This week we purchased a cayuco.  A cayuco is made from a section of a jungle tree, it is hollowed out and shaped into a boat, all with hand tools.  There are a couple Ngobe on each island that seem to have this skill.  Most cayucos have a standard size of about six feet in length, cost $100, but that’s only Ngobe to Ngobe.  If they know they are selling to a gringo, that price doubles, if not triples.  I purchased about a ten foot cayuco that is at least 50% wider then the standard.  This is mainly because I am a gringo, I’m heavier so the boat sits lower in the water and my balance is horrible compared to the locals, so a wider bottom boat helps me in that area, I hope.  Alvaro found me a cayuco and purchased it from the Ngobe builder, so he got the Ngobe price.  Alvaro charged me $180, but I’m guessing Alvaro paid less than that, that’s still way cheaper than gringo price, but higher than Ngobe price.  At every turn the gringo here is seen as a walking wallet, not much I can do about the color of my skin, although I am working on my tan.

On my first time out, I was very wobbly, but I trekked around the bay and a little lagoon near us.  On my trek I met a Ngobe man who came to visit me in the water in his cayuco.  His name is Falco.  I asked him if I could take his picture to show my friends back home, my new friend here in Panama – he was happy to oblige.

In turn he wanted to take my picture.

We spoke there, on the water for almost an hour, of course all of this was in my very broken Spanish.  I learned a lot about Falco, his family and the people in the area.  Quick stats on Falco, he is 45 years old, married, has six kids, four still at home, some chickens, cows, pigs and he really wants a dog.  He is out of work, used to work on a farm doing hand work, he wants to find a job, his wife sells bread and coconut oil for $20 per gallon.  I told him I needed to learn a ton here and he has enthusiastically said he would like to teach me.  First thing he said he could teach me was how to use my cayuco – I guess it was obvious I’m a rookie, maybe it was the super wobbly movements, or the rowing in a circle when I was trying to straight, or when I tipped the cayuco too far and scooped in a bunch of water, whatever it was he must be very observant to pick up on all of those little tell tale signs.

As I rowed through the water I was in awe, starfish, coral, tons of every shape and size of fish, jellyfish, birds dropping from the sky to eat fish, and then I noticed some crazy plants, plants that would instantly disappear when I got near them, I grabbed my camera and tried to get couple of videos of them, while trying not to flip my cayuco and myself into the water:

Here are some more photos from my 1.5 hour tour.

There she is, our cayuco.

By the way, later on in the day I gave Ellie a ride, then Bella – they were scared (so was I, a little, but don’t tell them).  The ocean had gotten rough and it was tough to stay level.  After that Shirlene gave it a try – she did great!  ;)




  1. Seth
    Apr 14, 2012

    Awesome! Praying for God’s continued hand in your new found friendship with Falco.

  2. David Greene
    Apr 14, 2012

    still praying for you and yours! awesome stories btw

  3. Lauralea
    Apr 14, 2012

    Those plants are amazing! Now we know where the creators of Avatar got their ideas! ;)
    So do you sit in your cayuco or do you stand when you paddle? (like in paddle boarding?) Paddle boarding is one of those amazing things I haven’t ever gotten-how they can keep balanced and paddle at the same time?! Either way, blessings on your endeavors, and it is great to hear you are connecting with local folks and loving them with your teachable spirit.

    • Bobby
      Apr 14, 2012

      Mainly sit, especially while paddling, although I have seen some of the Ngobe standing up in the boat while fishing – crazy! Paddle boarding may work really well here, hmmm. How well do they work in waves?

      • Lauralea
        May 17, 2012

        :) I haven’t seen too many folk using the paddleboards in waves unless just paddling into shore, it may be worth a try on calmer days though!

  4. Mom
    Apr 14, 2012

    You make me LOL! You look so cute in your new cayuco! Don’t forget those life vests! … I have to say that… I can’t stop being your Mom =). I love the DAILY blogs! Keep em comin!
    Hugs and kisses!!!

  5. Jennifer
    Apr 14, 2012

    I agree with *Mom…’keep em comin’….everyday! No pressure…well a little ;). I so enjoy sharing in your adventures.

  6. Mike Pomerinke
    Apr 16, 2012

    Hello Wood family! I had the opportunity to read through all your blog posts today. It was such a blessing to hear your stories, see the photos, and watch the videos you have posted. It is wonderful to hear of God’s provision over you during your travels to Panama and the many means He used to introduce you to so many people around your new home. We are praying for Gods continued strength, protection and blessing on all of you. We are also praying for the people that He has brought you to minister to, that their hearts would be open to hear and believe the Gospel.

    Looking forward to reading many more blog posts.

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