Monday, October 17, 2011

Panama Canal

If you were sitting with your hot chocolate and your hot blanket, waiting I hope you had a hot memory too, we had one! We were late, very late! We were postponed for hours, but we decided not to complain. It is not like someone pushes her cart in front of you in the line at the Supermarket, when this monstrous Panamax pushes in front of you, it is `no problem!`

Our Advisor arrived at about 15h30 and we started for the first lock. Closer to the lock, we were hooked up with lines to the other yacht, E Capoe (French), an umbilical cord were holding us tight through the birth canal. To me, getting so close to another yacht and then attaching yourself to it, with only the black tires and your own little fenders protecting your crisp white hull against the cement of the mono hull…that was the scariest of the whole canal!

As soon as we approached the canal, the two line handlers ( 90US$ a head) were getting ready. They caught the long lines from the canal guys, attached it to ours to lengthen it, and soon they were feeding the lines while our yachts carried on between the walls.

Andando was doing great, but our Skipper was doing even better, because the advisor only realized that the mono hull we were being attached too, was a whole 14 tons, and every time they got their engines started, Andando was pushed towards the walls! It left us, with our Skipper and Andando in control, piloting the two yachts through the canal. Me, I was happy….great gynecologist in charge!

By the time we reached the third lock, in Gatun Lake it was drizzling a bit, but we were waving at the webcam as if the whole world was watching! Nothing is gonna stop us! By the time we are going through the third lock, we are not so stressed anymore…the walls don`t look so close anymore. The only time the two yachts were fighting a bit, were when the fresh water were pumped into the lock from underneath, from the turbulent force of the water. The line handlers of both the yachts had to release and tighten all the time to keep the boats from the walls.

Exhausted after a whole day of expectation and preparation and about two hours in the canal, we were through and on our way to a buoy! We saw the yellow light and were heading for the `little` buoy! When our pilot suggested that both our yachts, now unattached at last can use the same buoy, I despaired. It was enough having a boat so close all day, I didn`t want to share a buoy, and wonder who is on what side of it all night! We reached the buoy, and it was huge! Joe jumped onto the buoy, secured our lines safely for the night, while I was putting our little gaff away, hoping that no one noticed my bravado!

After our Advisor were picked up by a Pilot boat, we enjoyed a lovely dinner with our line handlers, who were soon sleeping like babies in Marco`s cabin.

The pilot boat loudly awoke us the next morning around 07h30. We met our new Advisor, Roy, and were entertained by his expertise and his humor. E Capoe was heading for us again, with a French Skipper not afraid to speed up to the port side hull of our boat! Scary!! Everything happens slowly in the canal, except that! Anyway, we were heading for the second batch of locks, Pedro Miguel to be the first. The line handlers, Delvis and James were holding and releasing and kept us safe all the way. Maybe it was the good breakfast they shared with us.

 It was easier doing this in day light. The walls weren`t so close anymore…

Just before we went into the last lock, Miraflores Locks,

 the call came through that the big ship inside the lock broke down! How is that possible? Aren`t they indestructible? But of course, no complaints…

Attached to E Capoe , our Skipper had to control the two boats, while he was having tea! Another 40 minutes later, we entered the locks! A webcam! The three little French children had family somewhere watching, they were jumping up and down! We were bundled in the lock, with a boat in front of us, and a monster behind us!
Maybe the photo will give you an idea how close he was, but remember he was even closer!

The birth process was over, and us, twins were surfing out into the big world, to be separated at last.

Our advisor said good bye, left with a pilot boat, and we motored towards Flamingo Point where we rowed our two line handlers ashore with their long lines and tires. We anchored at Brisas. Andando and us, did the Panama Canal!

Ps. If you want to do the Panama Canal, it is an experience of a life time! But it is a costly affair…you even pay for your Clearing Out document from the Port Captain, 44US$! ( Was supposed to be only 24US$) And of course it is a no receipt affair! Silence is GOLD!!

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