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Wednesday, August 20 2014 @ 12:51 AM EDT

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Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz provides aid to rescue friends lost at sea in Panama

Boats and Sailing Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz had just caught David Buchanan’s major-league debut on Saturday night, but baseball was quickly distanced from his mind. Three of his friends back home in his native Panama were missing after their boat capsized.

Despite the distance, Ruiz was able to aid in the effort, providing financial support to pay for extra search boats.

“Whatever he thought he needed to do, he was going to be able to do it,” Juan Samuel said Tuesday, interpreting for Ruiz.

At game time on Sunday, a game in which Ruiz did not play, only one of the three had been found. By the seventh inning, a second had been taken to safety. After the game, Ruiz got the news that the final friend had been rescued after 40 hours in the water.

All three of Ruiz's friends survived.

Editor's Comment: Dale, Chooch...

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Ludwig Hoffman And The "Stahlratte" - Operating Illegally in Panama?

Boats and Sailing By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - A new source has provided me with additional information regarding attempts by the serial killer Javier Martin to book trips for unsuspecting backpackers who want to travel between Panama's San Blas islands and Cartagena in Colombia, from his jail cell in Panama's La Joya prison, using a smart phone smuggled in by a corrupt prison guard, aboard Ludwig Hoffman's "Stahlratte" (Steel Rat) sailing vessel.

It turns out Ludwig Hoffman might be working illegally in Panama, by using his "Stahlratte" sailing vessel to haul backpackers from the San Blas islands to Cartagena, Colombia. My source tells me "Ludwig Hoffmann is working illegally in Panama," saying "he is a parasite, operating in Comarca Kuna Yala without any permit." I'm currently working to verify and validate this accusation.

Admittedly the Panamanian government is notoriously absent with regards to these sailing vessels that regularly and routinely ferry backpackers from the San Blas islands to Colombia. There is little oversight, no inspectors, and few regulations. The little government presence that exists is notoriously corrupt, as well. Remember Ismael Sagel Lopez, the Port Captain of El Porvenir in the San Blas islands? After Javier Martin murdered the Frenchman Jean Pierre Bouhard, Martin literally drove a little dingy with an outboard motor all the way from Portobelo to El Porvenier, where he paid bribes to Ismael Sagel Lopez to create bogus ownership documents for Jean Pierre Bouhard's catamaran the "Levante." Javier Martin had just shot Jean Pierre Bouhard in the head and thrown his body into the ocean, in order to steal the "Levante." See this article for the details: Panama Port Captain Creates Fake Official Government Documents For Serial Killer.

I am being told Ludwig Hoffman has been operating a commercial sailing operation in the Guna Yala for years, without any permissions or permits to do so. I am currently attempting to contact the lawyer who is representing the interests of the Guna Yala people in these sorts of situations. Several calls have gone to voicemail.

Ludwig Hoffman and his "Stahlratte" sailing vessel will be arriving in Panama on 13 June, and then departing on 17 June for Cartagena, Colombia. I will be advising the lawyer who represents the interests of the Guna Yala people, as well as the Panamanian authorities, that this supposedly "non-commercial" sailing vessel will be stopping in Panama just long enough to pick up backpackers, who pay $510 per person to make the trip. This is the schtick Ludwig Hoffman has posted on his website;

  • "Our Project - SV "Stahlratte" is NOT a commercial sailing-vessel! The owner is a foundation, which was founded in 1984 as a commune and the ships purpose was/is to be a traveling platform for group life/experience. The project is run without any profits and the main issue is the surviving and maintenance of this historic ship.We try to keep it sailing for many people to have fun and good experiences. The crew is entirely composed of volunteers (also backpackers), who work in a rotation system for 3-6 month without being paid. All money earned with guests sailing on "Stahlratte" is exclusively spent for the maintenance of this vessel and the living of the 4-5 crewmembers on board."

Well, that's nice. An all cash business. Sailing around the Caribbean between Panama, Colombia, Cuba, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Belize. Not answering to anyone. And according to Ludwig Hoffman - supposedly "not commercial." I've long suspected there might be sailing vessels hauling backpackers around the Caribbean, using them basically as camouflage to run drugs to the North and money to the South. One thing I've noticed about criminals who get caught, is they immediately tend to accuse others of doing the exact same things they were doing. When I caught Javier Martin trying to arrange passage for backpackers aboard Ludwig Hoffman's "Stahlratte" - he posted an article on his website accusing me of (you guessed it) using a sailing yacht to traffic drugs and launder money. I wonder if the US Navy or the DEA has ever taken a real hard look at the "Stahlratte." Birds of a feather and all that. Nah, it's probably nothing...

And, I'm not stupid. The "Stahlratte" can carry a total of 25 passengers and crew - it's a relatively large boat. Most of the people who are providing me with information about Ludwig Hoffmann and his vessel are also in the business of transporting backpackers from Panama to Colombia, making him their competition. I get it. However he's also the only one who was willing to accept reservations from his buddy, Javier Martin. The rest of the gang saw my reporting, and piled on. So I'm not blind to the fact that this is their opportunity to maybe scoop up some of the people who were going to be riding on the "Stahlratte." It's a cutthroat business.

But here's what floats my boat. If anyone out there every wants to do business with Javier Martin - they can bet that sooner or later I'll find out about it. And then their boat will be the featured centerpiece of a similar series of articles. What Javier Martin is doing is illegal. Consider this to be a public service announcement.

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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Serial Killer Javier Martin's Prison-Based Business Model - Torpedoed!

Boats and Sailing By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - On Friday, 9 May 2014, I wrote and published this article Serial Killer Javier Martin - Now Booking Sailing Trips For Tourists, Using His Cell Phone From Inside Panama's La Joya Prison. Armed with a smart phone, Javier Martin was able to access his websites and email, and was trying to book unsuspecting tourists as passengers on a sailing vessel named the "Stahlratte" (Steel Rat), operated by Ludwig Hoffman.

After the publication of the first article, I was contacted by some of the other sailboat captains who also ferry backpackers from Panama to Colombia. They told me that Ludwig Hoffman thought Javier Martin was innocent, and that he was about the only one of them who would possibly be willing to cooperate with Javier Martin's scheme to make some money from prison.

I created a "throw-away" email address and used it to contact Javier Martin directly. He promptly validated the sailing schedule, told me the fee would be $510 per passenger, and passed me the contact information for Ludwig Hoffman, and told me to contact him directly. Of course, Javier Martin was expecting to get paid a commission for having "recruited" two passengers for Ludwig Hoffman and the "Stahlratte" with a sailing date in mid June from Panama to Cartagena, Colombia.

So I published this follow-up article Ludwig Hoffman - Captain of the "Stahlratte" Sailing Vessel - Thinks Javier Martin Is Innocent. I tried repeatedly however unsuccessfully to contact Lugwig Hoffman via cell phone. All of the calls went straight to voice mail. Meanwhile, Javier Martin continued to post additional information on his website, such as the complete sailing schedule for the "Stahlratte."

Finally, Ludwig Hoffman "woke up" and realized what was going on. We have spent the past few days exchanging email about this situation, which I publish here in full;

  • From: ludwig hoffmann [mailto:kapitaen_hoffmann@hotmail.com]
  • Sent: Friday, May 16, 2014 8:12 PM
  • To: don@panama-guide.com
  • Subject: article about me in your webpage panamaguide
  • dear sir! i have no idea who you are and how you are getting to know what i am doing and thinking and so on as i have never seen you, talked to you nor written anything to you ever. how can you know that i have given permission to anyone to use sailingvessel stahlratte information that is free to see on her website and how can you be so rude and stupid to insult me for all these things without any information nor investigation before as you have never ever tryed to contact me on one of my email adresses nor phonenumbers all easy to find on stahlratte webpage. what you do is not called journalism, thats called terrorism! nothing of all you have written is really true concerning my person and i would really know how you can explain me that you are so sure that i am thinking this or that and so on.... i would like you to delete my personal photographs from your website and all these lies as well! and i dont want you publish anything i write to you. the only thing you really should do is to beg for my pardon to publish such wrong things about me without knowing anything about me.
  • sincerely, cpt ludwig hoffmann

  • From: don@panama-guide.com To: kapitaen_hoffmann@hotmail.com Subject: RE: article about me in your webpage panamaguide Date: Fri, 16 May 2014 21:30:18 -0400

    Do you know Javier Martin?

    Do you consider Javier Martin to be a friend?

    Have you accepted reservations from Javier Martin, for passengers on your sailing vessel the “Stahlratte”?

