Thursday, August 30, 2007
Dolphin Bay is located just a short distance south of Bocas town and is just what it sounds like. As we sailed thru the cut, we were met by a pod of happy dancing dolphins. Doc was in puppy heaven as he pranced and paced up and down the deck trying his best to talk back to his little dolphin buddies. We spent a couple of nice days in this bay visiting with Mary and Carl S/v Camryka who are building a new home on the shores of this bay and also visited with David and Linda (ex-boaters) at their home called Green Acres, also known as the Chocolate Factory. They have 30 acres of cocoa plants and David has turned this into his hobby farm making organic chocolate. They provided us with a lovely walking tour of their small plantation and witnessed ourselves the process by which he produces some excellent tasting chocolate. His production facilities are rudimentary at best and looking around his small workshop it is hard to fathom that he produces the quality and quantity he does. But the proof is in the eating and it is ‘some good’.
Also, here, amongst the old shelled out cocoa husks we found the ‘Green Frog’ approx twice the size of our Little Red Frog. It was from this Little Green Frog, that David and Linda picked the name for their property, thus, Green Acres. We were able to enjoy one very nice dive and saw a tremendous example of Starfish coral unlike anything we had seen before. Between the hospitality, and the natural splendor, it was a very worthwhile visit.
This is an easy place to get two, by boat or plane, with daily flights to/from Panama City. One of the benefits of spending time here, is the number of places you can go and see, either by water taxi, (Changuinola, Alimarante) or train, or bus (San Jose, Costa Rica $10) and a number of small quiet anchorages when you feel you need a ‘getaway’.
We soon heard of Red Frog Beach, Dolphin Bay, Starfish Beach, all of which were a must see. So off we went.
Red Frog Beach on the island of Bastimentos is a windswept stretch of beautiful white sand beach and surf. Our main goal was to find the elusive Red Frog. These little creatures measure no more than the size of your thumbnail. They are bright red with black spots, but are elusive and difficult to find. The natives in the past have used these little Red Frogs to make their poison darts. It is rumoured that one frog has enough toxicity to kill upwards of several hundred people. We walked the entire beach and finally on the resting spot, we found one, well, actually we heard one then found him.
This is also a beach where the Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles come to nest and lay their eggs. Although we camped out two separate nights at high tide, we did not witness them come ashore, although, the next morning you could clearly see the tracks of two or three very large turtles that had ridden the high tide in, laid their bounty of eggs, (upwards of a 100) and floated back down the beach as the tide receded. This is one of a few different beaches in this area where these Turtles come to nest and just one more reason to come for a visit.
Bright and early on the morning of May 1 we set off with BMA with a good bit of breeze on our way south to Panama. The wind died around midnight and we ended up motor sailing the rest of the way, finally making Bocas just after noon on May 2.
Having just finished the book ‘The Path Between The Seas’ written by David McCullough we were very excited to finally be here. This is a country filled with tremendous history and is a place of rugged beauty and friendly people. It is an ideal Hurricane ‘hole’ and a safe anchorage and from a boaters perspective, there is almost anything you could want or need by way of provisions, although, not necessarily true for boat parts.
From a tourists perspective, it is a backpackers paradise, with a good many inexpensive ‘Hostels’ available and lots of places to see. It is an undeveloped country with tremendous potential and one only has to spend a short while to witness the amount of money being invested by foreigners and a new real estate office every second door.
The eating is good and has been recognized as being in the Top 10 places to go for combination eating and natural beauty.
We had fun exploring all the water holes on Lyla’s (BMA) birthday and making the rounds and meeting new friends.
We had an early morning brisk sail south to Cayos Albuquerque. These are two small islands located approx 29 miles south of San Andres. We met up with our friends Aaron and Lyla on S/v Blow Me Away (BMA) and spent the next few days enjoying their company and the beautiful snorkeling and fishing that these islands afford.
The two little islands are no more than an acre each and only 500 yards apart but are as different as night is to day. The one island is comprised of a number of small hut type structures in every manner of disrepair. It is a fishing camp and daily small fishing pongas arrive and take up residence for a few days while they fish the local waters. Some of these young fellows are amazing in that they can free dive quite easily to 60 feet and stay down there long enough to actually ‘spear the big one’. It is not uncommon to see them bring in 20 and 30 pound Grouper and Snapper. But what they have in fishing skills they lack in domestic skills. The island is quite the mess, with every manner of fishing hook, line and sinker strewn around and they tend to clean their catch and leave the tendrils where they fall, which makes for great eating for the flies and boy are their flies. Also, because a goodly portion of the fish cleaning product makes its way into the shallow water, it attracts a number of sharks. We had been allowing Doc to swim to shore but quickly changed that after seeing the size of some of these Darwinian monsters. One of the hammerhead sharks measures approx 30 feet. I think you get the idea. This is not a place for casual swimming.
The other small island is home to the Columbian Navy. At any given time you will find a dozen or so clean cut, well mannered young men who are eager to converse in any language, but in particular they want to learn English. They are well disciplined and they keep their little island spotless. Albeit it is all sand and coral, they sweep it daily, and have numerous paths all neatly lined with conch shells painted in different colours, a small exercise area with the most rudimentary type of weights, i.e. Conch shells in cement on either end of a metal rod, but it gets the job done. Doc and Gary had fun each day spending sometimes hours at a time talking in Spanglish (Gary’s version of English/Spanish with hand signs) but somehow both sides of the conversation were understood and friendships were made.
It was finally time to move on, and with some regret we said our goodbyes and left behind the Spanish/English dictionary we had been using with our new friend Amelio who had undertaken to teach the rest of his amigos English.