A New Chapter In Bocas del Toro, Panama
Am I really doing this? After boxing up and storing a few worldly possessions that I hadn't either sold, given away to friends and family or Goodwill, or, lastly, just donated to the landfill, I set off from Seattle, headed for Panama with 1 carry-on bag, one large checked bag, and one computer. I wasn't going to be totally alone as my excellent friends, Jay and Danica Tremblay, had located there about 18 months previously after discovering the quaint Caribbean island while cruising in their Tartan 42 sailboat, Alkahest.
The island is roughly about the size and shape of Vashon Island in Washington. Bocas del Toro is the name of both the region and the town itself. The island itself is named Colon. The region consists of a fare chunk of the East coast of Panama and 9 main islands in the Caribbean Ocean. Plus hundreds of smaller islands, most of which are uninhabited and are really just clumps of Mangroves. The group of islands themselves is roughly the size of our own group of islands called the San Juan's.
The town of Bocas del Toro is the capital of the region. It generally takes two days to get here from the PNW. The first day gets one to Panama City, arriving at Tucomen International Airport. Then, since that will take most of the day, you'll find lodging there and then travel the 30 miles of so to the regional airport of Albrook. Then you'll take one of the 2 flights a day on a 2 turbo prop 40 passenger plane to the airport on the edge of the town of Bocas del Toro.
I arrived in Bocas del Toro with Jay and Danica meeting me at the airport. The helped me lug my things to their dingy and the 10 minute trip to Alkahest at the Bocas Marina. The marina is only accessible by water. That's not really a problem as there are numerous water taxis at your disposal that for a nominal fee ($2 to most local destinations) will take you wherever you want to go.
I spent a few days on Alkahest while looking for a new place to live. I had made arrangements with the owners of the marina, Cortney and Rosemary Parks, to house sit there beautiful property at the west end of the island for 5 weeks while they visited family in Texas. So I rented an efficiency apartment in the middle of town for the three weeks until I could go to the Park's place. I hung out, exploring my new environment.
I then moved myself and all my worldly belongings out to the Drago area and looked after their home and their new puppy, Schooner. The home was located on a bluff about 100 feet above the water with a killer view. This was a really unique experience. This place is totally "off the grid". The only source of water is rain water stored in two tanks each storing 600 gallons. There were solar panels feeding power to several deep cycle batteries which in turn supplied current to an inverter that output 110 volts of AC current to the refrigerator/freezer, a couple of fans, and at night 4 high efficiency light bulbs. And luckily, my computer and small flat screen TV on which I could watch pre-recorded movies from my computer and Cortney's and Rosemary's CD collection of movies. There was no regular TV available and even the internet access was limited to that I could sometimes get using the 2G connection on my cell phone. And, boy was it dark out there when the sun went down. The only light came from the navigation lights out in the channel visible from their deck.
While I was there I bought a sheet of 1/2" marine plywood and a sheet of 3/4" plywood and from those I built my first "power tool/workbench". It had about a 2' square top which was hinged on one edge. That allowed access to a saber saw which I mounted upside down under the top so the blade projected up through the top so that I could use it as a table saw. Not ideal, but it worked. I also made a bracket to hold my electric drill with a sanding disk secured in the chuck. It could be mounted to the top and could be used to sand and shape wood. The entire bench was made to "knock down" for easy portability. At the time I thought I might use it build more boarding ladders which I thought might be used by the mariners in the area.