    If so, have you paid him a commission for those referrals?

    Do you think Javier Martin is innocent of the charges against him?

    Do you think Javier Martin killed Don North?

    Do you think Javier Martin killed Jean Pierre Bouhard?

    Don Winner, Email: don@panama-guide.com, Skype: don.winner, US Cell: 845-800-6925, Website: www.panama-guide.com, Twitter: https://twitter.com/Panama_Guide

  • From: ludwig hoffmann [mailto:kapitaen_hoffmann@hotmail.com]
  • Sent: Saturday, May 17, 2014 9:12 AM
  • To: Don Winner
  • Subject: RE: article about me in your webpage panamaguide
  • CANT YOU READ MAN? I HAVE WRITTEN YOU SOME CLEAR THINGS THAT SHOULD ANSWER MOST OF YOU QUESTIONS! YOU ARE PUBLISHING VERY WRONG THINGS ABOUT ME AND TO BE EVEN MORE CLEAR: YOU DO EXACTLY WHAT YOUR FRIEND JAVIER MARTIN DOES: YOU PUBLISH THINGS WITHOUT PERMISSION

    I ASK YOU A LAST TIME TO DELETE EVERYTHING CONCERNING MY PERSON FROM YOUR WEBSITE!

  • From: don@panama-guide.com
  • To: kapitaen_hoffmann@hotmail.com
  • Subject: RE: article about me in your webpage panamaguide
  • Date: Sat, 17 May 2014 10:20:36 -0400

    That’s not the way it works. I asked you some very simple and direct questions. If you don’t want to answer them, then don’t. It’s up to you. I won’t spend any time trying to guess or infer the answers to my questions, based on what you’ve written in your email to me.

    And why do you think I need your permission to publish anything? From what I can tell so far, I’ve got it right. So I would suggest that you calm down, and simply answer the questions I’ve asked. If you don’t want to, then don’t. Again, it’s your decision.

    And for the record, I am going to be publishing every word you write to me in these emails. Right now, you look like you’re just mad because you got caught. Deal with it.

    Don Winner, Email: don@panama-guide.com, Skype: don.winner, US Cell: 845-800-6925, Website: www.panama-guide.com, Twitter: https://twitter.com/Panama_Guide

  • From: ludwig hoffmann [mailto:kapitaen_hoffmann@hotmail.com]
  • Sent: Saturday, May 17, 2014 10:30 AM
  • To: Don Winner
  • Subject: RE: article about me in your webpage panamaguide

    WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE: THE HOLY INQUISITION??? YOU ARE VERY MAD AND OFCOURSE I AM NOT WILLING TO ANSWER YOUR INQUISITIONS AS I HAVE TOLD YOU ALLREADY VERY SIMPLE THAT ALL YOU WRITE ABOUT ME IS WRONG AND YOURS OR OTHERS INVENTIONS AND THE ONE WHO SHOULD BE CALM DOWN IS YOU AS YOU SEEM TO BE OBSESSED IN DOING SOMETHING AGAINST ME WITHOUT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT ME...THATS VERY SICK

    AND AGAIN: YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO PUBLISH ANYTHING CONCERNING ME NOR THE WORDS I WRITE TO YOU NOR WHAT ANYBODY MIGHT HAVE TOLD YOU ABOUT ME!

  • From: Don Winner [mailto:don@panama-guide.com]
  • Sent: Saturday, May 17, 2014 3:52 PM
  • To: 'ludwig hoffmann'
  • Subject: RE: article about me in your webpage panamaguide

    And again, I’ll publish whatever the hell I want.

    So, the bottom line is this: I asked you a series of direct questions regarding your apparent business relationship with Javier Martin, and you refused to answer my questions. You called me a bunch of names indicating you are angry – like “mad”, the “holy inquisition,” “rude,” and “stupid.”

    You said “everything I wrote about you is wrong.” I wrote that you are the Captain of the Stahlratte – Is that wrong? “Everything” means everything. So, obviously “everything” I wrote about you is not wrong.

    If you are not willing to answer the direct questions I asked you, then fine. I’ll just publish that list of questions – and your refusal to answer them. No problem, leave it at that.

    And for the record – I’m not taking down either of the articles. And, I am going to publish these emails. Bye.

    Don Winner, Email: don@panama-guide.com, Skype: don.winner, US Cell: 845-800-6925, Website: www.panama-guide.com, Twitter: https://twitter.com/Panama_Guide

Not finding any success by screaming at me in email, Ludwig Hoffman then turned his attention to his buddy Javier Martin in prison. Over the weekend Javier Martin has since removed all reference to the "Stahlratte" sailing vessel from his "Hacerse a la Mar" website. In it's place, Javier Martin wrote this gem - in which his stellar intelligence comes shining through. Really, don't miss this one;

    SÁBADO, 17 DE MAYO DE 2014

    WARNING. To the community of sailors and travelers in Colombia and Panama.

    We are sorry but unfortunately we can not openly promote yours sailing trips and charters.

    Two people are bothering using other identities and our e-mail and use the name of the previous administrator of this company: Javier, to creating spam and disturbing.

    They are writing many nautical companies supplanting our identity

    They are also slandering and insulting to the crews of the boats with which we maintain business contacts.

    We apologize on behalf of them.

    However if you want to make a claim to those people who are doing this, you can write directly to them:

    - Donald Kent Winner don@panama-guide.com

    - Mr. Dorsey sailboat name "blind date" sv_blinddate@yahoo.com

    WARNING THESE ARE TWO DANGEROUS PEOPLE : MR. DONALD KENT WINNER AND HIS BOYFRIEND MR. DORSEY :

    Most sailors know that Mr. WINNER are involved in the murder of JEAN PIERRE BOUHARD kidnapping and attempted murder of JAVIER MARTIN.

    Most people know that Mr. WINNER, tucked away in the drug trafficking business, gold and money, using yachts for it.

    But we also know they are dangerous psychopaths, part of a criminal organization.

    Her boyfriend, Mr. DORSEY, with the sailboat "Blind date" now it's located in Cartagena, we assume thats moving their business in that country.

    TRAVELERS WARNING: it is said that these people have links with the two Dutch girls missing in panama and many other missing womens.

    ABOUT MR. JAVIER MARTIN AND HACERSE A LA MAR S.A. :

    We think, like most people who know him personally, that Javier Martin is INNOCENT.

    There is NO evidences against him.

    For more information you can ask us to contact his lawyer.

    We, in case of a guilty verdict , we will be forced to give up part of this magnificent company that he created with the idea that the sailing trips between Panama and Colombia with backpackers, in private yachts, could continue by the future in the same way as the present : sailors residents and sailors passing threw.

    Happy journeys

    Samuel W. & Gabi T. Team of Hacerse a la Mar S.A. Panamá. Panamá.

    -P.s. Picture of DONALD K. WINMER on his boyfriend boat "Sv Blind Date".

    -P.s.s. Please send us pintures of the sail boat "Sv Blind Date" and his/her Mr. DORSEY.

    Hacersealamar@gmail.com

Well, there's one more happy customer. This is absolutely hilarious. In this email - which was obviously written by Javier Martin himself, he starts off by saying that he will no longer be able to run his little scheme from prison: "We are sorry but unfortunately we can not openly promote yours sailing trips and charters." He blames me for "bothering" him, and he accuses me of "creating spam and disturbing." Well, I guess it's natural for him to find by exposing his scheme as "bothering" and "disturbing."

Javier Martin admits to having a "business relationship" with Ludwig Hoffman and the "Stahlratte." He writes: They are also slandering and insulting to the crews of the boats with which we maintain business contacts." The only crew or boat I've written about is Ludwig Hoffman and the "Stahlratte", so by default he has to be the crew and boat "with which" he "maintains business contacts." Gotcha. Sometimes it makes no sense to attempt to spin your way out, when you've gotten caught red handed.

Then Javier Martin goes on to accuse me of being involved in the murder of Jean Pierre Bouhard, the kidnapping and attempted murder of Javier Martin, drug trafficking, gold and money laundering - all using yachts. He calls me a "dangerous psychopath" and "part of a criminal organization." Yup, sure. I'll just add this article on his website Hacerse a la Mar to the relatively long list of crap posted to the Internet about me, by people who are severely pissed off because I've exposed them for what they are.

