Look Out, Panama, Here Come the Johnsons!

It was an exciting day in Bocas del Toro as Paul, Brian, and I headed to the airport…IMG_9046

…and waited at the end of the runway for this plane to land.IMG_9056IMG_9074

Welcome to Panama!!  Darren, Katie, Annika, and Gavin had come to visit!  They’d traveled all the way from Boston, MA through Panama City and landed in little ‘ol Bocas Town.  Everyone was in good spirits, but tired and hungry from the trip.IMG_20140504_134930

Naturally, the first thing to do is eat!  We all piled into a local restaurant and ordered pizzas and cold drinks.  All the way to Panama and there we were chowing down pizza just like the good ol days!

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Katie took a look around at Bocas from the dock at the back of the restaurant while Annika and I explored the touch-pool which had starfish, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins.

“I’ve been to your boat,” said Annika as we hoped onto a water taxi and headed toward Rode Trip.IMG_7962 IMG_7970

Our little home was soon overflowing with friends and luggage.  Good thing we are good friends!  Paul, Darren, Katie, Annika, Gavin, Brian and I were all staying on the boat…oh yea, that was a TIGHT fit!  Paul’s visit overlapped with the Johnson’s visit for two nights.  Once everyone had settled their belongings, we’d changed into bathing suits and lathered in sunscreen.  It was HOT!  So Brian took Darren, Katie, and the kiddos in the dinghy and Paul and I followed in the kayaks over to the nearby mangroves and glorious water!  That afternoon we snorkeled, swam, and played until supper.

That first night aboard was absolutely terrible and I’d be lying to say anything otherwise.  I’m certain that nobody slept.  When we went to sleep, the hatches were open and the fan was blowing and we were mildly comfortable.  Katie and Darren took the v-berth with Gavin, Brian and I took the port side bunk, Paul took the starboard side bunk, and Annika took the top bunk on the starboard side (typically storage, we’d managed to clear the space).  Everything was ok until it started to rain…and then downpour…and the rain did not stop!  The hatches were closed and the fan was blowing hot, stuffy air through the boat.  I thought for certain that the next morning the Johnsons would pack up and head for the nearest air-conditioned hotel.  But, tired and hot as we all were, everyone wanted to be together and they stuck it out…the sleeping conditions and temperature management improved (we’d hung shade covers on deck and Paul eventually had to go back home which left some extra room in the cabin).

And the vacation continued…it was only just getting started!  Nothing a little stroll through the jungle – “No, it’s the rain forest,” our three-year old scholar, Annika, corrected each time – and afternoon at the beach couldn’t remedy.  IMG_7981 IMG_7985

Sand makes kids happy!

Though the Jungle and Over the Hill…to the Beach!

Isla Bastimentos is 20 sq-miles; an island within the Bocas del Toro District.  Isla Bastimentos houses a small town, an Indigenous villiage, the Red Frog Villas and Red Frog Marina, Bocas Bound Hostel, Casa Kayuka, and the Pal Mar Tent Lodge.  A portion of the island also encompasses a portion of Panama’s first national park; Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park which stretches from Playa Larga on Bastimentos across to neighboring Cayos Zapitillas and Coral Cay.  Isla Bastimentos is a quiet place where tourists come to bask in the sun or catch a wave on one of the five ocean-side beaches.  Brian, Paul, and I hiked along jungle paths toward the beaches…we were ready for a bit of FUN!IMG_9017 IMG_9015

Bananas!

Bananas!

Fabulous view!  Not a bad lookin' couple, either!

Fabulous view! Not a bad lookin’ couple, either!

At Red Frog Beach, the guys checked out the surf.IMG_8964 IMG_8961IMG_8976

'Jesus' Lizard - these critters have this nickname because they can run so fast on their back legs they can run across water for significant distances without sinking, essentially they can 'walk on water.'

‘Jesus’ Lizard – these critters have this nickname because they can run so fast on their back legs they can run across water for significant distances without sinking, essentially they can ‘walk on water.’

 

 

With a few hours remaining until sunset, still plenty of time to catch some waves!IMG_8978

These guys packed a bundle of energy after they were done surfing!  Good thing we had lots of open space to play.IMG_9000 IMG_8990

The Red Frog Marina at Bastimentos

The Bocas del Toro archipelago is a group of northwestern, Panamanian islands that separate Almirante Bay from the Caribbean Sea. This archipelago comprises the Bocas del Toro District; Bocas del Toro (or Bocas Town) the major city is located on Isla Colon. Numerous islands, much like a tropical version of Maine, are accessible by ferry, water taxi, and private boat. The archipelago is home to Indigenous people, Panamanians, ex-patriates, and ever wandering cruisers. At a glance, it seemed we would have months worth of cruising opportunities to explore islands.

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First, however, more guests were due to arrive! To accommodate our guests we’d made reservations at a local marina, the Red Frog Marina on Isla Bastimentos. Roughly 5nm from Bocas del Toro on Isla Colon, the Red Frog Marina on Bastimentos boasted excellent water, clean facilities, and a water-shuttle service to/from town. These homey comforts were right in the middle of a tropical rain forest! We were anxious to get Rode Trip docked and explore Bastimentos in preparation for our guests. We were also anxious for a long, pressure-water shower and use of the laundry machines. And so, still with our good friend Paul, we hauled anchor and sailed a beautiful sail to Isla Bastimentos.

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We found the entrance to the marina nestled behind a labyrinth of mangroves. One of our soon to be dock neighbors dinghied toward us in his skiff and met us upon our entry. Stephen (s/v Cinnimon Girl) directed us to our slip; he and another soon to be neighbor, Bob (s/v First Light) assisted with our dock lines. Within minutes Rode Trip was securely docked.IMG_9373IMG_9383

Brian, Paul, and I met with Dock Manager, Lee. Lee was fabulous! Not only did he welcome us to the marina and provide the usual run-down of information (pertaining to wifi access, bathroom door codes, water/electric hook-ups, etc.) but he took time from his busy day to take us on a tour of the area. Lee brought us to the local beaches and restaurants and shared with us what kinds of wildlife we might spot in the rain forest. We were anxious to start walking around the island in search of Sloths, Strawberry Poison-dart Frogs, Monkeys, Snakes…oh no, NOT Snakes!IMG_9376IMG_9378

 

These lovely facilities would be waiting for us later in the evening.IMG_9380And so, after getting acquainted with an unusual new neighbor…we were off into the jungle! This is a Rhinoceros Beetle and we hoped he wouldn’t visit us down at the docks!IMG_8958IMG_8959