Last days in Bocas

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Tue 30 Oct 2012 20:56
We spent some extra time in the marina fitting equipment from Marine Warehouse in Florida that had arrived in our absence as well as some of the considerable amount of gear we lugged back in our baggage from the UK. We switched from halogen lighting to LEDs which have made a big difference to our electricity consumption onboard. Larger drains were installed on the rear platform - no more puddles.The primary fuel filters were changed and the diesel injectors, removed for servicing before we left, were refitted. What a difference that made! However, working in the tropics in summer is hard work and progress was slower than anticipated - thus the extra days tied to the dock. The 'Admiral' placed a massive order for provisions from someone operating such a service for cruisers from the mainland with the delivery arriving by truck on the Bocas ferry. This was a hit and miss affair as much of the order was out of stock or they sent the wrong items. We revised the next order but fared little better so gave up after that. Still it did save a lot of leg work walking around town with shopping bags. Amongst other tasks a trip to the top of the mast was also required to fit the new Raymarine windvane brought out from the UK. It actually works! Then there was the cleaning whilst we had copious amounts of fresh water......
Impatient to go cruising again...............but we need some provisions first
One particular job that took up too much time was a repair to our chest fridge. It had been shut off on leaving the boat and mopped out. We were dismayed on our return to see water lying in the bottom. It was sponged out but the next morning it was back again and on closer inspection it became apparent that the bottom of the GRP box that forms the fridge had developed a small crack from a void in the lay-up. This meant that the insulation foam beneath must be waterlogged and therefore ineffective. There was only one remedy and that was to cut out the area beneath the void and see what was going on. Sure enough, the foam was saturated and the start of a week long project commenced. Purchasing a can of foam from the local hardware store along with resin and GRP mat our resident laminator set about hacking out all the sodden foam and drying out the area before attempting to pump more foam into the one cubic foot of space which was now dry. The project also included adding some drainage at the bottom of the fridge as it's always been a tiresome job sponging out the residue of condensation that collects over time.
The soggy area exposed and cleaned out, with the void that caused the problem in a moulded divider slot and the new foam being applied
Off course our erstwhile Skipper is truly a 'Jack of All Trades and Master of None'. This was confirmed when he pumped too much new foam under the existing fridge floor from under which he had excavated the old sopping wet stuff.  With no structural strength to defeat the progress of the frothing foam the floor bowed upwards despite the use of diving weights strategically placed in anticipation of such a problem. This meant having to hack out the top inch of new foam to get the floor straight again. The next ploy, to avoid a repeat bowing performance, was to fill an old mop bucket with four gallons of water and place that on the floor in the fridge. This worked perfectly until, when lifting the bucket back into the fridge following another application of squirty foam, the bucket handle gave way.  At a height of 2 ft, the depth of the fridge itself, the bucket hurtled down into the fridge exploding water everywhere. When water could still be heard flowing through the fridge floor Phil realised that the bucket itself was now fatally flawed with a huge crack. A further gallon of water leaked over the newly applied foam and down into the bilge locker below where various tins and spares were quickly soaked through! The bucket, now gushing water from the crack, was lifted out and passed to the 'Admiral' of the Red (face) to dump it overboard. Eventually, after much hard work and 'encouragement' from the 'Admiral' (who had freshly
acquired cheese reserves sitting in a friend's fridge) ours was up and running once again.
Phil continued with his duties of net controller for one day each week both on the VHF Bocas Net and the SSB (Single Side Band) Southwest Caribbean Net. He also resumed his daily music trivia section on the VHF net as this had become very popular throughout the Bocas area. Socially, being in the marina made it easy to reach the bar for happy hours. On the last weekend before leaving the marina we gathered up as much boat junk as possible and attended the Swap Meet (Flea Market) which was also held at the Calypso Canteen in the marina. We had another successful morning taking over $100 whilst clearing some much needed space in lockers that were crammed with items not being used.
A profitable Swap Meet, lots of local 'Dirt-Dwellers' and cruisers in attendance all buying up lots of our rubbish - but we couldn't shift our 2nd spare anchor
One sad aspect of this period in the marina was saying goodbye to Frankie and Roger on Infinity who were leaving their boat and flying off to Australia via the USA and UK to visit their family and friends. Frankie has been fighting cancer for over a year whilst still living on the boat in the marina and the Panamanian doctors had given her the all clear which was celebrated at the time by all with a big pot luck coinciding with her Birthday and their wedding anniversary. Sadly, the cancer has returned and has spread, so bravely Frankie has opted to see her family in Aus while she still can and will then decide whether to continue treatment after that. She is one very brave lady and Roger a most supportive husband. We wish them well.
