(published April 2014)
For those familiar with Almirante in the Bocas del Toro Province of Panama, it is the water taxi gateway to Isla Colon and Bocas town, the main town of the archipelago. Almirante is on the Caribbean side of Panama about 35 miles from the Costa Rica border. It is the port home of Chiquita Banana, historic Caribbean Indian dwellings and not so clean streets. Tucked in the corner north of the banana port is a brand new boatyard built on a land fill in the jungle that is quiet, clean, new and efficient. Carl, the manager, operates the Travelift and other yard equipment with the help of his capable staff. The yard was several years in the making as Carl and the owners secured the many permits and jumped through hoops to start a new business in Panama.
A much needed boatyard in this area, Bocas Boatyard offers a full haul out facility and can lift monohulls up to 60 tons and 20 feet wide. Presently, there are no facilities for hauling out catamarans but the owners are planning to offer that service in the future. The yard is equipped to power wash, sand and paint bottoms, remove masts, repair engines and mend rigging. The yard has a nice clean bathroom with shower and storage facilities, and upstairs are offices made from basic marine containers put to good use.
Our haul out in January 2014 was very easy. We have a 44 foot Gulfstar sailboat weighing 13 tons. Carl easily directed his workers and drove the lift, lowering the straps beneath our boat expertly, leveling her, lifting and driving her to the power wash bay. Then, he parked the boat in one of the 25 spaces in the yard (each equipped with a 30 amp electrical terminal and water) and set us up on dry dock.
We inspected and greased all of the through-hull fittings as we waited a day for the staff of workers to sand the bottom and paint it with two coats of bottom paint. Living aboard was an experience, as it always is, climbing up and down the ladder for everything we needed, but we persevered for four nights and got all our work done.
Our suggestion for those venturing into this yard is to bring mosquito coils as the chitras (sand flies) can be a nuisance at dawn and dusk, so it is best to burn the coils in the cockpit. This alleviated the problem. In addition to the good service, the price for two coats of paint, power washing and sanding was well under $2,000.
The facility can accommodate up to 30 boats. You can live aboard while in the boatyard but, if you prefer more luxury, there are a couple of motels in the area where you will be comfortable and air conditioned. The owners are planning to build living quarters in upstairs apartments at the yard but as yet this has not been completed. They are also planning to open a cantina in the very near future.
This is the only boatyard in the entire archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama, with the next closest one being a 36 hour sail to Shelter Bay in Colon. It is certainly appreciated, and a great place for cruisers to do necessary maintenance all year round, as Panama is hurricane free. For more information please check out their website: www.bocasboatyard.com