Welcome to Island Life

Our last post was uploaded in the central square park in Bocas, tethered 3G to my cell phone, for all you technology geeks.  Soon after that we took care of many errands and headed back to our boat.  We loaded up and headed out.  We were feeling good, beautiful weather, fairly smooth sea, sunburned but relaxed, and then it happened – the boat motor all of a sudden went from 5,000RPM to 3,000RPM, then hesitated, to put it in technical terms, the boat motor was unhappy.  At this point, honestly, Shirlene and I weren’t stressed, only one of our children was feeling quite stressed, thinking we were going to die, I won’t mention any names, I’ll just say this, she is the oldest one. ;)

I cut back the throttle and it seemed to run fine, no problems, no warning lights, fuel tank was full… but the fuel bulb did feel like it didn’t have much fuel in it, this was suspicious.  I was thinking fuel pump, clogged fuel line or clogged fuel filter.  We continued to limp along at about 10MPH instead of our normal (if you can call it that since we’ve used the boat, um, well, one day) 30MPH.  We were happy, I was wondering if we would really make it at this point, of course we were praying and a great sense of peace fell over all of us, we were ready to see what God would do.  We limped along for about 15 more minutes, about 60% home, had to go slower and slower until finally the engine quit.  I didn’t even try to restart it, this was God’s will and we were happy to see where He wanted to lead.

I had a VHF marine radio that I brought from home and remembered from the previous day seeing many others with radios set to channel 68.  Before coming to Panama I registered on the BEN (Bocas Emergency Network), with no intention of using it I just thought it was a good way to get to know people during the registration process.  If you remember, the day before the boat motor seized and we got to meet a ton of people from the community, go all over and learn the area – it was quite a blessing.  Well, I put a call out on channel 68, “I said hello my name is Bobby Wood, BEN40, our family just moved here, me, my wife and 3 kiddos, we were returning from Bocas and our boat motor has failed, is there anyone out there who can give us a hand?”  Within seconds there were about five responses, four gringos and Mario, the mechanic from the day before, all offering to help.  Within about 15 minutes a nice gringo gentleman, Brent, was there in his boat.  He was great with the kids, teaching them how to tie a knot, hooked up to us and towed us to Mario.  He even slowed to show us some large schools of fish, dolphins and jelly fish.

We arrived at Mario’s and Mario was quick to help guide the limp boat into his garage on the water.  We moved our shopping bags and us into Brent’s boat and Brent gave us the grand tour of the lagoon.  Pointing out houses, boats, landmarks, etc. and inviting us to a big shindig put on by an Austrian couple that run a little restaurant in the lagoon.  During our tour Mario radioed back, he said everything looks good, the problem was we ran out of gas, he put 21 gallons in it and it runs like a champ again.  There were multiple factors to us running out of gas; 1) the fuel gauge always says full 2) I knew the previous owner Danny, a great guy, who owns the house we are staying in, just filled the 100 gallon tank before he sold me the boat.  So, what happened?  Well, there is something here that locals do that we, as Americans, are more used to our government doing – redistribution of wealth.  The fuel was stolen – probably when the boat was sitting at the end of the dock.  One side note here, Mario put 21 gallons of fuel in our boat that he got from Ernie, a Panamanian that runs a little store around the corner from us, Mario said I just needed to stop by and pay Ernie some time, who filled the boat with 1 gallon milk jugs that he siphons from other containers – I love it!

We stopped by Mario’s to get the boat but he apparently left to go somewhere so Brent dropped us off at our dock and we hauled our shopping booty up the hill to the house.  Later on that night I heard Bella (our dog here) barking up a storm so I headed out to see, ran down the hill, and there was Mario delivering our boat.  I gave Mario a ride back to his house on the water and headed back home.  I really like Mario, not because he can fix boats, but I like that he, like many of the locals here, are laid back, pretty transparent, all about relationships, and I haven’t found an untouchable subject with him.  Please pray for Mario and his family to come to know Jesus.

