But back to today. At 1:00pm our agent, Roy Bravo will come and deliver the lines, the fenders and our line handler. We will leave the marina at 2:00pm and head over to the Flats Anchorage, a staging ground for the first lock. There we will receive our advisor. Every vessel has an advisor from the Panama Canal on board to guide us through the locks. The line handler is an extra set of hands to help us with the huge ropes that will be thrown to us from canal handlers on the side of the locks, and that will constantly have to be adjusted to keep us steady and away from the side of the locks as the water rises. Dave will be at the helm, Garrick, Adrian, myself and the line handler will each be on a corner of the boat controlling the lines.
Once we get through the 3 sets of locks we will be in Gatun Lake, where we will anchor for the night. The advisor will be picked up, but our line handler will spend the night. On Tuesday morning, a new advisor will come to the boat, and will guide us across the lake, and then through the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side. We should be in the Pacific on Tuesday evening!
We’ve had a good time here at Shelter Bay Marina, as Dave mentioned in a previous post. Poor Garrick and Adrian were put to work right away, and Adrian was barely able to get over his jetlag, being thrown right in to the mix and helping with boat tasks and preparation! I’m happy to report that Puff is fixed, but there is a snag with the main halyard AGAIN (this has certainly become our Achilles heel!!). As Dave mentioned, West Marine sent a 10mm rope, when we ordered and paid for a 12mm rope. It’s a never ending saga that Dave and I are so tired of, we just can’t even think about it anymore! We will see if we can find the needed 12mm rope in Panama City once we get over there. Luckily our trusty mule Garrick, did bring our old halyard with him as well as the new rope, so we do at least have that as a last resort backup!
|Puff getting repaired in the sail loft|
The sheer magnitude of the operation is mind-blowing, and the history behind it even more so. The first attempt to build the canal was made by the French in 1880, but the cost, both financially and in loss of human life, caused them to abandon the project. After its independence in 1903, Panama made a deal with the US and the construction of the canal started in 1904. There is a LOT more history behind that sentence, but, in the essence of time, I’ll keep it short. The canal was finished in 1914, and was controlled by the U.S until 1999, when Panama took over the control of the Canal. Just being here and seeing the jungle and feeling the heat and humidity (and I’m a Durban/Tampa girl…I know heat and humidity!!), I can only imagine what those poor workers must have gone through building this canal. There was a tremendous loss of life during the construction of the canal, both from disease and from construction related accidents.
|Construction of the Culebra Cut in 1907 (Wikipedia)|
The Gatun Locks that we will go through first are still the original locks that were completed in 1914. Amazingly enough, the water is not pumped from one lock to another. When a chamber is drained, the water is emptied into the ocean, and when the locks need to be filled up, water is pumped from the lake. The new locks, that are set to open in June, and will be able to handle the super tankers, are designed to recycle the water and it will be pumped from one chamber to another, rather than in and out of the lake and ocean.
|The Crew with locks. You can see a ship transiting through the lock on the right|
|The lock doors closing and the water level going down in the lock on the right|
|This ship just barely made it through!|
|The same ship as it passed by. It actually scraped the side of the wall on the far left as the tug driver on our side was not paying attention, and didn't have his lines tight enough!|
Beside our time at the Panama Canal, we also provisioned, which ended up being a whole day affair. Buying the food was one thing….finding space to put it all…entirely another! But I managed, and while some of us may be sleeping with beer cans at our feet and tins of tuna snuggled up next to our t-shirts, we should not starve on our way across the Pacific!
|Finding space for beer...|
|Just some of the supplies...|
Our surroundings also lent themselves to some jungle exploring, and our two most intrepid explorers were Garrick and Gaby. The area around the Marina used to be a US military base, and the runway is still here, as are some of the barracks, and officer’s housing. The buildings are abandoned and decrepit, and the jungle is reclaiming them, but it is amazing to see. Our explorers found a church, gun batteries, a zoo (!), and rumour has it that they just let the animals go out into the jungle and that there might be a big cat wondering around…rumor has it… (monkeys were seen, but they are locals – not remnants from the zoo!)
|Garrick and Gaby found a beautiful beach on one of their walks|
|Gudrun and Gaby at one of the batteries|
We also took the opportunity of wifi to finally set up our drone, and finally fly it! It was a long and frustrating day of downloads and updates and things initially not working, but finally it all came together, and we (ie. Dave and Benjamin) flew it around the marina for a test flight. We were very impressed with it and the videos it took, so we hope to have some amazing footage of deserted islands and atolls in the South Pacific!
And so, once again, we have to say farewell to a place we’ve called home for the last 5 days. We’ve met some wonderful fellow cruisers: some moving on like we are, some heading back home, but everyone has been so friendly and helpful: providing assistance with the SSB radio (thank you, Edd!), knowledge of areas sailed, and even giving us provisions of food that they don’t need and can’t keep on their boat while they head back to the US for a few months (thank you, Betsy!). We are somewhat nervous, somewhat excited (at least I am), to once again be moving on. This is a big step for us, but we are ready to make it! I hope to have wifi on the flip side, and be able to provide and update along with pictures of our transit into the gateway that is the vast Pacific Ocean!
As a reminder, here is the link to the Gatun Locks webcam. We should be going through at around 7:00pm EST: