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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Isla Talon

We awoke to a gorgeous morning in Bahia Honda.  Though we’ve learned this sun means it will be blazing hot.  By 9am it was 87 degrees.

This morning another man named Ishmael in a dugout canoe came by to chat.  He had a small boy and was (again) looking for English children’s books for him.  Wanuskewin had some Spanish/English coloring books and gave them some.  But we didn’t have anything.  He offered to come back later with pineapples and bananas for us.

Philip arrived about 10:30am to start our tour of Isla Talon where about 500 people live. Philip is 19, and has 15 siblings ranging from 6 months to 25 years.  He is a motivated young man who apparently was determined to learn English by reading the dictionary.  His English is good enough that he is now teaching some of the younger kids at the school.

Unfortunately the 2.5HP engine is still acting up, so Wanuskewin had to tow us around the point to the dock Philip told us was owned by his aunt and where we could park our dingy’s.

First we climbed the hill to visit the local school that is at the very top of the island.


But how the students ever get anything done with views like this, we just don’t know.

This is the school’s director who told us a bit about the school.  They teach 136 children in grades 1 through 9 after which the children have to travel for further education.  Reaching the mainland school takes 4 hours by “high speed panga” and bus.  The children stay for a week at the school, and then return home for a week.

This is the town’s communication’s sattelite system.  It was apparently knocked out in a storm a few days ago so no one has any internet access.  The repair men are planning to come look at it sometime next week.

Then Philip wanted to take us on a tour up river.  But with our motor out, that wasn’t going to work.  We headed back to Apsaras to switch out for the 20 HP big engine.  This got Philip a tour of the boat. 

We then headed across the bay to the mangroves.  We would never have found this place without a local giving the tour.

We were hoping to see some crockodiles, but no such luck.

Eventually we came upon a small town called Salmonete.  When we got off the dingy’s the first thing we found was a pay phone, presumably connected to the sattelite dish and solar pannels you see in the background.  There are no roads in or out of the town.  The only way to get there is via the river.

We toured their school as well.

Note that there are several kids casually carrying machetes.

While this would never happen back in the US, the reality is that here in the jungle, a machete is a part of their way of life.  We found one of the classes out back of the school learning how to farm.

Evidence of the agricultural society is everywhere

We stopped at a small tiendas for some sodas and to play with their puppy.

And this 3 year old boy was happy to have Melissa take pictures of their pet parrot.


Where they came by this bucket that had made its way all the way from Quebec remained a mystery.

This little guy was a bit more hesitant to have his picture taken.


Then it was time to head back up the river.

Back in town we were thirsty for some beer tasting!

Served up by Marlena – the local bartender.

They had a ton of the local liquor – which we think was some type of rum.  Though none of us was brave enough to try it.

The locals must have heard we were at the bar because they started showing up to chat with us.

These guys wanted to know how much we had paid for our dingy.  The inflatables are a bit of a puzzle to Central American’s who drive around in the big wooden pangas.  We get a bit nervous answering these types of questions as we always worry about the equipment being stolen.  But these guys were savvy enough to know that the $3500 we paid for the dingy and 20 HP motor was a great deal.  They explained that it would cost a lot more here in Panama.

Then these guys in a panga pulled up to the bar an asked if we wanted lobsters for dinner.  We told them we would take four of them.  Philip told us they would come to the boats if they were successful at catching our dinner.

And who knew pigs would go for a swim to find and eat a coconut?

Then it was time (again – like this is the 10th round) to work on the 2.5 HP engine.  Dave says if its three o’clock in the afternoon – must be time to rebuild the carb.  If this cleanout of the carburetor doesn’t work, then we will just have to get a replacement carb.  Yet again, Dave finds that the needle valve is stuck.  He lubricated it but good this time…

Meanwhile, the rain started, but that didn’t stop Ishmael from returning with his son and the fruit he promised us this morning.  We bought two enormous bunches of bananas, a big papaya, some limes, ginger, and a coconut for $6 USD.  Then they came aboard for a tour of the boat.  Ishmael was fascinated by the engine as he is apparently a mechanic.  And he watched Dave work on the outboard for a bit as he’s probably never seen a four stroke engine here.  He asked if Melissa had a t-shirt for his wife, and she gave him an old one she doesn’t wear.  Then they offered to take our trash off the boat, for which Dave gave them another dollar, and Ishmael then headed out to sell Wanuskewin some fruit as well.

By this time Philip showed up with his laptop computer and asked Mike if he had any movies he could copy.  And indeed Mike and Holly were able to give him 60 movies in English.  We also gave him a science fiction book for young adults that we happened to have aboard.

The fishermen showed up back in town around 5pm.  Sure enough they had managed to snag us four lobsters.

We paid $15 USD for the batch of 4.  Here we are in the middle of nowhere and we still have yet to need any local currency.  In fact, none of us even know what the local currency is because dollars are accepted so readily, and many ATMs will dispense dollars.

We handed them off to Mike to be cleaned.

He broke off a tentacle and used it to clean out their digestive system before separating the bodies from the meaty tails.

Then it was time to figure out how to deal with the coconuts we bought from Ishmael earlier in the day.  He told us they were young coconuts – only good for coconut water.  He explained we should use a bread knife to get them open.  So Mike gave it a try.  Mike 0, Coconut 1.  Not unlike the conch from a couple of days ago.

Dave says that there is a way to solve this problem.  You want the 3/8” or the 1/2“ bit?

This resulted in coconut guts flying everywhere.

The three coconuts netted us 2 quarts of coconut water.  Mixed with rum and ice.   Mmmmmmm.  Not a bad sunset drink.

As we were getting reading to cook the lobsters, another dugout canoe pulled up.  A gentleman and his daughter.  His name was Kennedy.  They talk about him in our guidebooks.  Apparently anyone who stays here longer than a few hours gets to meet him.  He pulled up alongside and because we had the generator running, the generator out hull was spewing water and promptly SOAKED his teenage daughter.  He explained in Spanish that she had a school assignment, and needed some pictures off their camera printed, but their computer was broken.  His daughter unwraps a soaking wet purse and pulls out the camera – which fortunately had managed to stay dry.  We told them to come aboard!

We pulled the SD card out of the camera and put it into Dave’s laptop.  Turns out the SD card was smaller than the SD card slot and the computer promptly swallowed the card.  Oooops.  Took us a while to get the card out.  Meanwhile Mike went back to Wanuskewin and got a universal SD card reader.

When we finally got the card out, Melissa was able to crop and print the photos of his daughter on our printer.  The daughter was happy but mostly embarrassed by having her father drag her along to have the gringos help them out.

Kennedy told us that tomorrow we must come to his farm and he would have lemons and cilantro for us.  He offered up bananas too, but we already have a ton of those from Ishmael.  With all the hullabaloo finally dying down for the night, it was time to focus on those lobsters.  We steamed them for 2 minutes to get them partially cooked.  Then Mike butterflied them, coated them in butter, salt, and pepper to get them ready for the grill.

After Dave grilled them, they were wonderful.  At this point we decide another episode of Tales of the Gold Monkey was needed.  Meanwhile we had left a few lights on in the cabin.  BIG MISTAKE.  Because what we found later was that every bug in the bay decided to infest the boat.  It took us another couple of hours with a can of raid combined with the wet/dry vacuum to get rid of them.  There were so many of them they had even managed to infest the INSIDE of our wedding picture frame, and Melissa had to disassemble it from the glass front to get the bugs out.  Bleck.

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