Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bocas del Toro, Panama - mass email

Dear friends and family,

We last wrote to you from Stone Mountain, Georgia at the end of our summer sojourn in the States. On September 7 we flew from Atlanta to Miami, then Panama City. For two days we rode buses, taxis, and boats getting ourselves and our seven items of luggage back to Bocas del Toro, where Thurston awaited us. She lay on land in a marina and was in good shape. We installed the new motor mount, 2 HP outboard motor, gas tank, sails, and scuppers to drain the side decks. We also painted and fixed various components.

It’s hot and buggy here, but we defend ourselves with an array of creams, cloths, and coils. To get to town we either paddle our inflatable kayak, take a water taxi, or walk around an intervening bay along the mangroves. There the smell of briny ammonia is powerful, a product of decomposing vegetation.

For four days we cruised the nearby islands while trying the new installations. The winds were light so we quickly got in the ten hours of motor time specified prior to performing break-in maintenance. We navigated a complex pattern of low islands and hilly peninsulas, narrow passages and open sounds. Our favorite nocturnal tie-up was in a small river with a forest to one side and a field populated by Brahman cattle on the other. It rained all night, and the freshwater streaming over and under us smelled clean after so much salt.

We circumnavigated Isla Cristobal, and on Isla Bastimentos finally saw sloths! One, presumably the mother, was 50 feet away in a tree. The baby was only six feet away with its back to us. They have long, coarse fur (an entire ecosystem within it!) and don’t move much. Ginny says they must be hyper-intelligent because they have so much time to think. An acquaintance here who once picked up a baby (they “walk” on land sometimes!) and looked into its eyes felt otherwise. Steve isn’t taking sides, even though the sloth is Ginny’s totem.  He thinks the connection is that they both excel at leisure, but he’s missing the point completely!

We have now debriefed from our shakedown cruise and are leaving in the morning. Our sailing permit says our next port of call is Portobelo, on the far side of the Panama Canal, but we will stop in small bays and rivers along the way. Further east still lie the San Blas Islands and the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela. After a five-month intermission we are ready to resume our voyage.

Enjoy some new pictures at

Take care - we love you all.

Steve and Ginny

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