Finally a personal message to Javier Martin in the La Joya prison, because I feel the chances of him reading this article are about 100% -

  • To: Javier Martin - Enjoy what's left of your miserable life in that hell hole, you worthless piece of shit. Helping the police catch you was one of the highlights of my professional career as an investigative journalist. It took me just four days - from Thursday to Monday - and you were wearing handcuffs. From the family members of your victims, may you rot in hell. I personally hope you suffer in custody, every day. Remember this. You will never see the ocean again. You will never be free again. You will wear a chain like the rabid dog you are until the day you eventually die in prison. I hope you sweat and swelter in the Panamanian heat, in prison. I hope the food sucks, in prison. May the bugs outnumber the rice. I hope you are broke, penniless, without even a single dollar to buy a cigarette, a soda, or a condom to screw the local transvestite. So take your time, develop some disease that will slowly kill you, and suffer - every day, every night, every day, every night, every day, every night. You don't deserve to draw another breath on this earth.

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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Ludwig Hoffman - Captain of the "Stahlratte" Sailing Vessel - Thinks Javier Martin Is Innocent

Boats and Sailing By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - Well, there's a new twist for you. Today one of the members of the sailboat community in the Caribbean waters off of the coast of Panama posted a comment to the story I published on Monday - Serial Killer Javier Martin - Now Booking Sailing Trips For Tourists, Using His Cell Phone From Inside Panama's La Joya Prison.

Apparently Javier Martin might have been planning to kill this captain first, before he changed his sights to Jean Pierre Bouhard and his catamaran the "Levante." He writes "I had pure luck, as Javier Martin was invited for dinner on my Catamarán on January 28th, 3 days before Jean-Pierre- was killed, as my Catamarán was his first choice and luckily were 7 persons on board- so he did not risk to pull his gun and kill me and my girlfrien, as he might haf planned...." Probably a true and accurate assessment. Javier Martin had already killed Don North, but his sailboat the "Windancer" was too small to be used to profitably ferry backpackers from the San Blas islands of Panama to Cartagena, Colombia. Javier Martin wanted a much larger boat - such as Jean Pierre Bouhard's catamaran the "Levante" - to be able to cram in 20 or more backpackers at a shot.

The comment continues: "Today: Ludwig, the Captain of Stahlratte still thinks that Javier Martin is innocent, and the "MAFIA" trickt the murders, so he might accept bookings of his old friend. I cannot think that any other Backpackerboat would cooperate."

Well, that changes everything. I was working under the assumption Ludwig Hoffman and his "Stahlratte" (Steel Rat) boat was an unwitting accomplice. Meaning, I gave him the benefit of the doubt when writing the first article. But apparently, according to this one sailboat captain, Ludwig Hoffman still believes Javier Martin to be innocent and he's willing to continue to take the referrals Javier Martin sends to him, from inside of his cell in Panama's notorious La Joya prison.

I have tried several times to communicate directly with Ludwig Hoffman via telephone, to confirm this. I just dialed all of the telephone numbers I have for him, and all of them went to voice mail. I have not been able to speak with him directly, yet. I'm sure sooner or later he'll surface.

In the meantime, anyone out there who's thinking about booking a trip on a sailboat from the San Blas islands in Panama to Colombia should be aware who they're dealing with. The Panamanian government is notoriously lax and absent, when it comes to oversight, regulations, the enforcement of the few regulations that actually do exist, and safety inspections of the boats themselves. I am forced to call into question the judgement of Ludwig Hoffman, the captain of the "Stahlratte" (Steel Rat), because if he's capable of making the fundamental mistake of believing Javier Martin to be innocent, then he's also probably capable of making a whole list of equally poor decisions when it comes to safety and sailing. Based on that alone, at this point I would recommend that travelers might want to steer clear and simply choose another boat. And then of course, if he's helping Javier Martin - the serial killer who shot two expat sailboat captains in the head and threw their bodies into the ocean - then screw that dude. Take your backpacking business somewhere else...

I was there when the Panamanian DIJ detectives, prosecutors, investigators from the Public Ministry, forensics specialists, and FBI agents recovered and examined the piles of evidence found in Javier Martin's tent on Isla Chichemé in the San Blas islands. Basically, it was all of the valuables Javier Martin stripped from the "Windancer" after he shot Don North in the head and threw his body into the ocean. I sat on the dock as the sun went down, and watched the DIJ investigators as they used Luminol to search for the existence of human blood evidence inside of the cabin of Don North's "Windancer." In fact they found a lot of blood spatter evidence, and were able to take a DNA sample and match it to Ezra North, Don North's nephew. Martin used Don North's credit cards at an ATM machine in Colon, stealing money from a dead man. He checked into a hostel in the Darien using Don North's passport, under the name of "Don North" as he was preparing to flee Panama overland, towards Colombia to avoid capture. There is a witness who saw Javier Martin piloting Jean Pierre Bouhard's catamaran the "Levante" - on the very day Martin shot and killed Bouhard, wrapped his body with anchor chains, and threw it into the ocean. A few days after he was murdered, Bouhard's body floated to the surface near Portobelo and was found by scuba divers.

In short, if Ludwig Hoffman thinks Javier Martin is innocent - he's practically an accomplice. Either that, or he's incredibly stupid (or exceptionally gullible) and willing to ignore the facts, truth, and evidence. No matter what, don't get on his boat. Or at the very least, question his judgement.

Why in the name of God would anyone willingly support or defend the serial killer Javier Martin? I just don't get it...

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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Teens Suspected of Killing Cop Planned to Sail to Panama Before Suicides

Boats and SailingBy Alyssa Newcomb (ABC News) Before a teenage couple allegedly killed a Florida cop and then took their own lives, they planned to steal a boat and sail to Panama to begin a new life together, according to what police said today were their suicide notes.

Brandon Goode, 18, and Alexandria Hollinghurst, 17, were found dead Saturday morning of gunshot wounds from apparent suicides, police said, noting the couple’s bodies were found shortly after Officer Robert German, 31, was fatally wounded.

The couple’s apparent suicide notes were released today by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, which also said the teens had ran away from home on Friday.

In the note that police said was written by Goode, he told his parents ”sorry for all the pain and misery I have brought you both, not just now but from these past few years as well.” “I love you both so much, I love you with all my heart,” the letter continues. “Please don’t be sad, this is what I want now, I get to die peacefully with the woman I love, the woman of my dreams, my fiance (Yes we were engaged!).”

The note police said was written by Hollinghurst to her mother was devoid of affection. “If I had stayed another minute I would have painted the walls and stained the carpets with my blood, so you could clean it up,” the letter says.

To her father, Hollinghurst wrote that she loved him but “every day became harder and harder.”

Couple Stopped by Police Early Saturday Morning

German, 31, apparently made a “subject stop” of a man and a woman walking through a neighborhood around 4 a.m. Saturday and called for backup.

When the first Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputy arrived, officials said, German was lying in the roadway. Authorities reported hearing shots in the area at that time, but stopped short of saying whether they believed the sounds they heard could have been the teens taking their own lives.

A tactical rescue was conducted to save German, police said, meaning a patrol car was used to shield him as he was placed in another vehicle and taken to the hospital.

A short time later, authorities said they located the bodies of Goode and Hollinghurst under some brush on the side of the road.

The medical examiner’s report is still pending on their official causes of death.

A funeral for German, a 5-year veteran of the department, is scheduled for Thursday.

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Panama Canal shipyard back in operation

Boats and SailingThe Balboa, Panama, shipyard that formerly operated as Astilleros Braswell is back in operation after two years of inactivity. In January, Panama's Comptroller General approved a 20 year contract for operation and administration of the yard to locally-owned MEC Shipyards. This is the first time in its history that the shipyard will be operated by a Panamanian owned company.

The yard, which was built in 1914, has three dry docks, with dimensions of (1 )318 m x 39 m (33.6 m at entrance),(2) 130 m x 30.5m and (3) 70 m x16.8 m. The big dock is the largest Panamax-size dock on the West Coast of North and South America. Before reopening the facility, MEC Shipyards had to invest in four tower cranes, but it is now drydocking vessels again with the big dock reportedly fully booked until July. (marinelog.com)

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Panama Canal Authority Evicting Everyone From Diablo Boat Sheds (Now)

Boats and SailingBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I just got word that apparently the Panama Canal Authority is handing out eviction notices today, and evicting everyone from the Diablo Boat sheds.

There will be a meeting this afternoon at 5:00 pm where supposedly the ACP will explain this action.

The ACP is posting a letter explaining that the area known as the "Hangers of Diablo" are located on Finca number 196273, and that this property belongs to the ACP and that none of the boat sheds have title. Therefore, they are ordering the immediate eviction, and removal of all personal property (i.e., boats.)

