Panama canal transit- day 1
08 April 2009 | Panama Canal
Amy/ mostly sunny, breezy, 90's light sprinkle at 3:50 for brief minutes
Jim & I both got very little sleep. I went to bed at midnight and woke at 5, he got even less sleep than that. He got up before dawn & started hanging the tires for our makeshift canal bumpers. When he went to the dumpster on shore to get tires yesterday morning, all the tires were gone, they had been taken away to be disposed of. Thankfully, almost everyday boats come through from the Carribean side and eager to get rid of their tires off their boat, since it costs $1/tire to dispose of them. And 2 or 3 boats came through y'-day late afternoon, so he went over to one and got the remaining tires we needed. Olga & Thomas(in picture) got up shortly after 6 & Thomas continued with the tires while Jim & I finished picking up the wheelhouse, cockpit, main cabin, etc. At 7 Steve from his boat, "Goose", came over in his dinghy, then he & Jim went to the dinghy dock w/ our dinghy in tow to drop off Steve's dinghy so he had a way back out to his boat after he gets back from going through the canal w/ us. They get back and we were called previously in the morning to arrive at bouy 6 at 8:30 to await our advisor. Realizing we were going through w/ 2 other boats, George & Janet on Clair de Lune, whom we met way back a year ago in Golfito, CR, & another boat we did not know, I had the inclination we would be going through nested, all 3 of us tied together. Both other boats are monohulls. I didn't ask, at this point, & didn't want to know, who was going to be the middle boat- I had a sneaky suspicion. We are a trimaran, meaning, lean less, more stable than monohulls. All kinds of things are going through my mind. Jim has told me when talking in the past, about different canal transits, that when boats go through nested, the center boat is the one w/ most power, does most of the work, steering, powering the others along. We only have a 35 hp motor! Are these advisors INSANE?! We can't push along our boat, PLUS 2 monohulls, weighing 3 or more times as us EACH! When you get inspected, they take written notes of all issues regarding your boat, so they know we have a small engine! But, at this point, I didn't say anything, YET! I kept my cool, & just waited to see what the real deal was, after all, at this point I am only speculating. All 3 advisors, 1/boat, arrive shortly after 9. Our guide, Regis, is Panamanian, & is very nice. After introductions and such , he informs us we were suppose to go through at 10:30, but our first lock time was recently changed to 11:40. And after awhile, the suspense was killing me. I was in the galley, and from their I can look up the companionway & see Jim at the wheel. I ask him, "how are we going through?" "Nested" he answers giving me that look of "what the heck we gonna do?" I fire back, a " are you serious?!" look, & he gives a quick nod. I mouth back, "we don't have the power for that!" He mouths back, "I know." But in talking w/ the advisor some more, they are going to have the other 2 outer boats give their powering assistance when needed. Claire de Lune has a 60 hp, & the other boat, Ren on "Sheli" has a 90 hp motor, we learned, once we tied up together at 11:30. George & Janet are from CA & Ren is from Israel. 15 minutes after tying up, a yahoo idiot in a ACP boat, ( Autoridad de Canal de Panama: authority of the Panama Canal), came by at full speed and rocked our boats to no end. Being in the middle, we got it the worst- the lightweight 35 year old trimaran, weighing only 10,000 lbs. Every one heard it, not just us & our crew & advisor on our boat, but everyone on the other 2 boats heard it. There was this sound that I can only liken it to Paul Bunyan taking a bite of a handful of Doritos! It was aweful! Just aweful! Jim & I both walked through both outer hulls several times looking for any signs of damage. We did not see any. Our advisor, & George & Janet & I think even their advisor, asked if everything was ok. To the best of our knowledge, & in only a 5 minute run through of the boat, we could tell no sign of damage. THANK GOD! Many times over! But it still sounded aweful! I think that sound if forever ingrained in my memory.
Okay, so enough of that. On to some of the better part of the day. Everything went well without a hitch so to speak. Actually being in the middle was better for our cleats. Again, being a thinner, lighter weight boat, Jim was pretty confident his extra supports he put on for the cleats would suffice, but they really take a lot of force going down the locks, and you never know until you've done it, so it was a concern, of course. But being in the middle, made it much easier, and really our line handlers didn't have to do very much work all day, only having to aid in tying the boats together and untying after we got done going up the locks. Olga & Thomas were great help though in the galley! Cutting, chopping, mixing, washing dishes, helping to get as much ready for breakfast, lunch, & dinner as possible, ahead of time, knowing that doing it later, would be too tiring for all of us. I told them we were going to keep them! But not sure what to do when we get to Fl. & they don't have visas, but oh well!
Starting so late, we were not able to make it through in 1 day as hoped. All 3 of us boats had to wait overnight just a brief jaunt away from the last set of locks, the Gatun locks, to go down to the Carribean. And were told before our advisors left that we would begin at 10:30 the next morning. We got to the mooring for our overnight stay around 8 p.m. Jim & I were in bed & crashed by 9.