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O'VIVE PACIFIC CROSSING
A family travels from Florida to New Zealand aboard their St Francis 50 catamaran
ON THE PACIFIC SIDE!
Nathalie
03/01/2008, Panama city, Panama

We crossed the Panama Canal and it was quite an undertaking! Anyway we just arrived unharmed and very very happy to be on the other side (Pacific side)!!!! We are in a marina called Flamenco near Panama city where we are going to have a good night of sleep and we will see if we stay (not as nice as Shelter Bay Marina to say the least and very expensive, plus I think they do not like sailboat in general and in particular catamarans, they charge us double because of our width!).
Our transit began Friday 29th of February in Colon; we left the marina at 5:30pm with our three line handlers: A couple, Melissa and Buddy from Indigo Moon, and Roberto, a professional line handler. We arrived at the flats (the anchorage close to the canal's entrance) shortly after and the wait began. Our Advisor, Dalton was dropped off by a pilot boat at 7:00pm, we were scheduled at 7:30pm but actually did not get in the lock before 11:00pm!
We saw a "Mad Max sailboat" arriving full speed towards another sailboat at 90 deg and stopping to drop somebody at the last minute, backing up and steering around boats with a speed that was uncalled for, they had a few tires on the sides so we pray for the lucky one that would end up to do the transit with them! Guess who got lucky! We did, we had to "nest" with them: Initially you get to the entrance of the lock and then you tie up together, we saw that they had no lines (we had to use solely our lines) and four tires, two fenders in all! Luckily David went overboard with the tires (I thought) and we had lots of tires and 6 fenders which we ended to use all to be safe ( the other sailboat did not seem to care whatsoever, we learned later that the owner was not on board, it was a friend-captain just "helping" him by getting the boat across the canal). The tying up by itself was a chore, David ended up lending them a portable radio, they did not have one and their only fixed radio was inaccessible from the cockpit. Then he directed him to get into the wind, and WE went along his side to tie up. They were joking, relaxed, not caring, I did really not appreciate to have to deal with this type of cruisers that want to play it cool and relax, come under equipped (minimum requirement from the canal authority is 10 tires), I guess that is easy to be relaxed and not have a care in the world when neither of the boats are yours, it is very selfish and totally rude but that is who we had to deal with. Then we had to drive into the lock attached to each other straight and practice stopping in 20 knots of wind! By this time, the captain of the other boat was following David's orders, who was doing most of the driving with our twin motors. It was very stressful already and then we learned that we had to now get attached to a Mexican fishing boat already in the lock , to my horror, I look and see that the fishing boat had only 2 tires on the side ready to tie up!!!! I was ready to cry!!!! So we took 4 fenders back from the side where we were already attached with the sailboat and used it to fend against the fishing boat, I have to say, although the Mexican fishing boat was old (they knew they would not get any damage from another boat so all their tires were on the lock's wall side), they were very helpful and showed care, they even said "we know it is your house and it is important to you", I admired that. We were not totally unlucky because we had the best line handlers that you can get, from Roberto I expected it but Buddy and Melissa were a life saver, I would have not been able to do it with the kids, David was at the helm and could not help, he had to maneuver during the whole time. We also were lucky to wind up with a calm and very professional advisor-Pilot. Of course, the other sailboat crew was having a good time, chatting, lounging, and drinking beer. They did not even have to handle the lines for the other side; I guess in retrospect it was probably better.
