Tag Archives: Retirement abroad

A Trip To The Bocas (Chica and Brava)

My friends, Kris and Joel Cunningham, and a neighbor of theirs, Lauren, made a trip over to the Boca Chica/Boca Brava area today, with Joel driving.

Boca Chica Sat view

The Interamerican Highway is under construction the whole way from David to Santiago in the middle of the country though traveling over to where we turned off to Hoconcitos was pretty easy going. The road from Horconcitos to Boca Chica, which is on the mainland was a different story. We passed a lot of houses that gringos would definitely consider hovels, some made of split bamboo and others that looked as though they were made of discarded lumber picked up along the highway somewhere. But as we discussed, at least these people have places to live. They have homes and aren’t living under bridges which, to our group’s way of thinking is a huge step up from being homeless in America.

The road from Horconcitos ends at the waterfront in Boca Chica…

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One of the biggest lies found in travel guides, anywhere, is the phrase, “English is widely spoken.” Well, sort of…

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We caught a water taxi from Boca Chica…

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Over to the Hotel Boca Brava where I promptly fell in love wit the girl who works at the restaurant there. As usual I didn’t take nearly enough photos of the whole event. But to access the hotel you have to walk up about eighteen hundred gazillion stairs. I found it to be a challenge, but the views when we got up to the top were worth the pain…

Looking out towards the Pacific Ocean.

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Looking back towards the mainland.

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I don’t know how drunk the driver had to be to pile this truck up at the Boca Brava Hotel maybe 75 feet above the water and with no road…

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We had lunch at the hotel with huge, surprisingly tasty hamburgers and fries while Lauren opted for the “fish fingers.” I never realized fish had hands, let alone fingers…

Back on the mainland I asked one of the fishermen if he knew of anyone who had a boat they wanted to sell. He said he did, but it needed work and pointed down the shoreline and wanted to take me there, forthwith, as they say, and it was all I could do to get him to stop trying to get me to go along with him. He said the owner wanted about $2,500. I’d seen the boat, I’m sure, from the water taxi, and if this isn’t it, the color scheme is the same, then it’s pretty close. Yellow and red. On the way out of town we took a peek at where the boat was. These boats are very narrow, with a beam of about six feet which, if you go look back at my post about the narrow boats of England, can make quite tidy homes. This hull, rather roughly finished fiberglass, is about 30 feet long.

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Before heading for home, we swung off the road to Horconcitos onto a horrible road that took up to the Seagull Cove Lodge where Kris and Joel have stayed several times. They were very warmly greeted by the manager, Marcelo. Joel took this picture of Marcelo, Kris, Lauren in the background and myself, standing out at the edge of the dining room.

At Seagull Cove Lodge

The views from where we were standing were gorgeous. In fact, they all were.

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On the road back to the Interamerican Highway there are some spectacular vistas. It’s a shame a two-dimensional camera can’t capture the depth of the scenery.

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Traffic was much heavier on the way back into the city but Joel and Kris dropped me off at the bus terminal around 4 o’clock or so and I was home, dead tired but happy by 5.

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What Good Are Plans If You Can’t Change Them?

I’ve had problems sleeping, lately. I get up in the middle of the night to take a whiz and can’t get back to sleep because variations of the shanty boat build whirl around in my mind.

I thought about filling milk crates with empty 2-liter plastic bottles and then found out there’s only one dairy in the whole country that uses them and they won’t sell them. Using other kinds of containers to hold the bottles are no real answer to the problem, either. In any case, I would have built a plywood pontoon around them.

So I got to thinking about using foam flotation. I found a place that sells open-cell foam ceiling tiles and could buy enough of them to provide, literally, tons of buoyancy. The problem with them is each 2’X4′ panel is only 1/2″ thick. Also, open-cell foam, I discovered from rummaging around on line when I couldn’t get back to sleep, will absorb water over time. I’d also have to  find a way to keep the 35 sheets that came in a bundle together.

Closed-cell foam doesn’t absorb water. There’s only one place in all of Panama that sells closed-foam sheets. The sheets are 4’X8′ and 4″ thick. They cost $100 each. I’d need 24 sheets to get the size and amount of buoyancy required for what I have in mind. I’m NOT spending $2,400 for floatation.

