Floating House in Bocas del Toro

Exploring Bocas with Wayne

Wayne arrived in Bocas Town after four airports and a crazy taxi ride, just in time for happy hour.  We whisked him to Buena Vista for drinks with “Wandering Rose” whom he had met in Bonaire.  After a tasty dinner, we headed over to “Wandering Rose” for one last roadie and to say goodbye as this is where our sailing paths change course.  Dave and Mary are heading to Cayman Islands, Cuba, then back to the States.  Hopefully, our paths will cross again soon.

After we unpacked Wayne’s bags which were full of Sugar Shack parts and accessories, we headed to Bocas Marina to get fuel.  We want to have full tanks before we transit the canal and this was a fairly easy fuel dock to tie up to.  Sugar Shack took on 345 gallons which cost about $275, not bad.  Then we added another $62 in gasoline for the dinghy and new generator.

With the boat full of fuel, we made our way to Red Frog Marina’s anchorage off of Bastimentos. We wanted to show Wayne around the island, introduce him to the famous red frog.  There is one place we know where they can be found and that is in the jungle by the Red Frog’s spa.  One little guy came out to be famous.

Red Frogs located at Red Frog Marina

Red Frogs located at Red Frog Marina

Last time we were here, we hung out at Palomar, but this time we dropped in on Nachyo Momma for a cold beverage. They are right next door to each other and share the same beach.

Nachyo Mama at Red Frog Marina

Nachyo Mama at Red Frog Marina

We did not stay long as we wanted to travel down “the gap” to Dolphin Bay and over to the Dark Lands.  It was much easier the second time around as we had our old track to navigate from.  A beautiful journey through shallow water while surrounded by mangroves and reefs.

Arriving just in time for sunset, we dropped the anchor and enjoyed a cool evening on board Sugar Shack.  The boys went exploring in Sweetie while I showered and enjoyed some quiet time.

Sunset in the Dark Lands, Bocas Del Toro

Sunset in the Dark Lands, Bocas Del Toro

Los Amigos (or Ernie’s) is famous in the archipelago for its eggs benedict.  We missed it last time we were in the area, so we made a point of attending with Wayne.  When we arrived at 0900, the tables were full and he was in full swing.  We sat near our friends, Rick and Judy from “Chasing Sunsets” (who live at Tranquillo Place) and enjoyed an absolutely mouthwatering meal!

Los Amigos in Bocas del Toro

Los Amigos in Bocas del Toro

After breakfast, we explored the bay in Sweetie and found this cute floating house.  We later learned that the current owners bought it for $60k and then spent additional funds on the floating sun deck. Locals were appalled that it cost so much (said it should have cost around $20k).

Floating House in Bocas del Toro

Floating House in Bocas del Toro

It wasn’t long after we got back that the boys took a morning siesta. After all it had been a stressful day so far, eating breakfast with a few beers.

Morning Siesta after Breakfast

Morning Siesta after Breakfast

After we let our meal settle in our bellies, we took the big boat back over through Porras Lagoon to Crawl Cay.  This is another really pretty and quiet anchorage.  We are across from our friend’s Rick and Judy’s island “Tranquillo Place.”

Matt brought out a few water toys and we enjoyed the afternoon in the water.  There are many “moon” jellies in the water, so I stayed on the SUP.  Supposedly the moon jellies don’t sting, but they scared the crap out of me when they rubbed up against my leg.

Moon Jelly courtesy of JellyTank

Moon Jelly courtesy of JellyTank

Since we had an early night, I was up early and was blessed with this gorgeous sunrise over Tranquillo Place.

Sunrise at Tranquillo Place

Sunrise at Tranquillo Place

What kind of friends would we be if we did not take Wayne to Monday Market at the Drunken Monkey? Pretty crappy friends for sure.  So, we planned our escapades around this event.  We picked up Judy and headed over right when they open at 10am so we could get the best pick of the market.

By noon, the Drunken Monkey was packed with lots of pangas.  People park on either side and in front of it – where ever there is room.

Lots of pangas parked at the Drunken Monkey

Lots of pangas parked at the Drunken Monkey

Image:  Top left exterior of Drunken Monkey from the water; Top Right Drunken Monkey from shore; Bottom Left market area; Bottom Right Jessica and CJ’s home.

Drunken Monkey compound

Drunken Monkey compound

Wayne, Matt and I enjoying good times at the Drunken Monkey and Jessica trying to juggle many beer bottles.

Playing at the Drunken Monkey

Playing at the Drunken Monkey

The Gap, No Name Bar, a Drunken Monkey, and a Man Named Ernie in the Bocas

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.

Sunrise on Sugar Shack

Sunrise on Sugar Shack

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.

The Gap in the Bocas

The Gap in the Bocas

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.

Motoring through the Gap with a caravan.

Motoring through the Gap with a caravan.

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.

Porras Lagoon, aka Dolphin Bay

Porras Lagoon, aka Dolphin Bay

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.

Bocas Torrito village.

