Some years ago, my impresions were a bit disdainful. Why to sail in a ditch, digged by a poor workers when there is a far more beautifull way - either Magellan streight or Drake passage in the south? Right. I am not that radical now. Besides I needed to cross Panama to get to my dreamed SOUTH anyway (sailing south from the West Indies - where I was located- on the Atlantic side is difficult and nearly immpossible in this time of the year). I must say, crossing Panama canal was a great experience, it is far more than a ditch and it has been a pleasure to share this part of my sailing with temporary crews and local pilots.
The locks - three steps up from the Carribbean sea to the Gatún lake.
After a long several hours wait we crossed Gatún locks after midnight. There is plenty of light and the "boiling" water comming from Lake Gatún to raise the boats up looks a bit scary. Locks were equiped with a big chain. It was used to protect the gates from a moving ship inside. Damaging the gates means a thread - emptying the whole lake Gatún in the sea. The chain was also used in the wartime to prevent German u-boats to enter the locks as an uninvited guest under another ship.
Waterbird may be hard to find on this canal webcam shot.
Passing the locks we spent the rest of the night tied to a buoy in the lake. Shining along the shore with a strong light reveales reflections of crocodile eyes nearby. Nothing to be scared of, we are not in a silly movie. Crossing the lake Gatún next morning was fun. A monkey came to see the boat and wave.
The same situation on Waterbird (left) and by canal webcam.
After crossing the lake Gatún, we entered artificial canal and we arrived under the huge bridge just before midday. We tied with other boats together again to enter Pedro Miguel Locks.
Receiving line from guys on the shore can be risky. (You will attach your heavy lines to it and the guys will pull them up to tie the boat for going down or up). Irina can tell you more about it. She was hiding herself very carefully behind the mast. The hard monkeyfist found her head anyway. After long service in the Izrael army she got used to many things. "Palestinians throw stones" she said. On the other hand we did not have helmets in the canal.
Protect your head, solar panels and wind generators!
Last three step locks to take the boats down on the Pacific level. I like these locomotives - they can not keep any photographer cold. They are here to move big ships and to please our eyes.
We have these pictures thanks to the Panama canal workers, who focused the camera on our boats
We had a hard moment after seccond step in the locks. The line was moved by the guy up on the lock in such a way that it become hooked by my wind generator. Marc´s and Ricardo´s quick action saved everything. Generally going down is less risky and the boats move much less.
The last gate to Pacific will be open in few minutes, few meters to go down.
Entering Pacific we enjoyed an unusual welcome from a local fellow
Having an excelent local pilot, captain is happy, crew is happy. It is that simple.
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