I called the number listed on the letter, but no one answered.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Missing Sailors Are On Their Way Back Home

Boats and Sailing"They're alive!" were the words that rang in the ears of Abenicia Meléndez, wife of Captain Domingo Guerra, receiving a phone call from Eustorgio Ortiz, owner of the Queen Elizabeth vessel, in which five sailors were lost at sea for more than one month.

"The anxiety of not knowing anything of my husband was extremely frustrating, but I never lost hope of finding him alive. I stayed strong to encourage my children, especially Gabriel Guerra, my 16 year old son, who was most affected by what happened, to the point that he fell into a state of depression" said Abenicia. "On Monday night when I got the call, knowing that my husband was Okay, made my soul came back to me" she said.

Abenicia said yesterday morning, when she managed to talk to her husband, that her husband told her not to worry, the anxiety was over and they were fine.

In addition, he explained that the boat had mechanical problems, but that he would soon come back to be together with her and their kids once again.

But this story still has a bad side to it in the home of Víctor Ballester, since his wife, Alejandra Ramea, with her 8 month old baby in her arms, waits for a phone call from her husband. Even though the anxiety is not the same anymore, since she knows he is Okay, the concern continues, because he's still on board the boat which is adrift 80 miles from Ecuador.

Alejandra explained that all those days were very frustrating and everything she did reminded her of her husband. Watching her daughter was the only thing that gave her strength to continue to have faith that he was still alive and would return to see his daughter grow up.

DIAaDIA went to the home of Domingo Guerra and Victor Ballester and the emotions were quite different. In the first home there was happiness flowing, but in the second home there was only concern and worry, even if they knew he was alive. Not being able to talk to him put his family in distress.

Meanwhile, the family of Carlos Samaniego is grateful to God, because they know he is safe and that they will be seeing him soon. His wife, when she received the word, prayed to God as her mother fainted.

The vessel was found near Isla Perla in Ecuador, which is currently 600 miles south of Panama, in a bordering area between Colombia and Ecuador, with three people on board, these being Gregorio Torres, Víctor Ballester and Abigaíl Rosales.

This vessel sailed on 2 March 2013, from the port in Juan Díaz to fish in the Gulf of Panama, with provisions for 19 days, but since before leaving the boat had mechanical problems, they were not able to leave until the 5th of that same month and that was the last time they reported.

These fishermen should have returned on 14 March 2013. By not doing so, the families reported the disappearance and after 26 days they received the news of them being found.

The National Air Service (Senan), by Rex López, director of AN-41 Search of the institution, explained that from the moment the alert was received of the disappearance of the vessel, they began searching, alerting all patrols who were in national waters, and since they could not find the vessel, they proceeded to seek international cooperation, which gave a positive result. (Dia A Dia)

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Rescued! Five Fishermen Stranded At Sea For 28 Days Receiving Medical Attention In Ecuador

Boats and SailingThe five fishermen of the Panamanian fishing vessel Reina Elizabeth who had been lost at sea for more than a month after leaving the port of Juan Díaz in Panama, were receiving hydration and nourishment in a hospital in Ecuador.

Luis Torres, brother of Gregorio Torres, told the Panama America that the owner of the vessel gave them a call at about 11:00 pm yesterday to inform them that the vessel had been found.

At about noon today, Wednesday 10 April 2013 the National Air Service (Senan), who will coordinate the fishermen's return to Panama, will have a press conference where they will present more details about the events. (Panama America)

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Fishermen Lost At Sea For 27 Days

Boats and SailingThe families of five fishermen missing since 2 March 2013, asked for help to find them.

They stated that the fishermen sailed on a vessel named the "Reina Elizabeth" from La Chorrera to the island of San Miguel and the last time they had communication with them was on 5 March 2013.

Domingo Guerra, age 50 and the boat captain, Gregorio Torres, 57 year old mechanic, Víctor Ballester, 34 year old marine, Carlos Samaniego, 28 year old assistant crew, and Abigail Rosales, 52 year old marine. These are the missing sailors.

The family explained that Guerra, captain of the ship, contacted them and reported that the engine was failing, so the family asked them to return, but after that, they were able to repair the engine and reach the island of San Miguel.

After 17 days of being gone, his family sensed something was wrong, so they decided to take action on the matter and tried to communicate with them by calling them, but all cellphones went directly to voice mail.

Yesterday, the families asked the National Maritime Service (Senan) not to stop the search, as the families have faith that they are still alive and want them to return home safely.

They believe that any help they can offer to find them, even to search for them in international waters, would be of great benefit for them to be back in their homes.

Meanwhile, Osvaldo Guerra, director of the Marine Technical Association of Panama, said that international organizations are asking that if you have any information regarding the castaways, to please communicate with the Panamanian authorities.

He added that the search is not going to stop. (Dia A Dia)

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Guna Yala Congress Outlaws Sailboat Charters From Panama to Colombia

Boats and SailingBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com -Received today via email: "Don, the Guna Council has banned foreign yachts from chartering in Guna Yala and all other money making efforts.

Lots of the yachties supplement their income by chartering and repairing other vessels. The fine for chartering is $10,000 payable in two days. They went through the anchorages and went to each boat advising. A&C".

Editor's Comment: I have to say that I'm not surprised at all. I first became aware of the deplorable condition of the chartering business while investigating the murders of Don North and Jean Pierre Bouhard. In fact the government of Panama has not been adequately regulating or supervising the charter business, and it's simply unsafe for the people who try to use it. I have received dozens of reports of very dangerous practices, things such as a skipper getting falling down drunk and passing out, and leaving an unskilled young backpacker at the helm, at night, in a storm. I suspect this effort to shut down the unauthorized charters is step one, and step to will be to issue permits to those who have been granted permits and who are authorized to proceed. Let's just hope that the overall safety improves over time. And of course, just because there are a few unsafe operators, I know there are others who are safe and capable and experiences sailors (so no need to blast me with scathing emails).

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Four Men Missing At Sea

Boats and SailingFour men are missing. They went out in the boat "Niño David" from Palmira on the Upper Coast of Colon. The Representative of Palmira, Julio Racero called on the media to disseminate information to help find those people. The missing are: Pablo Romero, Carlos Rodríguez, Nicanor y Manuel Alonso, who are related. According to Racero, they were headed to Maoqui missing, but they were seen in Playa Chiquita, and no one has heard from them since Sunday. He reported that the men disappeared in a heavy downpour and an electrical storm. SINAPROC will move to the area to begin searching. (Critica)

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Calif. father kidnapped kids and sailed away in stolen yacht, police say

Boats and Sailing(CBS/KPIX) SAN FRANCISCO - Police in San Francisco are now looking for a 43-year-old California man suspected of kidnapping his two young children and sailing away in a stolen 40-foot yacht. According to CBS San Francisco, police say 3-year-old Brooklynn Maffei and 2-year-old Devin Maffei were abducted in South San Francisco on Tuesday around 3 p.m. Police believe the two children were abducted by their father, Christopher Maffei, who fled in a rented white Ford Fusion.

The rental car was found at the Ballena Isle Marina where, police say, Maffei stole a 40-foot yacht and sailed away with the two children, CBS San Francisco reports. The yacht is reportedly named "Unleashed" and has "San Francisco, CA" painted on the stern. It was last seen at about 6 p.m. on Wednesday in the area of Mare Island near Vallejo.

Police say Maffei has said in the past that he would like to sail to Monterey or Mexico, according to CBS San Francisco reports. State, county and federal agencies have been alerted to watch for Maffei, the yacht and the two children. Anyone who spots them has been asked to contact South San Francisco police at (650) 877-8900.

Editor's Comment: Head's up, boat people. This idiot is out there on the Pacific somewhere, who know's where he'll turn up...

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The History Of The Yacht "Aqua Belle"

Boats and SailingSince the yacht name the "Aqua Belle," owned by the President of the Republic Ricardo Martinelli, appeared anchored in Amador, a series of events has sailed around it. "Firings," "Institutional Protection Service (SPI)," and "sinking" are the key words in this story that last Saturday marked the beginning of the end of the ship.

In the early morning hours that day, the yacht suffered a mishap at sea and it faced the same sad ending as the "Titanic." It sunk. The images that appeared in the media showed the "Aqua Belle" sunk almost half way. The wreck was sinking in a sea of ​​mysteries. The causes of the sinking are unknown, and the version that has surfaced is that the ship struck rocks. A source close to the marine world said the blow would have had to have been in the propeller or stern that ended up damaging the hull.