Bocas Torrito village.

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.

Monday Market Days at Drunken Monkey

Monday Market Days at Drunken Monkey

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.

Drunken Monkey with Jessie in lower left corner.

Drunken Monkey with Jessie in lower left corner.

Good times at the Drunken Monkey

Good times at the Drunken Monkey

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.

Banana Tree canopy island.

Banana Tree canopy island.

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!

Ernie giving me some lovin.

Ernie giving me some lovin.

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!

Tranquillo Place located near Crawl Cay

Tranquillo Place located near Crawl Cay

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.”

Tranquillo Place owned by Rick and Judy

Tranquillo Place owned by Rick and Judy

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
Sugar Shack in Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro: The Bastimentos Island

The water in the Bocas are clear, but green.  Not the beautiful blue or turquoise we found in the San Blas Islands.  There also was an unpleasant odor where we were anchored near Bocas Town so we decided to find a new place to drop the hook.  Our friends on “Wandering Rose” headed over to Bastimentos earlier so that is where we decided to go as well.

We stowed all of our tools that were out for various projects, rolled up the rain shades (as it has been raining a lot) and prepped the boat for a short 4-mile motor.  Even though it is not very far to this new island, it is along a path riddled with reefs and mangroves.  We had all of our charts up (GPS, Navionics, and Bauhaus) and made our way safely to a new, more secluded anchorage.

Isla Bastimentos is one of the larger islands in the archipelago and home to the sleepy town of Old Bank, the Salt Creek indigenous community, and the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park. It is also home to the Red Frog Beach Resort and Marina.  It is said that this island has some of the most stunning beaches of all the Bocas islands.  But they are all on the windward side facing the sea. Which makes for great surfing, but bad swimming.

Getting to the Red Frog Beach Resort and Marina was a short dinghy ride through a mangrove forest that makes you feel a bit like Indiana Jones discovering a hidden village.  We left late in the afternoon and had only planned on staying ashore for a few hours.  Upon arrival, there is a nice little dinghy dock and a resort worker asking for $5 per person to enter their establishment.  What, I have to pay money to spend money at your resort?  Well, ok, since we get wrist bands and can use them over the course of several days.

Red Frog Marina

Red Frog Marina

It is a rather large resort with several beaches, a marina, zip line, small market, and many places to eat.

Red Frog Marina and Resort.

Red Frog Marina and Resort.

Along the way they had these beautiful trees with roots that resembled mangrove roots.  Anyone know the type of tree this is?

Beautiful tree - do you know what it is?

Beautiful tree – do you know what it is?

It was a short 15-minute walk to The Point Beach Restaurant and look out point. The Point Restaurant was really nice and elevated to give you a sweeping view of the beach and ocean.  They served tasty island drinks and food, but it was a bit overpriced (beer was $2.50).

Photo on left was this pretty little palm tree growing out of the rocks.  Photo on right is The Point restaurant and photo below are the crashing waves on the beach.

The Point Beach at Red Frog

The Point Beach at Red Frog

Evidently, they are experiencing harsher weather conditions than normal as the waves were huge.

We worked on a few more projects as the rain stole our days ashore away. Our rain shades were working great but there are two small corners that are exposed.  These two open bimini corners allow the rain to come in and it makes our cockpit all wet.  It was challenging to create a pattern, but Matt was relentless.  We tried and tried and nothing seemed to work so we will have to keep at this project.

The dinghy fuel tank cover was another project Matt made early in his sewing career.  It was fine, but we wanted to add pockets and fix a few things, so we remade it in red.

Fuel Tank Creating a Pattern

Fuel Tank Creating a Pattern

We made two large pockets in the front and back that will fit two sippy cups each.  The flap on the top is where we put gasoline into the tank and the side has slight openings for the straps that lock the tank to the dinghy (see white cable at bottom of image).  Yep, we have to lock the fuel tank to the dinghy to prevent it from walking away.  Completed and on the fuel tank.

Dinghy Fuel Tank Cover

Dinghy Fuel Tank Cover

The wind instruments have been a major pain in our A$$!  We replaced the wind indicator at the top of the mast, but they still are not working properly.  Sometimes they show the wind direction, but no speed, while others they show the speed and no direction.

Matt first went up our 70′ mast to see if the wind instrument was working.  Which did not seem to be the case.  He is working on the windex which is in front of the mast just below the two wind indicators which are a top the mast.

Matt up the top of our 70' mast.

Matt up the top of our 70′ mast.

Before we spend $500 for one instrument (we will need 2), Matt wanted to see if switching them would work.  Nope!  Looks like we will order one replacement to see if it works and if it does, we will order another and replace the port side instrument.

Wind instrument repair?

Wind instrument repair?

PROJECTS WORKED IN BASTIMENTOS:

  • Sewed new dinghy fuel tank cover
  • Worked on wind instruments
    • This is a work in progress, need new instruments which Wayne is bringing
Sugar Shack in Bocas del Toro

Sugar Shack in Bocas del Toro