Live Like Andy: A Paddle Out Ceremony Honoring the Life of Bocas del Toro Legend, Captain Andy Crawford

This morning the Bocas del Toro community paid their respects to the great Andy Crawford. Gathering off the point of Isla Carenero, there were at least 30 surf boards in the water, with many others in boats and dinghies, all tied up for a flotilla-style funeral of 60+ people honoring the life of Captain Andy. It was a paddle out ceremony; such an appropriate way to say farewell to a man who loved to live his life on the water. Whether it was behind the helm of a sailboat, or zipping around the islands on his dinghy, playing music at dockside venues, or his favorite, surfing; Andy was always at home on the water. Today he was returned to the sea, when band mate and longtime friend Patrick Horton spread some of his ashes into the current at a favorite surf break of Andy’s, not far from the beach house where he lived out some of the best years of his life.

Patrick brought his guitar and graced everyone with songs from The Grateful Dead that he performed with Andy over the years as The Island Time Drifters. Friends gathered, straddling boards, sitting in boats, listening to the music, tossing beautiful jungle flowers into the sea and sharing stories about their time with Andy. The words spoken shaped the existence of a very special spirit; a generous man, who spent his days smiling, doing what he loved, sharing what he had, and touching the lives of many and from all backgrounds. Paying their respects to Andy today was everyone from the young local surfers to the older expat community and all ages and lifestyles in between.

The attendance of today’s event was a testament to Andy’s character and the life that he led. He was eager to meet people and make a connection, no matter who you were. He was an active person, multi-talented, and generous. He was someone you could always count on for a favor; kind, compassionate and always listening. Ever grateful, a beaming light of positivity, and never-not-smiling. “Andy was the definition of the aloha spirit,” was the way his friend Wade put it. Aloha can be interpreted as “love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy” or “kindness, unity, agreeable, humility, patience.” However you want to say it; all those words and their meanings are totally Andy.

And in that very spirit and as a way to pay tribute to Andy’s surfing soul, the ceremony concluded in the style of a traditional Hawaiian paddle-out where everyone who was on a surfboard formed in a circle, holding hands, splashing up the seawater, all while hooting, hollering and vocalizing his name; a name that will certainly always be remembered fondly in the hearts and minds of everyone who knew him- Andy…Captain Andy. Andrew Crawford.

Today the Bocas del Toro community said farewell to a friend in the most appropriate of manners, in such a way that everyone in attendance could feel Andy’s presence; likely looking down on us, from wherever it is that you go after this life, smiling ear to ear, overcome by joy and gratitude. After all, that seemed to be his permanent disposition, the joy and the gratitude; no matter what kind of obstacles were facing him. It should be an inspiration to everyone to try and live like Andy.

And live like Andy today we did. We paddled out. We sang songs. Yes, we cried, but we smiled more. We smiled with all the joy and gratitude of an Andy smile, because we are happy and grateful to have known him.
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Nicholas Corea is the editor of the Bocas Breeze. He wasn't born in Bocas, but he got there as fast as he could. He is just one of the many foreigners who became enamored with the islands and his mission is to share the magic of Bocas del Toro with the world. Mr. Corea likes to extend his gratitude to everyone who makes the Bocas Breeze happen- starting with YOU (the reader).

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