Waxing Away on the Tropical Highway–Mister Blue Sky

I Read The News Today…Oh John

It was late morning and I was laying in a hammock under a thatched roof palapa, swinging along the waters edge on Pidgeon Cay, a tiny cay off of Utila, a western Caribbean island of Honduras. My Ipad casually resting on my chest, connected to the world via internet, I was abruptly awakened by the invasive pinging of numerous facebook postings….it was the moment I was dreading for over a year.

My very first thought conjured up that soulful voice of John Lennon singing “I read the news today,  oh boy”. Those lyrics haunted my thoughts as I cried under my sunglasses. I was very fortunate to be in that place, at that moment, starring out onto the Tropical Highway.

David Bowie rephrased that lyric in his 1975 Young Americans song as “I Heard The News Today, oh boy”. The mid 70’s was a very significant point in time for those of us living life together in Gainesville Florida. You know who you are and you know what it meant to be there during those years.

There’s no time like the present…….

I am resurrecting this blog, The Hammock Philosopher by Mister Blue Sky, in honor of John “Hootie” Moss who passed away in Jacksonville Florida the morning of Thursday August 25, 2016 after a long stubborn battle with cancer. My deepest condolences to John’s wife, Donna, his daughters and ever loving family. I apologize for taking this selfish moment to talk about John.

Its been over three years since Mister Blue Sky wrote a blog while waxing away philosophically in a hammock on the Tropical Highway. Sadly I had been preoccupied or otherwise uninspired, and facebook afforded a cheap imitation of “blogart”. Most people prefer a short quick post via cell phone or tablet rather than actual reading these days.  John though told me several times how much he enjoyed following my blog when I was on my Central American walkabout back in 2013.

John also encouraged me to post on facebook my more recent experiences of traveling to Utila over the last couple of years. Why …… because John cared. He cared about a 41 year friendship dating back to 1975 when we met in Gainesville Florida; Gators for life.

I last saw John several weeks ago. He was doing what he loved to do, cruising around with his wife, Donna, in their boat. They docked at our house and stayed for a short while as we all sat on the pool’s edge with feet in the water. I hugged John as he got up to leave. For me it was a good last memory but extremely bittersweet.

I feel guilty as well because so many of John’s friends wanted to come see him, spend time with him before the end. I live five minutes away and reached out to John several times over the last few months hoping to spend such time but respected his desire to avoid the onslaught of friends paying their respects. All the while knowing John had the tremendous support of his family.

“Everybody liked John”………

This is a phrase being genuinely spoken by a long list of friends, acquaintances and business associates over the last several days and as will be for years eternal. Seriously…..everybody liked John.

Life’s Best Moments…….

So many of the best moments of my life were commonly shared with John over the last 41 years. Most of course are “Gator” football related. Tailgating together at 5th Avenue, the SEC Championship games in Atlanta, the National Championship games in New Orleans (sorry Noles but the Gators just scored again) and in the Orange Bowl-4th quarter Tebow Time  (later partying down at the Bahia Cabana in Ft Lauderdale)……all those games watched on tv at each other’s houses over the years……AND there was that glorious route against the Dawgs, 1995 in Athens, when the Gator’s offense did something no other team had done….”hang half a hundred” between the hedges a la Spurrier in a 52-17 Gator gloating victory. The limo ride over and back from Augusta with John, my wife and friends was classic ………Gators Eternal.

College Days circa mid to late 70’s in Gainesville……

Orange and Brew Times…campus pub…I saw Reggie Jackson hit 3 home runs October 17 , 1977 on the big screen with John working behind the bar…thank you John for all the free beer and food when I did not have money to pay for it those many times……

The Gainesville Fifth Avenue Boys….OMG…you know who you are and what you did there over those few years …it would not have been the same without John……lets just say “our” collective house on 5th Ave was a combination of Van Wilder meets Animal House meets Neighbors in movie life….others can tell those stories far better than I…….

The annual Halloween Ball on campus……..again not telling…..

The Nancy Luca Band at the Main Street Bar…..John loved watching Nancy rock out on her lead guitar licks…….Dubs….Mad Monks Inn…Nichols Alley….Florida Theatre…on and on…there were a lot of bars and clubs during those G’ville years…

Disco…..wow I just said it, Disco…..my ears still hurt from that terrible music……we all suffered together……

The Boy Could Surf……

Although I surfed back in those days ….John was surfing poetry in motion and continued to surf as long as he could…..we did a Bahamas, Gregory Town Eluethera trip in college which was epic in so many ways ….. and he later joined me on a couple of Bahamas boating trips.

