Daily Archives: May 13, 2009

Native Watercraft Around Bocas

Being an island archipelago, boats are a way of life here in Bocas del Toro. Not the cruising sailboats in the marina and at anchor, but the way people travel here. They are the cars, buses, taxis and trucks of the area. If you don’t fly here the only other way to arrive is on a boat.

A water taxi


An Indian SUV (How many life jackets do you think they have on board?)

Indian SUV

An Indian truck

Indian Truck

The boat above went just a few buildings down, side-tied to a steel work barge and headed back to Almirante

Pushing Barge edited

These native craft almost always seem to be paddled or pushed along by an outboard. Yesterday while having lunch at a restaurant in town I saw, in the distance, a canoe with a sprit sail rig. I didn’t have my camera and it was too far away anyway. But this morning sitting out on the porch reading the newspaper on line I glanced up and caught this going past. Almost missed it. Had to run down to my room and grab my camera.


Just down the street, in a little shed, someone is building a dugout canoe.

Dugout under Construction

In all the times I’ve passed it I’ve never seen anyone working on it and wasn’t ever able to speak to the builder.

Dugout Transom

Note how the transom is filled in and the log is carved to shape a skeg to provide some tracking ability when the boat is underway. The area above the green paint has been built up by strip planking with epoxy glue. A traditional Indian building technique?

Across the street, sitting out over the water is another dugout build by the same man I was told. In the first picture above you can see thwarts inserted either to give the hull some extra rigidity or to be used as seats. This dugout has ribs inserted.

Green dugout trimed

Well, I’m packed and ready to head to David. I’m flying back. Coming over there were sections of the road high up in the mountains that had been washed away in the heavy rains back in November. In several places the road was barely one lane wide. With the torrential rains of the last two days I’m sure that the conditions haven’t improved. Although I’m very leary of third world puddle-jumpers I think it’s probably the safest way to get out of here. With my Pensionado discount the flight only cost me $30.10 for the 40 minute ride. Hopefully this won’t be my last post.

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