Rough with the smooth.

The sprawling ‘Punta Alegre’.

6th February 2023

Dolphin Bay (North), Bocas Del Torro, Panama – Linton Bay, Central Panama, Panama via Gallego Cays & Puerto Alegre, Bocas Del Toro, Panama

In life we are told to take the ‘rough with the smooth’ and this raises all sorts of questions. Is it due to life being simply difficult where we’ve got to be conditioned to some level of pain; or is it because we should appreciate the good times after having difficult ones; or is it about contrast where should try and take enjoyment from everything we are given?

In trying to understand this saying, Ruffian was pounded by rain while sitting in near splendid isolation, surrounded by mangroves and in perfectly flat water. The rain however stopped all play and all we could do was look on, get cold and feel oppressed by the grey cloud. When the rain started to clear we luxuriated in the warm sun as the grey sky transitioned to bright blue after, literally, covering Ruffian with every colour in the rainbow. Without the rain we never would have had the rainbow.

Sailing south with Free Spirit we headed towards the ocean. The protected flat water of the Bocas Del Toro, with its countless islands and hidden reefs, gave way to wind that propelled Ruffian along and a swell that had been pushed all the way from Africa. Out at sea Ruffian rolled, water splashed on the deck and the engine could remain silent. This swell pushed us into a dead-end bay, where protection seemed scant and we resigned ourselves to a rolly night at anchor.

The tiny spit we were planning on anchoring behind looked even smaller in real life and we nosed our way into the shallows almost touching the reef. As we set the anchor, just meters from our stern the swell swept by leaving Ruffian still and silent. Without the roll outside we wouldn’t appreciate the protection we found inside.

Within moments of stopping we were inundated with ulu’s full of smiling children all excited to invite us to their farms and villages, wanting to practice their schooled English and laughing at our kindergarten Spanish. Among all this chatter best friends Cigaro and Fredilo resolved to take us under their care and into the forest.

Fredilo was all smiles as he swapped from his 1 boy powered ulu into Brock. Like all teenage boys he had 1 setting which was full on, on, and Brock, under his teenage command hurtled down waves and up a tiny hidden river. With every wave the smile on his face grew and we’re sure his mind was spinning on how to get his ulu to go just as fast.

The dense jungle opened up to crops, and in their bare feet our new friends flew up the hills, where we, clod in our high-tech hiking boots, slipped and fell all over the place. Entering the village we were paraded about like prize bulls where every window in every hut was filled with a welcoming inquisitive face, each of which belonged to one of Fredilo’s relatives.

Leaving our friends and the village behind we made our way to the school that the children had been so proud of. The jungle surrounded us but the muddy path had been replaced by a paved route that snaked its way over hills, through swamps and around trees. All along this footpath superhighway every walker stopped to talk and everyone had a useful profession, from the boatbuilder to the baker or from the military to the mayor. The miles flew by on this paved path but without the slippery jungle those paved miles would have been painful.

Our time in the Bocas was drawing to a close and we were hoping to take the ‘least bad’ weather window to get east. Punching our way out to sea Iain slowly grew a deep shade of green and even Fiona, with her usual cast iron stomach, turned a lighter shade of ‘apple blossom’. The sea looked like it was at war with itself as the swell battled against the current and the wind chop battled against Ruffian, all while we battled against the clock to reach harbour before the wind built and turned even more against us.

Ruffian bucked and kicked over the waves making life on board difficult and every time Fiona was able to venture below to find some food Iain promptly ate it and then regurgitated it up all over poor Ruffian. He watched as stew, then second-hand water, then bile, erupted and sloshed about before being washed away by all the green water.

After what felt like an eternity, we finally entered harbour and as quickly as we had turned green we turned hungry. Tucking into anything edible and drinking sweet cold water felt luxurious. It wouldn’t have been quite so amazing without having previously waved goodbye to the contents of our insides.

We’ve certainly taken the ‘good with the bad’ but the questions still persist. The bad times offshore have started to condition us to some of the tough miles Infront of us, the contrast in everything we have seen has grown our appreciation there is even good in the bad and we’ve also managed to take enjoyment all that had been dealt to us. *

* Apart from maybe seeing breakfast, lunch and dinner multiple times.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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