Zebedee in ‘normal’ moving off pose
We met Alan about a week before our transit, when he pulled in opposite us in Shelter Bay Marina. Beez Neez had a new friend called Zebedee. This amazing little boat is thirty four feet long, a plywood epoxy, sailing dory, junk rig schooner. He (Zebedee cannot be a girl) weighs in at a whopping five tons in cruising trim and was built in 2001 in Sidney, Vancouver Island, with no fridge and no engine.
Over the next few days we, by random chance, met Alan at beer o’clock in the pool where we learned that as soon as Zebedee had transited the Panama Canal and passed the Balboa Yacht Club, both captain and boat would have completed their circumnavigation together. Over the next few weeks we would question Alan at length about this incredible partnership.
The immediate problem to be overcome was quite a hurdle. No engine meant Alan would have to hire a fifteen horsepower outboard engine, pay an extra eight hundred dollars as the outboards maximum speed would in all probability not match the six knot knot minimum....... Tito, one of the agents came by with a clapped out outboard and Alan began to fret. It turned out as luck would have it that Beez and Zebedee were booked to transit at the same time.
Only days to go, no power, more linehandlers required and no catering done for the transit. Once again, as luck would have it, the crew of Beez Neez both seemed to have the light shone in their eyes at the same time. We would lend our outboard engine. We knew Enna was free to linehandle and as I had to cater for us, why don’t I just make double of everything and stow it in our fridge; handing it over just before we both pulled out, problems solved ??? Alan was absolutely bowled over and for the first time in days began to smile, even if a little nervously.
Time for a practice run. Alan fitted our outboard and Bear crewed as Zebedee shot round the marina easily clearing the five knot speed mark, not at all bad for a nine point eight engine. So light, I easily pulled Zebedee back into his slip as Bear threw the line to me, the trial had succeeded. Alan beamed.
All was well, now it was time for Bear to fret, hoping our outboard would stand up to the crossing of Gatun Lake and not conk out.
The big day for Beez Neez and Zebedee arrived. Everyone and supplies on board - the final line was thrown.
Off the dock Zebedee reversed under power and for the first time in this amazing boats history off he motored.
Faithful Beez right behind as Zebedee took on his first chum.
When I said I was happy to be transiting on the same day as Zebedee, I hadn’t planned on being this intimate. We were to make a raft with Beez firmly tied to the side of Zebedee. Ricky our agent kindly gave me the choice of which side and I opted to pull up against Zebedee's left. Alan called a few orders. Nice and secure, I was given the order to proceed at four knots, I was just about to say I couldn’t be the control vessel when Tarzan admitted to being in reverse. As control helm I had to steer a long way left to keep us straight as we headed into the Gatun Lock. Just time for two bottles of fizz to be passed to Beez to go in the fridge for tomorrow nights celebration, now that’s positive thinking at its best.........
All went well although our A Team of linehandlers had their work cut out and worked up a thirst, soon we had completed the three upward locks and both boats rafted against a massive buoy just the other side in the Gatun Lake. Definitely beer o’clock. Alan appeared and gave the thumbs up that his crew had “enjoyed their spag bol supper.”
Zebedee’s Linehandlers: Kevin aka Tarzan, own boat, Amore Mina, currently in Portobello with his wife and baby. Judith a single hander on her vessel Quest. Brennan a single hander currently anchored in La Playita on Sea Que One and Enna (John, manager of the Shelter Bay Marinas daughter).
Both crews bedded down quite early for the six o’clock start on the morrow.
The official entry of Zebedee on the time schedules.
Alan shot off at first light, Beez soon overtook at Roy our agents command, but for some time we could still see this trusty little steed, dwarfed by a massive chum.
Bear’s turn to fret as no sign of Zebedee as we entered the Miraflores Lock, as Beez was rafted to a steel yacht from Sweden. The gates began to close but after much cajoling to Roy about how big a deal it was to see Zebedee through, the fact that we were early, there was no queue of chums and it was a nice day. Thankfully, he yielded, then we waited with baited breath as he telephoned the controller. The gates began to open and we settled to eat lunch. Finally Zebedee appeared. Even the mules honked, waved and cheered, the crew on board our raft went wild and we felt delighted and relieved in equal measure.
In safely, centre chamber, quite fitting for such a momentous occasion
Beez gets a wave from Alan
The land linesmen walk the leader lines down to the final lock
The last bit and Alan begins to relax – finally.
Vancouver Island was of course Zebedee’s birth place and after two summers pottering around locally and a little west coast exploring it was time to get serious. In 2002 Alan set off for San Fransisco in one hit, staying one hundred and fifty miles offshore and heading in to Drakes Bay seventeen days later.
Longest Trip: “Several at around the twenty eight day mark, including Galapagos Islands to Marquesas, Sri Lanka to Chagos and a trip to El Salvador”
Roughest Journey: “New Zealand to Ravi in the Austral Islands (coming the ‘wrong way’)“
Favourite Place: “Moorea, near Tahiti”
Negotiating Anchorages: “With my Yuloh, an eighteen foot long curved oar”
Actual Circumnavigation: “Eight years”
Best Mileage: “Just over one hundred and eighty miles in one day”
Worst Mileage: “It felt like I was going backwards and a turtle overtook me”
Where Now: “Oh, back to New Zealand because I like it there”........................
Dougal: “Is actually Dougal number four. Home built of course to a Phil Bolger design, known as a tortoise because you can slip it on your back and trot around with it.” Of course, what else, we both think as we look at Baby Beez, her outboard motor, knowing we have a spare roll up and a spare electric outboard. Alan continues “I prefer to row as her sailing rig has a luff of twelve feet, her lateen sail makes him a bit too lively.” We carry on staring in wide eyed wonderment.
Zebedee the far side of the Bridge of the Americas. Dropping his tyres and linehandlers.
As Beez carefully follows her friend to the anchorage, realisation suddenly dawns on the skipper.
We had to celebrate aboard Zebedee with much fizz but also a Grandpa Rocky Cocktail – recipe - Angostura Bitters dripped onto a sugar lump strategically placed in the bottom of a glass, a dash of brandy and topped with fizz. Slipped down easy, cheers to Grandpa Rocky.................
.........................and of course the delighted, relieved and very tired captain – Alan
ALL IN ALL WHAT AN INCREDIBLE ACHIEVEMENT
WE ARE DELIGHTED TO HAVE PLAYED A small SUPPORTING ROLE