Through the Panama Canal 8:56.29N 79:33.49W

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Thu 13 Apr 2017 02:59

From ‘The Flats’ where we picked up our Adviser, Roy, it was a slow motor up to the Gatun Locks with Sarah on the helm. We had to time it so that we could raft up to another yacht and then enter behind our accompanying ship with no wasted time.



Our adviser Roy.


All went well until we had rafted alongside Arapani 11, a South Korean yacht. They were the larger boat with the more powerful engine so were the controlling boat. They had to drive us in toward the lock, mid channel, so that the throwing lines could be thrown to us to pass our mooring lines up then driving further in lines are thrown from the other side to pick up the other boats lines. You go into the lock with four lines on which are put onto bollards and as the boats rise in the lock they have to be taken in to maintain the central position. Lines are only thrown for the first lock after that four men walk the lines along while the boats drive through.


Instead of driving into the centre of the lock we found ourselves pointing straight at the lock wall! Lots of reverse engine and we were positioned to try again. The same thing happened, the Koreans were either  unable to control the boats or unable to follow instruction. At this point a hurried conversation in Spanish ensued and Sarah was told that little Serenity with her small engine was to be the driving vessel. Sarah had helmed up from the flats and continued to do so through the locks doing an excellent job under full control all the time.


With excellent pilotage from Roy we made it into the first lock and the Koreans managed eventually to stop taking photos and get their lines sorted.





Evening in the Gatun Locks


We were amazed that Serenity’s engines were able to provide enough push to take the two boats through. Luckily Phil had scraped the prop free off weed and barnacles by snorkelling in the marina, so that we were able to get full power. We made it to the last lock and out onto Gatun Lake by about 21.00 and tied up alongside the mega mooring bouy. Roy told us to make sure that we told our day two adviser that the Korean boat must not be the driving boat going down and preferably we should raft up with another Monohull and a catamaran that were also going through.




Early morning on Gatun Lake




Serenity led off across the lake


06.30 and we able to make contact with the Ocean Cruising Club radio net in the Eastern Caribbean before breakfast and the arrival of Hector our day two Adviser. We were then told that we would be rafted with the Koreans and the other monohull for the locks down and nothing we said would alter that. We had a 6 hour motor across the lake and through the cuts to the Miraflores locks where we rafted up, keeping out of the Koreans way as long as possible and ensuring that we came alongside the raft of two boats, rather than the raft coming alongside us as was first attempted. We then had to wait trying to hold position for 20 minutes while the locks were made ready.



Gatun Lake




In amongst the shipping in one of the cuts, there isn’t enough room here for two ships to pass.




Rafted for the locks.


Down through the locks we had choreographed boat driving with adviser standing on the foredeck of the centre boat giving instruction to the two outside boats on engine control and steering leaving the Koreans to do little apart from taking photos.  


In the second lock there was lots of flag waving and photos, there is a web cam and visitors centre here and a commentary for the visitors which was quite interesting;  then on down to the Pacific.




The ship comes in behind us.




The final gates open.




Out to the Pacific.




Under the Bridge of The Americas.


We are now moored at the Balboa Yacht Club, just downstream from the Bridge of the Americas, making final purchases and stowing ready to head on. We are swinging to the tide for the first time since leaving Europe.