So, I’m looking at a site that shows some people building pontoons and stuffing it with foam.

Foam filling

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As you can see in the bottom pic they’re using a combination of bottles, 5-gallon pails and foam. They also mentioned in their story that they weren’t making the pontoons water-tight because they were making a single river trip and the shanty wasn’t for long-term use.

The foam isn’t providing any buoyancy of its own. None at all. What it’s doing is providing potential buoyancy should the pontoons be breached.

Well, I intend on making my pontoons watertight using a combination of glues, epoxy filets, and glass over wood. I also plan on building the pontoons in separate 2’X2’X4′ sections. They’d be easy for an old geezer like me to build and move around than building two long 20′ or 24′ pontoons. These segments would, of course, each have closed ends so that a breach in one wouldn’t flood the whole pontoon. Then I would fill them, like seen above, with a collection of discarded bottles.

So, we’ll see if sorting this out in the daylight will help me sleep through the night.

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Advantages of a Shanty Boat vs. Sail or Powerboat

I have a very dear friend in Florida who is always trying to convince me to give up the shanty boat idea. “Come up here,” he says, “and get a REAL boat. Then you can sail it back down to Panama if you want.”

Well, there are a lot of reasons I don’t want to do that. One, I don’t really want to go back to the States even to visit. People around here often ask me if I don’t miss my family and friends up north. Well, sure. But if I travel some place I want to go to somewhere I’ve never been before. I don’t need to go visit those people up there. I KNOW what it looks like where they live. They should come down HERE and take part in the adventure of a different country and culture.

But getting back to the theme of this post. One of the big disadvantages of powerboats and sailboats as live aboards is the DRAFT. My lovely Nancy Dawson which I lived on for nearly six years drew 4′ feet.

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That meant that I needed to be in AT LEAST four and a half feet of water and also take into account the tidal range. For instance, over here around Boca Chica where I’d like to be, the tidal range is as much as 19 feet! Take a gander of these sport fishing boats at Boca Chica…(By the way, there are MANY world record catches off the shores in this area).

 

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The boat I ran over in France, after we changed the old, short-weighted wing keel which made the boat dangerously unstable for a spade-type keel drew over TEN FEET!!!

 

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Because of this great tidal range (it’s only about 3′ over in the Bocas del Toro area) if you’re in a sailboat with a keel or a power boat where the props and rudders hang below the level of the keel, you have to be anchored quite a way from the beach in order to stay afloat or pay an outrageous fee for a dock at a marina.

With a shanty boat you can choose from a couple of options. You could hang around, see where the low tide line is and anchor yourself just off it and walk ashore since your boat will only have a draft of a foot or so. Of course, six hours after you left it will be high tide and you’ll either have to wait for the tide to fall or swim out to your home. OR, if you’ve built your boat sturdy enough, you can go inshore as far as possible and “take the ground” as they say if you’ve found a nice protected spot where there isn’t much wave action to bounce you around as the tide drops.

In either case you’re going to want/need to have a dinghy. I wrote this several years ago…http://onemoregoodadventure.com/2009/04/29/the-boaters-car-of-pickup-truck/

My choice for a dinghy is the Puddle Duck Racer. I’ve written about it before on this blog. http://pdracer.com

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Still Learning My Way Around…

I’ve live around David (DahVEED) Panama for nearly six years and I’m STILL trying to figure my way around here. Not having a car I naturally depend on the buses (very good) and the taxis (ubiquitous) to get around. When someone else is always doing the driving, and you’re always going on the same route you don’t pay much attention to where you are.

Yesterday I wanted to go check out a Home Depot-type place in David called Cochez which was advertising some styrofoam-type 2’X4’X5/8″ drop ceiling tiles at a cheap price that might be used as flotation for the shanty boat barge I’d like to build, and then do some shopping at the Romero market in San Mateo. The yellow stick pin (left center) marks the beginning of red line in the pic where the bus turns off the Inter American Hwy. to go into town and shows where I go shopping at Romero. It also shows the Cochez store (upper center). I had to take a taxi from the stand at Las Brisa to Cochez ($1.25).

