Going to the Pacific Ocean

Friday March 12th, early in the morning, after not such a good night sleep we are taking care of the final preparations for the transit. Jacques and Annet will be arriving around noon as well as our professional line handler and the fenders and extra lines. We clear the bill from the marina, David brings back Flipper with a new jacket and a rain catcher. It all looks good. At 1.30PM we leave Shelter Bay Marina for the “flats” where we will have to anchor to wait till the advisor comes aboard, this should be around 5 PM. There are 5 boats from the marina transiting the canal today and tomorrow.

Leaving Shelter Bay Marina to go to the flats.Huge fenders are on board.
Our first advisor is the one on the right with blue t-shirt. He will go with us till we arrive at the Gatun Lake.
Jacques and Annet from SV Panache, helping us out as line handlers.
James, professional line handler, is last year student Electrical Engineer.

Finally we can leave for the canal at 6.15 PM, it is getting dark.

The Africaborg is the boat we will have in front of us in the locks. We will be tied to a yacht and another catamaran.
Slowly going into the lock together with a yacht and catamaran.

Before going into the locks we are being tied on starboard to a yacht and catamaran. The yacht was in the middle which was not a good choice ! As we had more engine power we could steer better and soon enough the advisor on board of the yacht gave Stefan the go ahead to steer for the 3 boats. This was not so easy since we were not in the middle. But Stefan did a wonderful job together with the line handlers.

Line handler Jacques, in the locks behind the Africaborg.

We arrived in Gatun Lake at 9.30 PM where we had to anchor. Normally they go to a mooring but this is where they are now working on the new canal. The advisor had his dinner in the locks and left the boat once we were anchored. We had dinner after we were anchored, pineapple for desert and a cup of tea before going to bed. Tomorrow is another long day !

Saturday, March 13th 2016, upat 7.30 AM as the advisor could come as of 8 AM. Pancakes, bacon and orange juice for breakfast. Unfortunately the advisor did not turn up until 12 !

Frank our second advisor.

He was checking when we got a spot and apparently this would only be at 6 PM ! We still had to go 28 NM in the canal. He would try to get us in at 5 PM, so we were all happy. We had to motor at a speed of about 6 KTS to get in time at the locks which was a little frustrating since we had been waiting for so long. After half an hour it was clear the yacht could not keep up that speed and would never make it in time for the 5 PM passage. So back to 6 PM 🙁

On our way to the canal, passing under the Puente Centenario.
We arrived too early at the locks and at first had to motor around but Stefan proposed to moore on the buoy. Much better !
The new bridge they are building as part of the new canal.
This time we were in front of the big ship and the yacht went all by itself tied on four sides.

It is dark by the time we get through the Miraflores locks. We finally arrive at Balboa Yacht club to anchor at 8.30PM, another long day.
The day after, we are now in the Pacific ! So happy the transit is done !

The passage was really impressive although it was a lot of waiting during those two days. But to think that these immense locks were built in 1914 (when the canal was opened) is incredible. The French started building the canal in 1881 but after 25.000 workers died from yellow fever, malaria and dysenterie and the French went bankrupt,  the Americans took over in 1904. The canal was finished in August 1914, at a cost of 375 Mio USD. The average toll to go through the canal is 50.000USD for our boat it was 800 USD, with agent fees, paperwork etc it came to 1500USD. Happy I do not have to go back 🙂