Tuesday, 10 March 2015

2/2015 Panama Canal Transit

Hi from Clare,                                           Saturday 7th March 2015

No 2 Panama Canal Transit

So this is a momentous occasion, our first newsletter sent from the Pacific. Let's hope there will be many more written from exotic and peaceful locations.

We transited the Panama Canal Wednesday and Thursday spending the night in the Gattun Lake. The hand drawn diagram below shows the three locks going up to 85 ft above sea level, the twenty mile wide Gattun Lake and then the three locks coming back down to sea level. We paid $1875 to the Panama Canal Authority of which about half is refundable if no accidents occur, and thankfully they didn't.

Carlos' diagram

Rafting up with Andromeda at the canal entrance

Entering the canal

To prepare for the transit we needed to hire long lines and rubber car tyres and have four line handlers on board, The line handlers can be friends or anyone offering their services. Believe me there is a constant procession of people coming to the boat asking for a ride through the canal. Apart from myself we opted to have two cruisers who have been through the Canal before and then we paid Ricky, a Panamanian born professional line handler. Ricky has done many transits and was a wonderful asset. Not only could he handle the boat work quickly and efficiently, he spoke the local language and communicated with the canal personnel to get our lines secured onto the bollards quickly when entering each lock. There are many different types and sizes of vessels in the canal at the same time. We were rafted up against another yacht about he same size as us. Eye Candy was the designated lead boat as we had the bigger engine. This suited Andrew and also the other skipper who was pretty green and had already asked Andrew to tell him what to do.

Lock doors close behind

In addition to our own arrangements the Canal Authority provide an Advisors who assists the Skipper as the canal is narrow, the incoming water and tugs working in the canal can cause turbulence and there is an outgoing current and wind to consider. We had two Advisor on board, one for the up locks and then another for the down locks. Both Advisors were tug boat skippers who also assist with canal transits. Our second Advisor Carlos has been a tug boat skipper for thirty years and has done 1000 canal transits. Both our advisors were knowledgeable and very pleasant. Consequently we had a good and trouble free transit unlike the boats behind us who's line handlers were inexperienced and failed to get secured quickly and their raft drifted into the side wall of the canal causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to the yacht pushed onto the wall, see photo.

Ricky at work on the bow
Leaving the Gatun locks
Carlos our second advisor
It was lovely when the final gate opened and we motored out into the Pacific. It was also lovely to have the four additional crew leave Eye Candy, clean up and get back to normal. We are now anchored in a bay at La Playita just outside the Canal along with approximately thirty yachts.
We know the people of at least six of these yachts so we have plenty of company. Andrew started up the watermaker only to find a leak, so he is occupied trying to fix it, we will need to buy some new parts.

View of the Pacific


We will be here for a while provisioning the boat and preparing for the Pacific leg. We haven't got our heads around where to shop yet, but we have plenty of notes from friends who went through the process last year – thank goodness for Brenda's (SY Bandit) notes!

Love Candy xx

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