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Panama, Bocas del Toro: Latest updates

By Sue Richards last modified Jan 26, 2015 11:01 AM

Published: 2015-01-09 00:00:00
Countries: Panama

Update from Bocas: January 2015

The recently opened Bocas del Toro Boatyard, which has been receiving rave reviews, is offering a special for do-it-yourselfers, which entitles them to 5 FREE lay days for their boats if they make a reservation in the next 6 weeks.  The scenic Bocas Boatyard, which is American owned and operated, has now handled over 70 boats.  The customers ranged from speedy 3-day do-it-yourself jobs all the way up to blister peel and repair jobs handled by the yard staff - www.bocasboatyard.com.

Now allow me to describe some of the enticements of this superb cruising ground.  There are nine major islands and dozens of small ones.  At this very instant there are over 50 unspoiled anchorages without a 
single boat in them.  The reefs here are young and vibrant and the islands are a blend of both low mangroves and higher islas with 100s of feet of elevation.  The wildlife is exotic and playful with toucans, howler monkeys and dolphins and sea turtles.

Shore-side, in the main town of Bocas del Toro, a cruiser can find just about anything they need.  Good grocery and hardware stores and repair shops provide the humdrum essentials, and there is also a wealth 
of surprisingly good restaurants and colorful, eccentric bars.  The population is a mix in the truest sense. The locals are a blend of Spanish and Afro-Antillian and Indio.  The visitors are surfers, backpackers and sailors.  There is not a trace of “suburbia” to be found in Bocas.

So as the heavy trade winds decrease and the New Year settles in, you should make plans to sail on over to Bocas del Toro.  From the West Indies it is a downwind sleigh ride and from the rest of the Caribbean it is pretty nice sailing as well.  Once you arrive there is tremendous cruising to be savored and a first-rate boatyard as well.

Ray Jason

Ray's previous update: January 2014

Here’s the latest cruiser news from Bocas del Toro.

I first sailed into BDT in April 2006, and with the exception of a few captain’s jobs back in the U.S. when the cruising kitty ran low, I have been here ever since.  So I have a pretty good sense of the ebb and flow of life here in Bocas.  And I can happily report that it is better than ever!

NEW BOATYARD

As 2014 kicks in, the new boatyard is up and running.  The travel-lift can handle 60-ton boats with a maximum beam of 20 ft.  It is an American owned and operated yard with a U.S. manager and a bi-lingual staff.  It is clean and spacious and has great showers.  It is both a full-service and a do-it-yourself facility.  It has a good chandlery that features all basic haul-out supplies as well as Trinidad, Sea Hawk and Sigma bottom paints.  The first customers have reported great satisfaction with how they were treated at the new yard.  For rates/reservations contact: www.bocasyachtservices.com.

THREE MARINA CHOICES

Bocas Marina has been the mainstay for about the last decade.  It has concrete floating docks, FREE wi-fi that is very reliable, a terrific cruisers’ hangout bar/restaurant, an easy approach diesel fuel dock, gorgeous grounds, a friendly staff, on-site laundry service, and spotless bathrooms and showers.  As much as 13 feet of draft can be carried to some of the docks.  Their absentee boat-care service is superb.  Other skills available at Bocas Marina include a diesel mechanic, canvas work and dinghy repairs.  Plus, it is only a few minute dinghy ride to town.  For a reasonable fee they can assist with all of your clearing-in procedures.  And finally, they are representatives for Marine Warehouse which is an excellent and reliable way to get parts shipped to Bocas.  www.bocasmarina.com

Marina Carenero sits on an island that looks across to Bocas Town.  It is the least expensive of the local marinas, but still offers good service and value.  Mary, who owns and operates it, has been amazing tenants with her charm and boat knowledge for years. www.careeningcaymarina.com

Red Frog Marina is quite a distance from town, but it makes up for this by being only a short walk from an excellent body surfing beach.  It is only a few years old and nicely maintained.  Aside from cruising boats, they are also trying to attract mega-yachts.  www.redfrogbeach.com     

CRIME UPDATE

Since I have been here so long and have been quite active in our boating community, it absolutely astounds me when I hear people say that Bocas is dangerous.  There has been only ONE serious incident in the past 7 years.  Yes, there have been a few dinghy thefts in order to get the outboards, but if one takes the normal, sensible precautions of lifting the dink at night, it is never an issue.  I anchor off by myself all the time aboard AVENTURA and have never had to scare away an intruder.  I do keep one hatch-board in the companionway locked from the inside, but the bottom board is out which gives me plenty of ventilation.  In all these years here I have never had a single fearful moment.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Bocas del Toro remains one of the few great un-crowded cruising grounds left on the planet.  At this very moment there are at least 100 nice anchorages within 10 miles of me without a single boat anchored in them.  Great scenery, nice diving, easy sailing because it is essentially an inland sea, exotic animals and friendly people – all at a very reasonable price.  Not to mention that it is far below the hurricane zone.  And a really unusual aspect that I have never experienced elsewhere is the camaraderie between the sailors and the expats that live here onshore.  Every morning at 0745 there is a Cruisers and Expats Net on VHF channel 68.  There is also a 24/7 emergency radio network if anyone is in difficulty or injured.

So come join us and hang out in our great archipelago that has no charter fleets and still plenty of room for you and your friends!

Capt. Ray Jason   
S/V AVENTURA  
Bocas del Toro, Panama, 5 Jan 2014

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