Sailing Southern

    Hey there everybody!  How is life treating you all?  As always, we hope this update finds everyone healthy, wealthy,
    and wise.  Your favorite sailing family are still living and exploring the beautiful coastal waters and islands along the
    north coast of the Republic of Panama.  You can find corresponding pictures by clicking on the Photo Album button
    above.  And don't forget, you can always look at our previous explorations by clicking on the archived Journal Entries
    (above) and the corresponding archived Photo Albums on the Photo Album page.
    In our last update we provided pictures that covered the time we spent up to, and including, Easter.  So here we are
    9 months later and still enjoying Panama.  We have recently moved Southern Belle to the archipelago of Bocas Del
    Toro.  This is a beautiful island group located approximately 200 nautical miles west of Kuna Yala.  Since our last
    update we visited the USA for the express purpose of seeing our first grandchild, Tristan Salley.  We started in New
    Orleans at the second weekend of the Jazz and Heritage Festival (always a good time), and then visited family all
    along the way up to Nashville, Tennessee where Gabriel and Jennifer live.  Tristan is a gorgeous little boy, and don't
    worry we have included some pictures of him along with this update.  

    Once we returned to Southern Bell in early June we spent our time in the San Blas Islands running private charters
    and getting involved with the Kuna Indian community.  The chartering has been great.  We have met people from all
    over the world, and everybody has been wonderful.  We even had our good friends Bill, Vicky and their daughter Caylie
    visit from New Orleans.  We had a great time with our budddies!  Of course, the San Blas Islands are so gorgeous it
    is hard to be unhappy while there.  In between chartering we visited and worked with some of our Kuna friends.  For
    example, we helped our good friend Glomildo Vallie Smith get a restaurant/bar started in one of the outer island
    groups.  Glomildo and his family kind of adopted us.  When his niece, Cipu, gave birth to a little boy they named him
    George Joshua Smith.  We also visited the Robeson Island Group where our friend Justino lives with his family.  We
    loaded the entire boys soccer team, and many of the parents, onto Southern Belle and sailed them over to the island
    of Naranjo Grande for a three day inter-island soccer tournament.  Fifteen islands participated.  Our Robeson boys
    took second place!  We had a big celebration aboard Southern Belle all the way back to their home island.  You have
    never seen such a happy group of kids!

    In September we took a break from chartering and sailed over to Bocas Del Toro to check it out and celebrate
    Joshua's 11th birthday.  We had a great time and met some very nice people.  There is a large ex-pat community in
    Bocas Del Toro and Joshua met some of the kids who live and attend school there.  The school is called the Tangerine
    School and goes up to 6th grade.  During this visit we decided we would move Southern Belle to this area during
    December, and Joshua would enroll in the school beginning in January.

    But first we had to sail back over to Kuna Yala to take care of some charter guests who had reserved space during
    November.  November was solid work!  We entertained 6 groups of guests for periods of 3 to 4 days each.  We even
    had a couple from Switzerland over Thanksgiving.  It was their first Thanksgiving meal, and a good one too!  We were
    all very lucky because November is typically a nasty month with much rain and lightning.  This year was muy tranquilo
    and mostly sunny.  By the end of November the crew of Southern Belle was tired from entertaining and ready for a
    new location, so we took off for Bocas Del Toro.          

    While we are not too far from our previous cruising grounds, Bocas Del Toro is much different.  Some of the
    differences are:

  • The islands are hilly and lush with jungle.  There are still plenty of palm tress, but other types of trees and
    vegetation as well.

  • The water is clean but not quite as clear as it was in the San Blas.  It's early yet, but we think the fishing may
    be better here and there are quite a few cool dive spots.

  • There are numerous surf breaks here and, of course, a big surfing community; including a few nice surfing

  • The vibe here is less Indian and more Caribbean.  There is a lot of good reggae music, as well as other genres
    of music in the different restaurants and bars.  

  • The biggest differnce is the existence of development and infrastructure.  Not so much as to make it crowded,
    but Bocas Town (on Isla Colon) has Hotels, Restaurants, Music Clubs, Dive Shops, Arts/Crafts Shops, Schools,
    Grocery Stores, and Hardware Stores.  We know that doesn't sound like much to you guys, but after more than
    2 years in the remote islands wondering where our next fresh vegetable was going to come from..... well, this is
    pretty awesome.  We can even get brocolli!  Imagine that, Brocolli!

    We arrived here a few days before Christmas, had a wonderful family celebration and a big cruisers Christmas Dinner
    complete with Beef Wellington. Hmmmm hmmmmm!  On New Years eve we started out with a daytime party at a
    lovely resort called Los Secretos and that evening attended another party at the Cosmic Crab Restaurant where we
    had a big buffet.  We had a great view looking across the water at Bocas Town and could see all of the fireworks
    displays.  It was amazing!  All of the grocery stores in town are owned by Chinese families and they all went nuts
    setting off enormous fireworks displays!  The fireworks lasted for over 45 minutes without a break.  We all finally
    got to bed around 2:00 AM which is a rare thing for us these days.

    Now it is 2012 and Joshua is attending the Tangerine School.  What a change, not having to do home schooling on a daily
    basis.  Melinda and I just sit around all day eating bon bons and watching daytime TV.  Of course, if you believe that I
    have an Island in Bocas I want to sell you!  We have actually started chartering again.  We have taken 4 seperate
    groups out for day charters since we have been here.  We want to start offering private overnight charters again, but
    with Joshua in school everyday it's something that we have to work out.  We will keep you all posted in our next web
    site update.

    OK that's it for this journal entry.  Remember, anytime is a great time to visit the beautiful north coast of Panama.  
    So come on down!  Until our next update we wish you all fair winds and following seas!
More Panama   April - Dec 2011
Cayos Zapatillos, Bocas Del Toro, Panama