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Date: 04 Feb 2014 18:28:03
Title: Panama Canal passage

We did our passage through the Panama Canal from the 30.1-31.st of Jan.
Ellen & Haakon had friends from Norway, Hans & Liv, helping them thought the Canal, 
and Anita & Glenn went to the Norwegian Yacht Saphir, to crew on their boat.
For sure it was an exiting adventure, very different from anything we had ever experienced.
After checking out from Shelter Bay Marina, we went over to the entrance of the Canal, 
waiting for the Advisers or Pilots ( so they are called) to board the yachts. 
On Saphir it happened to be a very nice, charming man, one that quickly caught the humour, good laughts & nice atmosphere on board. 
14 yachts from World ARC' last group drove slowly towards the locks, three locks collectively called the Gatun Locks, where we were tied, two or three boats, together before entering.
2 men on shore threw their "Monkey Fists" lines at us, and we had to grab the line and rapidly pull in and hold while we slowly drove into the dock. Then we had to give rope & then hold tight as the dock filled with water. At Gatun the vessel is raised a total of 26 meters (84 feet) in the three steps or chambers. We all felt so important doing this. It was real fun going up to Gatun Lake, where we eventually spent the night on a buoy, tied together with some of the other yachts. 
The next morning the advisors returned to our boats, and we continued over Gatun Lake. The lake covers an area of423 square kilometres, and was formed by erecting the Gatun Dam across the Charges River. It took 4 hrs to get to the next set of locks. 
These three locks are all separated. The first is called the Pedro Miguel Locks, followed by the two Miraflores Locks on the other side of Miraflores Lake, going down to the Pacific. The Advisors told us all about the long, somewhat tragic history of the Panama Canal. 
It was opened on Aug.15th 1914, after many, many years of work & loss of employees. They started building the Canal in 1880. And they are now building a new set of locks that will eventually take bigger ships through the Canal. We saw a lot of activity as we went by.
Finally, after two days & 6 locks, we could untie and glide into the Pacific under the Bridge of America - the first time for both Ko-Ko and Saphir. We were all a bit moved & at awe by this special moment. Not many get to fulfill their dream, and sail from the Atlantic into the Pacific on their own yacht. When we anchored up outside La Playita Marina, we all made a toast to celebrate this special moment.
The next morning we all went on a guided tour around Panama City, where we first got to climb Ancon Hights. From there we had a magnificent view over the city, Miraflores Locks & the domestic airport. 
Our two guides, Clemente &  Harry, gave us a vivid story of the Panamainian history. We went over to the spot where Panama la Vieja, the old Panama City, was first founded on August 15th 1519 by the Spanish. Today only ruins are left of that old community. Old Panama was the firstEuropean settlement on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
The city was later rebuilt at a nearby spot, after the pirate Henry Morgan & his men in 1671 reduced the city to ruins. This is where Panama City lies today, founded by Antonio Fernandez de Cordoba y Mendoza in 1673. Today Panama City is booming, overtaking Miami as Latin America's business center.
A big contrast is displayed with the old quarters, El Casco Viejo, on one side of the city, and the new skyline, looking like New York's Manhattan, to the right, seen from the sea. 
After a nice lunch & lovely dinner in La Casco Viejo area, we hit the pillow, full of new & wonderful impressions. 
The next day, after a lazy morning on board, we went to an enormous Mall, where we did the last provisioning before heading out into the Pacific.
Next stop is the islands of Las Perlas, some 30-40 nautical miles out in the Pacific. 

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