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The guy at Cochez said they were practically out of the tiles and he didn’t know if they were planning to get more in, and if they DID, they certainly wouldn’t be that cheap the next time. He told me that THEY actually ordered the tiles from a place called PREMIUM CENTER, and that I should try there.

So I went out into the heat of the day and flagged down a taxi to take me to Premium Center.

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It couldn’t have been very far away because it was also just a buck and a quarter fare. I saw the stuff they had and found out that the amount that I’d need to float a good-sized pontoon boat would cost me less than $400.

At this point, though, I’m thoroughly lost. I don’t have a clue where I am, but my hips are aching like crazy so I decide to postpone shopping until today (Friday) and I flag down another cab to take me to the local KFC (sometimes, when you’re living in foreign country you get these strange gustatory cravings that can’t be explained or ignored). Besides, it was near an area I knew and could reorient myself geographically.

While the sheets that Premium Center had in stock could be adapted to what I want to do there are naturally a lot of questions that you remember to ask when you’re sitting on the bus on the way back home. So I decided to go back to Premium Center and ask more questions. But before I went I looked on line to see where they were located in relation to Romero so I could do my shopping before the weekend. Guess what???

5 blocks

They’re a lousy FIVE AND A HALF BLOCKS APART!!!

Live and learn.

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Nutty Idea # ???

Lately my idea of building a shanty “boat” has shifted to building a shanty “raft.” As a Canadian member of my Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/427634977405622/ calls them, “Float Shacks.”  One of the main reasons for this recent focus is the building process would be a lot easier. I have also been thinking about how to keep the costs down and one way would be by using recyclable materials.

One of the very few things that disappoint me about Panama, and there are really only two, is that so many people treat this beautiful country as a trash can. Sometimes you can almost imagine dad telling the family, “Okay, everybody in the car. We’re going to drive around for a while and throw shit out the windows.” (The other thing I don’t like is the loud music all over the place. It doesn’t have to be GOOD music but it does have to be LOUD!) I got into it with a woman one time on the bus. When she finished drinking her soda she opened the window and tossed the empty out onto the Interamerican Highway. I admonished her in my horrible Spanish and a couple of nearby Panamanian riders backed me up. One of the most egregious things I’ve seen, and this is the absolute truth, one trash day the garbage truck was stopped outside my gate. One of the workers was drinking from a two liter bottle of water. When he polished it off, what do you think he did? Did he throw the empty into the truck? Of course not, the idiot threw it into the grass. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Anyway, I’m thinking about the possibility of using plastic bottles as flotation. I like the idea of 55-gal plastic drums, and I need to investigate that further. The only place I asked for pricing wanted $35/each for used barrels. In one plan good plan I saw online I’d need 14 of them which is $490! But I see a hardware company distribution yard when I take the bus into David (Dah VEED) and they always seem to have a lot of those drums. The reason it might not be able to get them cheaply here unlike in the States is that water service is often sporadic here and outages are a way of life, so many, many houses have these barrels as a reserve water supply.

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And the framing required to make something like this is made out of 2X6 and 2X10 lumber and lag bolts and it’s HEAVY. Here’s an example of what I mean…

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But as far as using bottles I saw this on my last trip over to Bocas del Toro in July… It wasn’t very big, but it’s all a matter of just working things out, right?

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There are LOTS of discarded bottles lying around down here. One thought that crossed my mind would be to approach the schools in the area and tell the kids that I’d pay them, say, 5 cents for each two liter bottle that was clean, no label and a cap. That doesn’t seem like much to gringos like us (I use the word “gringo” all the time and I use it to mean anyone here whose native language isn‘t Spanish.), but you have to realize what it is to the local people, especially the indigenous kids who live around here. The owner of the house I rent wants to have it painted and one guy that came to bid the job said he works for $15 A DAY!!! So picking up 300 bottles other people have thrown away would be a fortune to a bunch of young indian kids. But down here it’s what’s called “Summer” and school doesn’t start until March 2nd, so I need to wait a few weeks before I can make my pitch.

I could also get some free radio publicity. A nearby neighbor, and friend, is a reporter for one of the local radio stations. We’ve often talked about how awful the mind set of people is who throw trash around. I’d be willing to bet if I approached him with my idea of using discarded bottles I’d be able to get some free air-time. After all, when the town I live in, Boqueron, had their feast day celebration for their patron saint last October, they put out a small magazine and half of one page was devoted to the only gringo that lives in their pueblo…ME!