Anyway we were finally ready! The first turbulence were pretty bad and the 7 of us (the 3 line handlers, me, the kids and the adviser as well) went to push against the fishing boat with all our might, one plastic around the tire burst and it was so loud , we thought it was a fender that had exploded! And I forgot to mention that in front of us in the lock, there was a huge ship! When the lock was totally filled up, Roberto told us to be now ready for the turbulence coming from the propeller of the Cargo boat leaving the lock for the next one, again the six of us (Dalton needed to be near David at the helm) pushed against the fishing boat. OK, one down, two to go! Each time we had to untie from the fishing boat, let him go first, which means stay put and straight (do not forget, we were still attached to the other sailboat then go forward and straight to the next lock ) and begin again the same procedure. On the second lock, the advisor told us that they were going to fill up the lock a little slower to minimize the turbulence; I guess they all heard the big noise of the plastic bag exploding and they probably thought something got damaged. Anyway we still had to fend off but it was much better... Then we were ready for the last one. Finally still attached to the sailboat, we exit the last lock and hurried to detach from each other, not only 3 seconds after we were detached, a huge wake came in and we had to push the motor full throttle to get away from each other without rubbing! Now we just had to motor another 20 minutes to the mooring were we would spend the night. We arrived, moored and had to watch the "Mad Max sailboat" moored on the same buoy, by now we were only on OK terms, we had enough of each other, there was never any yelling or swearing but we were done, tired and could not stand it anymore! We went to sleep at 1:30am. The advisor got picked up at 1pm and told us, see you at 6:30am! A new advisor came in the morning, Rodolfo, very nice as well, we left around 8:30am after a nice breakfast and cruise through the Gatun lake, it was beautiful and relaxing, we arrived to the first lock at 12:30, a little apprehensive but Rodolfo reassured us and he was right, on this side, the water in the lock is going down, so it is like a big bucket being emptied slowly, it is flat calm with no turbulence and he was absolutely right. We were attached to a big tourist boat this time, the "Mad Max" sailboat was attached to the Mexican fishing boat behind us. And ....we really enjoyed those three locks, no stress, a beautiful sun, we took pictures, laughed a lot, what a difference! We arrived in the pacific water at 2::00pm, our advisor left and we continued towards Flamenco marina where we spent the night. Melissa and Buddy left and we really thanked them, they did a fantastic job, they were maybe thinking to cross the canal but I think Melissa changed her mind. Time always heals everything, she will be ready later and I am sure that they will have a lot of tires hanging around their beautiful Lagoon cat! We went to sleep.... We were so so tired!!!!!!!!!!
Conclusion
1- Do not read this blog if you are ready to transit, I am sure it can go much easier than that (read the blog of the Mad Max sailboat, they thought it was a piece of cake!)
2- We were lucky because we had a great team on board (line handlers, advisers-pilots, the kids helped, and David did a fantastic job piloting through everything) Congratulation!
3- Life is great, we are on the Pacific!!!!!!!
PS: I forgot to say that Alec fell through a hatch just before arriving at the marina (everything is ok, just bruises) and our navigation instruments ceased to work on the last lock, but we are in the right place to get it fixed (Panama City!).

