Roaming the random header image

No sight of Para Handy in the Panama Canal

May 30th, 2009 · No Comments

The big day arrives, tyres are tied on as bumpers along both sides of the boat, water tanks full, long lines ready, line handlers on board off we go. Now this is when you hope the engine won’t play up, there will be no room for sailing down the canal. We arrive at the flats as they are called and wait for our advisor/pilot. He boards gives us the go ahead to move on towards the first lock gate. We are going through rafted up, that is three yachts tied together, biggest in the middle, the raft will sit in the middle of the lock. We tie against a very smart yacht, you notice that the yacht in the middle has used his fenders rather than the tyres he has stacked up on deck. The centre vessel drives the three boats together towards the first lock Gatun Lock. The Caribbean closes behind us, oh what are we doing, no turning back now! In the lock, monkey fists are thrown on thin line, two from either side, our lines are tied then they get taken back to the shore, attached and on board we tighten up the lines as we go up in the lock… Three locks up, and into Gatun Lock where we are going to spend the night.

Our new advisor arrives at six in the morning, yes six. He tells us the time we have to be at the next set of locks so off we go, three sets of locks and then a whole new world opens up to us.

I think it’s easier to go through than the Crinan canal, as all the locks are worked for you, theres no running back and forward opening and closing gates as the helm keeps the boat in the perfect position! And definitely no Vital Spark, who was our companion on our one trip through the Crinan! No MacPhee! The only fee we had was the large number of Dollars you have to part with to transit. Only crocodiles get a free passage. Maybe I should have been more snappy at the canal office. Under the Bridge of Americas, onto a Balboa Yacht club buoy, tyres are removed and taken away, our line handlers say goodbye, Pacific here we are.

Before we move on, we spend a few days getting the last bits and pieces done, I did have one hairy scary moment in Panama City. I didn’t have to report it, but you might like to know. My hair was getting too long for my liking and I thought good idea to have it cut before the next long sail, so into a hairdressers, the usual how much, can you do it now, all in best Spanish although I don’t think they understood any of it. I spoke to the guy who washed my hair he smiled, ok he took me to the chair, I spoke he smiled took out his scissors and started chopping, chop chop and five minutes later I was done. He clearly couldn’t understand me (ok who does) and just thought he would do his regular cut. Where is Brian from Review Stirling when you want him? Anyway it all turned out ok, really. (Notice there are no photos though). A couple of days later Ruth and Peter, two of our line handlers came though the canal on their own boat Mudskipper, an Australian boat.. We had had good banter with them on the Caribbean side so we wonder if it could continue on the Pacific, we arranged a walk into the Metropolitan Park, which is within the city’s boundaries. Lots to see, monkeys, sloth, and hundreds of leaf cutter ants, who carry segments of leaves along the forest floor into their colony and allow them to decay into mulch. They then feed parts of the fungus that grows to the colony, which can be several million ants. Now you know why the line of ants marching with their parasols has to be so long.

A good park for a walk, at the top you see what you’re trying to get away from.

We opted for a local lunch, in the more upmarket supermarket, it was very busy with local folk, and very cheap good food. My fresh vegetable shopping was done in the vegetable market, with the aid of Richard, a recommended taxi driver. The produce was pretty amazing, one whole shed of pineapples, one of limes, one of roots etc etc. I bought a net of fifty sweet grapefruit for six dollars, and yes we did eat them all, not all at once though. So I felt the market was well worth the visit, very good value.
Grapefruit and all, on board we say goodbye again to our friends.

Link to photo gallery

Tags: Atlantic Leg