THE PANAMA CANAL
The Panama Canal is an amazing engineering project, it was first started back in 1880 and after several false starts and thousands of lives lost it was finally opened in 1914. It consists of three huge locks on the Caribbean side followed by a 20 mile trip across a large manmade lake and then a further 3 locks to get you down to the Pacific side.
The large ships tend to go through in one go taking about 12 hours to transit the canal, while the yachts go through in two days.
Our transit started with the arrival on board of our Advisor/pilot, who checks we have at least 4 line handlers with the correct ropes and gives us the rundown of what to expect. We then head out from the anchorage to the first set of locks which we shared with a huge container ship and 2 other yachts. T
he yachts have to raft up and stay together until we have transited all three locks. We happened to be in the middle, which can be an advantage as your line handlers haven’t got to do anything and you have a very expensive fender either side of you!!
It was all going well until one of the other yachts hadn’t tied a proper knot on one of their lines and the boats started to come apart. Not a good thing as there is a lot of turbulence as the water is pumped into the lock to raise the level. A bit of quick action from our crew and it was under control.
Once through the first set we anchored the night in the Gatun Lake for the night. It wasn’t long before we had a bit of a party going and a couple of the girls (no names mentioned) ended up skinny dipping.; quite brave considering we had seen a large crocodile, that afternoon, enjoying a siesta on the river bank. The lure of fresh water was too good to resist.
Our next advisor arrived at 6.00 in the morning to take us the 20 miles across the lake and through the last set of locks- Miraflores.
Part of the requirements the Panama Canal Authorities put on any transiting boat is that we feed and water the advisors and if it isn’t up to their satisfaction they can stop the boat and order food in at your expense. I don’t think our advisor had any complaints as Penny cooked a huge fry up for breakfast and good old Aussie burgers for lunch.
The last set of locks went without mishap and by 3.00pm, for the first time in three and half years we had anchored in the Pacific Ocean. The only thing to dampen the celebrations was that the saildrive which had been fixed in Shelter Bay was leaking oil again, but this time a lot worse.
Oh for a good marine mechanic!!! We straight away started organising for yet another haul out. The joys of boating.