Red Frog Marina Anchorage at Bastimento was a nice “pit stop” but it was time to move on. We have “the gap” to go through, a bar with “No Name” to find, a monkey to see, and a man named “Ernie to meet. The Bocas are full of hidden treasures and all of these needed to be discovered. Matt woke up early and captured this beautiful sunrise just before we left.
We met a fellow Texan named Bob who is a single-handler on “Sea Otter.” He offered to guide us through “the gap” which is a narrow and sometimes very shallow passage from Bastimentos to Laguna Parras (or Dolphin Bay). This area is not charted very well and you encounter many reefs and shallow spots, so must navigate carefully here. This photo is courtesy of Eric Bauhaus’s book “The Panama Cruising Guide.” The Bocas have a lot of mangroves and shallow waters so care has to be taken when moving the boat.
“Sea Otter” has a similar draft to Sugar Shack (1 meter) and Bob had a track from a previous trip through “the gap” so it made perfect sense to follow him. We both pulled up anchor and began our slow journey, about 3-4 knots under motor. Twenty minutes into our journey we came across a catamaran from California named “Halcyon” whom we had met in Bocas Town. Sandy and Brit on “Halcyon” knew Bob on “Sea Otter” as well and asked to join our caravan. Sweet, a floating train.
As I took the helm, Matt was checking our 3 charts and monitoring the VHF as we chatted with our travel companions. It was beautiful and peaceful squeezing between the mangroves along this path. However, it was very uneasy and a little frightening at times, but exciting none the less. All went well, and we arrived safely. Total distance was 10.2 miles at an average speed of 4.2.
Image below: upper left shows “Sea Otter” in front of us. Upper right shows “Halycon” behind us, and lower shows me in deep concentration.
Not long after we anchored, our friends on “Wandering Rose” joined us at our peaceful little mangrove inlet. Although they came in at a different entrance, they were still able to find us.
Matt and I decided to go exploring in “Sweetie.” We headed for the small village of Boca Torritos which is located on Isla Christobal. This town is nestled at the water’s edge in between beautiful trees. Even though there is not much to the town the residents are really friendly! Closer in we spied what appeared to be a bar, but it was closed. A really nice woman named “Erica” came out and told us that the owners were fishing but she could serve us beer.
Erica is the owner’s sister-in-law and is building a beautiful house next door to the bar, aptly named “No Name Bar”. She is from Romania, lived in Canada for 16 years, and is now married to a Panamanian. Yep, she speaks multiple languages! Over the course of a few beers she gave us the skinny of where to go on what days to get the most of our experience in this area.
Top image is “No Name Bar” and bottom two are the images of Bocas Torritos.
The next day was Monday Market Day at a place called “The Drunken Monkey.” It is “the” place to be at 10:00 on Monday mornings in the Bocas. We picked up Dave and Mary from “Wandering Rose” and drove “Sweetie” through the mangroves to Isla Cristobal. Lindsey, the bartender greeted us with a Drunken Monkey sippie cup ($5) which gave you continual refills for $3 of any drink of your choice.
Before we got too far down the monkey path, we headed behind the bar to the market pavilion. Here, 6 vendors were selling fresh fruits and veggies, fresh meats (seasoned pork chops, ham, salami, bacon), breads, jams, chocolate, and shirts. We loaded up, stored our goods in the freezer and made our way back to the bar.
It was a wonderful mix of locals, cruisers, and expats. The booze were flowing, the conversations were lively, and fun was had by all!
Image: Dave and Matt at top, Jessie (owner), me and Mary.
The next day was a bit “hard” but we actually managed to be productive and finished up our new gas can cover for “Sweetie.”
This is a lovely anchorage and so very peaceful. But, we decided to leave “dolphin bay” and head to the next bay called Laguna Palos or the “dark lands”. A side note, we never saw any dolphins in dolphin bay even though there is a pod of 30 living here, so sad.
Laguna Palos is a short distance away so we motored through the cut between the mainland and Isla Cristoball. As you motor through the cut, you pass an island with a set of trees that are all the same height. Which is so unusual to see. Evidently a large banana company (not Dole) planted all of these trees so that they could use them to make banana crates. Then the banana market crashed so they had no more use for the trees.
We dropped anchor in the middle of the bay which was surrounded by mangroves on 3 sides and a pretty large mountain on the 4th side. It is incredibly serene and yet delightful.
Our friends had told us that “Ernie” serves the most amazing fried chicken on Wednesday’s at 1500 so we hopped in Sweetie to find “Los Amigos.” Ernie used to be a chef at the Hyatt in America and really knows his stuff! The chicken was incredibly juicy and tender and literally made your mouth water. So glad we stopped by!
The howler monkeys sing to you almost as if they are inviting you to shore. They seem to be all over the Bocas, but we have yet to actually see one. You only know they are there because you can hear them. The next day we decided to anchor off of Tranquillo Place, which is a small island owned by our new friends Judy and Rick. They had invited us over for happy hour along with Jessie and CJ from the “Drunken Monkey.” Always fun making new friends! Judy showed us around her beautiful tropical paradise, introduced us to her two birds, and hosted an awesome happy hour!
Rick and Judy own 2 boats called Chasing Sunsets (a trawler and a monohull). They have a friend who they rent dock space to for this boat “Navigator.”
The next day we went to Bocas Town to meet Wayne. We also had to provision, get fuel, and say “chow” to “Wandering Rose.”
New Places in the Bocas:
- The Gap
- Palos Lagoon
- Porras Lagoon
- Los Amigos “Ernie’s
- Drunken Monkey
- Tranquillo Place