Buddy-boating was a term that we had heard used but never fully understood until we left Bocas del Toro. We found ourselves in the fortunate position to have made some really great friends in Laurie and Damon of sailing vessel Mother Jones. We met through our mutual friend, Ish, and were promptly introduced to almost the entire Bocas cruising community thanks to Laurie’s very community-minded networking skills.


When it finally came time for us to prepare to make the move out of Bocas towards the San Blas our mobilizing got them thinking that it would be the perfect timing for them to escape to the San Blas for a bit too. Note: us cruisers can do that, change our plans as we wish because a better plan comes along.


So we agreed to buddy-boat which, quite obviously, is going to roughly the same places as another boat at more or less the same time. It has some awesome advantages to travelling solo as well. For example, Mother Jones doesn’t have an SSB radio on board (which is the long range radio that we use to get all our weather forecasts when we’re away from the internet) but we do so we were able to relay all sorts of weather information to them. Also, we had the annoyance of our lovely mac computer deciding to break just as we left Bocas (hence a loooooooooong gap since the last update!) and the others were not only able to lend us one of theirs but help us get a new one through a visitor they had coming out from the states.


The funny thing is that although we had planned to buddy-boat together we never fully realised how well matched our boats were before in terms of speed. We have quite different boats: we are a 40ft monohull and we need a fair amount of momentum from the wind to get good speeds; they are a 34ft catamaran, cats are usually much faster than monohulls but as they’re not as long as us we tend to balance at about the same speed.


And another joy of buddy-boating is that you always have a friendly face wherever you choose to spend time – even if you’re the only two boats there. We chose to hop from stop to stop on our way down to San Blas and this meant that both boats had a few nights at Escudo de Veraguas, a tiny island just outside the archipelago of Bocas del Toro. However, the weather was lousy and we all got thoroughly fed up and couldn’t wait to leave – which is when you know it’s time for a movie night with your fellow boat.


But, I’d have to say that hands down the Joneses kindest act as our buddy-boat-buddies was when we arrived into Portobello an hour or so behind them having done an all-nighter from Escudo. We’d had a tough passage, rain and squalls and fighting 30knots of wind at Portobello’s entrance. We limped into the bay, dropped the hook and proceeded to hang out all our sodden clothes utterly exhausted. What did our buddies do? They were out at the local restaurant ordering us hot cheeseburgers that they then delivered to us on the boat. Yup – we sure know who are friends are.