News from Bocas - May

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Tue 5 Jun 2012 23:19
Sorry - been a little lax with the Blog of late!! Slap wrist.
We arrived in Bocas about five weeks ago on a grey gloomy day (we've had a few more of those since) and anchored off in the shallows just south of the town in order to surrender our 'Zarpe' to the Port Captain. According to our Navionics charting software there was a small island about where we were anchored but according to the locals this had disappeared during an earthquake some years ago.  Not that it would have been updated by Navionics since as they seem to specialize in offering electronic charting based on information provided by Columbus in this part of the Caribbean.
We will be basing ourselves in Bocas for the next few months spending a few days each week exploring the locality, which is mainly mangrove, before returning to town to re-provision and listen to some live music in the bars. There is more all-round protection here than in the San Blas islands although the water doesn't have quite the same clarity. There certainly isn't the amount of fish life due apparently to the Ngobi Indians over fishing over the years. They have now turned their attentions to hacking through the surrounding jungle with buzzsaws in order to rear cattle for beef instead. Maybe the fish will now return? Bocas town is a mix of Latino, Afro-Caribbean and Chinese cultures and everyone is quite friendly except the youngsters, who all seem to be dour wherever we go on our travels.
Where old Mini's come to die                                     Bocas main street ....                                       ....and beyond
 Like a scene from the 'Dukes of Hazard' this boat gate-crashed the local police compound - no doubt looking for nice hot meal close-by at Lili's
As with just about everywhere we've been in Central America there is a well established community of expats with their own VHF net, although transient cruisers are encouraged to check-in daily. This community consists mainly of Americans but there are also a few Brits and other Europeans in evidence. The net's importance to the residents was demonstrated by events a couple of years ago when a very nasty character arrived from the USA via a few other Central American countries. He bought some property in the area and then proceeded to (allegedly) murder his neighbours, who were fellow countrymen, before then taking over their land whilst explaining to the community at large that his neighbours had sold out cheaply to him.  Well, one of them disbelieved his story and also convinced the local police to do likewise. Meanwhile 'Wild Bill' as he was known had skipped town but was fortunately caught at the border with Costa Rica.  His trial is just starting in Panama and as usual more details can be sourced through a Google search. The 'BEN' network (Bocas Emergency Net) who all live ashore ('on dirt' as they call it) provides 24/7 VHF cover for the whole Bocas area and includes retired doctors, surgeons, engineers etc etc. All have a unique BEN number which they use as their call sign on the radio. There is even a fast 'emergency' launch standing by to get anybody to the local hospital that may have a health issue or maybe has had a contretemps with a venomous snake, of which there are quite a few in the locality (UGH). Anyway, here are a few pics taken away from Bocas town........
On the subject of critters the 'Admiral' has recently become a 'frog nut', conducting hiking expeditions around various islands looking for microscopic coloured frogs that inhabit the area. For some Darwinian reason each part of the area seems to have a different coloured frog. Bastimentos has the red variety which we were fortunate enough to track down on a back path to the beach. The local Indians have seized onto this opportunity and cute little Indian children will approach you on the beach with one of these little fellows cupped in their hands for you to take a picture of - that will be $1 por favor!   There are green frogs at another location and blue frogs at Rana Azul (the name means blue frog in Spanish) although we haven't seen one of those yet as we're too busy eating and drinking to care about searching for wretched frogs. So here are pics of the red froggies - you'll have to wait for the green ones! They are reputed to be poisonous but we haven't tried one.
 There's one !!!!        No it's not a plastic freebie from a Rice Crispy packet - it's real. Just look at those cute little grey feet !!!
  Off to the beach with friends                    it's all pretty swampy with Caimans lurking in the pools but the beach is quite stunning
So, there's not many fish, the water's not so clear and there's the odd mass murderer - just like back home really however the water is certainly warmer at 33.8 C. Bocas does have plenty of bars, restaurants and Chinese supermarkets and it's easily the safest place we've been since last year. Unfortunately, being a tourist destination the quality of cooking varies and it took us about three attempts to find anywhere we would happily go back to. Drink is cheap especially at 'Happy Hour' which lasts sometimes all evening, so a meal out with beer or wine etc usually costs around £15 for two.
One place we have found to have superior quality food and service is at Rana Azul a restaurant run by Joseph & Maria from Austria which opens Friday at 1600 and on Sundays at 1200. The food is superb and the hosts wonderful or should we say Wunderbar? often dispensing free shots towards the end of the session. It's here that you meet up with some of the BENs from the network as Sunday lunch is a special event for them. The strength of the local community is demonstrated as they will all come and sit with you and take an interest in what you are doing and where you have come from. One member of the BENs is an expat Brit called Ian Usher who gained international fame for 'Selling his Life' on ebay in Australia. It received worldwide coverage and Disney has now paid him for the rights to make a film of his life.  After selling his 'Life' for which he received about £180,000 he set about achieving a 100 long list of ambitions over 100 weeks. Anyway, as always its all on the internet for more info. He's a nice guy and bought a small island in Bocas and now seems to have settled in Panama.
That's about most of the news except we have now been joined in Bocas by our friends on Nilaya who were in the Rio last summer and have made some great new acquaintances as well. So life's pretty good albeit a little damp as we are now entering the wet season.  Frequent heavy downpours, 90+ degree temperatures and near 100% humidity will become the order of things for the next few months. Oh! and in some places the water is teaming with jellyfish which have learnt Dolphins eat! So, on to our last few May pics.........
            A little less yeast next time Skip !                         & the Admiral looking for the foreign body that dared to fly into her home-made Lasagne - we never did find it!