The yacht was near Piña Bay in the province of Darien, where it was seen frequently with Martinelli's children on board. It was a weekend of fishing like any other and not a fishing tournament, as previously reported. "There was no fishing tournament at Piña Bay," said the source. The Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) and the National Air Service did not provide any information about the end of the "Aqua Belle."

TVN Channel 2 reported on Saturday, the day of the wreck, that three crew members and a bodyguard of one of Martinelli's sons had been rescued unharmed.

AMADOR - The story about the "Aqua Bella" is not only developed at sea. On land things also occurred around the ship. On Sunday 9 May 2010, the newspaper La Estrella published a photo of the yacht anchored at Amador on its cover. The newspaper referred to the president's "new toy," that according to one source had a cost of about $2.5 million dollars, which Martinelli had bought secondhand. Thus, the president added a second yacht to his personal tastes in less than a year at the helm of the presidency of Panama. "La Carolina" at 48 feet long is the other yacht owned by the president.

The "Aqua Belle" made by Bertram is of the highest comfort and performance, and the best fishing vessel in the Panamanian market, said La Estrella. The photo published by the newspaper apparently did not please the president, who ordered the SPI guard the ship.

Four months later, in August 2010, the 'Aqua Belle' made news again, this time between officials of the Panama Maritime Authority. Joaquín Carrasquedo, who at the time was the Director of Ports and Maritime Industries at the Panama Maritime Authority, was removed from office. Carrasquedo, according to information from the newspaper El Siglo, was dismissed for trying to fine the owner of a yacht moored in the Flamenco marina in Amador, because of a diesel spill. But it was not just any boat, let alone any owner. The ship that spilled the fuel was Martinelli's "Aqua Belle." Authorities at the Panama Maritime Authority were silent on the removal of Carrasquedo. Just as now they are silent on the wreck of the "Aqua Belle." A source close to the maritime world explained the ship is likely a total loss, and when that happens, the boat ends up in the name of the insurance company. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: I received an email this morning from someone who knows the yachting and maritime industry in Panama, saying; "Good evening, Just some info. I don't know what happened on this sinking. I have heard many stories around Marina Flamenco (snip for privacy.) They hit the rocks near Pina's was the running story from the get go. Again I don't have any first hand details but many things could and often do sink boats this size.

The electronic charts are WAY off in Pinas Bay. The charts show your boat on land when you are at least 100 meters offshore after rounding the point and running the entrance to the west. They did spend around three weeks in the dry dock just prior to the trip from what I'm told. If someone did something as simple as not ensuring shaft seal cooling water flow upon returning to the water or forgot to tighten down the rudder securing set screw the incoming water could easily overcome the bilge pumps in about the time it takes to run to Pina's. Even the engines raw water cooling water pump itself is way more volume than the standard bilge pumps that would be trying to keep up with a large leak in a cooling hose or one that didn't have it's hose clamps tightened down so it came off. The cooling water pump comes in on about 4 inch pipe and the bilge pumps (maybe 2 in the engine room) have about 1 inch plastic hose discharges on a boat like this. The mechanical level of expertise and attention to detail is sub standard compared to most places with this level of vessel. Add a (Duro) tight budget and or timeline and it's a recipe for disaster.

What sticks out in my head a bit is what tournament. A few boats might put on their own (brown bag) tournament or a private organization might rent out Pina's for a private tournament but I didn't hear about it. I usually hear about all the tournaments. Pina's didn't have a regular public tournament at this time.

I believe Aqua Bella has been his for at least a few years. I have seen the boat on both coasts with security for a couple years."

So yeah, according to this expert, it's very possible that they made their run down to Piñas Bay, and didn't realize the boat was actually taking on water the whole time, because of some sort of possible error in the repairs while the boat was in dry dock. Or maybe it hit a rock. Or maybe it was gremlins. Who knows.

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President Avoids Talking About Sinking Yacht

Boats and Sailing President Ricardo Martinelli today avoided referring to the sinking of one of his yachts, stating this is something personal. The wreck occurred Saturday in Bay Piña, Darien, when it was headed to that province for a fishing event. As reported by the SENAFRONT, the three crew and one of the bodyguards of president Martinelli's son were rescued unharmed. The president's son was scheduled to fly by helicopter. On the channel 2 TVN morning news broadcast, the Minister of the Presidency, Roberto Henriquez, said the yacht was purchased by President Martinelli with his own resources before he became the President of the Republic, so he asked for respect and discretion. He said the boat hit rocks and sank. Although on Saturday, according to the SENAFRONT, the crew had reported mechanical damage. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: There are two pieces of conflicting information in this report. I was told Martinelli had just recently purchased the yacht that sank, so the report by Henriquez that he had bought it before he became president is simply different from what I was told by another source. Also, the "hit rocks and sank" version is different from what Martinelli told me himself. Martinelli was clear that the boat did not hit rocks - although this was what La Prensa reported. In my opinion they should just say "we don't know yet, we're still investigating" and leave it at that, until they know what actually happened. I'm not taking the PRD submarine off of the table just yet...

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Martinelli Said Yacht Sinking Is "Personal"

Boats and SailingDuring the weekend a yacht owned by President Ricardo Martinelli sank. The incident occurred in the province of Darien, specifically near Puerto Piña. President Ricardo Martinelli said it was "something personal" and declined to pursue the subject, while on a tour of the work on the Panama Metro project. He said it was positive there were no injuries in the incident. Among the occupants of the boat was a bodyguard of the President's son. The president made his statements during an event to commemorate the arrival of the TVN "Carolina" at the Panama Metro, station Fernandez de Cordoba. (Telemetro)
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Ricardo Martinelli Calls Yacht Sinking "Weird and Freaky"

Boats and Sailing By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - On Saturday morning I got a tip saying one of President Ricardo Martinelli's yachts had sunk near Piñas Bay in the Darien province of Panama during the early morning hours. I shared the information with Castalia Pascual, one of the channel 2 TVN morning news anchors. She confirmed the initial report with the Director of the National Border Service and obtained some additional details on what happened. The following day La Prensa ran the story with a few more details about the yacht itself.

Over the weekend I exchanged a series of direct text messages via Twitter with president Martinelli about what happened. He said "thank God everybody is OK. Thanks for asking. Some people in the opposition may be rejoicing" over the incident. Martinelli said the sinking of the yacht - reported by La Prensa to be a brand new Bertram named the "Aqua Bella" worth $2.5 million dollars - was "weird and freaky." Martinelli said "it was sunk. Hard to believe. We are investigating. Nothing has been ruled out."

This of course piqued my interest. The report by La Prensa on Sunday morning indicated the yacht had supposedly hit a rock. I asked Martinelli what he meant when he said "it was sunk," and told him I also thought the yacht had simply hit a rock or a reef or something, and ripped out the hull, causing it to sink. Martinelli responded by saying "Don't know yet. No, it was sunk. Don't know the reason yet."

I understand they intend to recover and re-float the yacht, as part of the investigation. Right now according to Ricardo Martinelli himself, they don't know exactly what caused the yacht to sink, and he called it "weird and freaky."

Also according to the report in La Prensa, the yacht had supposedly just come out of maintenance, so I guess it's possible someone forgot to connect something or whatever - stranger things have happened. But anyway, at this point nothing is being ruled out. I get pictures in my head of an old Russian submarine flying the PRD flag, but I guess that's over the top a little...

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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President's Yacht Sinks in the Darien

Boats and SailingA yacht owned by President Ricardo Martinelli during the early morning hours of Saturday, near Pinas Bay in the Darien, after hitting a rock. Members of the State Border Service rescued three crew members and one of the bodyguards of the President's sons unharmed, said TVN yesterday. Sources for this newspaper (La Prensa) confirmed that the yacht named "Aqua Bella" sank, a Beltran yacht worth $2.5 million dollars. The site of the wreck was marked in order to recover the yacht, which had recently undergone maintenance. (Prensa)

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President's Yacht Sinks in Darien - Four Rescued

Boats and SailingA yacht owned by President Ricardo Martinelli sank today near the port of Piña, in the province of Darien, but it was learned the president was not on the boat. The yacht was carrying three crew and a bodyguard of President's son, who were rescued unharmed by members of the State Border Service, confirmed the Director of the SENAFRONT, Frank Abrego in a telephone conversation with Castalia Pascual for TVN. The accident occurred at 1:45 am on Saturday morning when the yacht was heading to the Darien to participate in a fishing tournament. It was reported that the president's son would travel by helicopter today. (TVN)
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One Of President Martinelli's Yachts Sank Early This Morning

Boats and SailingBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The initial report has since been confirmed. One of the private yachts owned by the President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli sank at 1:45 this morning, just as the yacht was arriving to Pinas Bay in the province of the Darien, in the Republic of Panama. There were four people aboard the boat when it sank, who were rescued by patrol boats belonging to the National Border Service (SENAFRONT). Three of the people on the yacht were "sailors" responsible for the operation of the boat, and the fourth is reportedly a body guard for Martinelli's son. There were no injuries. These additional details come from one of my journalist buddies - Castalia Pascual - the morning anchor for the channel 2 TVN news broadcast. I gave her the tip, she got the details. Synergy, baby...

