A couple of days ago, as we were returning to our boat in the afternoon, we found the spot up on the rocks under the bushes and next to a big driftwood tree where we leave our kayak named Junior, empty. Our kayak is our only means to get between the boat and shore. It is our transportation up wild rivers inaccessible to dinghies, and in mangrove swamps home to colonies of frigate birds; it is our silent, clean 100% nature-friendly friend and family member who can carry all of us, our backpacks, and a few bags full of groceries all at once. We love him and need him.
We love him and need him the same way as a family from Sichuan Province in China loves and needs their one and only water buffalo named Strong Mountain for he pulls the plow in the rice fields, draws cartloads of produce and homemade bricks to the village on market day, and patiently carries the heavy bundles of firewood or bamboo home on his broad back. This family, they take good care of their water buffalo Strong Mountain. But us, we failed to take good care of our kayak Junior and abandoned him unlocked and unattended for hours…
It is a three-seat new orange kayak very stable, light and comfortable. A gift from our friends at www.kayakshopbg.com – the one store in Bulgaria where you can buy from sailing and fishing Hobie kayaks, to all MalibuKayaks last models. A few months ago, they became our sponsors and gave us this new kayak, just when our old one got badly damaged by the UV after twelve years of staying under the sun. The extraordinary story of how Kayak Shop BG organized the buying of our new kayak while we were in Puerto Rico can be found and read here: How We Got Our New Kayak.
We were devastated. Junior was gone. The place where we come on shore and leave the kayak is a small rocky beach where no one of the other cruisers from the anchorage at La Playita (Panama City) comes, as it is inaccessible to dinghies. Everyone else uses the dinghy docks at the marina for a 35-dollars weekly fee. I quickly calculate, that our kayak is worth the dinghy dock fee for a year. We used to lock it to a tree with a long cable and a padlock, but after we returned from Las Perlas Archipelago a few weeks ago, we stopped locking it and this is not a good idea. Abandoning a kayak unlocked on a secluded beach in Panama is asking for it.
It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday and many families are out and about. Four people are having a picnic up on a small grassy patch overlooking the entire bay, fishermen are stationed on the rocks on both sides of the beach constantly looking at the sea, waiting for fish. They have all seen a single guy climb in an orange kayak about half an hour ago and leave paddling awkwardly, just on one side. He went that way, they point. The weird thing is that the guy has left his clothes on the beach. It is also a hopeful sign that maybe he is planning to return.
We start running around, reporting the theft to the marina security on the other side, asking people if they have seen an orange kayak, but they haven’t. An officer from the harbor police goes up on a small tower from where ships coming in and out are being monitored and with huge binoculars scans the bay in all directions. Nothing. Then he jumps in a motorboat and for half an hour searches the waters around Amador Causeway for the criminal. But no success.
One hour later all is left to do is for Ivo to swim to the boat and get the old patched-up kayak, so that we can go back home and be miserable. Right then, we spot an orange kayak in the distance towards the marina entrance heading our way!
I just wanted to paddle around for a bit! I never intended to steal the kayak. I know it is yours, I have seen you before. And this is not the first time I take your kayak for a spin after you leave it; I do it all the time. I take it, paddle around and return it to the same spot!- Sais the guy, never apologizing, accusing us for coming back too early!!!
Ivo, with a big rock in his hand, is ready to whack the kayak thief, but the prospect of spending the rest of his life in a Panamian jail in the company of ex-dictators and all sorts of criminals keeps him from killing the guy.
Don’t you ever touch this kayak again, you hear me!
Lesson learned: from now on, we lock Junior every time.
About the author: Mira Nencheva, her husband Ivo and 11-years-old daughter Maya are sailing around the world and living off-the-grid full-time aboard their 38 feet Leopard catamaran Fata Morgana since July 2013. Their journey is documented in a travel-adventure blog www.thelifenomadik.com and in theirFacebook page:Facebook/TheLifeNomadik