Bocas del Toro #2, Panama

January 28, 2015 | Victoria Suhay

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When I first pictured cruising life, I had envisioned calm anchorages, crystal clear water, cold tropical drinks, ample sunlight, gorgeous beaches and more coconuts than I could gather in 3 trips.

And I think we found it here in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama. Amongst the dense foliage and unique wildlife, we anchored our home for 8 of the most rejuvenating months of my life. Birds of every color and shape gently woke us up every morning. Amazing coffees were everywhere – Palo Alto, Jason’s, Panama Jack, El Jardin – just to name a few. All of which were grown in the highlands of Boquete. We even got the chance to drink a bit of Jason’s Geisha – a very rare and expensive coffee that tasted a bit like a buttery caramel molasses. At 20 bucks for 200 grams, it was a little pricy (www.estatecafe.com) but well worth it if you have a nice way to extract it.IMG_8570

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Speaking of – having so much time on my hands, I have been perfecting my coffee making skills and I think I have it down. I use the following, which are all available on Amazon:
Cuisinox Roma Espresso maker
Hario ceramic coffee grinder
HIC stainless steel milk frother

To sum up our time in a few paragraphs would be hard. There were many interesting things that happened to us. Jobs that went bad, friends let us down, generators quit working (among other things). The culture down here is extremely relaxed almost to the point of being frustrating. We found ourselves craving sophistication. The bugs were at times intolerable and were so small, our screens couldn’t keep them out (thank you Dos Tigres). But as with all of our stops, we did find several gems that we couldn’t have even dreamed about experiencing:

The Places

Bat caves – Make a left at the wreck in Bahia Honda (off of Bastimentos) and you have a beautiful, 1 mile long river that takes you to a small house. For $4 you can take a tour of an incredible cave system with beautiful formations, and depending on the rain, can be pretty thrilling to get through. The guide was happy to explore as far back as we wanted to go. Diving/holding our breath to reach a few sections was very fun!

German Bakery – Thank God we had some good bread – between the park and Mailboxes Etc, “Panderia Almenia”

Bocas Brewery – bocasbrewery.com – Evyn and Wally gave us our fix of locally brewed IPA’s and hosted the Saturday Farmers Market where I had one of the best lobster empanadas I have ever eaten (from Chris Fish). The secret is fresh ground boiled corn, and of course, a deep fryer.

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Super Gourmet – Where would we be without a few of the good things in life, like Soft Eating Licorice, fresh herbs, good eggs, and dried Shiitake mushrooms.

La Casbah – Having tons of options for OK food, but only a few for good food – locals agree that Christopher at La Casbah is one of the best.

The Wildlife

Sloths, red frogs (no bigger than your thumb and according to a local gives you a crazy high), sting rays doing belly flops, phosphorescent plankton lighting up our boat, and millions of birds.
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The Fruit

Passion fruit (called Maracuya, these lightbulbs make amazing juice when mixed with 7 spoons of sugar, 3-4 fruits and 1 liter of water – and maybe a little Rum), papaya (so sweet we didn’t need honey), pineapples (only 1.50, we bought 2 a week), apple bananas (small, fat and tart bananas we bought a HAND for $2.00 on the side of the road, that’s about 40 bananas), and coconuts (specifically young coconuts called Pipas, these have the sweetest juice and meat that is opaque and very tender).

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The People

Tomas the Monk – He always wears something yellow and red, and pours his heart and soul into this town. He volunteers at Asilo, the retirement community, and completely restored a Chinese temple on the island for meditation seminars.

Andy the Sailor – We met Andy on the way into Bocas, only he was going the opposite way on a boat delivery. We later caught up with him and had some great times. He is a fantastic bongo player and an amazing person.

Sergio the Yogi – We invited Sergio to our boat after taking a wonderful yoga class with him. He had a great story about growing up in Mexicali, Mexico and his journey from becoming a money driven slave to a free and floating yogi was very inspiring.

Sam the Landlord – We have been anchored in Sam’s bay (called Techo Verde Bay by the locals) for the majority of our time in Bocas. He has been a wonderful landlord who lets us use his tools and space on land while he’s busy building a home. We’ve also had many fun nights of watching movies and drinking rum. Thank you Sam!!!

The Nature

Quiet, solitude. No highways. Plenty of naked swimming. The jungle seems like a plethora of medicines and herbal remedies – soursop leaves, lemongrass, hibiscus, sorrel, cacao, green coffee, tamarind, water apple. Little bees that don’t sting and made a sweet, clear honey. Snorkeling amongst the colorful corals, sea cucumbers (they still freak me out), massive brain corals, eagle rays, sea snakes and vibrant fish of every shape and size. We are also very thankful for the deluge of rain that keeps our tanks full. In 8 months of showers, laundry, dishes, and cooking we only had to bring water aboard twice – and we do not have a water maker. We are also very thankful for the sunlight – we never needed to run the generator.

The Cooking

Tori and I are grateful to Michael Rhulman for his book – Ratio (and to Rode Trip who let us borrow it), which changed our perception on cooking. Not having access to amazing restaurants had us formulating some of our own incredible dishes which I am hoping Tori gets working on a recipe book soon:

Dutchoven lasagna, Lobster, fish and coconut Caribbean stew, Pad thai, Pad see yu (Thanks Meo on Ocean Fever) , Spanish tortilla, Enchiladas, Roasted teriyaki veggies with coconut rice, Coconut curry with buttery roti (Thanks Di on Cinnamon Girl), Mac & Cheese, Cast iron pizza (our own invention).

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We are going to miss this place! But, in our experience, the next place is ALWAYS better than the last. And I can’t wait to see what the Pacific brings us. Our new spinnaker is going to give us performance in light air (something we desperately needed). Our new 60 lbs anchor (thanks Bill and Joann on Ultra) is going to give us ultimate holding in those big tidal changes and potential storms. And the systems are looking good from bow to stern, and mast light to massive keel!

Here’s some photos from our Christmas vacation with the family. Thank you Brien, Lena and Sophie for coming to Bocas, we had a blast!
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2 thoughts on “Bocas del Toro #2, Panama

  1. Brien Reep (Pops) says:

    Tori and Dave, We had a fantastic vacation with you at Red Frog Resort on Bastimentos Island. It was so fantastic to be part of your world and meet many of the people who have become part of your life these last 8 months. Sophie wants to know if there is a warrant out for her arrest after being stopped twice for driving a golf cart on the resort “public roads” under the age of 18 and without a license? I miss those amazing leaf cutter ants that are so hypnotic to watch. We look forward to following your continued adventures and joining you again in some exotic location.

  2. Duane Bidlack says:

    Hi guys! Add me to your contacts and friend me on FB so I may follow your travels! Wishing you all the best!

    Your Aunt Kelly’s new husband,
    Duane

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