I still don't know the name of the yacht that sank, nor the cause of the sinking. I've sent pings out to some other sources, let's see what they can turn up. But what matters at this point is that the basic information contained in the first report is both confirmed and correct.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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President's Yacht Reportedly Sank in Pinas Bay, Panama

Boats and SailingBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I just received a report the private yacht recently purchased by the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, supposedly sank "at the Tropic Star" fishing lodge, located in Pinas Bay, Panama. It should be noted this information comes from a single source and has not yet been independently confirmed. I'm working on that. There was no other additional or amplifying information - such as why the yacht sank, if there was anyone on board at the time, etc. It was reported the sunken boat was supposedly a "new" yacht Martinelli had "just purchased." I understand Martinelli had a Yacht in March 2012 named the "Prima Donna" - and I don't know if this was the yacht that reportedly sank.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Operation To Find Suspects Who Assaulted And Brutalized American Sailors in Bocas - Search Warrants Being Executed Right Now

Boats and SailingBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I received information this morning from someone on Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro. People are concerned about the ongoing investigation into the events related to this article: American Couple Brutally Assaulted And Robbed On Their Sailboat Near Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, Panama. I was told the National Police on the island have supposedly identified the two primary suspects who are allegedly responsible for the attack, but so far no arrests have been made. They have been told by their local law enforcement contacts on the island that supposedly they could not do anything because "the prosecutor is on vacation" so therefore their hands are tied until he returns.

Well, that was enough to cause me to drop what I was doing and hop into my car. I drove over to the Office of the Auxiliary Prosecutor of Panama while I worked the cell phone to get some answers (yes, I was driving while talking on the phone - stuff it.) My initial phone calls confirmed what I was being told by the people in Bocas - yes, it was true that the local prosecutor on Isla Colon had been on vacation for two weeks. And, the Detectives in the Department of Judicial Investigation must have a search warrant issued by a prosecutor before they can enter or search private property. It was also true the local police detectives have identified the two primary suspects.

I was told on the phone they were executing a search warrant at that very moment, and during the search they had discovered some valuables and electronics that might belong to the victims of this crime - things like a digital camera for example. Now they would be showing those recovered items to the victims, to confirm the connection between the victims, their items, and the suspects - and that would form the basis of an arrest. My high ranking DIJ contact told me he expected there would be arrests made in this case soon, possibly by today. With that having been established, I was pulling in to park at the offices of the Auxiliary Prosecutor of the Republic in Ancon.

Dimas Guevara is one of the highest ranking members of the Public Ministry, and he spoke to me in his office. These guys know me from my involvement in past cases, and they know I wouldn't waste their time if it wasn't important. Guevara called Luis Martínez, the First Superior Prosecutor of the Third Judicial District, based in David, Chiriqui. In Panama jurisdictions and responsibilities within the Public Ministry are divided by geographically, and in this case the local prosecutor (called the "Personería") is directly subordinate to him. So, Martínez called the local prosecutor for an update.

First of all, in response to the allegations that nothing was being done because the local prosecutor was out on vacation, Martínez said that wasn't true, because when someone goes on vacation they always appoint a temporary replacement to cover the desk. Well, true, that actually happened. What's more, it collaborates what my sources in the DIJ were telling me. The problem was the person who had been put in charge temporarily didn't want to do anything, and decided it would be better to wait until the "real" prosecutor came back from vacation. OK, whatever. Moving along...

What really matters is that as of this morning the "real" prosecutor was now back in the saddle. Martínez called him directly and got an update from the field. When they spoke, the prosecutor was in process of executing a search warrant on the house of one of the primary suspects. This confirms what I had already learned from by police sources. They have, in fact, identified the two primary suspects. And Martínez said they are working to tie all of the information together, and he expected there would be arrests in this case soon, most likely by the end of the day.

I spoke for some time with Dimas Guevara - he's a very busy man but if felt like he wanted to talk for awhile. I explained that this case in particular - the brutal and violent attack against two American sailors in the middle of the night - is being talked about widely among the community of sailors and cruisers, both in Panama and internationally. I explained to Guevara this case in particular will give Panama a "black eye" among this community. Cruisers are very concerned about their personal safety, and Guevara recognizes the importance of catching the bad guys, locking them up, and obtaining justice for the victims.

Anyway, I don't know if I actually accomplished anything beyond finding out some additional information and details to report in this article. It seems like the prosecutor was already back, the search warrant was already being executed, and right now (as I write this) there is a task force comprised of National Police officers, DIJ detectives, and Public Ministry officials searching for the two suspects. They are conducting and "operation" to try to find them, and to take them into custody. That was the very last update I received, about an hour ago.

Obviously I'll continue with updates as more information becomes available. At the very least, everyone at the higher levels of both the Public Ministry, the National Police, and the DIJ are "spun up" on this case - so the guys down at the lower, local level on Isla Colon are not working in a vacuum (any more.) Woof.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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License To Operate A Small Boat With An Outboard Motor - Required By Law

Boats and Sailing By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Maybe it's just a personal flaw of mine, but people who are stubborn, bone-headed, and simply dense tend to get under my skin. People frequently contact me with questions or issues, particularly in relation to their interactions with local Panamanian government officials. And, when I can or if it's important, I will step in to figure it out and explain the answers I have received. I did this yesterday, and the person who was asking the original questions is still being obstinate. In short, he basically does not seem to want to believe or accept the answers I have obtained. He is now demanding to see the Panamanian laws or regulations governing these issues before he will believe or accept the facts as I have presented them. That's code for "bone head."

Yesterday I received a series of emails from "Capt Ron" in Bocas del Toro. He was all spun up because the local Port Captain in Bocas del Toro, Mr. Dario Vanhorne, issued an announcement on the local VHF Radio network used by the sailboat cruisers to let everyone know Panama's Maritime Authority (AMP) was going to be holding a series of classes next week, so that people can obtain the required license to operate a small boat with an outboard motor in Panamanian waters.

Vanhorne's announcement created some confusion and concerns. As a result, someone (and I don't know if it was Capt Ron who started this or someone else) was disseminating all kinds of incorrect information on these VHF networks. Capt Ron sent me an email - with the email addresses of about 40 other people in the carbon copy section - about the perceived problems. I asked for and received the name and number of the Port Captain in Bocas del Toro, and called him to get an explanation of what was going on.

Mr. Vanhorne explained the truth and facts to me, which I published in this article yesterday morning: Small Craft With Outboard Motor License Course - 23 to 28 July 2012 in Bocas del Toro. Among the points of false or otherwise incorrect information cleared up by this article, include;

  • "You Have To Take A Course In Spanish!" FALSE: The Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) is deploying a team to teach these courses, and they have translators on their team. In addition, Mr. Dario Vanhorne, the local port captain who works for the AMP, is also fully bilingual, and he will be there to serve as a translator as well if needed. They want you to have the safety information on how to correctly operate your boat, and it really does not matter if you get that information in Spanish, English, or any other language.

  • "Anyone Cruiser Arriving In Bocas Will Have To Pay $168 To Use Your Dinghy!" FALSE. Mr. Dario Vanhorne explained the requirement to have a license to operate a small boat with an outboard motor applies only to long term residents who live in Bocas del Toro. He said they have never applied this requirement to the members of the cruising community who simply use their dinghy to get from their sailboat to land. And, he also said they have no plans or intentions to start doing that any time in the future. He said they know exactly who are the long term residents - the people who use their boats to get from one place to another in the islands - and those who have just arrived. Panamanians are required to hold this license, and so are the foreigners. There is no difference. But, short term cruisers who have just pulled in are NOT required to obtain this license.

  • "It's A Two Day Course!" FALSE. Most people can take the course in about two hours. It takes about four to five hours total time, to take the course and to do the paperwork to walk out with your license. The AMP is offering the classes over a six day period, but you only have to go there long enough to get your license.

  • "There's A $280 Renewal Fee!" FALSE. The cost for foreigners is $160 dollars for the license, plus an additional $8 dollars for tax stamps to make it official. Panamanians are charged just $10 dollars for the same license. The license is valid for three years. When it expires you will have to renew the license, for the same cost. I have no idea where this "$280" number came from. It seems to have appeared out of thin air.

