Farewell Panama, You Were A Beautiful Host

After spending eight months in Panama, we prepared to leave the San Blas Islands, and head for Colombia. Our original plan was to be in Bocas del Toro by the end of June, and stay for a month. After that, it would be on to the San Blas for the month of August, and then head for Colombia in September. As we’ve well learned, weather rules the cruising world, and as a result, we didn’t arrive in Bocas until the first week in August.

Since we’d arrived late, and paid several hundred dollars to clear into Panama, I told Scott it would be a shame to rush through the country, so we slowed our plan. Almost three months later, we’d grown attached to the laid back, comfortable town of Bocas del Toro, and the scenic surrounding islands. We met new friends, and frequented stores and restaurants in town so much that we were recognized on the street.

We ate fresh made pizzas at Bocas Marina’s barbecue night, got to know most every happy hour special in town (Scott even came to like sushi!) and never got tired of the mountain views.

At Red Frog Marina, we were surrounded by lush jungle rain forest, and enjoyed the short walk through tropical scenery to the beach, for yummy tacos. The staff quickly became friends, and the sights and sounds of the property were truly beautiful.

 

Scott crawled through caves with bats, hiked trails on Red Frog’s property and explored the archipelago with the Aluminum Princess.

We went to Sunday parties at Ron Azul,  attended many happy hours on Red Frog’s dock, survived crazy, crowded, high-speed panga rides to and from town and celebrated Thanksgiving at a terrific potluck with friends during our final days in the area.

It was hard to cut the apron strings and leave Bocas, which will always have a special place in our cruising memories, but there was more of Panama to see.

As we headed for the San Blas Islands, our route took us to more beautiful locations. The shoreline scenery at Escucdo de Veragus was almost otherworldly, and we spent hours in the dinghy taking in the sights.

Portobelo’s harbor was quiet and picturesque, and we enjoyed roaming the ruins of the many forts that surround the town.

At Captain Jack’s, perched on a hill in town, we were welcomed with cold towels, local info., and delicious food. We’d have liked to linger longer in Portobelo, but weather pushed us on.

Next was a pit stop at Linton Bay, for an overnight trip to Panama City, and a visit to the Panama Canal. We spent hours watching the huge ships close up, as they passed through the locks on their way to the Pacific.

Then it was on to our hotel for the night, where we continued to watch the ships pass by. It was also a treat to watch tv in English, and take roomy showers.

Our return trip toward Linton Bay was by train, on the Panama Canal Railway; what a cool way to travel! We spent the entire ride out on the observation deck, getting up close and personal with our surroundings.

We took advantage of a lull in the wind, and enjoyed a calm ride over to the San Blas Islands, where we enjoyed a tropical Christmas and spent almost four months surrounded by gorgeous water and uninhabited palm tree islands.

Scott fished almost every day, catching endless lobster, then using the heads as bait for delicious Trigger fish!

 

There were endless anchorages, some near the lush, mainland mountains and others surrounded by reef and palms. 

We enjoyed getting food from veggie boats, and interacting with the friendly Guna people.

For somewhere so remote, our social calendar was quite busy! We made terrific friends here, who we’ll keep in touch with for years to come. There were many beach parties, as well as trash burning gatherings, which was always a good excuse to bob in the water.

During our time in the San Blas, we had our first official cruising visitor. Our friend Karen made the adventurous journey to see us, and we had a ball catching up, introducing her to our friends, and showing off our “neighborhood”!

Scott continued his explorations, by land and sea, and Howard spent his time in Panama as he does in every location we visit, playing, napping and watching for fishes….and occasionally sharks, and generally keeping us on our toes!

 

 

So now it’s time to move on, and leave where we’ve called home for the last eight months. We could spend years here, or very easily live here. The country is beautiful, and offers much to see and do on the water and inland, as well as in Panama City. Our departure is bittersweet, but we look forward to our next stop, and for the adventure to continue.

 

 

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

Escudo de Veraguas

We raised anchor at dawn, saying our final farwell to Bocas Town, as it faded out of sight.

Our next stop would be Escudo de Veraguas, a remote island located ten miles off of mainland Panama. Until 1995 the island remained largely uninhabited; but in recent years, fishermen from nearby coastal towns began using the island as a base for fishing parties, and later settled permanently.

It was a short, eight hour, uneventful run. We passed local fisherman along the way, and the first large, commercial tanker since traveling off the U.S. coast.

The skies threatened to rain most of the way, but as Escudo de Veraguas came into view, bright sun broke through to welcome us.

We approached the island’s west side, but with winds predicted to blow from the northwest, Scott chose to move around to the south side, providing us more protection at anchor.

As we rounded the corner, sandy beaches gave way to beautifully interesting rocky coastline. We had the place all to ourselves and enjoyed mountain views of the mainland in the distance, and gorgeous Escudo de Veraguas off of our starboard side.

Scott took the dinghy out to investigate. He soon returned, and insisted that I drop everything and come out with him. Stop cleaning, and preparing dinner….no problem!

The coastline here is like something Walt Disney dreamed up. Rocky shores and islands, both smooth and jagged, topped with trees of all textures, types and sizes, that melt into clear green-blue water.

Lush, green foliage covers the tops of some formations, like a thick head of hair.

In other areas, trees dangle on, or off of, the edge, their roots trailing down below. We’re not sure how these things manage to survive and grow!

Along sandy beach areas, trees seemed rooted in air.

There is a clear line between soil and rock.

We wove in and out of nooks with small beaches, under rock arches, and past narrow caves.

The area reminded us of calendar photos we’ve seen of Indonesia’s rock islands, in the western Pacific Ocean; it was truly other-worldly.

We enjoyed time on the long, sandy beach off of our bow. It was covered in lots of interesting, “natural” trash; logs, rocks, shells and many loosely rooted coconut palms.

Howard loved the quiet anchorage, free from noisy pangas. He enjoyed happy hour up on the flybridge with us, and considers it his domain.

Sea Life is sporting a new look these days:

The idea came from a van we saw parked in Bocas Town, with stickers from countries it had visited. Scott got to work ordering stickers, and we also took the opportunity to plug the blog as we travel.

We hated to leave Escudo, but while winds and swells were down, it was time to keep moving. Here are many, many more photos of this beautiful island.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”