As we neared the breakwater to the Panama Canal, our AIS, which is the system that identifies ships around you, just lit up. It was both funny and scary! On our passages down, it was actually something fun to do, especially on night watch. I would check the chart plotter, hoping a little triangle would appear. When it did, I could click on it, and see the name of the vessel, what it was called, where it was going, how long it was, how wide it was, and what course it was traveling. This allowed us to see if we would have any close encounters with ships...and avoid them.
This is what our chart plotter looked like 27 miles out: You can't even see the entrance to the Canal with all the ships!
Dave assured us it was no problem, that he used to sail his Optimist in Durban harbour amongst the ships...I believe him, this I've heard before! But just seeing the ships, either at anchor outside the breakwater, waiting to get in, or inside the breakwater, waiting to transit, was just amazing. And as we actually got closer and started dodging them all, you realize what a huge operation the Panama Canal is! All these vessels, coming and going, crossing one country to get from one ocean to another!
|6 miles out - easier to see the actual ships now|
It was particularly amusing to find ships that had passed us on the way, now waiting to get into the Canal. Benjamin would spot them: "Look, there's the Loland" (we laughed at that name : LOL Land - we have little to keep us amused), and "Look! The Atlantic Star!" We identified the tankers, the cargo ships, the Loland was full of truck cabs, all lined up on her deck. It was fun.
|Approaching the canal. It was a rainy, misty day, but you can get an idea of the ships on the horizon|
We made our way through the breakwater and soon were in Shelter Bay Marina, where most boats go, to complete all the paperwork necessary for a Canal transit. After those 4 and a half days and 4 nights, we were SO happy to be stable again!
Dave had just enough time to rinse off the boat, and I was still getting the washing together and wiping everything down and starting to tidy up, when we saw a man with a wheelbarrow approaching the boat...yes, a wheelbarrow....Garrick had arrived!! The kids raced out to meet him and it was SO good to see him! Garrick had 2 huge bags (in the wheelbarrow) and one small backpack. The two huge bags were full of all the items we had asked him to bring for us...primarily 2 sets of rope! The poor guy lugged all the rope from Virginia to Panama for us! The backpack was all the space he had left for his own stuff. Again, thank you, Garrick for EVERYTHING you did for us during our "dark hours"!
|Garrick (and new rope!) arrive!!|
Today (Wednesday) was a busy day. In the morning, the Admeasurer from the Panama Canal came to measure our boat. Jose was an extremely interesting guy and gave us a crash course in modern Panamanian history. So interesting to talk to! That will have to be a post in itself to relay everything we learned! He physically measured our boat with a tape measure and completed all the necessary paperwork. We have 3 options for transiting the canal: either we will be center chamber, which means we would be by ourselves in the middle of the chamber; we could be tied up next to a tug boat; or we could be rafted up with one or 2 other boats. We won't know until we get there. What the measurer does is take all the information, and they see what other boats they have needing to go through, and they work out the best option given the size and number of boats.
|Jose has a very important tape measure|
Due to the fact that we have some repairs and provisioning to do, we have asked to transit on Monday. Once we know for sure, I'll write a post on the procedure for transiting.
The second exciting thing that happened today was the we met another "Kid Boat"! I met a lady at the Marina and we started chatting. She is French. She asked if we had kids. I said, yes, we do...do you?! Yes, she said...2 boys, ages 15 and 9! YAY! KIDS! They are also circumnavigating, having left Europe in September! I offered to have her come over with the kids in the afternoon and meet Benjamin and Gaby. And so she did, and, voila! boat friends! Ben and Gaby went to the Marina pool to swim with Paul and Antoine and I think the noise from the fun they were having, must have brought out all the other kids in the marina that we didn't know were here! Soon there were 6 or 7 kids playing in the pool! We didn't see our 2 until it was dark and raining and they had so much fun. Plans have been made to get together tomorrow again. Sadly, they transit on Friday, so they'll be gone after that, but I think we may see them again on the way! We will certainly look out for them!
Third thing (not so exciting), was that poor Dave went up the mast again. We hope that we have FINALLY fixed the problem with the chafing (Dave was up there for about 3 hours!!), and he rigged up the brand new rope Garrick brought, and fixed the part where the rope was getting pinched, so fingers crossed...the halyard problem should be fixed!
|This is what you look like when you are doing repair work 70 feet up in the air|
And lastly...reinforcement # 2 arrived! A weary Adrian, having left South Africa on Tuesday morning, flew from Durban to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to Dubai, Dubai to Orlando, Orlando to Panama, and then had to endure a 2 hour car ride in a monster storm with pelting rain and lightning, calmly knocked on our hull to announce his arrival at about 8:30pm tonight!! He too came with 2 big bags...one was full of pressies! Thank you, Oma and Opa for the gifts for Ben and Gaby (Gaby shrieked with delight at her new raincoat! :)); thank you, Michelle for the beautiful scarf (and the Onion Marmalade!), and thank you to Adrian for all the other goodies you brought! We are so glad you made it and so happy to have the Cool Runnings crew finally together. It's been so many years of planning, it's hard to believe we are all sitting here in the jungle of Panama!
A note of thanks also to Kelly and Michelle for loaning us your men for 2 and half months! We realize it's a sacrifice on everyone's part, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts - we are so happy to have them, have their help and their company! I will look after them and return them to you both in once piece!! The 3 musketeers are together again, and we are excited to begin the next part of this journey!