21 April 2008 | The Panama Canal
We got up at around 6:30, which was the time we expected the new advisor. We fired up the Genset to give it a nice fresh water rinse. I was interesting to see Swingin' on a Star riding low in the salt free lake water. We made some Lattes and got the boat ready to go. At 7AM the advisor came aboard and we were off.
Regist was our mentor for this leg of the journey and he was also a very laid back and experienced sailor. All of the advisors work for the canal company. Some are security guys others are captains of the various launches running about. Regist was a captain and he really new his stuff.
We motored out of the anchorage and into the Banana channel. We were the last boat to leave with the exception of the large motor yacht. As we got into the narrow Banana channel and caught up with the other sailboats I noticed the motor yacht coming up fast. Apparently the Pilot was driving the boat. I thought for sure he would shut things down as he passed all of the little sail boats. Nope. He blasted by leaving a huge wake that almost boarded the little 30 footer in front of us. Jerks can be found the world over. Later in the day we heard a pusher tug yelling at the same guy on the radio. He had waked them the same way and snapped one of the lines they had running to the barge they were pushing.
Once the motor yacht was out of sight things became tranquil. The jungle paced by on both sides and everyone kept a good eye out for crocodiles. Some of the smaller boats put sails up to make more way. We just motored along and ended up at the front of the pack by noon.
The canal is under constant construction. They blow up this bit to make it deeper or wide, dreg this bit to remove the bits from explosions or run off, and on. It was great to have the AIS on so that we could watch the big boats coming through the narrow as we reached the Galliard cut.
It was a hot day and we parked under the bridge of the Americas for a while to wait for Galletia to catch up. After a short wait Galletia came along side and we motored into the Pedro Miguel lock. The motor yacht and the large sail boat had already run through so we were at the front.
Going down was much easier. The wall guys are at your level so the monkey's fists can almost be handed over. Going down there is less turbulence as well and you let the lines out instead of pulling them in. The lake is about 80 some feet above sea level so each lock chamber drops you down about 30 feet.
Once out in Pedro Miguel we motored across the Mira Flores lake still rafted up and entered the Mira Flores Locks. There is a great Panama Canal Museum here with a big observation deck. It was fun to wave and yell at all of the on lookers.
The last two chambers went quickly and before we knew it we were sailing in the Pacific Ocean. Our crew, Peter, Debbie, Josh, Mattias and Nobu had done a great job. Hideko and I couldn't have asked for a better passage.
We waved good bye to Galletia as we unrafted and headed out to Flamenco Island. A Pilot boat picked Regist up just before we reached the end of the causeway that stretches along the little islands running to port as you exit the canal channel.
We rounded Flamenco Island and pulled into Flamenco Marina. We had to park twice because they were so crowded. Our spot was on the dock used by the cruise ship launches (there's no cruise ship port in Panama City yet). We had to wait until about 6PM to get settled. But settle we did. After an early dinner at one of the several good restaurants on the causeway we all hit our bunks and went straight to sleep.