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Transiting Panama Canal, 27 & 28 June, 2004.

Sunday, 27 June 2004 - 3:32 PM still on Flats, waiting for pilot. Alex is our line handler, just picked him up at Panama Canal YC.  

Panama Canal, the 'big picture', including the Atlantic and Pacific side as well as the lake, in total .

4:15 still on stand by on Flats …

4:35 pilot finally arrived, Ernesto, of Indian origin .

Before entering lake Gatun tested speed in calm waters. At 2500 revs were making 7.5 kn, at 3000 revs 8.5 kn – and the hull and the prop were not perfectly clean. Would probably be 0.3 kn faster if clean. This is now with the three bladed, 18 inch SeaHawk feathering prop. The speed is approximately 0.5 knots higher than with the previous, three bladed fixed prop! Congratulation SeaHawk, very good prop! (for details check their website www.seahawk.com.au).

7:35 pm – transit through the locks took approximately 1 hr, from 5:30 to 6:30pm. Nested with ‘Music’ from New Zealand. All went well, no drama .. impressive locks.

On the way to Gatun locks Susan in front of Gatun lock Rafting together with our Kiwi partners Music
Entering first Gatun lock Alex, our line handler giving instructions to Peter and Lesley The door is CLOSING!
Our line handler Alex did a great job Our 'local' line handlers are keeping FIU in the middle of the lock by using winches And Alex is doing the same but without winches!
Door is closed and we are slowly Going up ...! We are already some 10 m above the sea level .. and motoring to a second and then third lock ..
And once again, doors are closing behind us .. and we are finally entering ... the Gatun lake! We are now 28 m above the sea level and will spend the night on this anchorage. Will  continue tomorrow morning towards the Miraflore locks on the Pacific side.

Now at 7 pm, moored on the official PC buoys. Pilot already left – tomorrow morning his colleague will take us through the lake to the Pacific locks.  Peter is preparing dinner (carrot and potato with his ‘magic’ basil & cream sauce), Susan, the official FIU photographer, downloading photos from the camera, Lesley assisting Peter and I am writing a log … drinking our usual rum –punch ..  we are all happy and excited .. our first transit through the Panama locks went smoothly and without any problems .. time for celebration! PETER, another rum punch please!!

We are still rafted to Music, decided to leave the boats this way for the night so that we could be moored to the same buoys. They have been on the road for 10 yrs, Ken and Mary, plus two kids and they are now finally on the way home to NZ. Ken is an electrician, fridge specialist, works along the way, Tortola, Las Palmas, etc. They visited Croatia last summer, liked it very much (who would not)! 

Three Gatun locks and our anchoring position in the Gatun lake 

Monday, 28 June 2004, 6:30 am.  Pilots already arrived – originally were supposed to arrive at 7:30! His name is Manuel. Perfect day, clear skies, although it is rainy season we did not have too much rainy days yet! Motoring at 7.3 kn with 2300 revs. Manuel is at the wheel – an ex captain, likes to drive boats – I do not mind.

7:26 AM – taking a shortcut, so called the Banana cut - will save us 1/2 hr..

 

Our new captain, Ernesto did not let the wheel out of his hands all the way to the Pacific Occasionally we crossed path with a freighter

 

It was a quiet day in the Gatun lake. Motoring slowly through the lake, surrounded by a jungle. Stopping and swimming here is not allowed - and you wouldn't like to swim in company of alligators anyway!?

 

 

 9:24 AM going through the Gaillard Cut

 

In Gaillard cut we had few close encounters with real 'monsters' as well as with.... Guardian Angels!
The new America bridge which is going to be completed by the end of this year to take some load off the old America bridge that is the North and South Americas connection. Dredging is a permanent process here and PC authorities spend millions of dollars yearly on dredging

 

 

10:36 am  stopped in the first lock – Pedro Miguel .. at 10:48 am exiting the lock and entering Lago de Miraflores

 

Entering Pedro Miguel locks Line handlers following us from the side and fixing FIU and Music in the center of the lock - we were the only two boats in the lock!
As the lock starts to open we sailed into the Lago the Miraflores and had to wait in front of the lock few hours before entering the final Miraflores lock!

 

 

11:10am – in front of the Miraflores Locks – it look’s like we have to wait two hours for the big liner to go through the locks! So close to the Pacific and yet, so far!? We are tethered to a huge buoy made for tankers – it is nearly bigger than Fiu.

 

Finally, in front of the last lock that separate us from the Pacific ocean! Water is coming down .. and down ..
and the gate is finally opening and the Fiu crew .. wet, exhausted but in good spirits entered the Pacific ocean!

 

Welcome to Pacific ocean and good bye to our trustworthy line-handler Alex

 

 

1:54 pm A few minutes ago we entered the Pacific Ocean – congratulation guys & gals, good job!! Transit was smooth and easy. Rain was pouring down – is that a good sign – hope, yes. ..

Heading to Balboa SC where the pilot and Alex, our line handler will take off.

We spent a few days moored off Balboa SC and visited Panama City – an impressive modern city with skyscrapers – did some further provisioning and more internet cafe stuff whilst also managing to do some sight seeing and buy some souvenirs (Panama hats!). Had dinner one evening in a very nice restaurant within walking distance from the YC.

The kiwis had their dinghy stolen one night, the line had been cut so it was clearly theft. The dinghy was found the next day with the outboard motor missing.

Panama City and Balboa , Monday, June 28 – July 1, 2004

Since arrival in Balboa we spent few days in Balboa YC – provisioning, sight seeing, internet cafes (see previous section).

Mooring is obligatory here and it is choppy because of the constant Canal traffic.  One has to be cautious in choice of mooring due to the significant tidal variations – we had 3,5 meters of tide and some shallow areas  which could ground deep draught boats during low tide.

America's bridge linking North & South America Street scene in Panama City Innovative use of the tire fenders from the Canal transit

Lesley’s description of our stay in Balboa and Panama City is as follows:

“The next couple of days we spent picking up some last minute items and getting a feel for Balboa and Panama City, which are so different from Colon, the smaller, poorer relation. We started in the trendy area of town for internet and other necessities, and then went to the local pedestrian shopping street. One thing that disappointed me was the lack of local wares. Other than molas from the Kunas and baskets, most items for sale in Panama are from other countries and not cheaper than at home. I’m not a shopper but I still appreciate a souvenir or two from local areas. The pedestrian street was definitely a lot more interesting to walk down than the trendy area, with people shopping, sitting, talking, and eating, and the air full of music, conversation, and even a loudspeaker of a man cajoling the crowd into biblical repentance. The next day was spent more leisurely by Peter and I on board in the morning with an afternoon bike rental ride to the small Smithsonian of Tropical Studies museum down the causeway from the yacht club. Ivo and Susan continued with their chores and shopping ashore. That night we treated ourselves to a restaurant meal”

Clothes is really cheap in Panama! How about this for my deck chair? Panama hat for my collection

On Thursday July 1, 2004 we set sail for Galapagos via Las Perlas islands & Santa Catalina, Coiba, Jicarita islands.

Back to Fiu Odyssey 2004 photo album

Next,  Panama to Galapagos

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