ARRIVE SUR LA COTE PACIFIQUE, PANAMA CITY
Nous avons traverse le Canal de Panama! ...et nous sommes tres tres heureux d'etre arrives
sur la cote pacifique sans dommages. Cela n'a pas ete facile!
Notre Transit a commence Vendredi 29 Fevrier à Colon. Nous avons quitté la marina vers 17h30 avec nos "teneurs de lignes (line handlers)": un couple Melissa et Buddy à bord d'un catamaran Lagoon "Indigo Moon" et Roberto un professionel. Nous étions donc en train d'attendre notre pilote au mouillage appelé "les Flats" a l'entrée du canal, quand un bateau est arrivé plein pot a un angle de 90 degrés , nous avons bien cru qu'il allait empaler le pauvre voilier qui etait en face mais non! L'équipage etait apparemment en retard et venait chercher la cinquième personne à bord de ce bateau pour les aider, Nous avons vraiment prié pour ne pas faire le transit avec ce bateau! Nous eéions prevus a 19:30, notre pilote est arrivé à19:00 mais notre transit n'a pas commencé avant 23:00 heures... et nous avons du faire paire avec le voilier que nous avons surnommé "Mad Max". Nous avons du nous attacher ensemble avant de rentrer dans l'ecluse et bien sur ils n'avaient que trois pneus sur le coté et pas de cordage, après avoir utilisées toutes nos cordes et nos six parecoups, nous étions enfin prets ou presque, maintenant, nous devions entrer dans l'écluse à la meme vitesse et droit, puis pratiquer le ralentissement....! David leur a preté une radio portable car ils n'en avait pas et leur capitain a finalement suivi les instructions de David mot à mot car cela devenait vraiment sérieux. J'étais vraiment stressée et en colère après ce bateau qui se foutait complètement des dommages qu'il pouvait faire à eux-meme ou aux autres (nous avons ensuite appris que ce n'était pas leur bateau et qu'ils aidaient un ami , le propriétaire, qui ne les rejoindrait que plus tard. Enfin nous sommes arrivés à entrer dans l'écluse tant bien que mal, derrrière un immense paquebot et dernier petit détail, maintenant nous allions etre accrochés sur le coté droit à un vieux bateau de pèche mexicain, la totale!!!!
Bien sur le bateau de pèche avait utilisé tout ses parecoups/pneus pour se protéger du mur de l'écluse et il ne restait rien pour notre coté!!!! Donc, rebelote, nous avons du redistribuer les parecoups que nous avions mis du coteé de "Mad Max" et en aligner quatre sur le coté babord. Je dois dire que les pécheurs ont été super sympas et ont bien compris que l'on était très inquiets pour notre bateau, ils nous ont aidés au maximum et nous ont dit " nous comprenons, ce bateau, c'est votre maison", j'ai vraiment apprécié leur attitude. A coté , l'équipage de l'autre voilier ne faisait rien, rigolait et buvait des bieres, je suis encore étonnée devant le calme de David mais il savait qu'il avait besoin d'au moins une petite coopération du skipper lors des deux prochains transferts entre les écluses.
La première écluse a été la plus dure, en effet lorsque l'eau a commencé à monter, les turbulences ont poussé l;es bateaux l'un contre l'autre si forts que un sac plastique (qui entoure chaque pneus) a eclate, ce qui a fait un bruit pas possible, heureusement rien n'a ete abimé et nous etions 7, les teneurs de ligne, moi et les enfants, meme le pilote s'y est mis (david devait rester àla barre a tout moment) a poussé de toutes nos forces contre le bateau de peche pour minimiser la pression. Enfin l'écluse s'est remplit , le pilote nous a donc vite avertis "ce n'est pas fini, attention maintenant les turbulences vont venir des tubines des moteurs du paquebot qui sort de la premiere ecluse et entre dans la seconde" et nous voila tous ,à nouveau, à pousser comme des fous! Heureusement, le paquebot a minimize le plus possible l'action des turbines...
