring Mike back to Bocas Town and his small single prop plane back to San Jose Costa Rica and Bolivia. Always nice to have them join us. In two weeks we hope to join Mike, Jim, maybe Chris for a few days while they explore Costa Rica by land. How lucky we are! Hope this finds all of you well!