One of my all time favorite John Moss stories is surfing related. It was the winter of 1978 on a real cold night for Gainesville. John was living in one of the several apartment complexes in what was the legendary area known as “Sin City”. I dropped by at his request. I could hear the music blaring as I walked down the interior hallway. It was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Street Survivors” album and only a couple of months after their plane crash. He opened his door and an intense wave of heat immediately hit me. He and his Mississippi roommate were both shirtless, barefoot, wearing just surfer baggies (boardshorts). He said they were tired of winter so they turned there apartment into summer by cranking up the heat to the max. I can still see both of them greeting me at the door. Two of the skinniest guys I had ever met dripping in sweat.

John was the utmost family man……

As wild and crazy as I think we were at times in college, I even then respected John because he was always grounded in life by his family. That was true then and till the end. John always had a deep sense of family and commitment to his family. It was unshakeable.

John was extremely loyal to his Orange Park Boys….you know who you are….

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Spring 1979…..The Final Term….Graduation Day

By the spring of 1979 John and I were literally the last two standing in Gainesville. Everyone else was gone; either graduated or had moved out of Gainesville. We had the exact same class schedule, unplanned. We had classes only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The benefit of being graduating seniors with lots of electives to burn up. We spent most of the Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays together along with Shadow, my Golden Retriever, either driving to St Augustine to go surfing or diving into the many fresh water springs located in all directions of Gainesville. We prowled many a bar and club together at night. Somehow, someway we both had survived Gainesville and were both headed to law school…..who knew…..anyways when it came to our graduation day it was a unique moment for both of us….After so many years, so many crazy times and so many friends who had cycled through Gainesville it was now just the two of us left standing…both suntanned with blonde wavy hair, blonde mustaches, sporting graduation hats and robes……..

RIP……

Thank you John for being in my life over the last 41 years. I know during my future days on the Tropical Highway thoughts of you will arise while waxing philosophic in a hammock. May you forever rest in peace.

Wiping Tears Away In A Hammock…..The Hammock Philosopher by Mister Blue Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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According to Alton’s Dive Center instructor Phil Smith, if you find yourself talking to a giant moray eel while hovering next to you is your twin ….. you are actually experiencing nitrogen narcosis and you should then__________?
A. ascend and drink 4 Salva Vida’s
B. ascend and eat 2 lobster avocado Baleadas
C. ascend and eat 3 La Cueva Happy Cookies
D. all of the above

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Mister Blue Sky discovered very different types of coral in the shallow water off of Shepherd’s Island in the Bocas del Toro area. The coral surrounded the entire island and disappeared after about 15 feet of depth as the wall sloped down into 50 feet of water. This made for phenomenal snorkeling in real calm clear water off of the Starfish Reef Resort..

The Coral Wall Off Of Starfish Reef Resort

The Coral Wall Off Of Starfish Reef Resort

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Mister Blue Sky took the Pacific scuba plunge with Boca Brava Divers on La Bruja (The Witch) which is an ancient lava monolith located within Islas Secas Panama. Click on the GoPro Hero 3 video taken by Mister Blue Sky

Islas Secas is a group of 16 small volcanic islands about 15 miles from Boca Chica Panama. These islands are privately owned and uninhabited except for a high end fishing lodge, Islas Secas Resort. “Secas” means dry. The islands looked pretty parched and stressed for lack of rain because it has been the dry season. It is a pretty area and the waters are relatively clear but not Bahamas or Caribbean water clear.

Islands in Islas Secas

Islands in Islas Secas

I want to give a shout out to my 2 dive buddies Tim and Don who were on vacation from the States with their wives. They stopped in for a couple of beers at Gone Fishing Panama while I was playing bartender. They were looking for additional divers to offset the cost of a day’s diving with Boca Brava Divers. Good guys for sure, I enjoyed meeting and diving with them.

We dove with Boca Brava Divers which is located in Boca Chica Panama. It is owned by Carlos Spragge which he operates out of his boat yard and boat storage facility. I like Carlos. He has a very good sense of humor but more importantly he is definitely conscience about his dive operation. He is also a dive master. He radio’d the boat a couple of times during the day to make sure everything was going well. He has the good fortune of having Julio as an alternate Dive Master for 6 months of the year. Julio was trained on Utila about 15 years ago…Go Utila! Julio spends the other 6 months in Europe……ah the life of a dive master and physical therapist…..so yes Julio was our dive master along with Chino our panga dive boat captain. Chino is a good conscience dive boat captain. A big shout out to both Julio and Chino, thanks guys. Boca Brava Divers also has a bigger dive boat for larger groups and multi day trips that will go as far as Coiba Island. See the website for additional info.