Entre chaque écluse, nous avons du nous detacher du bateau de peche, le laisser aller s'attacher en premier , puis arriver ensemble avec le voiler auquel nous etions toujours attaché (a tribord) et nous assembler a nouveau au bateau de peche...la troisieme fois nous etions des Pros!!! Enfin la troisieme ecluse s'est remplie et nous etions prets a entrer sur le lac Gatun (Toujours attaché a Mad Max) Des notre arrivée sur le lac, nous nous sommes empressés de nous détacher, cette fois tout le monde etait d'accord, trois secondes après etre libre l' enorme vague d'un paquebot nous a balance et David et l'autre capitaine ont mis les moteurs à fond pour aller en direction opposée et éviter un contact bord a bord, c'etait tout juste!!!! Nous etions tous épuises, encore 20 minutes jusqu'a la bouée et nous pourrons dormir!!!!!
Arrive a la bouée, nous nous amarrons tranquillement et.... Mad Max arrive et doit s'amarrer sur la meme bouée, David et Buddy avaient perdus toute leur patience à ce moment la et quelques commentaires assez directs ont ete échanges, heureusement tout le monde était tellement fatigués que nous avons tous été nous coucher, le pilote revenait a 6h30 le lendemain matin!!!!!!
Quelques heures de sommeil et nous voila debout et prêt a repartir. Notre nouveau pilote (en fait le pilote est un pilote-conseil, il ne prend jamais la barre) est arrive vers 7 heures et nous avons pris un petit dejeuner avant de partir a 8h30 _ il savait que nos moteurs pouvaient aller a 8 noeuds donc nous avions tout a fait le temps d'arriver aux ecluses du cote pacifique pour midi et demi. Cette seconde étape du transit a éte vraiment un plaisir, un beau voyage à travers le lac Gatun , le stress avait disparu car nous n'avons pas été couplés à un autre bateau (Mad Max était derrière nous, cette fois attaché au bateau de peche mexicain- je ne sais pas ce qu'ils ont fait sans parecoups et que 2 pneus mais...C'est leur problème ou tout du moins celui du pauvre propriétaire du bateau!). Le pilote, Rodofo nous a rassure en nous expliquant que de ce coté , il n'y a pas de turbulences, le niveau d'eau des écluses diminuent doucement comme des bassines qui se vident. Nous nous sommes accrochés à un bateau de touristes, ils prenaient tous notre photo, c'etait rigolo! Nous avons pris des photos, discutes, quel plaisir et quelle différence avec la nuit dernière!!!!
Enfin la dernière écluse etait derrière nous et nous étions....sur l'océan pacifique....incroyable!!!!
Notre pilote est parti et nous sommes allés en direction de panama City et la marina Flamenco ou nos teneurs de ligne sont partis eux aussi. Nous avons vivement remercié Melissa et Buddy qui ont fait ce transit pour avoir une experience. Melissa pensait peut-etre traverser pour aller sur le cote ouest du Costa Rica mais maintenant ils (surtout Melissa) ont change d'avis....ce sera pour plus tard!!!! Merci encore Melissa, Buddy et Roberto, je n'aurai jamais pu y arriver toute seule avec les enfants!
Conclusion:
1- Ne pas lire ce Blog si vous devez traverser le canal sous peu! bien sur cela peut se passer beaucoup plus simplement (je me demande bien ce que le blog de Mad Max doit dire.... Impeccable passage, pas de probleme! )
2- En fin de compte, nous avons eu beaucoup de chance, nous avions une bonne equipe à bord , de nos teneurs de ligne , aux pilotes, Emilie et Alec ont été supers, et notre capitaine David a vraiment pilote comme un chef!
3- Et puis....nous sommes sur le Pacifique!!!!!!!
PS: J'ai oublié de vous dire que juste avant d'arriver a la marina ,Alec est tombé à travers la hatch mais heureusement plus de peur que de mal et quelques bleus (pas de cotes cassees!). En plus un instrument de navigation a cessé de marcher, mais nous sommes au bon endroit pour les réparations de bateaux, Panama City !

