The Pacific

Sarah and Graham
Sat 13 Aug 2016 13:31
08 55N 79 31W
We're in the pacific!!!!! anchored near Flamenco Marina between the islands of Perico and Flamenco, just a few miles south of the pacific end of the canal. How exciting is that, new ground for us and Cefi.
Thursday afternoon was a bit traumatic. The skippers of our flotilla all went to Cristobal to clear out but Graham discovered that we were the only ones actually staying in Panama and we needed a domestic version of the Zarpe, which would take "a couple of days" - Panic. A call to Enrique however resulted in us getting one by end of the day. One bonus was that Graham did all the pre arrival formalities for the Marqueses which means we can "check in" with the gendarmes on any of the outlying islands, glad to know his time was well spent and not in the bars!!!
So transit day dawned gloomy and wet. We all upped anchor at about 5 and chugged to the channel leading to the Gatun Locks and were met by Enrique on a barge with an army of line handlers who came equiped with lines and tyres for fenders. Apparently he had 22 yachts making the transit yesterday and we later learned that we should have had the lines and "fenders" on board for the admeasure visit, oops. navillus also picked up an "advisor" that gave us all instructions in each of the locks, not that we took much notice. We followed a huge container ship, Hammonia Toscana and rafted behind it in a line of 7 yachts. The boats at either end had lines attched to the shore, as did the 3rd boats out which was us, the rest just tied to each other and it was like this in all three sets of locks. We felt we didnt really need our line handlers just the lines! But they were very pleasant and ate and drank everything other than tea, apparently thats a local joke on the brits. 
Even in the gloom and later a thunderstorm it was pretty spectacular, the sheer size of the locks and the gates takes your breath away, the container ship only had a few feet clearance on either side, incredible. Despite the size it only took about 15 mins to fill but the turbulence was quite aggressive. There are 3 separate "chambers" to the locks at either end of the canal and 2 locks side by side. A tanker and some yachts in the other gatun lock were also going west so not 2 way traffic then. Then we were into the Gatun Lake 85ft above sea level, bizzare with islands that were once the tops of hills, the route through is very well marked and easy to motor just outside it to avoid the big stuff, of which there wasnt a great deal. Once in the lake we could see that one of the yachts from the other lock was Uk flagged, Vaza Vezo and there was also a huge cayman registed yacht, Skade must have been 30m +. The most impressive bit was the calubra Cut - particularly the bit near Paraiso, the cut is a man made valley, relatively narrow. Took loads of pics and will mail to my brother for distribution when we have a decent land based wifi.
Dropped the line handlers off at Balboa about 8pm where Enrique was waiting and we were in the Pacific!! Expected to get our deposit back on leaving the canal but it apparently can take at least a month and its quite a lot , about $900 so will watch out for this! then we made our way very gingerly in the dark to Isla Flamenco, dropped the hook and drank a celebration brandy on deck before quickly falling asleep, exhausted. Although its very pricey intend spending prob 2 nights in the marina as we want to visit Panama city and not sure of the holding or the security out here in the bay, will call them up later this morning and see what the possibilities are.
We feel very priveleged.