But this morning, over my morning cup of locally-grown coffee, I stumbled across THIS and I think this could be the deal. Milk crates filled with 2-liter bottles. As you can see in the video it’s sagging where the guy is sitting but that’s because the thing is held together with plastic wire ties. Certainly not designed for strength and durability. A couple of ways of overcoming that that instantly pop to mind would be to somehow through-bolt the crates together, or build a simple 2X4 frame around the top and bottom edges to keep it rigid. Another possibility might be to screw 1/4″ plywood with fiberglass sheathing to the outside, or perhaps just paint it. I’m not building a yacht here, and I’m nearly 73 years old with COPD and three stents in my arteries. How many years do I have to figure on being on the thing, anyway? There are 9 bottles per crate, so I need to go measure a crate and see how many I’ll need to put together something around 10’X24′ . I might have to double up on the crates to get enough clearance for the deck above water.

Where would I get the crates? You won’t find those along the side of the road. Not a problem. Chiriqui province is the bread basket of Panama, and on the short trip over to Bugaba, to the west of Boqueron, there are THREE dairies: Estrella, Nevada and La Chiricana. I’ll have to stop in and see if I can buy a bunch from them. I bet if I explain what I plan to do they’ll go along with it.

Anyway, this is the thing that’s got my willie tingling this morning.

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Meds in Panama

One of the things that suck about getting older is the medications you have to take. I take a mess of them which is one of the reasons I’m a strong advocate of going out and accomplishing your dreams while you’re still young and healthy.

I went to the pharmacy this week, and this is what it cost here in Panama. I don’t know what it would be in the States, but I have a feeling I’d have to take out a loan to finance the order.

To keep my blood pressure in check, and it’s absolutely perfect these days, I take two meds. One is Zestril (10mg). This is also known as Lisonopril. One caja (box) contains a two-month supply. The list price here in Panama is $58.80, so that’s $24.40/month. Then I also take Cardiotal (Atenolol) 100mg. It’s cheap with a list price of $16.80 or $8.40/month. And since I carry three stents in my arteries I take Clopidogrel which is generic Plavix which sets me back $22.25/month.

Actually none of the meds are really a two month supply. The Zestril has 56 tablets to a box and the Cardiotal has 48. The Clopidogrel comes in 24 pills to a box. It’s all sort of like how companies package 10 hot dogs in a package and the bread people sell you 8 rolls.

Now, since I have COPD I take a couple of other meds for which, unfortunately, I can find no generic equivalent and they’re expensive. Both of them are powders that are inhaled with little plastic doo dads. One is Spiriva and it sets me back $59.69 for 20 tiny little capsules. The other is called Onbrize and it costs $83.70 for 30 caps which is the closest to a month’s supply I get.

So, adding it all together, though I didn’t buy the Clopidogrel this last visit because I still had a month supply on the shelf, the bill came to $218.99! BUT WAIT!!! If you’re a “Jubilado” (old fart, I like to say) you receive a 20% discount on meds so they lopped of $43.80 and I ended up paying $175.19. That happens to be how much I pay to rent my fully-furnished, air-conditioned house.

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Dream Material

I have said before that the “Tiny House” movement has some great ideas that could easily be adapted to shanty boats. Today while looking for something else, I stumbled on this site which is certainly grist for the mill and should keep some of you dreamers from falling asleep.

The site is: http://cabinporn.com Go to the archive to find several years worth of thumbnails that are definitely inspirational. Some have already made it to the water.

How about this wonderful floating raft cabin built by Stephen Burgess on his family pond in Freshwater, California.  Contributed by Rebekah Burgess Abramovic.

Raft Cabin built by Stephen Burgess on his family pond in Freshwater, California.  Contributed by Rebekah Burgess Abramovic.

 

Tell me this one isn’t cool as all get out…

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I wouldn’t be surprised to find this way up in the Atchafalaya Basin somewhere…

 

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Rustic river shack in Lychen, Germany.  Contributed by Jessica Prescott.

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Floating cabin on the Albion River, California.

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Another floating cabin on the Albion River, California.

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Enjoy your dreams…make them come true, though.

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