03/04/2008 | Genevieve
Ho, la la quelle aventure.

Il fallait de sacres nerfs pour ne pas perdre confiance.

Maintenant, c'est un souvenir et je croise les doigts pour que tout se passe Super Bien pour la suite.

Bises,

Genevieve
03/10/2008 | Paola
salut les beaux, hi guys,

My dad went back to France 1 month ago and since then I have been working double. I finally read all about your adventures today. So many things to see, so many new peeple to meet, so many adventures to live ... forget about the stressful situations (an Panama was one of them!) and look at what you already did and you are not even half way done. What an experience for all of you. Wish I was there! Everything is ok here. I talk to Sabine every week. She took her family for a week in NY last wek and they are going in Washington for Easter. The girls are doing great and we are planning a "french" dinner for Easter at my house. We'll be reading your news together. Nic tried to chat with Emily but it did not work. Apparently she has to "invite" him ... whatever it means! And Sasha wanted to ask her about THE white face monkey, of course. Thinking of you, I'll talk to you later. Paola
Arrived in Colon
Dave
02/20/2008, Colon, Panama

We arrived in Colon on Wednesday February 20th in the morning. We are staying at Shelter Bay Marina located on an abandoned US military base. Very nice with lots of other catamarans...Nathalie is taking over...
Well, we made it! We arrived last Wednesday in Colon and settled in a very nice marina called Shelter Bay marina just after the breaking wall of the entrance of the port of San Cristobal (the port of Colon). We had a beautiful sail both days 15 to 20 knots wings on wings, cannot get much better! We spent the night in Portobello which was interesting , not great holding , mainly in mud but a small town with a fort, a well-known church , and a busy road with colorful buses leaving every hours or so. The kids (and ourselves too) are really excited to get back to civilization, Wi-Fi, laundry, lots of other catamaran cruisers in this marina. We are going scheduled to transit on Friday 29thy of February. We met a couple on a lagoon catamaran who are going to be our line handlers and David is also going to get a firsthand experience this Wednesday on a big catamaran going this Wednesday. It is all working out pretty good. We went one time to Colon, mainly a grocery shopping trip. It is not the type of town that you can really get excited about, very dirty, noisy and dangerous but it is always interesting to see.
The kids met the daughters (12 and 14) of the dock master and they are off on their bike in the afternoon when they get back from school! The marina is located in a park which previously was a US military site. It got evacuated in 2000 and the building are now abandoned but the park is still beautiful and it is safe to ride your bike around and see white face monkeys and slugs. I managed to call mom with Skype and was really excited, I will use it more... so, that is it.... Waiting comfortably for Friday.
EN ATTENTE DU TRANSIT DU CANAL DE PANAMA
Notre premiere grande etape est presque franchie!!! Nous sommes a Colon pres du port de San Cristobal ou les bateaux passent de la mer des caraibes a l'ocean pacifique depuis Presque 100 ans (ouverture du canal en 1914). C'est incroyable mais vrai !!! Nous sommes dans une tres jolie marina avec beaucoup d'autres bateaux, en particulier beaucoup de catamarans, sur un ancient site militaire americain abandonne en 2000. La marina est donc assez neuve , dans le parc et de ce fait, il n'y a pas de problem de securite ce qui est un souci a Colon. Les touristes sont avises de ne pas se deplacer a pied meme sur une courte distance et en pleine ville dans la journee, de ce fait il y a des taxis partout (peut-etre que cette insecurite est aussi un peu exageree a leur avantage) mais la course est tres peu chere, entre 2 et 3 dollars. Nous sommes alles reapprovisionner le bateau hier et avons trouve l'essentiel, pour le surplus, nous attendrons d'etre du cote pacifique ou la ville de Panama city offre tous les grands magasins comme aux USA ou l'Europe. (Alec se demande si on trouvera du nutella!!!!) Nous avons déjà notre date de transit, vendredi 29 Fevrier. David va aider un autre grand catamaran mercredi afin d'avoir un peu d'experience et savoir ce qui nous attend. La famille francaise a bord de ce catamaran va aussi traverser le pacifique, ils ont deux jeunes a bord de 17 et 20 ans,tres sympas, qui ont commence leur vie sur le bateau au meme age qu'Emilie et Alec. Nous profitons bien des avantages de la civilization dans celle belle marina (machine a laver, internet Wi-Fi, restaurant) et je suis sure que nous serons aussi heureux de quitter la civilization pour les Galapagos! A bientot......




02/24/2008 | Nancy & Joe
Great photos! The fruit & Vegie boat came full of goodies! Joe has the dining room table spread out with his Panama & O'Vive photos! What's your Canal schedule? We Love you...Smooth Sails! Nancy
02/27/2008 | Matt and Linda
Wow guys, This is the first time we've checked into your blog and we're impressed with how fast you're moving. It seems like you just left Tavernier Key! Colon is a "pit" isn't it? But the Free Trade Zone is pretty interesting - we picked but cases and cases of beer and wine there (we hooked up with some other cruisers and bought together) - they delivered right to the boat!

And enjoy the transit ... we'll try and see if we can catch you on the webcam. Let us know if the date changes.

Matt & Linda
02/29/2008 | Genevieve
Je suis ravie d'avoir eu de tes nouvelles et de savoir que tout est OK dans cette grande aventure.

Je t'embrassse,
03/02/2008 | Davina Geddes
Have just been to Florida with my Mother and Brother to visit everyone, so sorry you weren't there. It looks as though you're having a wonderful voyage. I'll follow it with envy! Safe sailing. Love Davina x
Portobello
Dave
02/19/2008, Portobello, Panama

