Bocas del Toro

Chapter 11: The Time We Enjoyed Getting Lost at Sea

Theme Song: “Rescue Me,” Fontella Bass

I was drenched in sweat from digging heliconia plants on our island, so the rough seas and accompanying breeze were a welcome change on what should have been a 15-minute boat ride back to Bocas Town. About midway there, though, our motor stopped as it slammed into a wave.

After several attempts to restart the motor we called for help. The sky was so beautiful we didn’t mind the wait. Virgilio called into town for a rescue boat. Pictured here are the actual photos I texted to my wife, Barb, back in Michigan while we were lost at sea.

The motor on our boat quit, but the sky was beautiful (notice the moon in the picture)

There was no sign of the rescue boat, but even with the darkness approaching, the balmy air and soothing rhythm of the waves kept us in good spirits.

Darkness approaching, and no sign of a rescue boat

Soon it was pitch black except for the faint lights of Bocas Town in the distance. It felt like something between fact and fantasy as we bobbed in the dark balmy Caribbean.

The distant lights of Bocas Town

The rescue boat searched for over an hour without success, despite our repeated attempts to wave them down with our flashlight apps. Just as we were getting hungry, Virgilio was able to get the motor started! Yay!

It took us less than ten minutes to make it to Bocas Town. We celebrated with burgers and fries!

As it turned out, the rescue boat had run out of gas looking for us and was stranded. Virgilio headed out to sea and successfully rescued the rescue boat!

Sometimes our project feels a bit like being lost at sea, but we continue to be optimistic. Hopefully we will have a happy ending just like in the fairytales.

Have you ever been stranded on a boat? How did it end?​

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18 responses to “Chapter 11: The Time We Enjoyed Getting Lost at Sea”

  1. Dave Trayers says:

    Several times I’ve been rescued and been the rescuer. Spending summers on a large lake in Maine as a kid, we’d rescue boaters at least monthly. Usually they ran out of gas, but sometimes we’d pull sailboats back up the lake when they couldn’t sail upwind or got becalmed. I once rescued a canoeist that couldn’t make it back upwind using my windsurfer. And, at least once a summer, we ourselves would run out of gas or the engine would quit and we’d have to be towed back to the cabin.

    Once when I was 7 or 8, we were fishing offshore of Massachusetts and the engine quit. It was a 18′ fishing skiff with an outboard from 1950’s. We didn’t have a radio and this was before cellphones were even imagined. We couldn’t catch the attention of some distant boaters and started to worry. Fortunately, after 30 minutes or so, dad got the engine running again, but could only get it to run in reverse! The gear selector had broken. We had to go backwards 3 miles into the harbor. I remember having to constantly bail with a bucket because the waves came in over the stern. Once we got close to the marina, we all sat facing the stern to make it look more normal so hopefully no one would notice.

    • Dan Behm says:


      I thoroughly enjoyed your story; especially the part about going backwards for three miles and trying to make it look normal as you pulled into the marina. I could imagine what it might have been like growing up in Maine near the ocean. I love nostalgia and your story was like going back in time. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope others will do the same so we can all enjoy reading their experiences.


  2. CJ Lucke says:

    You could have floated over to Drunken Monkey and we would have helped you! Just yell really loud next time and your neighbor will hear you.

  3. Dan Behm says:

    Hi CJ,

    It is so cool to hear from you! I will make a point of stopping to see you the next time I am in Bocas. I have heard about the Drunken Monkey, but have yet to check it out.

    I just looked you up on Google Maps and am shocked at how close we are to one another. I also found a video and absolutely love what you are doing in Bocas. I think the Drunken Monkey is going to be one of my new hang outs.

    And, you are right, the area where we were floating in the dark was very close to where you are located.

    Looking forward to meeting you and Jess.


    • Donna Ray says:

      I too am a neighbor living in Bocas town and in Dolphin Bay. May I suggest you get a vhf radio for your base and the boat. Our local community has an excellent BEN (Bocas Emerg. Network) with a large amount of 24/7 listeners and responders.
      We look forward to your enhancement of our beautiful archipelago.

      • Dan Behm says:

        Hi Donna,

        What a great suggestion! Thank you!

        We will make a point of getting at least one vhf radio.

        Talking about safety, it sure is exciting to see the new hospital on Isla Colon completed. When I was there a couple weeks ago we drove by it and it is very impressive. I have heard they will be opening soon.

        Thanks for the warm welcome to the archipelago. I will look forward to meeting you sometime soon.


        PS – We took one of our investors on a boat ride through Dolphin Bay two weeks ago and saw many dolphins. He was very excited to see them.

        • Donna Ray says:

          Our little corner of the world is quite spectacular in so many ways. We look forward to you and “our” future guests falling in love with Bocas too. There is a multi-cultured community here, your enhancement and celebration of that will benefit all.
          I look forward to visiting you.