Mooring Area Off Carlos's Boat Yard and Storage Facilty

Mooring Area Off Carlos’s Boat Yard and Storage Facilty

Splashing a Boat Stored at Carlos's

Splashing a Boat Stored at Carlos’s

Carlos's Ramp

Carlos’s Ramp

Scuba diving on the Pacific side of Panama is not cheap. Its an all day affair because the diving action is a considerable ways from the main land. We collectively paid $600, $200 each for 2 tank dives plus lunch and drinks. The run from Boca Chica to La Bruja in Islas Secas was about an hour each way. Tim, Don and I definitely had a good time that day thanks to Julio and Chino. This excursion also gave me the opportunity to see the Islas Secas islands. They are very pretty for sure from the on the water perspective. I am sure that the fishing in and around these islands is very good.

Lunch with Chino, Julio, Don and Tim On Boca Brava Divers Dive Panga

Lunch with Chino, Julio, Don and Tim On Boca Brava Divers Dive Panga

Lets talk about the dives. Th first dive was on La Bruja which basically is a volcanic rock-lava mount that rises from about 65ft off the bottom and breaks the surface by at most 6-8 feet. The dive is basically once around the rock. La Bruja has substantial wildlife from sharks, skates, Guitar Fish, lobster, rays, turtles with all kinds of tropical fish, schools of bait-jacks-spadefish as well as many other fish. This was a very entertaining dive. The visibility was ok, not great and varied as we circumnavigated La Bruja as did the temperature. La Bruja is like an underwater monolith…..tall, steep and dark. A significant contrast to diving on coral walls or sea mounts. Ok you divers….what is the hand signal for a Guitar Fish?……yep air guitar! Pretty funny seeing your dive master all of a sudden go into air guitar mode…..made me forget to video the 3 that we saw. Tropical fish were cleaning a turtle’s shell. Eagle Rays were spotted in the distance. There were many schools of fish big and small that were seen in the distance but did not get captured in the video. Most of the fish were in depths between 10-40 feet. There were much fewer fish in the base area of the volcanic monolith.

Lunch Break Anchorage

Lunch Break Anchorage

We did the second dive after our lunch break. Carlos provided a variety of fresh fruits already cut into slices as well as excellent fixings for creating one’s own deli sandwiches. We anchored right off of a white sand beach…you do not find many bright beaches on the Pacific side of Panama, they are usually dark brown like the one below;

Dark Lava Sand Beach-Boca Brava Island

Dark Lava Sand Beach-Boca Brava Island

We had the option to picnic on the beach but all elected to hang on the panga. Afterwards we headed over to a small island about a half mile away for our second and final dive. The visibility was poor compared to La Bruja and there was not near the same quality and volume of wild life.

Navigating Through The Various Volcanic Outcrops In Boca Chica

Navigating Through The Various Volcanic Outcrops In Boca Chica

Mister Blue Sky enjoyed the dive trip. Being able to dive on the Pacific side of the Tropical Highway off of Panama was a new liquadic adventure. This Pacific submersion upon lava rocks was a real contrast to the corals of the clear Caribbean waters. Hopefully there will be future volcanic underworld adventures in the tropical Pacific waters.

Till Next Tide Blog Flockers,

Mister Bue Sky,
The Hammock Philosopher

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Mister Blue Sky Blogged a few days ago that on the Pacific Tropical Highway “tings” are bigger like giant Yellowfin Tuna or twice the size Sailfish …. well the next day he captured King Cong just off the coast of Boca Brava island …. use your imagination and enjoy this natural wonder which is a lava rock sculptured over time by the natural elements … see the carved out shoulders and head figure staring out to sea.

King Cong Rock-Boca Brava Island Panama

King Cong Rock-Boca Brava Island Panama

King Cong Rock-Boca Brava Island Panama

King Cong Rock-Boca Brava Island Panama

King Cong Rock In The Distance

King Cong Rock In The Distance

[caption id="attachment_1122" align="aligncenter" width="860"]Dark Lava Sand Beach-Boca Brava Island Dark Lava Sand Beach-Boca Brava Island