Arrived in Portobello today at 3pm. Nathalie and the kids are ashore exploring while I stay on the boat as we are not anchored very well. Will probably leave for Colon tomorrow due to the poor holding in this anchorage.
La petite ville de Portobello
Nous sommes arrives a Portobello cet apres-midi avec un tres bon vent arriere de 15-20 noeuds, c'etait tres agreable. Nous sommes alles voir la petite ville de Portobello mais David est reste sur le bateau, l'ancre est dans la boue et pas tres securisee. Les enfants et moi avons donc visite les ruines d'un ancien fort espagnol, la ville de Portobello a toujours ete un tres bon port utilises par les conquerants espagnols mais cela a ete aussi le repere de pirates, beaucoup d'hitoires et de tresors englouties!!!! Nous avons aussi eu la surprisede voir un petit singe a la grande joie d'Alec. Emilie a bien rit quand ce petit demon s'est mis a fouille les cheveux d'Alec !!! Portobello est aussi un lieu de pelerinage ( le christ noir) ou les gens viennent de tres loin esperant des miracles. Les bus du Panama sont toujours tres colores et tres rapides, ils assurent la liason avec la grande ville de Colon.

The land of Kuna Yala!!!
Nathalie
02/15/2008, San Blas (Kuna Yala) Panama

We have been in the San Blas (also called Kuna Yala) since about a week. The Kuna Indians rule over those islands located west of Colon on the Atlantic side of Panama. They are a part of Panama but very attached to their independent status. They are the descendent of the Kuna Indians who lived there for centuries and were decimated by the Spanish invaders. However, they succeeded to keep their community alive to this day. They are about 55,000 Kunas left and their law does not allow inter marriage, they would be excluded if they do. It is a matriarchal community, the women are dressed beautifully , they love vibrant reddish colors and their molas (superposed tissues sawn together by hand with geometrical pattern) look beautiful on them; They wear strings of bead rolled around their lower-leg and lower-arms and sometimes a big gold bead in their nose. They love lots of red/pink blush on their cheeks and they are very small in size. It sure looks like they have no problem to maintain their population ratio, there are small children everywhere! We visited a few Kuna villages near the island of Porvenir and Cartisugdup. All houses are made of bamboo sticks and the roof is palm straw (like the chikihut), their streets inside the island are patted earth and extremely clean with touch of colors (flowers, banana trees...) but surprisingly, on the back of each house, on the water, is where they pile what they cannot get rid off along with the out-house right over the water, so much for the bay view! They are nice enough with the tourists but yet it is not what I imagined, of course they see us as a dollar sign, and sometimes want a dollar just to take their pictures, it is unfortunate and I do not want to agree to that yet. We bought some molas and beadwork, Kuna women come by canoe around the cruising boats and we were able to communicate in Spanish and have a conversation and fun with three women, it was a great moment! The weather in February is peculiar, often hazy which is not the best for snorkeling. There are some very nice reefs but it is mostly fished out (a lot less or smaller than the Bahamian waters). The outer islands are the attraction of the San Blas for me, beautiful white sandy inlet covered with palm trees and surrounded by turquoises waters, a dream!!!!The anchorage are pretty busy, always 12 to 15 boats but it is nice and fun! We went to a potluck last Monday on the East Hollandes key and there were some cruisers who were in the San Blas for years, they were very open and eager to help and give advices to the new cruisers in the area, I really appreciated this, it is not always the case and we really enjoyed our evening with everybody.


02/27/2008 | Becky & Dave DeBell
Greetings from MA,
We are friends of Nancy & Joey and in 3 wks we will be sailing on the Princess line to the Panama Canal. Love your pictures so far and anxious to follow you thru the canal.
ENJOY !!
In the San Blas
Dave
02/14/2008, Carti Sugdup, Kuna Yala (San Blas, Panama)

Arrived February 9th after a 74 hour passage from Jamaica. Will be here for another week or so before heading for the canal. More info when we find wi-fi.

02/16/2008 | VINCENT DYE
Dear All ; still with you by watching your spot position on your blog ! Please insert some pictures again and enjoy Cruising the canal and i guess you ll be soon heading for the Galapagos !Ivana and the kids are going to Louxor ( Egypt ) for 1 week off.
With Love .
02/16/2008 | Philippe ALFONSI
Juste un coucou pour vous dire que nous suivons votre progression et redécouvrons la géographie au fil de votre parcours.
Pensons bien à vous et profitez en bien.
Grosses bises des ALFONSI

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