And This Is Where The "Bone Head" Part Comes In: If you read the article I published yesterday, it's pretty clear anyone using a small boat in Panamanian waters is required by law to have one of these licenses. Capt Ron began harping on his requirement to "see the law" - and in fact I simply didn't want to spend any more time on this issue. However it became clear to me this one individual was going to continue to completely confuse people by repeating wrong, incorrect, and false information. So, here are the laws, resolutions, and regulations which govern these issues in the Republic of Panama --

  • This document establishes the legal requirement to have a license - Resolucion JD No. 008-2001: Resolucion J.D. No.008-2001.

  • This document establishes the fees the Panama Maritime Authority will charge for this course - Resolucion JD No. 064-2010: Resolucion JD No. 064-2010. Specifically, go to page three, second article in the list of fees. In the chart, the ninth item from the top, called (in Spanish) "Operador de Lancha Con Motor Fuera de Borda Hasta 12 Mts De Eslora" (Boat Operator With Outboard Motor Up To 12 Meters In Length). There are two columns defining the fees, with one fee for Panamanians and other fee for foreigners. It's $160 bucks.

  • All Laws Which Govern The Panama Maritime Authority: Anticipating the next question, I have included this link to the website of the Panama Maritime Authority, where they have made available links to PDF documents for each and every Law, Executive Decree, Resolution, and Board of Director Decision which govern the way they do business: Gente Del Mar

Now, I'm Really, Really Done With This: Poorly informed individuals with hidden agendas spreading half-truths or rumors salted with fear mongering is a blatant disservice to the entire community of English speaking expatriates in Panama as a whole, and the community of sailboat cruisers as a sub-set. There is no doubt whatsoever that anyone who resides in Panama who regularly and routinely uses a boat with an outboard motor as part of their daily activities - be it in Bocas del Toro, Guna Yala, on the Pacific Ocean, or anywhere else - is required to have of these licenses. Capt Ron said "show me the law" so there it is. And no, I am not going to take the time to translate this for you - because I'm anticipating the next childish response. So feel free to read it - don't read it - translate it - don't translate it - I could care less. If you decide to attend this class and get your license, then fine. If you decide to not attend this class and not get your license, then you will have to deal with the consequences. The local government officials who work in the office of the Port Captain for the Panama Maritime Authority know exactly who are the long term residents of Bocas del Toro who need to have these licenses. Therefore, if you fail to obtain the required license (because you want to be an obstinate bone head) then do not be surprised when they fine you, issue you a ticket, and potentially confiscate your boat if you continue to flagrantly operate it without a license in violation of the law. And when that happens (and, it will) DO NOT write to me to bitch about it. Now, with all of that having been said, for real - I'm out. Of course, I have no doubt this entire thing will now be turned around, and I'll be made the bad guy. Whatever, I could care less. If you have any other questions about this requirement to obtain a license, contact Mr. Dario Vanhorne in the Port Captain's office of the AMP at 757-9447.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Small Craft With Outboard Motor License Course - 23 to 28 July 2012 in Bocas del Toro

Boats and SailingBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The Maritime Authority of Panama will be offering a course for residents to obtain a license to operate small watercraft powered by outboard motors. The classes will be available starting on Monday, 23 July running through Saturday, 28 July 2012.

It Just Takes A Few Hours: There is no need to attend all six days. The average person can take the course in just two hours. The total estimated time required will be between four to five hours - and this includes taking the course, doing the paperwork, and receiving the license. Small boat operators licenses are valid for three years from the date of issue.

Course In Spanish? As far as language requirements are concerned - the Maritime Authority is deploying a team from Panama City who will be on Isla Colon for six days to present this course, and they have translators as part of their team. In addition the local Port Captain Dario Vanhorne will also be there. He is bilingual, and will also be serving as a translator if needed. So, there should be no concern over "having to take a course in Spanish" or anything like that.

Cost: The license costs $160 dollars for foreigners - people who are not Panamanians and who are residents in the Republic of Panama. There is an additional $8 dollars worth of stamps required - for a total cost of $168 dollars. Anyone who is a Panamanian citizen can obtain this same license for $18 dollars. According to Vanhorne, these rate schedules are established by the laws and regulations governing the Maritime Authority. They are not just a "Bocas thing" but rather apply to the entire Republic of Panama. He could not cite me the specific reference, and told me I could get that from the AMP in Panama City. He also said the licenses will be issued by the AMP team from Panama City directly.

If You've Already Taken The Course: Dario said the vast majority of residents who live in Bocas del Toro full time have already taken the boater safety course once at some time in the past. If that's the case, then there's no need to repeat the course. If your license has expired, then you will be required to obtain a new one, but you won't have to sit through the course again.

Cruisers With A Dinghy: Dario specifically went out of his way to say their efforts are NOT focused on the members of the cruiser community who simply use their dinghy to get from their sailboat to shore. He said "we are focusing on the people who are full time residents in Bocas del Toro, who use their boats as part of their normal daily activities, to get around from one island to another. They need to have a boat license, just as the Panamanians do." I told him as a result of this announcement on the VHF net this morning there is now a rumor running throughout the cruiser community that anyone arriving in Bocas del Toro would be charged $168 dollars to be able to use their dinghy. His response: "That's ridiculous. The only thing I did was to announce the course that will be held next week. We have never required any members of the cruiser community to have this license to be able to use their dinghy, and we don't have any plans to start any time soon. That is completely false, untrue." He also made it clear that they know the difference between who are the short term cruisers, and who are the long term residents. The long term residents need the license, and the short term cruisers do not. Clear enough?

Safety Issue: Dario explained the requirement to have a license to operate a small boat is no different than needing a license to operate an automobile. "What if there's an accident? Who will be held responsible," he said. He explained it is the responsibility of his office to enforce the laws of Panama with regards to this issue, and that is exactly what they are doing. After 28 July 2012 the foreign members of the community of expats who live (reside) in Bocas del Toro won't have an excuse to not have a valid boat license. By deploying a team from Panama City and offering the course over a six day period, they are being as flexible as possible and making opportunities available for everyone to get the license.

What About A $280 Renewal Fee? There was supposedly in the same announcement some sort of a requirement for a $280 renewal fee. When I asked him about that, Dario was confused and he simply didn't know what I was talking about. He said again - the total cost for the license is $168 ($160 plus $8 in stamps). It's valid for three years. After than, when it expires, you can renew for $168 dollars again. He had no idea where that $280 dollar number came from.

If You Have Any Questions: The Port Captain for Bocas del Toro is Dario Vanhorne. His telephone number is 757-9447. Dario is bilingual and speaks English, so no problem there. His office is on Isla Colon.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Update And Corrections Regarding the Death of Tomek Lewandowski On The s/v Luka

Boats and SailingBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Over the weekend I was contacted by Beata Lewandowski, Tomek's widow who was with him aboard their sailboat the Luka the day he died, as well as some of their friends. Some of the details in the first article published about Tomek's death were incorrect, as they were relayed to me shortly after it happened.

According to Beata, Tomek didn't have any need to call for help when the steering went out on their sailboat near Isla Grande. He knew what he had to do and was in process of making the repair when the heart attack occurred. Beata made the call for help because they did not have steering, and they were drifting away from Portobelo and losing any chance to get medical assistance for Tomek.

They had four passengers aboard their sailboat for this trip from Cartagena to Portobelo, but none of them were paying passengers. Tom was just trying to help some people out. Two of the passengers were from the sunken Fritz the Cat sailboat - one of them was a Panamanian who was the cook on Fritz the Cat who simply wanted to return to Panama, and the other was a Polish friend who was going to work with Tom and Beata. The third was a Colombian woman whose husband was killed a month ago, who is now a widow with four children, and she is coming to Panama to look for work. The fourth was a Kuna indian coming back from Tortuga isla to Panama.

Beata told me "Tom's motto was 'there are no bad people, everyone is the best he can possible be' and 'in the end it's only important what good you did for others'." My heartfelt condolences to Tom's friends and family.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Tomasz "Tom" Lewandowski Died Aboard His Sailboat The "Luka" Last Night

Boats and Sailing By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I just learned an experienced sailor - Tomasz "Tom" Lewandowski - died aboard his sailboat the "Luka" last night near Isla Grande off of the Caribbean coast of the Republic of Panama. Tom and his wife Beata were returning to Panama with four passengers aboard from Cartagena. They lost their steering sometime after midnight and called for help. In the excitement Tom apparently had a heart attack and died. He had recently been diagnosed in Cartagena, Colombia as having an artery in his heart that was 99% blocked. Tom was planning to fly back to his native Poland to have an operation done to fix the blockage. He was 52 years old. The Panamanian authorities responded to recover his body. Friends are now helping to get the stricken Mikado 56 "Luka" back to Portobelo.

