24 August 2023 | The Panama Canal
Jenny Gaskell | Perfect clear day - no rain
3.30AM SV Jade is poised in a bay this side of the Americas Bridge to take onboard our pilot for the canal. Meanwhile we 4 x line handlers get a briefing on aft deck, by Pedro.
" Listen up!! (Bit of pirate gruff) Once we reach the lock, good chance we will be a mid-canal tie up. So, they'll throw a line down to each of you with a monkey's fist on the end. Get out of the way or it will knock you out cold! You then need to tie a bowline joining THEIR line to YOUR line. Quickly attach it and send it back asap! Don't muck around they'll be waiting." I'm standing amongst 30mtrs of rather unruly rope in a 2ft square space. I can tell by looking at it that it will tangle up as it leaves the deck. ..*must sort that first.. then I need to do a few practice bowlines without the advantage of seeing what I’m doing. 😜
It is after 4AM the pilot-boat is meant to be here. Pedro continues -"When he gets here the Pilot will instruct you further but things might change, so be ready"🥺
I can hear and feel the adrenaline escalating around as the variables are adding up.
Being a Pilot in the Panama Canal is considered a VERY prestigious position. Roy Bravo, our fabulous agent said that I should check if the Pilot would like a hot breakfast as soon as he arrives, and apparently the preference is a hot lunch they I’m responsible for also.👩🍳😬
Ok, add that to the pile of knots at my feet and in my stomach. Jeeze I now need to use the loo, alas no time. Out of the dark "He/Senor" stepped onboard with a co-Pilot! 👨🏽✈️👨🏿✈️And we are off... I'm on my way to happiness or misery today 🎶ahh-hah, ahh-hah. 😚
With our position low to the water we could take in the workings of the magnificent lock system. Imagine this place in 1880 clearing the dense, dark and dangerous jungle. Add in torrential rain, landslides and tropical diseases.🧟♀️ A living nightmare for sure.
At 4PM the final lock gates opened to the sound of bells ringing and 100 tourist's cameras pointed down at the final lock and the lock gates opening at a glacial pace. Our diminutive yacht overshadowed by the multi level car carrier over 200 mtrs long with its head up in the clouds.
I hear three cheers from the upper deck of the 1913 Panama Canal Building.
We were celebrating too, happy to report no one lost an eye or a digit. 😝👍
SV Jade is well clear of the canal by 4pm when another pilot-boat miraculously appears. I watch the satiated and happy pilot and his +1 take a weighty leap across the gap between our boats. Their day done as it speeds off with VIP urgency.
We could finally drop our guard after 12 hours on task. A little frayed around the edges we may be but it hasn't unravelled any of us! Pedro's manoeuvring of Jade in and out of 3 ascending and 3 descending locks with a strong under current and random turbulence kept him on his game. Bravo all round.
Canal tally for Super Pedro is now 11! What a Viking!
A double monkey fist pump to you! 👊😅