…or the “Canal de Panama” as they call it over here.
Hello again Boatblog® Fans,
We knew we met be getting close to the Panama Canal when we looked at our plotter.
Aaaaaah. All those big green things are ships. And that’s a lot of ships. But even seeing it on the plotter doesn’t quite prepare you for when you arrive.
There’s hundreds of them. It’s like Cowes Week but with giant container vessels instead of yachts. We managed to dodge them all, even though we had a stowaway on board.
Soon we were safely moored up in Shelter Bay Marina on the Caribbean side of the canal. Shelter Bay claims to be the safest marina in the Caribbean, but these things are all relative. They don’t allow you to swim in the marina because of the crocodiles. Crocodiles! I kid you not. We didn’t actually see any, but they look just like logs, which is worrying because you often see logs floating in marinas.
So now it was just a question of waiting for our turn to go through the canal itself. We kept on getting delayed because there has been a lack of rainfall in Panama and the locks are low on water. This means that they don’t want to waste a ‘lockage,’ with all the water that uses up, on a few tiny yachts. So instead of going through together as a fleet which is what normally happens, we would have to go through in a ‘nest’ of three boats tied together, and one very big ship.
The Canal Authorities also insist that you have at least five people on board to transition the canal, so we were very lucky that the crew of Cavatina agreed to join us.
Thank you Cavatina.
At last we got the go-ahead. We would enter the first lock at 2045 (quarter to nine in the evening for you landlubbers). Which was great, except that it meant that we would be going through in the dark.
And because we were a catamaran, we would be the middle boat of the nest of three. This was bad in that it meant we were responsible for all the manoeuvring, and good because it meant if we did crash at least it wasn’t our boat that would get all mangled.
It’s like having a giant fender on either side of us, though I’m not sure that’s how the other boats saw it. You don’t want to be tied up next to a boat full of angry sailors because you’ve just smashed their boat into the wall, so you do have to concentrate.
Sorry – wrong photo. That was Ju eating cookies. This is Ju concentrating.
Then they close the doors,
…let the water in, and before you know it you are up at the top.
And ready to drive into the next lock.
Eventually we got through the first of the three locks which take you up to the Gatun Lake where we moored up for the night onto one of the giant mooring balls. They were really hard to tie up to as they are really made for much bigger boats so Lyn had to jump over the side to attach all the ropes.
Which is quite scary when it is rolling about and one false step and you are in the crocodile infested lake. (Ju forgot to mention the crocodiles until Lyn got back.)
We got up early next morning to cross the lake.
It’s a big lake so it took about five hours to get to the next set of locks which take you back down to sea level. For some reason, this time they decided that we should go into the lock before the ship. At first this didn’t seem so bad…
But then it got closer…
It was quite a relief when it actually stopped.
At last we arrived at Miraflores, which are the last two locks.
You go down…
Then they start to open the doors…
And you get your first view of The Pacific!
First you see the Bridge of the Americas in the distance…
which you go under…
And then you see the skyline of Panama City.
Woo woo woo!
Just time for a couple of Arty Farty photos, the first is called “Crane.”
And the second is called “Train.”
To The Pacific and Beyond!
Ju & Lyn