One of Several Cove Beaches On Ocean Side of Boca Brava Island

Hangman's Point - The Hanging Tree - Boca Brava Island

Hangman’s Point – The Hanging Tree – Boca Brava Island

Till Next Tide Blog Flockers

Mister Blue Sky
Waxing Philosophic In a Panamanian Hammock

Ps Carrie You Are The Best

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Hola Mi Blogflockers…….Mister Blue Sky is still on the Central American Tropical Highway but …… been so busy between chasing islands and beaches and surf breaks and small resorts and eco lodges in the Bocas del Toro area that there has been little hammock time and energy to blog on blog off ….. here’s waddup:

The Porch off of the Monkey Room-Gone Fishing Panama

The Porch off of the Monkey Room-Gone Fishing Panama

Easter Iguana Hunt First Place Live Trophy

Easter Iguana Hunt First Place Live Trophy

Mister Blue Sky rolled his hammock up over the mountains of Panama last Friday. He left the Bocas del Toro archipelago and the Caribbean Tropical Highway for the Pacific Tropicville Road. Presently staying at “Gone Fishing Panama’, a boutique resort in the Boca Chica area which is the staging grounds for some of the best fishing in the world. The three and a half hour bus ride (or should I say $9 roller coaster) to David (Daaveed) across the mountains takes you from the rainforest jungle with mountain water falls on every curve to the dry season on the Pacific side with cleared hillsides for agriculture and cattle. Size matters on the Tropical Highway of the Panamanian Pacific coast compared to the Bahamas and Caribbean. The fish are more diverse and overall bigger. In fact fish like Yellowfin Tuna get as big as a lot of the Blue Marlin that are caught in the Bahamas and Caribbean. Even the tides are bigger. Over in Bocas del Toro they have 18 inch tides. The Pacific coast in the Boca Chica area has 9-12 foot tides. Its comparing small Caymans to saltwater Crocodiles. But …… the Wahoo Are bigger in the Bahamas….Go Cat Island!

The Pool With Swim Up Bar With Big Screen TV At Panama Big Game Fishing Club

The Pool With Swim Up Bar With Big Screen TV At Panama Big Game Fishing Club

As I posted on the Facebook page Mister Blue Sky was invited by Mr “C” (Mark Charman) to visit his world class world famous fishing resort yesterday; The Panama Big Game Fishing Club, with resident monkeys swinging through the trees. He acquired it about two years ago and has completed significant renovations with new additions to be built in the near future . We’ve shared a few drinks the last few evenings. This is a first class fishing lodge-resort. His clientele fly in from all parts of the world. People with plenty of money but little time. So Mr “C’ has catered this fishing resort to the highest of standards. Check out their website or Facebook page or the pictures posted on my Facebook page. When Mr “C’ is done the Panama Big Game Fishing Club will be second to none (in the world).

Speaking of fishing lodges; I am staying at Bruce Edwards’ “Gone Fishing Panama” boutique resort. One of the first big game fishing lodges in the Boca Chica area after the formation of the original Panama Big Game Fishing Club. Now there are several in the area. I have already extended my stay here by another week because ….

View From Gone Fishing Panama's Bar and Dining Area

View From Gone Fishing Panama’s Bar and Dining Area

Mister Blue Sky's Office At The Gone Fishing Panama Resort

Mister Blue Sky’s Office At The Gone Fishing Panama Resort

BREAKING NEWS: Mister Blue Sky has been asked to mate for a few fishing trips …. I guess showing some pics of monster wahoo, lobster and Crab enabled me to pass the interviews … details to follow and hopefully some photos and videos …. here’s betting that if a Yellowfin Tuna is caught it will break Mister Blue Sky’s biggest ever …. hopefully there will also be Rooster-fish activity …

Mister Blue Sky actually rented a car at the David Airport after busing there from Bocas del Toro. Reserved through Expedia.com with Payless Car Rental. Arrived at Payless to find a note on the door saying out to lunch for an hour and half … waited the time and left without a car since the guy could not find my reservation and had no cars so …. walked 30 feet and rented one from Hertz; drove to Boca Chica and the Gone fishing Panama resort .. about an hour drive. I guess Payless means you pay less because they have no cars …

Gone Fishing Panama has a great set up with a beautiful view looking out from the open-air bar and restaurant. Mister Blue Sky was put in the “Monkey Room” not sure if there is any hidden meaning intended. It is a nice set up … in a separate building with two suites each with large private covered porches. There is a large infinity pool for Mister Blue Sky to perform his laps as well as a very large concrete pier running out to deeper water with a large ramp down to a floating dock … 8-12 foot tides here. Andrei is the chef and bartender when not cooking …. plus can be considered a security-body guard as well if such ever be necessary. He is originally from Moscow. I am told that there are about 3000 Russians now living in Panama. He speaks Spanish as well but very little English. I am getting better with hand signal communications … kind of like air guitar! oh ya … there is a hammock here near the infinity pool …. not sure if I have to wrestle the Iguanas to use it.

