Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Trying the local beer, Balboa, at La Bugita waterfront cafe and dive/surf shop

Bocas del Toro, a little archipelago on the Caribbean coast of Panama not far from the Costa Rican border, was recommended by several cruisers we met in Jamaica, so that’s where we headed. What an interesting area! Aside from the several main islands (Isla Colon, Cayo Carenero, Isla Bastimentos), there are hundreds of mangrove islands dotting the water. In some places it’s like a green maze crisscrossed by sometimes incredibly deep (50 feet!) channels. There are shallows, of course, and those are sometimes hard to discern due to the opacity of the water (no clear, blue Bahamas water here!). The charts for the area also aren’t great, so we tend to have one person glued to the depth sounder while the other looks (sometimes futilely) overboard. The town of Bocas del Toro is unlike any we’ve been to thus far. Since Panama is south of the hurricane zone, they don’t have to worry so much about building close to the water, so many of the structures are built out over the water. Brightly painted hostels, hotels, and restaurants line the shores of town, making a pretty scene. Boats asea greatly outnumber vehicles ashore. The most prevalent are the outboard-driven pangas, which can seat perhaps a dozen or so passengers in bench seats (thankfully with permanent bimini tops for the sun, and sometimes fold-down sides for when it rains, which it does a lot), and the paddled cayucas (dugout canoes). There are quite a few expats here from all over the world, many living on their boats (mostly in marinas) or in homes ashore, very friendly folks who’ve been quite welcoming. Anyone want to buy a mangrove island for a pretty reasonable price?

Some of the over-water buildings on the Bocas del Toro waterfront

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Passage to Panama

Beautiful mid-Caribbean sunset

This brown boobie used the bowsprit as a roost for nearly two days
Our five-day passage from Jamaica to Panama started out pretty wild with great winds and sailing south along the eastern coast of Jamaica, then calmed down until we were motorsailing across a glassy calm sea. We settled well into the routine of watches and had a great time. I read aloud one of Dennis Lehane’s Kenzie/Gennaro books (great series, if you haven’t tried it), we watched the ocean, and Mr Mac unwittingly became a floating aviary. First one small barn swallow stopped to rest, tucking in under the dodger. Then a few more on the stern arch, the radar, the spreaders, the lines… Oh, and did I mention the brown booby that adopted our bow sprit for two days, clinging to it all night? Two birds flew below and tucked into our basket of hats. Unfortunately, those two didn’t make it (do the most exhausted seek a dark place to die?), but at least we figured we gave them a cozy place to pass on instead of dropping into the waves.
Birds by the autopilot...

Birds by the radar...

The Black Knight bested by a swallow-type bird down in the salon

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Exploring the Blue Mountains of Jamaica

Garfield and Chris in the mountains

Our second inland trip with Garfield was to the Blue Mountains. His friend Tyrone drove us around, dropping us off at trail heads and picking us up at the other end. We started off heading west on the coast road, then turned south into the mountains. We hiked through a coffee plantation, we ate grapefruit off the tree, we hiked in a cloud forest at the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, a World Heritage Site, we stopped at a coffee shop for a cup and a pound of freshly ground (by Garfield) coffee. We saw beautiful flowers, waterfalls, rolling hills and steep mountains, Kingston on the south coast, and one really cool spider. It was a full and fun day.

Nice drive along the coast before turning inland toward the mountains

Across the bridge to the voodoo priest - we deferred

Bikes carted uphill so tourists can ride them downhill

Beautiful flowers of the coffee plant

Posing goat

That's Kingston on the south coast in the distance

Lovely, but I have no idea what kind of plant it is

Only wind-up hikers are allowed here

Garfield grinding coffee that Chris drank the next morning

Great spider!
This road's not big enough for the two of us