Panama canal

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.



Gatún locks

We went to Gatún locks with a big ship


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. 

Canal webcam recorded our crossing. Waterbird is in the left lock, next to big catamaran and another big yacht, near the left wall.


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 digginh in the lake will make the transite way shorter and bigger.            You do not wish to meet cargo ships that close on the ocean.  




Centenial bridge and Pedro Miguel locks


    If you own a car from Asia it was probably transported by a monster like this one.             Waterbird is near the left shore, going to join other boats in the front  


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. 



    Monkeyfist being thrown on board            Being hit into your head by a smiling guy is less painfull.  


Protect your head, solar panels and wind generators!

Miraflores locks


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.



    Guess who is who, the crew will recognise themselves easily            Canal webcam, nice souvenier for those who might be crossing once in their lives  


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. 



    Thank to these guys, crossing was smooth.            We are slowly going down to reach the Pacific level.  


The last gate to Pacific will be open in few minutes, few meters to go down.

This crock was not far from the last Miraflores gates


Entering Pacific we enjoyed an unusual welcome from a local fellow


Shot taken by Patricia from catamaran Cat Shot II


Having an excelent local pilot, captain is happy, crew is happy. It is that simple.


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