Monday, April 11, 2016

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Red Frog Beach
After spending 4 nights in Shelter Bay Marina, we were ready to move on to bigger and better things. We sadly said our goodbyes to Mom and Dad and made plans to head to Bocas del Toro, a place we'd been dreaming of since Mexico.  

Cayo Zapatilla

We caught our first Caribbean Mahi Mahi shortly after leaving Shelter Bay.  We were having a bit of a dry spell when it came to fishing, so this was quite the treat.  

After an uneventful overnight passage making progress towards Bocas del Toro, we made a spontaneous decision to stop at Cayo Zapatilla.  The pictures in the cruising guide were amazing, white sand beaches and crystal clear water.  Upon arrival, we found just that.  The next day was a different story.  The calm waters of the bay turned into a rolly mess as the growing seas outside the island reef began to pick up.  To make matters worse, there was not a lot of wind, so we weren't necessarily pointed into the swell at all times.  This made for a very uncomfortable rocking cradle effect.  We would have picked up anchor and moved on, however, we had already paid our fees to the park ranger to be there so we thought we'd make the best of it.  Zia and I kayaked to the beach with the girls and explored what would, in calm conditions, be the perfect relaxing and snorkeling beach.  

We set off to Bocas del Toro in the same rolly seas that were making the anchorage uncomfortable.  We decided to take the outside route and head in through the main channel to the Bocas Town anchorage.  Boy were we in for a surprise when we got around the reef surrounding Cayo Zapatilla.  We were greeted with HUGE rolling seas and no wind.  The seas were a good 10-12 feet.  They would come up from our stern quarter, give us a good lift, and drop us back into the trough.  These are not our preferred motoring conditions, there was not a breath of wind to be found.  We managed to find our entrance okay, even without the channel markers that were so clearly marked on our Garmin GPS.  Apparently, they don't exist anymore.  

Welcome to Bocas del Toro!

Looking at the main town from the anchorage.

Bocas Town anchorage

We spent 4 weeks in Bocas del Toro.  Most of the time was spent anchored in the shallow waters off the main town.  We were quickly sucked in to the many different restaurants and markets in town.  Our favorite was the Raw Bar, featuring daily happy hour with $5 tempura rolls and $1 beer.  Oh, how I miss that place.  We also spent some time catching up with Don on S/V Permanently Temporary at the Red Frog Marina.  And tied up to a dock for some marina sitting at a place in the middle of the mangroves.  It was nice having the dock and unlimited water as well as such a quiet setting, however, the no-see-ums were absolutely vicious.

We met some new friends Lynn and Russell on S/V Blue Highway.  We quickly became buddy boats and good friends in our future passages.

Red Frog Beach

Fresh caught lobster dinner!

The Blue Coconut Bar
You can snorkel off their platform or just lounge in the hammocks over the water.

A calm night tied up in the mangroves.

There is definitely a lot of character in Bocas.
The scenery surrounding the archipelago of Bocas del Toro was quite breathtaking.  It reminded us of the San Juan Islands with so many different islands and anchorages to explore.  The snorkeling was fantastic.  We saw many different species of fish, coral, rays, and dolphins.  There is definitely a downside to Bocas del Toro though.  We had daily rain showers that are normally a welcome treat, however, the humidity was stifling.  The no-see-ums were enough to drive me crazy.  They attacked every square inch of my body and the itching was enough to make happy hour not so happy.   Even the cancer causing bug coils that would never be sold in the US couldn't keep them away.   I originally thought Bocas would be a place where we could hang out for months, but I just don't think I could do it again.