Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Panama Canal

On Thursday last week it was finally our turn to transit the Panama Canal.
Each boat is required to have a captain plus four people to handle the lines, so we asked our friend Leo and 3 of his friends to come and help us.
At 6:00 in the morning we were ready to pick up our pilot outside the Balboa Yacht club, and at 8:30 he finally came on board. We proceeded to the first lock, where they kept us waiting another two and a half hours before we finally got clearance to start.
We had hoped to be rafted with a couple of other boats, but were told to go through the locks center chamber, alone. In front of us we had another sailboat and a sport fishing boat.
We went into the first lock, the water came in and we were lifted 16 meters before we proceeded into the next lock and repeated the procedure. After the second Miraflores lock there was a one mile passage to the third lock called Pedro Miguel.
By the time we came out of the third lock and crossed the Gatun lake it was late afternoon, and we were told to spend the night tied up to a buy in front of the Gatun locks on the Atlantic side.
At 10 the next morning we got clearance to enter the first Gatun lock, and started our trip down to the Atlantic Ocean. We exited the third and last lock about an hour later and went straight to Shelter Bay Marina where we said goodbye to Leo and co.
We stayed two days in the marina and then set off towards Bocas del Torro.
It took us 24 hours to get to Bocas, and for the first time in ages we were just the two of us and the dogs onboard.
We are now anchored right outside Bocas Town, close enough to hear the live jazz music from one of the bars in town.
In a couple of days we'll go and explore some of the other islands in the area, there are a lot of beautiful islands around and most of them are uninhabited.
We're happy to be in the Atlantic Ocean again, and enjoy the clear warm water and beautiful coral reefs around. Time to go diving again...

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