  4. Scott Bolinder says:

    Great story Dan. My boat adventures mostly happened over two summers I worked as a “boat boy” at a family camp on Lake Pleasant in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains in upstate NY. Camp-of-the-Woods was a wonderful place to work in the summers as a young college student. One of my responsibilities was to transport three meals a day to a girls camp owned by Camp-of-the-Woods and located on a small island in the middle of the lake. Lunch and dinners were not so bad but early morning runs for breakfast transport provided some unforgettable adventures of being “lost at sea!” The fog enveloping the warm lake on a cool, brisk, mountain morning was often so dense you felt like you could cut it. I’d head out in my large “row boat” with a 25HP engine at the back and loaded with hot food in containers. Then is was a combination of luck, faith, perseverance, and patience that would usually combine to help me avoid crashing into something unintended or eventually find the island. The first time, it was an adventure. By the end of the second summer, I was very happy to close the book on foggy runs to Tapawingo! But looking back, it did help forge a certain resilience in me that has served me ever sense. Plus, I could always count on having plenty to eat!

    • Dan Behm says:

      Hi Scott,

      I enjoyed reading your story. Isn’t it interesting the emotions we feel when when we stir up memories from years gone by. All of these life experiences, including “food runs to Tapawingo”, are part of what makes us who we are. Thinking about this makes me realize how important it is to put our children and grandchildren in a position to build their own special memories.

      Thank you for sharing with us.


  5. Mike Rampanelli says:

    My first boat was a 20-some year old 19′ Four Wins trihull deckboat. I lived on a small, private lake in Cedar Springs, MI. I was so excited to take it out and show it off, I invited some friends over to go fishing. One guy brought his 2 young children. We drove the boat to several locations before deciding to go to the farthest end of the lake. After fishing for a while, we decided to go back home. Not very far into the ride, the engine stopped. I couldn’t get it started again. The battery eventually died from trying to start it. I had just purchased the boat, so I didn’t know if this was normal or not. The adults got into the water and started swimming the boat back to shore. It was at this time I realized that I should keep oars in the boat. After an hour or 2, we were half way across the lake. Finally, a nice neighbor noticed us struggling and towed us back to shore. Lessons learned: Get another battery (it only had 1). Get oars. Don’t take friends out until you have some history with the boat.

  6. Dan Behm says:

    Hi Mike,

    What a fun story! And one that most of us can relate to.

    When I call myself a boater my wife Barb just laughs. That is because she knows about the time we launched our boat neglecting to put in the plug (the boat was starting to fill with water before we realized what was happening), the time I hit a sandbar going full speed (people said they could see the sand flying into the air from across the lake), or the time I was rescued in the middle of Silver Lake after getting caught in a Michigan thunder storm (complete with hail) in my Hobey Cat sailboat.

    Thank you for sharing.


  7. Dave says:

    Just like there are no 13th floors in many buildings. You might think about skipping Chapter 11 when posting about your startup business ????. My heart skipped a beat when skimming my email.

  8. Dan Behm says:

    Hey Dave,

    It has been a long time! Good to here from you!

    The next posts will be much more positive. My previous posts were so positive that I felt I needed to add a dose of reality.

    By the way. We are looking for investors if you are interested ha ha.


  9. Donna Ray says:

    I too am a neighbor living in Bocas town and in Dolphin Bay. May I suggest you get a vhf radio for your base and the boat. Our local community has an excellent BEN (Bocas Emerg. Network) with a large amount of 24/7 listeners and responders.
    We look forward to your enhancement of our beautiful archipelago.

  10. Brad Spurlin says:

    Dan –
    One summer while vacationing with 3 families at Dale Hollow Lake I had sent Rena and the kids with everyone else ahead on the Houseboat we had rented as we used my boat to carry all the “extra toys” and supplies. As i was going across the lake, also at sunset, my boat died and came to a dead stop. this was pre-cell phone days.
    As luck would have it – it started to rain and i somehow was able to get my cover over all the supplies and tried to keep my head above the cover to watch for help. Dale Hollow is a very large TVA lake down in TN and KY.

    Couple of hours later, my buddy finally found me floating – towed me to the house boat about 45 minutes away tucked into a nice finger cove.

    Boat would start the entire week – Finally figured out I could start it by using a long screwdriver to bypass the selenoid terminals. So – an entire week on vaca with 1 arm with a screw driver and the other turning the key to get the thing started. (i had a Ski Supreme IB so i could barely reach).


  11. Dan Behm says:

    Hi Brad,

    I am really enjoying these stories. I hope many of our blog followers are enjoying them too.

    That must have been a scary couple hours as you wondered how long it would take for someone to find you. I think we sometimes take our cell phones for granted.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us.


  12. Anonymous says:

    So far I have never been lost at sea although we’ve taken on some pretty good sized swells in Puget Sound. Or the time as new boat owners we smacked into a pylon attempting to dock by Beacon Rock while negociating the strong Columbia River current. Our V hull 20′ closed bow Reinell had a sturdy 8 cylinder engine that got us through every time.
    Do I miss being a boat owner? They say the two best days of a man’s life are the days he buys and sells his first boat. I would have to agree.
    Waiting at Albrook Airport for our flight to Bocas Town, but alas Bocas del Toro is still under construction. Guess we’ll have another extraordinary experience awaiting in our future next time we’re here.

    • Dan Behm says:

      Thanks for your contribution to the blog and have a great time in Bocas Del Toro. I have been told that the weather has been absolutely beautiful the past couple days.

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