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Bocas Del Toro Boat Yard, Panama

You know you want it...

Mocka Jumbies and Rum...

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Many sailing aficionadas refer to Bocas del Toro, Panama, as ‘The Undiscovered Caribbean’. Recently, this little-known but greatly appreciated archipelago became even more cruiser friendly with the addition of an American owned and operated boatyard.  It is a full-service facility that doesn’t just allow do-it-yourselfers, but actually encourages them.

They recently finished handling their 100th boat, and to celebrate that milestone they are offering All At Sea readers and near future customers planning to do their own work in the yard, five free lay days if they mention this article.

But if someone prefers letting the experienced yard crew handle the operation, the fee scale is very reasonable. In fact, many who begin doing their own bottom job, suddenly have an epiphany and realize that at those prices perhaps they should farm out the work and dedicate themselves to perfecting their rum punch recipe.

In doing his 100th boat assessment, owner Courtney Parks realized that so many clients wanted to service their engines while hauled out, that he now has a full-time diesel mechanic on the premises. A skilled welder is also available.

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Hull and deck painting has become a specialty in the yard. Along with the usual boatyard supplies, the marine store carries a line of top quality Latin American bottom paints.

The nearby town, which has a pleasant if un-gentrified character, is a short cab ride away where one can purchase groceries, hardware, marine parts, and inexpensive meals.

According to the owner, the yard will soon be adding a few low-priced sleeping rooms for those who don’t like climbing up and down ladders onto their yard-dust coated boats.

Panama has never suffered a hurricane, so if you are looking for safe, long-term storage, this is the place. However, because the business has been steadily increasing, this dry-storage option will not last forever.

The setting for the yard is gorgeous and the approach channel is deep and easy to navigate – so deep that you might encounter a Chiquita banana ship as you approach. For further info and a price sheet and to make a reservation, visit: www.bocasyachtservices.com


Bocas del Toro is a flat out superb cruising ground.  There are several big islands with peaks of about 400ft and a whole bunch of mangrove islands that top out around waist height.  

The reefs are young and show little signs of bleaching. Surfing is sensational. While hiking you might encounter monkeys, parrots, sloths and frogs as colorful as M&Ms. Many ex-pats live on the shorelines or on their own islands and they always welcome a visit from a sea gypsy. There are dozens of completely empty anchorages and because it is an inland sea, the waves are never more than thigh-high. The only reason to put in a double reef is to see if you can still remember how to do so. 

The little town of Bocas del Toro is charming in an uber-funky way and has much to offer. Dozens of bars and restaurants, an assortment of hardware stores, and a plethora of family-run Chinese grocery stores where you will often find three generations working side by side. 

The area attracts the more adventurous traveler types – surfers, backpackers and sailors. You would never mistake it for a trendy cruise ship port. In fact, it is so laid-back that it is almost laid-over.

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Ray Jason
Ray Jason
Ray Jason is the author of the humorous, offbeat sailing book Tales of a Sea Gypsy. He’s still out there happily wandering the wide waters in his lovely 30-footer. 

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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