The next day, 11:30am, we headed out to meet Brent in the bay to follow him to the local shindig.  We arrived at Rana Azul (Blue Frog) Restaurant to meet the Austrians, Joseph and Marie.  Joseph was there meeting each person at the dock, super jolly, a smile from ear to ear, loved the kids and was an awesome host with his wife.  After that people started to trickle in, maybe somewhere around 50 or more people, pretty much all gringos from all over the world, the US, South Africa, Australia, Canada, UK, all over.  They live from right around the corner to up to an hour away and most of them come to Rana Azul every Sunday.  We were for sure the youngest people there and the South Africans were the second youngest, then quite a gap.  The people were very friendly, all sorts of characters, with very interesting backgrounds, from the Australian guy that sold his life on eBay, wrote a book about it, Disney bought it and then he went through his bucket list, 100 things in 100 weeks, where he discovered this place in Panama, to of course the Austrian Couple, railroad engineer, former doctors, nurses, KKK members, etc.  One interesting thing was the fact most, if not all of them, knew we broke down the day before and had to be reduced.  One of the guys there told me he was watching us from his binoculars after we radioed in.  Jokingly, I asked him if he saw me pee over the side of the boat (i had to go very bad, lots of water + long boat ride = potty break), he replied straight faced, yes, yes I saw that and he was not joking.  I said hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go, he totally agreed, and I think it was kind of a bonding experience for us.

After going back home and dropping off the family I drove the boat over to Ernies to pay our fuel bill.  Ernie is a great guy, we talked for about an hour, about his life, met his wife and Kevin his son, his parrot, saw his store and learned more about the culture and people of Panama.

The next day our plan was to head into Almirante to get some much needed supplies.  I headed over to Ernies with the girls by boat to get some more fuel for the generator and mower.  Ernie showed the girls how he feeds the fish dog food each day and calls them in by banging on the post of the dock.  As soon as he did a ton of every kind of fish came in, amazing colors, shapes and sizes, just another reminder, we can never top God’s amazing creation, Praise You God.

While I was there I got a call on the radio, my call sign is BEN40, 40 because 7 was taken and I thought is was a fitting number considering Noah built and ark and it rained for 40 days and nights – he survived so 40 is a pretty good number I think.  Anyway, it was our neighbors, Ken and Vonnie, who we were going to go to Almirante with, they said they couldn’t go because Mario’s baby was sick.  From Ernie’s I headed over to Mario’s to see if there was something we could do for the baby.  I called for Mario and asked him if his baby was sick, he said yes and he needed to take him to the hospital.  I told him Shirlene was a nurse and I was a wannabe doctor, maybe we could help.  He hoped right into the boat and said lets go.  We headed home, up the hill and Shirlene took a look at this little guy who looked like he just had some sort of virus.  Shirlene checked him out, apparently Mario didn’t give much credit to my “wannabe doctor” status and preferred Shirlene’s real RN degree, I’m not hurt… that much.  ;)  After comforting Mario that his baby seemed like he was on the mend I mentioned we were heading into Almirante to do some shopping.  I asked Mario if he needed anything and he said ok, I’ll go with you.  Ok, great.  We picked up Mario and headed to Almirante, about 25 minutes away by boat.  He showed me where to go and not go with the boat, lots of coral reef, rocks and other hidden dangers in these waters that we must learn or we will have many more rescues.

We headed to the fuel station to fill the tank, then off to Piti’s dock, a friend of Mario where he will watch the boat.  Mario, who used to live in Almirante and seemed to know everyone showed us where to shop.  We first hit the Chino store (as they call them here with a Chinese person owns the store, which they own about 95% of them, Panamanians have a hard time understanding the Chinese being so business and money focused, they can’t relate), got most of what needed, then to the Indigenous store who sells fresh fruit, then another Chino store packed to the gills with stuff, then another Chino store.  We also needed to meet a young lady to sign our internet contract.  She was having car trouble so we packed up the boat and headed to a restaurant that had boat parking, ate lunch and waited for here there.  We ate lunch and watched as some “officials” / snorkelers searched from things related to a boat accident 3 days previous, where one boat hit another and a man was killed.  About halfway through lunch, the internet woman showed up, I offered a partially eaten plate the kids had not finished and she gladly accepted and finished it off.  She was very nice and hopefully we will have communications within a few days at our home.

The kids loved the drain holes in the restaurant down to the water below.  They were taking rice and other leftovers and feeding the huge number of fish below.

