It’s one of those things you strive to do as a vacation, and yet so elusive that few manage. Sailing for a week on a catamaran in Bocas del Toro Panama with four cabins, a captain and a first mate was the pinnacle of relaxation. If it sounds like a dream to you, you’re right.
We flew to Panama with only carry-on and grabbed a puddle-jumper operated by Nature Air into Bocas del Toro. The heat was thick and local kids entertained themselves with checkerboards on their laps in puddle-filled playgrounds. The town was more rustic than Ambergris Caye, Belize, but also more economical and diverse in cuisine. The boat is moored in Red Frog Marina on the island of Bastimentos, and many water taxi operators were jumping at the chance to take us for $10 each.
Tradewinds Cruise Club is an all-inclusive vacation ownership sailing fleet with boats across the globe. RCI members can exchange once every four years to experience the yachts or individuals can purchase weeks within Tradewinds Cruise Club. There is a maintenance fee to be paid yearly to maintain the boats as well as an all-inclusive fee per week for the charters.
Our first time using the boat, we were greeted warmly by the crew and the manager and we happily paid our all-inclusive fee which covered food, drink, snorkelling, scuba diving (for Tradewinds members), housekeeping, mooring fees and water sports.
We boarded Jade, a 42 foot catamaran, and I began to relax. The forward cabins are spacious and each of the four rooms has an ensuite. Our double bed offered storage beneath, and a closet and dresser created ample space for our belongings. Shoes are not needed on the boat, and swimsuits, a sarong and a few light dresses were all that we needed. Clothes can dry on the deck with the clothespins supplied and devices can be charged when the generator is active. Toilet paper cannot be flushed, but water is not an issue like on many boats as Jade is equipped with a water maker that turns seawater to fresh.
Though I had purchased a Panamanian SIM card, my phone didn’t always work on the remote islands. Which marked the first time since starting UrbanMommies in 2006 that I was truly unplugged and ‘forced’ to relax. And it was pure magic.
So I read a book while swinging on the hammock on deck. We slept on the trampoline one night. I held a monkey. I bartered in Spanish with a local fisherman who approached our boat in a dugout canoe with lobsters he’d caught free diving. (We purchased enough for the guests and crew for $3 each and the first mate was happy to cook the tails!) We saw a nurse shark while diving and seahorses and squid snorkeling.
We toured Green Acres Organic chocolate farm (whose chocolate was featured on the series Naked Dating, filmed on location) and hiked the jungle rainforest with poison dart frogs at our feet and howler monkeys overhead. I found a stash of sea urchins and coral washed up on a beach and was devastated by the amounts of garbage left on a tiny island by tourists who arrive daily by water taxi to enjoy its beauty. We talked global politics with the others on the boat. Together we represented Argentina, Canada, Mexico and Sweden. Sharing one’s culture and opinions in such a close setting was powerful.
The end of the week was bittersweet. Three gourmet meals had been prepared for us daily and somehow I adjusted to not doing the dishes. Every afternoon brought a new blender drink while we floated on noodles in the ocean.
I’d had a couple of showers, but swimming in seawater multiple times per day allowed me to cross that chore off my list quite frequently. I was more relaxed that I had been in years and I am counting the days until I can get back on a boat – but next time I hope to share the experience with my boys.