On a happier note, with the boat disabled at the dock we were invited with other cruising friends on a day excursion to Rana Azul's - the restaurant in the jungle some 12 miles from Bocas town. Eileen Farrell is a converted shrimp boat which Lorenzo and Joyce have adapted for cruising. It was a fun day heading out in a 60 ton steel shrimper with its big thumper of a two stroke Detroit Diesel hammering away below deck burning its one gallon of diesel per mile. We had a great day - but oh! the fuel bill Lorenzo!!
Look - no wheel. They just use an autopilot knob and leave an idiot in control                Rana Azul's in sight !!
Err - what are we actually looking at here?            The Eileen Farrell lies to anchor off Rana Azul's dock
It's amazing that in a place like Bocas we are privileged to be able to listen to live music of quality (mostly good) and from musicians that are passing through on their travels around the globe. One Friday evening at the Calypso Canteen we had a great night listening to a local group of musicians including our very talented Saxophone playing friend Shannon and featuring a musician from Africa who had brought his Cora which looked like a cross between a harp and mandolin and had a great sound.
That's a Cora he has in his hands!Looks like a large scale baby's rattle if you ask me - but these two enjoyed the evening
We also attended a re-naming ceremony on a Lagoon catamaran. It had been for sale for a while in the marina and had been bought by a family of five to spend a 10 month sabbatical cruising the Caribbean before returning to Florida to sell it again. They invited the local cruisers to attend, duly splashed a liberal amount of champagne over the bows until the protests became too strong from the gathered mass who couldn't bear to see such good stuff going to waste. Later in the bar they cut a re-commissioning cake, handed round some very acceptable sangria and the next day were back to their refit work with Ajaya exchanging a fresh water pump for some dollars as theirs was not functioning correctly.
I name this boat ........................ Hey, whoa, stop -  that's good drinkin' stuff going to waste there !!
Finally, on Saturday 13th October we limped out of the marina. Limped because, although the engines were running superbly, we had not dived on the hulls and props whilst docked as the water in that vicinity is not particularly savoury. Had it been blowing more strongly we could have had some issues with propulsion as in fact we had very little! Once anchored it was on with the hookah system and into the water for 3 hours of hard work clearing the props of the barnacle infestation. No wonder we were struggling to make any progress. We were on a time limit as the next day we were due to take our good friends Jim and Laura off to Rana Azul's for Oktoberfest celebrations.
That's 'live' music (printers error?)           this was the 'life' music.......         and some of the many enjoying the day
Oktoberfest was a fun day but we agreed it wasn't quite the same as a usual Sunday gathering as the hosts Joseph and Maria were kept so busy behind the counter. There was a live band playing on the grassed over swamp in the restaurant garden. Despite Joseph's best efforts at erecting awnings a rainstorm developed forcing the musicians into frantically rearranging them to prevent electrocution from the amps and instruments. The spit roasted pig and lamb meal was indifferent which was a shame as it's usually first class but with the usual attendance almost doubled you couldn't be too critical.    
We left early and went back to Ajaya with some more friends where an impromptu party broke out, the rum was broken out, and later on in the heat of the festivities Shannon's nose was nearly broken! It was truly bashed hard due to the sheer excitement of our guests bopping around to the music. That soon quietened everyone down as tissues were quickly dispensed to deal with the flow of red stuff.
Pole dancing 'Laura style' and Air Guitar 'David Gilmore style'. Did we have some sore heads (and noses) the next morning.   Yep! 
We were back at Bocas anchorage the next day and it was back on with the hookah gear to finish cleaning the hull ready for the anticipated motoring trip 200 miles to the San Blas islands. It was time to leave 'Crazy Bocas' with its wonderful personalities and begin our new cruising season back in that tropical haven of sandy beaches fringed with palm trees - most peoples idea of what cruising paradise should be.
So, what about Bocas. We were never looking forward to spending time there. The water's murky, lots of bugs, not many beaches to walk and not the best choice of food in town - but the people are what make it what it is. A great social life, a good place to spend time and meet the local ex pats who are the friendliest we have met anywhere in our travels so far.
                                                                The view from our marina berth.......