No Snakes in the Bed

We have been living at an off-grid eco-retreat in Bocas del Toro for about two months. The owners of the property generously offered safe harbor for Azimuth and room and board for us in exchange for maintenance projects.

No two days are the same, but most include systems checks and projects, delicious dinners and conversations shared with other travelers, swimming or hiking, and catching up on wood turning and sewing projects we missed while on the move.

The house we stay in has several large screened windows and the cheeps and chirps of the jungle surround. Every now and then, we hear an unfamiliar animal noise, and Cypress, Scott, and I will tilt our heads with curiosity. Here’s a taste of the sounds.

One night, big storm clouds rolled in while we were finishing dinner clean-up on the dock. Some scurried to their cabinas and others stuck around to watch it roll in. The sound of the rain is always a delight, especially since our drinking water comes from an on-site catchment system. When yawns became more frequent, we made the soggy hike up to the house.

View of Azimuth and the nightly show of clouds from the dock.

A while later and newly nestled on the couch, a flash of the lights interrupted my late-night research of kombucha techniques. A power surge kicked off the inverter, and we would later find out it fried the internal fuse and created a new list of electrical projects. We went on the porch to watch the lightning and brought a candle to add to the festivity. Our housemates were wide awake too, and we stayed up comforting one of the dogs and counting the time between lightning and thunder. We delayed investigating the power until morning – walking on wet ground when lightning is present should be avoided. The thunder was so loud and we saw several bolts zigzag across the sky. The landscape on the other side of the waterway was frequently illuminated like early dawn.

Sleep eventually pushed us back inside, and Scott nearly stepped on a scorpion.

The species we have nearby isn’t fatal but would hurt for days. He managed to chop its tail off before it scampered out of the house. With the scorpion excitement behind us and the storm still raging, we hopped in bed. Cypress seemed particularly wound up poking around my pillow.

A flash of lightning then illuminated our sweet cat with a snake dangling from her mouth.

Scott grabbed her, the snake dropped on the bed, and another bolt of lightning revealed the x patterns on its back. I swiped it off the bed, put Scott’s glasses on his head, and took over restraining our meowing huntress. Without electricity to power the internet, we had to assume it was poisonous. The deadly fer-de-lance and bushmaster snakes lurk in this jungle. Scott cut his second animal of the night in two, and we finally tucked in for the night. (Some later google searching confirmed this was a harmless-to-us species. What would you do if you found a snake in the bed?!)

We thought of all the critters trying to come in from the rain and then tried not to think of them. In the light of day, we used spare electrical parts to get the system back online and shared stories with the other guests about the eventful night.

As you can imagine, all of this went undocumented. Here are some pictures from our walk down the hill to the dock:

Out there in the jungle, it’s easy to see ourselves as part of nature, rather than apart.

We recently traveled to Virginia to visit friends and family and catch up on some life admin. I expected this sense of closeness with plants and animals to fade a bit and was delighted to find the cicadas and frogs trilling all night here. A toad hopped through the front door and a chipmunk was delivered inside by the family cat Cappucino. The chippy made a quick escape behind a bookshelf, spent a climate-controlled night inside, and was shooed out the next day. Not so different from the jungle.

Traveling along miles of concrete to get from place to place is a bit of a shock (we are moving so fast!) and all buildings feel like fortresses compared to the thatch roofs and wooden or screened walls. We realize how slow and strange our year has been when trying to schedule catch-ups between work schedules and other commitments, and we delight in the casual encounters as neighbors stop by to say hi.

For the moment, we’re a bit stuck here. Protests broke out in Panama the day after we left and blockades on the Pan American highway have led to extreme food and fuel shortages. We’re staying tuned for when to get back to cat and boat.

Published by Ash

Knitter, sailor, and sewist on the move from San Francisco to the Chesapeake Bay aboard a 36' sailboat named Azimuth.

One thought on “No Snakes in the Bed

  1. Great story Ash! It is wonderful that you and Scott are getting time to make your journey to a new home far from San Francisco. I hope you are able to return to Azimuth soon.




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