The kindness of strangers

Just how much data do we need while sailing?

26th January 2023

Gallego Cays, Bocas Del Toro, Panama – Big Bight, Bocas Del Toro, Panama via Bocas Town, Dolphin Bay & Saigon Bay, Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Wherever we wander the welcome we receive seems to paint a picture of the place. Customs and Immigration officers are typically full of helpful advice and owners of waterfront properties whose vista we ‘enhance’ usually shower us with kindness. The Bocas Del Toro have been no different and we have gratefully received the kindness of strangers as they have invited us onto their land, lent us their dogs and allowed us to hoover up their internet.

As soon as the anchor had dug into the mud in Dolphin Bay, we were accepting the kindness of strangers. ‘Des’ motored over to welcome us to his bay, offer use of his dock and invite us to wander around his* property whose grounds stretched far inland and provide a habitat for the Howler Monkeys, Toucans and unknown life that was creating a cacophony of noise.

Stepping foot ashore Iain was bowled over by the wildlife we found. A cute kitten wandered over to him** nuzzled at his feet and instantly Iain was smitten. It would appear that the kitten and Iain had similar mental ages as the kitten purred and Iain giggled as they played chasing games, jumping games and fighting games***. Wild noises however were calling and so Iain was dragged away from his new friend and told resolutely that Frank should stay on land.

Wandering through the forest we could hear the howls of Monkey’s and calls of Toucans. Every rustle of leaves promised Sloths, snakes or leaf cutter ants, but all we saw was verdant green and plants that were perfectly adapted to their environment. Trees grew spikes to keep the wildlife from climbing them and leaves sprouted looking like stick insects (or is that the other way around).

Returning to Ruffian, far to the north of us we spied a hill and had heard that was possible to walk to its peak where we’d be given uninterrupted views of the islands we’d been sailing around and the bays we’d been anchoring in. The catch was that the only way to get the view was to once again rely on the kindness of stranders.

At the base of the hill, we spied a dock where a family was just finishing their lunch and so we gingerly approached. Meekly asking how we could get to the top of the hill, within moments we were we were invited to tie up on the dock, use their paths and take their dog for a walk, all for the price of helping clear their plates away. Instead of following our noses we were told to call ‘Lola’ and then follow her footsteps as she ‘knew the way’.

Taking this briefing seriously ‘Lola’ skipped around finding interesting smells and as we closed the distance on her she led us along paths, up hills and through well-tended gardens. Never once did she lead us astray and we ended up at the fabled viewpoint where she patiently waited while we took in everything that surrounded us.

Thinking that we’d just follow our footprints back to Brock we were somewhat surprised when Lola took off down a steep hill in the opposite direction of home. We blindly maintained our trust and she led us through the forest where Snowy White Hawks soared around us and sloths quietly meandered along the ground. Thanks to the kindness of strangers Lola received a well-deserved petting and we were given a priceless walk.

Returning to the busy town of Bocas the kindness continued. Unpacking 3 tablets, 2 laptops, 2 iPhones and an extension lead the coffee shop knew we meant internet business. Our solitary coffees were delivered and we were left for hours to happily connect to the world. We liked to think that we made the coffee shop look ‘busy’ enticing other customers in and provide a welcoming smile to the few people that eyed us in our temporary ‘office’.

The final act of kindness came from the most unexpected of people. Instead of your usual money lusting cha-chinging lawyer Bocas was home to a lovely lawyer with heart. We needed to get some documents witnessed and instead of charging us the earth he simply told us where the notary was, when they’d be in the office and sent us on our merry way. After mere minutes we paid $0.16 for a copy and a few bucks for a stamp. The lawyer we found was a credit to mankind and was a misnomer to his profession.

Moving away from Bocas and any sign of man ashore we don’t expect to be gifted any kindness. Hot on our heels however is Cerulean and so there is always a kindness in the air. Soon our paths will be diverging and the kindness we have both received here will be repaid enroute to New Zealand (by Cerulean) and Guatemala (by Ruffian).

*Once he’d got the approval of the owner of the house who he was housesitting for.

** Honest. Iain didn’t bait the kitten by inviting it over, playing with it incessantly and giving it the attention that it craved.

*** All the games that Iain tries to play with the ever-patient Fiona.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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