Happy New Year

We spent New Years Eve, 2008, at the Playa Mango Resort, about 2 miles from Bocas Town. The resort is about 3 miles from town, by car, or about 1 mile by boat, from the main town of Bocas. It sits on a very pretty little stretch of beach across the big bay on the north side of the island. English Bill had booked us a gig at the resort. They in turn would give us dinner and drinks and pay us a bit to play.

We pondered how we would get to the resort and back, especially carrying music equipment. Remember that we're at the marina, about 1 mile from town, on the other side, by water. The marina runs a water taxi service during the day, but not at night. We usually take our dinghy into town, but the extra distance, dressed nicely, along with two guitars, two amps, a gig bag, and a backpack would make the 3 mile dinghy ride a bit much. We knew we could get a water taxi to the resort, but weren't sure we could get one back at 3:00 am after the party. So we decided to take a room for the night in the resort, then come back on New Years day, when, presumably, the water taxis would be running again.

We called a water taxi to pick us up at 6:00 p.m. or so. They stopped at the dock right next to RHAPSODY and we loaded the equipment in and made our way over to the resort. It's kind of neat to always be moving to and fro in small boats, at least when it's not raining. It was a nice evening, and as we passed the main town, we could see people milling in the streets and that the restaurants and bars were already getting busy. We arrived at the resort and disembarked the equipment at the dock by the beach bar, built about 100 feet out over the water on a pier with a walkway to the mainland. As we arrived they were just finishing a diving lesson, from the 10-12 people in wetsuits and full dive gear in the swimming pool. Bill and Andy hadn't arrived yet and we didn't know anyone, so we went up to the bar, ordered cocktails, and chatted with the people there.

I, thinking about the gig and what songs we were going to play, ever concerned about the fact that I play mostly Grateful Dead covers, was pleased when the first guy we struck up a conversation was into the band. He had heard that we would be coming over and was very encouraging about the gig and party. A few minutes later the manager, Mike, came by and, in a whirlwind, showed us the resort. I mentioned to him that we were thinking of renting a room for the night, but Mike would hear nothing of it. He insisted on comping us a room, and in fact, after hollering to one of the workers on an upstairs balcony about availability, quickly walked us over to a beach front room, opened the door, and told us it was ours. Well, thank you very much! The room was very nicely done with fresh flowers on the table, TVs and air conditioners and nice furniture.

We didn't have much time to linger, though, as soon thereafter Andy and Bill arrived. They had slogged over the muddy road in a 4WD and were unloading equipment when we got back to the dining area. We set the equipment up on an open patio, next the main outdoor dining area where the party would be taking place. We hooked up all the equipment, set the levels, and played a few tunes, as a sound check. By now it was 7:00 and people were starting to arrive. The small kitchen had a sumptuous menu lined up, but as the evening went on, seemed to fall further and further behind in keeping up with the demand. Organization did not seem to be the high point of the event! The bartender was keeping up well enough, though, and everyone was having a pretty good time when we started to play at 8:00 or so.

And, wouldn't you know it, as soon as we started to play, it started to sprinkle, portending a harder rainfall. Note to self: Never setup musical equipment outdoors without cover in Bocas Del Toro. So, we quickly began to tear down and move the P.A., amps, and everything, a task complicated by the fact that the only place we could move to was the covered dining area. We moved a few tables around, and after a bit were finally able to set up out of the direct rainfall. It never rained really hard, but it rained off and on for much of the evening.

Nonetheless, it was a very fun gig. We played a set of my stuff to start, with Bill on bass, then he did a set of his stuff, with me on bass. As we were doing the sets we were also trying to coordinate getting a bite to eat, drinks, and so on, but as I said before the overworked staff was barely able to keep up. We ended up taking a fairly long break to have a frantic few bites of the delicious food and soon had to play another set. I got the honors of doing the midnight set. The small dense crowd seemed to be enjoying the music. We were vamping on "Don't Worry, Be Happy" for the minutes leading up to midnight. It was really fun to count down the New Year. Right after midnight we broke into "Dancing In the Streets" and people were shouting and dancing and having a good old time. The resort let off a bunch of fireworks about then, capping off a pretty nice New Years Eve.

We played till about 1:00 a.m. and then tapered off. Andy and I sat for about an hour at the unused, deserted beach bar and chatted about life, sailing, and the pursuit of happiness in the New Year, as the people in the resort slowly filtered back to their rooms. I use the word "chatted" here, but really, I talked and Andy nodded or squeaked or croaked. During the evening he had been feeling worse and worse, coming down with a fever and losing his voice with laryngitis-like symptoms. But he was still in good spirits, and wanted to sit and lounge with us and "chat". It has been pretty nice making a friend like Andy.

As we were sitting there, a few patrons caught the one or two water taxis that came up to the dock, right in front of us, at about 2:30 a.m. We didn't think much of it at the time. Mike had also given Andy a room, and so finally we all said goodnight and went back into the resort. Second Note to Self: When in islands, take available transportation when available.

The next morning, I was like the first person awake in the resort. It must have been about 8:30 when I woke up . I like to have a cup of coffee in the morning, so I got out of bed and went over to the kitchenette. Hmmm... no coffee maker. No problem I'll go up to the restaurant. When I went outside, I realized pretty quickly that the restaurant was not open. No one was stirring, as they say, not even a mouse. It was a pretty morning, waking up right on the beach, and so I walked around for a bit checking things out. All over the resort there were the signs of a happy party the night before. Really wanting some coffee, I made my way back to the kitchen, which I found to be unlocked. I didn't think Mike would mind, so I went in the kitchen and looked for some coffee to brew. About then Mike came in, bleary eyed himself, and showed me where the coffee was. He grabbed a few things and left, presumably back to his own rooms for a repast.

So, I brewed and poured a cup of coffee for myself. Walking around, I ran into Andy, who was still not feeling well (not talking), but in good spirits. We sat around a bit, and by 10:00 or so, a few other people in the resort started stirring. Presumably they had coffee makers, cuz no one was hovering near the kitchen like I had been. Mike popped his head out, came into the courtyard, and addressed us and the few people on the balconies, saying that the staff had decided not to come in today, and that for all effective purposes, the resort was closed for the day. He basically then went back to his room, probably to lay down :-)

A few people were calling land-taxis so I decided to call the water taxi for us. I had thoughtfully programmed three of them into my cell phone. The first one did not answer. The second was an answering machine in Spanish, not my best language, and when I called the third one, a woman answered who would only say "no boats" in response to any question. I wanted to explain to her that the boats were probably there, it was just the drivers that were missing, but I thought better of it and decided to try again later. So we went back to the room, gathered our stuff, and went back out with Andy to the dock to wait and call the water taxi again. As we were trying, to no avail, to call the water taxi, occasionally, every half hour or so, we would see a few patrons, 2 or 3 people, leave the resort by land-cab, across the courtyard by the street.

Andy was complaining that he was really hungry, so I went in the kitchen and grabbed some bread, cheese, drinks, and what looked to be the chicken for the nights entree (which would never happen), piled them up on a plate and brought them out to the dock where we had our first meal of the New Year. Finally, after trying the water-taxis for the upteenth time, at 1:00 p.m. or so, we caved in and called a land-taxi to come and pick us up. Should have done it sooner. The guy arrived about 15 minutes later, picked us up and drove us back to Bocas Town.

Of course, once in Bocas Town we still had to get back to the marina. We ended up shlepping the equipment a block or two to one of the water taxi stands where we finally found one guy tending a panga who was willing to take us back to the marina. A short ride later we were back on RHAPSODY, in the marina, for the New Year.

Woo Hoo! Happy New Years!