While in the past we based our entire operation from a sailing vessel; at present, our model is to deploy our teams in small open boats called ‘pangas’ or in traditional Ngabe-Bugle indigenous dugout canoes called ‘cayucos’ to reach the target communities scattered across 10,000+ miles of archipelago and coastal mountains we serve. These smaller craft can navigate much shallower waters and up rivers, allowing us to reach isolated rural jungle villages much more easily.
Doctor Panga #2
2016 Fiberglass Panga 29’ long. 115hp Yamaha Outboard Motor
Capacity: 20 crew
Active Service: 2017 – Present
This is our ‘people mover’ panga. With a light but sturdy fiberglass deep-V hull, this panga we built and launched in 2017 can move fast and get our team to our target communities (and back safely) ahead of incoming weather or in heavy swells. She is also ideal for conducting an emergency transport, with enough room for a patient and transport team.
The Original “Doctor Panga”
2011 Fiberglass Panga 24’ long. 60hp Yamaha Enduro Outboard Motor
Capacity: 12 crew
Active Service: 2012 – Present
The first small craft we built in Panama. The Doctor Panga has carried our teams safely more than 20,000 miles around the archipelago since we built her from a wrecked hull we obtained. Light but strong, nimble enough to navigate tight mangrove rivers and shallow approaches. The ideal type of craft for reaching communities with the most difficult access to care.
The Floating Doctors Cayuco
2007 Traditional Dugout Canoe, 47’ long, hand-carved from a single bateo tree, 75hp Yamaha Enduro Outboard Motor
Capacity: 25 Crew or 4,000lbs of cargo
Active Service: 2016-Present
“When all else fails, try doing what the locals have done for centuries.” The traditional cayuco used by the Ngabe-Bugle people comes in all sizes, from tiny mini-cayucos suitable for a 6 year-old to go to school, all the way up to 70’ monsters carved from gigantic jungle trees. These hardwood craft are very heavy and can land on beaches, carry a lot of passengers and cargo and navigate heavy swells safely. Although their weight makes it impossible to reach the high speed that pangas can attain, their long, arrow-like bodies allow a relatively tiny motor to push them up to 10-14 knots and deliver large passenger loads at low cost.
S.V. Southern Wind (now retired from service)
1981 Custom Motorsailor. 76’ long, 115 tons.
Capacity: 20,000 lbs of material & up to 20 crew
Restored by Floating Doctors 2009-2010
Active service: 2010-2013 (Haiti Earthquake, Honduras, Haiti Cholera Epidemic, Panama)
We obtained Southern Wind from Dennis and Jeanette Dean in Palm Coast, Florida. She had been neglected for ten years and was in a state of severe disrepair. Our initial founding crew totally rebuilt her over 13 months before we set sail for Haiti for our first mission after the 2010 Earthquake. She was retired from service in 2013.
With thanks for carrying us for over 6,000 miles, weathering hurricanes and lightning and poorly charted waters. She kept us safe and made everything we are doing now possible. We have grown beyond her capacity for the amount of primary care we provide and in Panama we are able to deploy from a central base on land, and transport our teams throughout the region in smaller craft that can land on beaches and travel up shallow rivers.
We learned a lot about the specific needs of an ideal sailing ship that could deliver specialist services like ophthalmologic or abdominal surgery, or cardiac procedures to underserved regions without requiring a massive hospital ship, and we look forward in the future to exploring this concept again. At present we will focus on creating highly mobile, permanent services that cover large areas in smaller boats from a central base, as with our current model in Panama.