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getting high in Panama

February 21st, 2011
atop the mast, drilling holes in stainless

atop the mast, drilling holes in stainless
A couple days ago I was getting really high in Panama, on the top of the mast of my sailboat of course! I had ordered new rigging for the entire boat, but they sent the wrong size pins (too big) so I had to drill bigger holes in the stainless pieces that hold them in place.  What a bitch to do on the deck of the boat, even harder at the top of the mast swaying back and forth!  At least I know I can get up there and perform major surgery if I have an emergency at sea…. though now that I have new rigging I’m kindof solving that potential problem anyways.

Choptank retrofit

Choptank retrofit

Choptank retrofit

The boat has become more and more bulletproof the more I continue to work on it over this past year.  It is time to officially state that I am ready to set sail.  Outer islands here I come.

I am fascinated by the Caribbean side of Panama.  There are hundreds of islands that receive quality swell, most all of which require a multiple-day voyage by boat.  The surf breaks are generally heavier reef breaks that push you to surf harder.  The water is crystal clear, the scenery is breathtaking, and the people are very nice.  The San Blas Islands have great potential for surf, and I like the fact that the Kuna Indians that live there consider themselves a separate nation from Panama with their own native language, currency, and traditions that haven’t changed in literally hundreds of years.  I have started learning words in Kuna so I can ask the village “Sahila” permission to surf their waves.  Otis has already learned to say “te gui te, an nuga Otis, be todo bie?”

Over my numerous crossings from Costa Rica to Panama on the Caribbean side, I always hand out stickers to the many taxi drivers.  The last two times I caught a taxi there, I caught a cab that had already been tagged from an earlier trip!

Costa Rica / Panama border taxi to Bocas del Toro

Costa Rica / Panama border taxi to Bocas del Toro

Costa Rica / Panama border taxi to Bocas del Toro

Costa Rica / Panama border taxi to Bocas del Toro

I have become good friends with Jeremy, my neighbor in the marina in Bocas del Toro. Jeremy is one hell of a marine engineer. Here’s a pic of us after working on Choptank all week.  I grew a beard and drank rum while Jeremy wore one of his 15 sailor shirts and shared his gift of boat knowledge.

Joe and Jeremy chilling on Choptank

Jeremy has begun a new business based out of Bocas del Toro chartering Captiva, an 80 foot sailboat. I introduced him to Bruce Rocherieux, our past intern from WRSC, and they are launching a website offering tours between Bocas and Cartagena, Colombia.  The boat is VERY nice, I spent a lot of time on it since my boat was a mess full of tools.  There is talk of a couple of surf trips being organized in the June/July time-frame so contact me if you’re interested in joining.

After spending the last ten days solo on my little sailboat, coming back to WRSC is a trip. I realize how special this place is.  I have never experienced anything like the surf camp anywhere I have traveled.  Besides being busy there is a special vibe that exists here.  It is almost supernatural.  I am always happy to come home, even if sometimes its tough to live above all of the action.

El Vaquero Bar, Witch's Rock Surf Camp

The new El Vaquero bar is a great new spot to hang out, hard to believe it was a junkyard on the beach just a few months ago.  I guess you could call it gentrification.  Poco a poco it all gets fixed up eventually.  Chances are I’ll see you there as the sun goes down.

A special thanks to writer/photographer/WRSC guest Brian Wedge, profiling Witch’s Rock Surf Camp’s recycling and relearning efforts.

Witch's Rock Surfboards shaping room

You can read the full blog post by clicking HERE -