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Where to Find Dugouts

Central America is loaded with dugout canoes. For about $200, it is your choice for a 30-foot boat . Jungle rivers that connect to a single road, are the most likely locations to look. River farmers bring their produce to market by this route.

In small villages, people are very friendly. If you tell them what you are doing, the whole village will help you.

Getting Started

Your research will start with a map. Look for areas where there are lots of rivers and few roads. There is always a small town at the end of the road that end’s on the river. Few roads near rivers mean the river is the highway, so lots of boats.

Farmers bring their produce down river in dugouts to a village. There it is put on trucks that take it to the cities. Busses connect river villages so farmers can get to town once in a while. Transportation is no problem, but finding the right bus in a large city, that goes where you want, may be a problem.

Panama

I bought my dugout’s from the Indians in the Darien Jungle of Panama. I found the people to be extremely friendly, trusting, and helpfully. Missionaries have a strong influence and have kept drugs out. I found many people always carrying Bibles.

At the end of the Inter American Highway in the Darien Providence of Panama, is the town of Yaviza and El Real. These villages connects hundred’s of miles of jungle rivers to a road and banana boats from Panama City. Here you will find any size dugout canoe or find someone to carve one. I have seen them up to 50 feet long.

Belize

Belize on the Caribbean has dugouts. They also build wooden boats at a low price. I have never been there, but this is a place to consider.

South America

Avoid villages in South America. There are a lot of drug farms and drug export villages. Outsiders are not welcomed and travelers never know if they are in one. Staying to long could put you on the missing person list. The risk is not worth it.

The people are hostile and will take any unguarded items you may have. They are also expert at taking wallets without you knowing it is taken. Turbo, Colombia, which is across the bay from the Atrato River, has lots of suitable dugouts, but, I don’t think it is possible for outsiders to work on projects without some protection from local citizens. To be safe, stay out of South America!

Dugout Ocean Cruising, Steps to be Taken

  1. Review maps to select a Central American country for home base preparations.
  2. Have a cab driver take you to a Pension (small hotel) in the center of town.
  3. Tell people about your plans of finding large dugout canoes. You will find people very helpful. Information is not always accurate because many people tell you what you want to hear. Get a second opinion if possible.
  4. Locate bus stations. There are many in each capital city.
  5. Locate buses and time they leave. Generally, busses depart at sunrise so as to be back at sundown.
  6. If there are no Hotels at your destination, go to the Police Station and ask if you can sleep there. Most are very helpful to Americans and will let you sleep in one of the prison cells. Some will serve you free coffee. One police station I stayed in had a cell called the international room. Have you own blankets. I have slept on park benches in small villages without any problems. Don’t do it in large cities.
  7. When at the river, tell people about your desire to buy a large dugout canoe. You will be directed to someone if boats are available. Letting people know what you are doing is the key for getting things done. They like crazy Americans.
  8. Most likely you will be taking by dugout canoe up the river and be a guest at a farmer’s house. Most have sweet rice and coffee on the stove all day to offer guest. It is very good. Have your own blankets and insect repellent. Also, carry some extra food when going into the interior.
  9. The people you buy your boat from may help you fit it out for sea. The best part, people know dugouts and will work with you to make it seaworthy.
  10. Next stop Tahiti. A voyage of 60 to 80 days by dugout.
  11. Stop at the Bail-Hi Hotel Moorea and say, "Bob Webb, the builder of the Liki Tiki, sent me."

The Ocean Voyage

There are some advantages on small boats. You will observe lots of sea life on a deck One foot above the water compared to a deck five feet above the water. More important, you will develop tremendous self-confidence.

Extreme small boat cruising has additional precautions compared to the typical cruising yacht. There isn’t a lot of room to store supplies, so sacrifices must be made. Also, waves coming on board have to be dealt with.

Being close to the water, salt water sprays over the boat several times a day. This means the skin and everything will have a consent layer of salt. The body will adjust to this in a short time.

The problem is body sores caused by salt. The skin dries and causes it to crack. Infection set in to where the arms and legs swell. Taking saltwater bath daily and drying off will help some. In time, the skin will adjust and the problem will go away.

Washing towels and cloths in salt water regularly will keep salt buildup to a minimum.

Fresh water is limited. If used for drinking only, 5 gallons per week should be enough. Water must be treated with chlorine or liquid laundry bleach. Untreated water will go bad in two weeks. Store in 5 gallon plastic containers.

Small one burner cooking stove with disposable LP gas cylinders is ideal.

Supplies should be packed in heavy plastic bags that are placed in small wooden boxes. If there are any problems where stores must be moved, wooden boxes are easy to handle and can take a beating.

Canned food stored in sealable plastic bags is very effective. A fishing kit will supplement food supply.

Navigation can be with a portable radio, length of string, celestial or satellite. People seem to arrive where they want even if they don’t navigate. I find it comforting to know my location.

One compass should be mounted outside and another inside the cabin. Day and night the course needs to be checked regularly. Many times while sleeping, I would wake, check the inside compass and listen to the waves banging on the hull. The right kind of banging meant the boat was making way. If the direction and banging was OK, I went back to sleep. Otherwise, I went on deck to make adjustments.

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