We Traded Our Minivan For A Panga



Back in the states, which honestly feels like a very long time ago, we had a minivan.  Here in Panama we have a panga, a small boat.  Our panga was made in Panama City by CaribePro in 2006.  Its 25′ long, 7′ wide, weighs 1,300lbs (empty), has a 100 gallon fuel tank, a bazillion fishing rod holders, down-rigger set up (for fishing), live well or bait well tank, and currently has a 115hp Suzuki 4-stroke outboard motor on it and has a top speed of about 33 mph.  The boat can easily carry more than a ton, if not two, and has lots of storage compartments for keeping life jackets, the anchor, rope, tools, drinking water and naughty children.

The boat is equipped with GPS, which is very necessary in this area for this newbie due to the coral, rocks and other very shallow areas even in open water.  Its common to be going along in 80′ deep water and all of a sudden its 3′ deep, not an island anywhere near us and only 3′ deep.  I really watch the GPS closely while I learn the area, it points out areas of shallow water and coral.  People, mainly gringos, commonly rip the prop off their motor or even worse, destroy the lower end of their motor.  Real quickly you can do $500-$4000 in damage just by not knowing the water in which you are treading through.  I bought a spare prop for our boat, I keep it on the boat with tools, just in case.  Its also very hard to get boat parts here, people in town do sell parts but usually only cheap common parts, like a stainless steel hinge for a door or something, if we need a part for our motor for example, I would order it from the US, pay 22% import taxes, a ton for shipping and pray it gets here or someone, like you reading this right now, could fly down here and put it in your suitcase.  ;)  Or go down to the other lagoon, down a jungle river where a guy sank his boat and motor and it happens to have the same engine, so many of the parts are still good (this is what we did when we got here).

Honestly its stressful for someone like me, who has only been boating for 19 years… I mean days, 19 days, to boat these waters, dock in town while all of the locals watch, sometimes hitting the dock a little too hard, other times being about 6′ away.  Hello humbleness, goodbye pride.  As as soon as that pride pops its little head up again, bam!  Misjudged that water and/or dock.  I’m blessed the locals have been very nice to me and my learning to boat.  I love to ask them for boating tips every time I pull in – they usually have some really good ones too.  Like, don’t hit the dock like that, or hire a water taxi, or maybe swim next time – just kidding, they really do have good tips and they have always been very gracious with me.




It is very common here for boats to be sunk overnight due to heavy rain.  It can rain 20″ in one night and most boats are equipped with a bilge pump (a pump that pumps water out of the bottom of the boat) but with that much rain, it simply can’t keep up or the battery powering the pump goes dead.  Our boat is what they call, self-bailing.  It has a hole on each side of the boat just above the water line that allows the water to drain out from the deck.  It also is a double hull design, a hollow cavity or space that is sealed but contains a bilge pump just in case you get water down in there.  We can sleep easy at night knowing it will stay on top of the water as opposed to under the water.




A safe minivan for a family on the water.  We are thankful for our boat.  Yes we’ve had our ups and downs but through the downs we have met a ton of people, through the ups we actually arrived were we set out to go – all in all a good boat.



Mario (left), Ken (right) both of these guys are great guys, they live very close to us.  Interesting fact: Mario says he has 3 dozen brothers and sisters in Panama, he said his dad really got around.  When we traveled to Almirante with Mario, pretty much every person we met or saw, he was related to.  Mario is a great guy.



One very interesting thing about the boat is what it does to the kiddos.  Cruising along at 25ish mph, in the waves, wind, salt spray and motor noise.  Our two youngest seem to find this calming and take this opportunity to take a nap, on the dry bags, floor of the boat, on life jackets or any other fiberglass surface they find.


Right before she fell asleep.


No joke, Bella is totally asleep.


Ethan totally out.


Bella again, seriously totally asleep, at this point I arrived home with her and she had been asleep for at least 1/2 hour.


The kiddos are getting more and more used to boating, helping dock the boat, tying knots, roping to docks and outboard motor repair… ok, maybe not that part, yet.


















When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; Isaiah 43:2

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  Mark 4:35-41

As believers we also have authority over creation.  Sometimes, in rough or unknown waters I feel waves of fear, but then I remember, God You called us here, God our lives are in your hands to do with what you wish, God, please calm the storm – and I have seen Him calm the waters, and He surly has calmed my fears.  Praise You God for Your protection and provision.  We truly love You an want to serve You only.


  1. Steve Madore
    Apr 19, 2012

    I admire your adventuresome drive. Just think though you could be doing a 9 to 5 in some cubicle and commuting every day……nahh!
    Looks like the kids are very happy with the big adventure, as it shows in their photos filled with smiles.
    Enjoy the peaks and learn from the valleys, what a cool way to experience life.

  2. Grandma
    Apr 19, 2012

    Hi!! Oh how I love your blogs. It looks like the kids are really enjoying your new adventure. Please keep us informed as you have been ,it keeps us closer and it’s so interesting.Its so fun learning about different cultures. Love you &praying for you .Blessings. Grandma

  3. Melissa Davis
    Apr 19, 2012

    Love that the kids have found the joy of napping on a boat!! Seriously one of my very favorite things to do….the sound of the boat motor…the waves….the ocean air…who needs pillows and blankets?? (=
    It is great to get to hear about not just the big picture parts of your lives but also the little details of your daily activities. Thank you guys for sharing!

  4. Slim
    Apr 20, 2012


  5. Jerilyn Braskett
    Apr 23, 2012

    I am so thankful for Crockfords and now your communication with all of us. If Hannah comes down….I’ll definitely send a propeller or something down with her for your boat!

  6. Janet Kinser
    Apr 24, 2012

    Dear Bobby and Shirlene, Ellie, Bella and Ethan. It is a great treat to keep up with you through your marvelous writing and pictures. It is such a privilege praying for your family, and I want you to know I will keep it up. Love and miss you! Janet

  7. Nicole
    May 2, 2012

    your pictures are wonderful…the kids and i have loved looking at them :)

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