Mister Blue Sky has been on the tropical Pacific side of Panama for 5 days and has yet to be bitten by a bug .. no mosquitos … no no seeums … there are bugs here but not the biting type .. unless you count scorpions or tarantulas … the non biters is pretty amazing considering the last 5 evenings have been spent at Gone Fishing Panama’s open air bar area which means basically outdoors with a roof.

The No Bug Biting Bar-Gone Fishing Panama

The No Bug Biting Bar-Gone Fishing Panama

Mister Blue Sky really never blogged about the Bocas del Toro adventure and the essence of that area. Bocas Town on the island of Colon is the hub for all that is Bocas del Toro … Bocas Town is like a very seedy wild wild west Dodge City with a tropical flare. Its Key West without the heritage but then again not …. Some decent waterfront restaurants, decent waterfront party bars a la Utila style .. lots of tourists and lots of back packers hitting the hostels … Very good surfing with quality surf breaks scattered through out the various islands and a handful right on Colon. The scuba diving is …. well …. not worth going to Bocas just to dive .. its expensive and practically all the dives are not in the ocean but rather in about 45 feet of water on the inside of the ocean side islands … plus the dive boats are just pangas and not equipped to go out to the ocean. The fishing industry is about the same as the scuba diving …. hardly a quality boat to go into the ocean to fish and only a handful of guides to take one fishing. Someone is really missing the “boat” considering the large number of tourists flocking in by the hour. There are 10-12 boutique resorts or eco lodges scattered on the various islands making up Bocas del Toro. Plenty of hotels and hostels in Bocas Town. You can not operate without owning a boat unless you want to pay the fleet of panga tour guides to get you there and back … where ever there is …

Mister Blue Sky's View Out Of His Room at Hotel Olas-Bocas Town

Mister Blue Sky’s View Out Of His Room at Hotel Olas-Bocas Town

Well need to stop the presses for tonight to get ready for the first time ever fishing endeavor in one of the best game fishing areas in the world … no guarantees .. its called fishing, not catching, for a reason …. plus as the infamous Walt the Arab used to say on his radio show from back in the day … “its better to be lucky than good” .. although someone once said and many since that .. “luck is when preparation meets opportunity” … but quoting from Mister Blue Sky’s tropical fishing wisdom … “he who waits longer catches longer fish” or more importantly .. ” a successful fishing trip is when you get back to the dock, everything else is just gravy” ….. looks like its time to count fat tunas jumping over the transom in order to fall asleep …

Former World Record Yellowfin Tuna Caught Out Of The Panama Big Game Fishing Club

Former World Record Yellowfin Tuna Caught Out Of The Panama Big Game Fishing Club

Till the next 12 foot tide and hoping to have a bragosiuos fishing story …

Thanks for tuning in Blogflockers,

Mister Blue Sky

Ps Carrie you are the best!

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Hola Mi Blog Flockeros de Bocas del Toro, Panama

Carrie And Val Chillaxing On Cat Island Bahamas

Carrie And Val Chillaxing On Cat Island Bahamas

Mister Blue Sky has received a plethora of requests to post pics from his days gone by on the Tropical Highway of the Bahamas. Most of the Hammock Philosopher’s aquatic tropical wisdom is based on the “cinco” decades of spending serious time on or under the Tropicville Road of the Bahamas. When Mister Blue Sky sees for himself prettier water than that throughout the Bahamas he will let you know. To date there has been nothing close here in Central America. The Spanish named the Bahamas, originally “Bahamar” for shallow sea. Looking out upon the shallow waters of the Bahamas is intoxicating …. too much will cause “tropical liquadic addiction” … I was addicted at the age of seven and still have not shaken it especially after discovering Cat Island and Hawks Nest Resort & Marina 9 years ago. Technically Cat Island is about 40 miles north of the Tropic of Cancer but do not tell that to the surrounding ocean … So Mister Blue Sky will from time to time post images of days past from the Bahamas. The above picture was created by Mister Blue Sky and the images were taken by him as well all at Cat Island. How about the image of the Cat e’ Shack on the cooler! You can click on the picture to enlarge it or click on the top Blog Logo to go to the blog itself.

Happy Tropical Trails and Thanks For The Tropical Memories!

Till Next Tide,

Mister Blue Sky,
waxing philosophic in a hammock along the Tropical Highway in Central America

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