Tom was widely regarded as an excellent sailor and an all around good guy. He is in the Guinness World Record Book as the last person to sail around the world, nonstop, Westbound, solo. Basically that's doing it "the wrong way" and against the prevailing winds. Tom knew what he was doing with a sailboat. Our condolences to his friends and family.

"Fritz The Cat" Sinks Near Cartagena: I also learned another backpacker sailboat - "Fritz the Cat" - sank on Monday, 2 July 2012 about 45 miles off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia. According to first hand reports, they were navigating through 3 meter seas when some kind of a hole developed in the hull. It's possible the damage developed near the engine, and it's suspected maybe the engine might have broken loose from its mounts in the rough seas, because the water was entering from that area. The crew issued a Mayday call and abandoned ship. Another vessel in the area put out a call to the Colombian Coast Guard via satellite telephone.

There were a total of 16 people aboard the vessel between crew and paying passengers - five Australians, three Germans, three Americans, two Norwegians, one Panamanian, one Dutch and one Polish citizen. They were all able to fit into the emergency life raft that was designed for 24 people. They were initially picked up by a tanker ship that was in the area, and later were transferred to a patrol craft of the Colombian Coast Guard, and taken to Cartagena.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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American Couple Brutally Assaulted And Robbed On Their Sailboat Near Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Boats and SailingBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - A pair of armed and dangerous assailants brutally attacked an American couple last night aboard their sailboat anchored in the "South Anchorage" of the Bocas Marina, next to Isla Colon in the province of Bocas del Toro in the Republic of Panama. The attack started after midnight last night, during early morning hours today, Sunday, 8 July 2012. The assailants pulled up next to the couple's sailboat at 1:00 am early this morning in a typical Panamanian wooden cayuco. The two assailants boarded the sailboat, held the couple at gunpoint, and tied them up. They ransacked the boat and stole everything of value, including cameras, electronics, a computer, cash, and jewelry. The attack lasted at least two hours, during which time the victims were assaulted and brutalized. The victims were finally able to put out a call for help on the radio at 3:30 am in the morning, after the assailants had left.

A Description Of The Assailants: The two men are described as skinny, black men, medium height, and short hair. They spoke both English and Spanish. During the assault one of them called the other by the name "Emilio." The victims say the men had a "Jamaican accent" but it's unlikely they were actually from Jamaica. It's much more likely the attackers are from the Afro-Panamanian community in the area of Bocas del Toro. Many of the members of the "Afro-Antillean" community are West Indian immigrants from Trinidad, Barbados, Martinique and Jamaica, brought to Panama in order to build the Panama Canal in the early 1900's. There are several concentrated communities of Panamanians who are members of this "Afro-Antillean" community, specifically on Isla Bastimentos and on other islands in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago.

Dinghy Recovered: The assailants took the sailboat's dinghy when they left. After dawn this morning someone spotted a dinghy floating free off of the coast of Isla Carenero. Someone swam out and recovered the dinghy. It's possible (assumption on my part) the assailants took the dinghy in an attempt to keep the victims from being able to leave their boat, and they simply abandoned it near Isla Carenero as they made their escape in their own cayuco.

Police Report Filed: The victims have filed a complaint with the National Police in Bocas del Toro. The woman was taken to the hospital.

A Possible Earlier, Related Attempt? There is a report that some would be assailants - possibly these same two men - tried to board another sailboat at 10:30 pm last night, on Saturday 7 July 2012. Reported these would-be victims were able to "repel" that boarding attempt, and nothing else happened. I suspect the DIJ detectives will be investigating and comparing the details to determine or confirm if the two events are related. It seems like too much of a coincidence to think they might not be related in some way.

Editor's Comment: Obviously this is a very serious attack. I've passed this information along to my contacts in the highest levels of the Panamanian government, as well as the Panamanian news media. I'm sure the National Police and the Department of Judicial Investigation (DIJ) on Isla Colon will be doing their jobs to investigate this case, identify and find the culprits, and to bring them to justice. It's bad that this happened. From what I understand this couple had only been in Panama for a couple of weeks, and the cruiser community is burning up the networks discussing this situation. The Panamanian government, law enforcement, security, and judicial authorities are aware of the situation, and they know that the best thing they can do now is to find and punish the culprits as quickly as possible. If you have any information you think might be related to this investigation or of value, you can report it to the National Police, the DIJ, the FBI, or if you would like a confidentiality firebreak - send it to me. And, I'm sure the community of English speaking expatriates in Bocas del Toro will band together to help and support the victims. For now, let's focus on catching the bad guys. Please spread the word.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Thomaston Boat Builder Opens Yard in Panama

Boats and SailingTHOMASTON, Maine (AP) - A Maine boat-building company has opened a new boatyard in Panama. Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding Co. is based in Thomaston with a satellite service yard in Tenants Harbor. The 34-year-old company says it's now opened a yard in Shelter Bay, Panama, located near the Caribbean entrance of the Panama Canal. There, it will provide repair services for sailboats and power yachts, as well as haul-out and storage services. It'll also provide prep work for boaters transiting the Panama Canal. Company owner Lyman Morse decided to open a yard in Panama because of his appreciation for the area from decades of cruising in the region. (Maine Public Broadcasting Network)
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Clipper Round the World Yacht Race - Fleet set for race to New York After Clearing Panama Canal

Boats and Sailing
Clipper Around The World Yacht Race - Clearing Panama Canal Today
Clipper Around The World Yacht Race - Clearing Panama Canal Today
The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race fleet are all set to start a race from one world famous icon to another. Once they complete their transit of the Panama Canal, they’ll start Race 11 to New York. 'Once the fleet has transited the 51 miles of the Panama Canal, the yachts will set off on a one-sided upwind battle north, leaving Jamaica on the port side before heading into lighter winds near the Windward Passage which marks the exit from the Caribbean Sea into the Atlantic Ocean,' explains Race Director Joff Bailey.

With Race 11 start schedule for Friday this race will test the crew’s skills yet again. 'Once out of the Caribbean the racing crews will experience wind from every point of the compass as the yachts head away from the steady Caribbean trade winds into the variable winds associated with the depressions coming from the North American land mass. 'Many sail changes will be required to keep the boat going as fast as possible in the right direction. Throw in the Gulf Stream, which can reach speeds of more than three knots, and it makes a very interesting race for those watching at home – and a very stressful one for those taking part.

'Thunder storms are likely to provide some spectacular backdrops with the air alive with static and lightning cracking into the sea around the finish line in the Ambrose Channel at the entrance to New York.' The final three yachts, Singapore, De Lage Landen and Derry-Londonderry, started their transit of the Panama Canal this morning. Once they have completed their transit they will meet the rest of the fleet on the Caribbean side of the canal and motor offshore for a Le Mans start for Race 11, to New York. (Press Release - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race)

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New Ferry Service Between Colon and Cartagena to Begin on 10 May 2012

Boats and Sailing
Nissos Rodos - New Ferry Service Between Colon in Panama and Cartagena in Colombia
Nissos Rodos - New Ferry Service Between Colon in Panama and Cartagena in Colombia
The Caribbean cities of Colon in Panama and Cartagena de Indias in Colombia will be connected as of 10 May 2012 by a new ferry service, which will cover the shipping route in about seven hours, said the general manager of the company Aventuras 2000, Augusto Terracina. "The intention is to be able to connect these two countries which have always had a good relationship in both the tourist and commercial sectors," said Terracina, as part of a press conference to announce the launch. Terracina said the ferry "Nissos Rodos" of the cruise line Panamerican Seaways has a capacity to carry approximately 1,500 people, but they will start running at about half capacity, and they will also be carrying shipping containers and automobiles.

He said the intention of Adventura 2000, which manages the Colon 2000 port in the Caribbean city of the same name, is to open Panama to the tourism and commercial landscape of the second country with the highest number of annual tourists. "We will be able to bring many more Colombian tourists from other regions, hoping this will become a mass product which attract groups for conventions, trips and other activities in Panama," he said. He said the investment is more than $15 million dollars, including making necessary improvements to the Colon 2000 port, improvements to the ferry ship itself, as well as the promotional aspect to be held in Panama and in Colombia. (more - prices and schedules)

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