The Plan...of course it's written in the sand at low tide....

The Plan...of course it's written in the sand at low tide....

Friday, April 23, 2010

Finally Panama Canal Pictures

Sorry it’s taken so long to post our pictures of our Panama Canal transit but we took a little family break and things have been kind of busy. Also let me apologize ahead of time…..this is a long story, it was such a great experience and with three of us taking pictures, there was so many to choose from. Okay let’s get started:

We started our 2nd trip down the outside of Mexico on November 4, 2009. On January 17, 2010 we finally arrived at the Balboa Yacht Club, Panama City, Panama. Here’s an overview of our stops:
We were on a mooring ball right by the Bridge of Americas.






It was a bit rocky and rolly when a big ship went by but also quite an experience. It’s not everyone who gets to sit on their porch and watch the “big boys” go by.
Here's a video Peter took:

video
One thing that was a bit annoying was the “pilot boats”…they delivered passengers and cargo to the big ships and worked 24/7. They were not very courteous to those of us sharing their anchorage and boy were their engines LOUD!











We were close to where they unloaded all the shipping containers….what a busy place that was.


There was the most interesting statue between the Yacht Club and the harbor.










Time to start provisioning……………










Taking the launch back to Effie with all the supplies…..

The “V-Birth” was the perfect place to store all the beer and soda…







Once the food was on board…..it was time to start getting things ready….Mac in the galley.


One last “cerveza” with friends before the big day….
L to R: Ginger, Victor, Alan, Debi, Margaret “Mac”, and Peter













Effie with her tires on, waiting for the big event the next morning….









Okay the day has finally arrived:
9:00 a.m., Feb. 11th, 2009


Time for the pilot boat to bring our “Canal Advisor” to the boat.


Each boat, the largest ship to the smallest sailboat, has to have a “Pilot” for the big guys and “Canal Advisor” for us smaller ones. We also decided it would good to have a “Professional Line Handler” to help us along the way. The “Canal Advisor” is an employee of the Panama Canal and is included with the cost of your transit. They do not spend the night on your boat and we had 2 wonderful advisors. Astro took us through the first set of locks and Yvonne took us through the Gatun Locks on the second day. Javier was our “Professional Line Handler” and what a great decision it was to have him with us. Everyone was professional, great at what they did, but also very personable and we had a great time with them.
Above: Astro Below: Yvonne
Alan with Javier...he was super.



While we’re talking about crew let us introduce the rest of our fantastic crew; Ginger, a high school friend of Mac’s who flew down to join us on our PCE (Panama Canal Experience), Peter, an old friend we first met while in the Santa Rosa Sailing Club, and Kevin & Kathy SV Hispaniola new cruising friends we met in Ensenada Benao then traveled with around Punta Mala. We really appreciate everyone’s hard work….thank you crew for keeping us sane and our “Effie” safe while going through the Panama Canal with us. Here’s the motley crew:










Okay we were more nervous when we had to go over “The Bar” at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador but there were a few nerves exposed as we headed to the first lock “Miraflores.”












Looking back at BYC and the Bride of the Americas;











There are actually 2 separate locks you go through at the Miraflores Locks then you go less than a mile and reach the Pedro Miguel lock. In all 3 of these locks you are “up- locking”; you enter the lock then they fill the lock with water to raise you up to the next level. We were tied to a tug boat on the first 2 locks. (I used the suggestion of a friend and had cupcakes ready to give to the tug crew members….they seem to be a little nicer after a treat.)




Mac making sure we’re not too close…if you look in the background you can see the blue line tying the tug to the lock wall.


Kenny and Brother John got some great shots of Effie and her buddy boat from the web cam (notice the head of a vulture in the lower right hand corner…):

To add to the pressure there is an observation deck where the tourists come to watch boats go through the canal.


There’s quite a bit of action in the water as it swirls upward.


Once the water was at the top and we were untied from the tug our advisor said, “Put your foot in it…..” It’s important to “get way on” (getting the boat up to speed) for maneuverability before the tug boat starts his engines. Friends have been turned in circles by the currents made by tugs when they start their engines. It also important to get out of the way!









Then it was off a short distance to the Pedro Miguel Lock. As we approached we saw several sail boats coming from the Atlantic side. There are more boats going from the Atlantic to the Pacific side than there are from the Pacific to the Atlantic side so many times they are “rafted up” as they go through the locks.










Locks closing behind us.


The tug left us and in this lock we were tied up to a party tourist boat. We had fun talking to their guests and boy did they have a lot of questions for us.





Peter & Alan enjoying the trip:



Ginger & Mac having fun too!



Time to leave the locks and head under the Centennial Bridge toward Lake Gatun.

