We headed back, dropped off Mario, back to our house, packed our loot up the hill, Ethan down for a nap, Shirlene unpacking and the girls and I headed down to go for a swim.  On the dock I looked into the water wondering if it was safe to swim there.  Since being here I have not seen anyone around this area swimming, not sure why.  As I looked I saw big jellyfish (which don’t have tentacles, so they do not sting), little ones (that do sting), coral, sea urchins and sting rays.  The girls wanted to swim badly but I just wasn’t sure.  We grabbed sticks poking them into the water to get things to move around and to get the sting rays to move.  Soon after I spotted a large cayuco which seemed to be heading to our dock, sure enough, he was parking at our dock, I was friendly wondering what he needed.  He tied off and introduced himself, Gene.  And then I recognized him from my previous scouting trip and was so excited to see him.  Gene is one of the very very few Ngobe Bugle Christians in the area, he has been a Christian for 12 years along with his family.   We talked for quite a while, about his life, his family, how God called us there, etc.  Gene raises Brahma cattle for meat, chickens for meat and eggs, horses since he does a lot of horseback riding on his 78 hectares (acres are about 2.5x per hectare), he’s a builder, lumber cutter (an amazing skill to cut perfectly straight dimensional lumber with a chainsaw though wood that is so hard it has to be predrilled before nailing and commonly breaks drill bits).  I never get tired of the feeling the Holy Spirit gives me when finding another brother or sister in Christ -  praise You God for drawing Your people together.  We have plans to get together soon.  Oh and by the way, no its not really safe to swim off the dock there because of the many dangers we observed – confirmed by Gene.

Another day in Panama.  Ethan says bye bye.  ;)


  1. Andilee
    Apr 3, 2012

    Praise God!! Thank you for the update. So wonderful to see your smiling faces. :-) Knuckles Ethan!

  2. Janelle
    Apr 3, 2012

    Amazing stories of God’s faithfulness and the relationships He’s planned! I am thrilled to read every word! And each of the people – wish I could put a photo with each name. So excited for people like Mario and Gene to get to know you and you, them!
    We love you dearly, and think you all look so healthy and great in the sun! Way to trust God with the “mysterious” gasoline disappearance and the quitting engine. You are such problem-solving couple! Happy Anniversary to the most amazing Shirlene and Bobby and family!

  3. Paul Bardzik
    Apr 3, 2012

    Bobby, we real all of your updates , thank you for the insights of how you & family are open to the Lord’s work. The photos are wonderful. God Bless and watch over you and yours.
    Uncle Paul

  4. Bonnie C
    Apr 3, 2012

    I so look forward to reading these updates. Thank you so much for taking the time to write them. As always, so far, smiles all around; ocassionally wide eyes of wonder and surprise.

  5. Paula & David
    Apr 4, 2012

    Love, love, love reading about your exciting adventures. Sounds like you are meeting some very interesting people and we love how you look at every challenging situation, as a way to meet people. So great. we hope you find a safe swimming hole to cool down in. Such a tease having that beautiful water all around you and you can’t swim in it. Thanks for all of the pictures too, it’s so great to get a visual of where you are and what you are doing. I love the sun kissed cheeks! Much love, hugs and kisses to each of you from the Caggiano’s. xoxox

  6. Matt Wooley
    Apr 4, 2012

    Thanks for the time you put into this document. I am always exited to hear about your next adventure.
    Sandi and I continue to pray for you, Shirlene and family to see the path Jesus has laid out for you there
    Our love,


  7. Calvin
    Apr 4, 2012

    Count me among those who are loving reading all your blog updates! It’s a great adventure and a wonderful work the Lord has opened for you.

    • Sandy
      Apr 4, 2012

      Thank you Bonnie and Bobby it is so wonderful hearing of all the things happening to the Woods, seeing the pictures and realizing the faithfulness of God in their lives, they are in our prayers. Sandy

  8. Jon
    Apr 4, 2012

    Y’all are moving so fast on this thing that I can hardly keep up! It seems like you just decided to go.


    Thanks for the updates!

  9. Diane Hanson
    Apr 4, 2012

    Hi Bobbie and Shirlene. It has been soooo fun to read about your adventures in Panama. I look forward to reading your reports and try to visualize every step. I tell you, I’m not sure I’d survive the termite nest and wasp nest and all the other bugs. Uff I pray for continual guidance and protection for your sweet family. You definitely are a blessing to all.

  10. Janet Kinser
    Apr 6, 2012

    Happy Anniversary, Bobby and Shirlene! I got a card all ready, but no one knows how to mail it to you. I am praying for a marvelous year in your marriage and for blessings. I love your writing, Bobby. I hope you save it for the book. It is delightful to join you in your family adventures–you describe things so well, it seems like we can join in. Hello, Ellie and Bella and Ethan! We miss you all. Easter will not be the same without you–I will think of you at the Sunrise service. Love, Janet

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