The actual name of the new haul-out facility in the spectacular Bocas del Toro archipelago is: Bocas Yacht Services, but I contend that it should be called: Saint Courtney’s Boatyard. That’s because the owner Courtney Parks has shown more patience and endurance than your average medieval holy man.
When I first sailed into Bocas del Toro in April of 2006 the scuttlebutt on the docks was that the new yard would be opening “any month now.” That soon became “any year now.” And eventually it morphed into “any decade now.” But brothers and sisters, I am here to tell you that the Demons of Delay have been rent asunder and the power of perseverance has won the day. Or to state that more simply … The boatyard is open!
And a very nice facility it is – with lovely panoramic views and friendly staff. The travel-lift at Bocas Yacht Services can handle 60-ton loads and vessels up to 20ft wide. If you are of the ‘do-it-yourself’ persuasion, you will be welcomed. Or if you wish for the onsite pro’s to do the heavy lifting, they are available at $10 an hour for general labor. Specialized tasks such as welding, electrical or mechanical will cost you a little more.
The bathroom/shower room is spotless and most of the staff is bi-lingual. All the major Latin American bottom paints are available including Trinidad, Sea Hawk and Sigma. The on-site chandlery stocks all of the normal boatyard items. The yard is completely fenced in and secure. The first customers to use the facility have given it rave reviews. There is an easy-to-navigate website to check out the details, contact the staff and make reservations (see below).
Since most of you reading this article are approximately 600 miles upwind of where I am writing it, I should tell you that those of us here think of this little hideaway as ‘The Undiscovered Caribbean’. It is an easy downwind sail from the Windward/Leeward Islands and we invite you to come over and explore our neighborhood.
If you wish to dawdle along the way, pleasant ports of call such as the ABC Islands, Colombia, and San Blas Islands are available along the way.
Once you arrive there are nine relatively high islands and hundreds of little mangrove islands for you to explore and, as I write, there are probably 50 prime anchorages without a single boat in them. Last time I was in the Eastern Caribbean that was not the norm.
If you are of the marina temperament, there are three handsome ones to choose from with my favorite, Bocas Marina, offering First World amenities at below First World prices. The main town is a poster child for ‘un-gentrified but cool’. It is full of surfers, backpackers and sailors – with nary a Kardashian in sight. There are plenty of grocery stores and hardware stores and lots of great little restaurants and bars. It is friendly and safe, and our neighborhood watch committee does not allow hurricanes.
Other charming aspects to Bocas del Toro include excellent beaches, nice young reefs and jungles full of toucans, sloths and poisonous tiny frogs. Fortunately they are toxic only if you lick them – and I gave that up for Lent.
The vistas are exquisite – with high mountains and volcanoes in the background and miniature waves at your feet. That’s because this is essentially a protected, inland sea.
Writing this report it dawns on me that there probably is no patron saint for travel-lifts so I’ll finish it here. I gotta go call the Vatican.
For more information about Saint Courtney’s Boatyard, aka Bocas Yacht Services, visit: www.bocasyachtservices.com