Picture from the live cam….we’re the last boat in the line.




We had 20+ kt. winds and it was a bit overcast so we were late arriving at the Gatun Locks by 20 minutes which meant we had to stay in the lake, DARN (We actually were excited….we wanted to stay in the lake overnight but if it’s your fault they charge you extra. Alan did some fast talking and used the fresh water, wind factor, and them being late getting us into the first lock as an excuse and they didn’t charge us. Actually I’ve never heard of anyone being charged….I think they expect sailboats to take longer.) Anyway I’m glad I had lots of food and drinks on the boat. We tied up to the mooring ball (largest we’ve ever seen) and settled in for the night. We had dinner and Alan played music and we all relaxed after an exciting day.











The pilot boat from the Gatun Locks came to pick up Astro. Astro gave me the biggest compliment; I was so worried about feeding everyone, especially the “Advisor”. I had heard horror stories about “Advisors” not being fed properly and ordering food in, costing up to $300. Well after his second helping of lunch he said, “In 8 years that’s the best lunch I’ve ever been served.” Wow did I feel good.



We were a little crowed that night but we managed. Javier and Peter both had a side in the cockpit, Ginger slept on the settee in the cabin, Kevin and Kathy took the V-birth, and Al and I were in the aft cabin. I guess everyone slept okay because at around 10:00 p.m. the boats coming from the Atlantic side starting arriving at the mooring balls. The only ones who woke up were Peter and me (Mac). I heard Peter get up to help them so I peeked out the back hatch….when I saw how close they were getting to Effie I was up and out on the deck, short nightie and all, in a heart beat. Peter and I were up again early in the morning to help them shove off and were surprised to see how many big boats were at anchor waiting to go through the locks.

We had a big breakfast and spent the day waiting until around 2:00 p.m. for our turn to go through the locks.














The pilot boat brought our advisor, Yvonne, but we still waited. Good thing I had more food on the boat…..we had a big lunch and waited some more. Calls were going back and forth…it’s time..it’s not time…you’ll be tied to another boat….you won’t be tied to another boat…finally it was time to go. We still weren’t sure how we would be tied but off we went.






We ended up being a center tie…that means we finally had to use those long blue lines we rented and we would be by ourselves in the center of the channel tied with 2 lines on the bow (front) and 2 lines on the stern (back).


Kathy and Peter were our stern line handlers....



Javier and Kevin were our bow line handlers…






Canal crew who handled our lines first when we were high in the lock and also when we were way down low. (Gives you a good idea how much water they let out)

We were all set to go after some maneuvering around the lock. Then we looked back and saw who was coming up behind us…WOW.


Here's some pictures Ginger took put some music:


video

Here's a video Peter shot:

video
Our advisor had some fun with us after we were all tied up and ready to go. He explained how proud they were to have female pilots and explained that the big ship behind us had a female pilot. Alan asked if that was a good thing or a bad thing and he explained, “It’s usually a good thing, they are good pilots, however, she’s also my ex-wife!” Then he laughed. We all got a good laugh on that one. They say it’s easier to down lock than it is to up lock since you only have to let out the lines instead of pulling them in. Everyone did a great job and our advisor stayed calm and cool throughout the process.

Ginger and Peter enjoying some down time.



Gives you some idea how big the ship was behind us (Pictures don’t do it justice…when you are there and looking up 3 stories it’s pretty awesome.)


We had plenty of room but you can see by the next picture the big ships don’t have much room on either side. We used our motor to get us through the canal but the big guys have “mules” (the little train like things on the tracks) to pull them through.




There are 3 locks in the Gatun Locks. Once through the first lock the canal line handlers undo your lines and walk them to the next lock while you motor then tie you off again. Then the process of letting out the water starts again. When we reached the 3rd lock we got our first view of the Caribbean.














The last gates open and it was time move…again the advisor told Alan to give it all he had and he didn’t argue. As we were heading out of the last lock we had fun waving at the crew on the National Geographic ship, Sea Lion.









The pilot boat pulled along side us and got our advisor as we headed to the flats of Colon. We got to the flats and set the hook…..we were all tired but all excited and thrilled to have had such a great adventure. Here’s a picture of our canal mate as they passed us once through the canal…



It was sad when the launch came out to the boat to pick up Kevin, Kathy and Javier.


Again we would like to thank all of those who helped us get through the Panama Canal. We had some overcast skies going through the lake (which actually helped keep it cooler), we had some rain while we were moored in Lake Gatun but boy did we have fun. We laughed, listened to the howler monkeys, played some music, ate some food, and thoroughly enjoyed our guests and the experience. Not everyone can say they took their “house” through the Panama Canal