Matt and I spent 13 days exploring Bocas del Toro before Wayne arrived. Several people told us that these islands were very touristy and nothing like the San Blas island chain (which we loved). We typically prefer the isolated, quiet islands, but we thought we’d give them a try. Our first stop, Bocas Town.
The islands that make up the Archipielago de Bocas del Toro are listed below. We entered the island chain between Isla Colon and Bastimento, then motored around the bottom of Isla Colon to arrive in Bocas Town, the capital of the Bocas del Toro province.
Bocas Town has a friendly population of about 8k residents. The town is divided into 8 avenidas, running east and west starting with Avenida A, then Avenida B, etc… Then the streets running north to south are numbered, Calle 1, Call 2, etc…. It is a very laid back atmosphere, with a lot of tourists and even more backpackers.
There is one main road were most of the shops and eateries can be found and they are crawling with people milling about.
The coasts are peppered with bars and restaurants which makes it fun to explore. Who has the best wifi and happy hour? So, far El Pirata has smokin hot wifi, great view, and friendly staff. Buena Vista also had good internet, food, and friendly staff.
Of course Matt sniffed out a local pub that offered beer on tap – the Bocas Brewery.
We found the local fire station and they had restored a beautiful American France fire truck that was acquired in 1926. This truck was made between 1914-1916. This is a car water bomb, not a tanker, its bronze pump is special to work with sea water. The last time it worked was in 1981.
A fun little photo op at La Buga – Matt does have his head inside the dive mask but it is hard to see it – you can only see this arm and hat sticking out the side of the statue.
Matt took a moment out to rest at Hotel Olas as he had a taxing day walking from bar to bar.
Another cool map of the Archipielago Bocas del Toro:
We took some of the down time (while it rained) to work on more projects. A few months ago, I replaced the helm seat back covers with a tan sunbrella that did not match the rest of the cockpit sunbrella. Long story short we ordered 15 yards of the wrong “tan” back in St. Maarten. We used the majority of this fabric for new rain shades to cover our phifertex sun shades. Anyway, I had wanted to change them out to blue to match the rest of the boat. Yes, a total frilly, girly thing, I know!
We also needed to do some paperwork with the government of Panama. You are supposed to get a “zarpe” each time you leave a port in Panama. Our Zarpe had us going to Linton Bay/Portobello so technically we should have gotten a new Zarpe to San Blas, then another one to Bocas del Toro. We sort of missed those steps. So, we went into Port Authority to get a new Zarpe to Panama City so our agent can clear us out of the country once we transit the canal.
The port authority agent was off over the weekend, then they took Monday-Wednesday off for Carnival so we had to wait 5 days before making the visit. The first man was a little put out that we did not follow the rules and told us we had to go back to Portobello to get a new Zarpe (that is well over 200 miles away) – yikes that sucks! But he then said that this was not his department and we had to go to another department down the hall. So, we did.
This lady could not have been nicer! She was all ready to give us our new Zarpe until we told her we would not be leavinft, drat. Well that is a Sunday and they are not open and if we came on Saturday it would cost us overtime. So, we changed our departure date to 2/24 and told her we would see her on 2/23. Done!
Next, we needed to go to the airport to see an Immigration officer. We entered the country on a Panamanian Mariners Visa which was good for 90 days. That visa is set to expire on 6 March, the same day that we will be transiting the canal. You are only allowed to renew the visa the day before or the day of. If you come after your expiration date it is $50 per person late fee.
We can’t go the day before as we have guests and are supposed to be staging for the transit. And we can’t go the day of as we will be in transit. The immigration offices are in Colon or Panama City which is a taxi ride so it looks like we will have to pay the late fee. Bummer!g the Bocas until 2/26. She said we had to come back the day before we left.
It was raining a lot here, so we got productive and started working on multiple projects.
One of Matt’s first sewing projects was a cover for our man overboard horse shoe. He did a great job considering he had no pattern. In addition, he made it while at home and the horse shoe was on the boat. But, it was in grey fabric and needed an update so I replaced it with a red cover.
In the photo below you will see the pattern for the man overboard horse shoe, and the new helm seat rail covers.
The boat came with hoakie screens for the salon hatches but they are difficult to put in and didn’t stay up well. They are very useful to keep the bugs and no see-ums out of the boat – especially since these two hatches are always open.
Top image is Matt building a new frame for the screens using the pvc we bought for the ceiling. The bottom image shows the old ugly screens.
New screens complete. The problem is that the no see-um screens don’t let much air in so now Matt wants to make two more sets with normal screens.
Projects completed and or 75% done in Bocas Town:
- Make new helm seat back covers – blue sunbrella, done.
- Sew new man overboard ring cover – red sunbrella (see note below). done.
- Build new salon hatch screens (in progress)