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Date: 17 Mar 2012 01:34:00
Title: Made It To Panama City

8:54.62N 79:31.57W
We've done it!!
We are now in the Pacific Ocean.
There are lots of stories about transiting the Canal but this is how we experienced it

We used Eric from Centerio as our agent, one of the best. It soon became obvious when we arrived in Shelter Bay Marina that we had no control over the time of our departure or who we went with.
We were measured the next day and given a date for departure within 24 hrs, but this was changed a few days later. We waited 11 days in the end, which gave us just about enough time to do some long term provisioning in Colon, catch up with laundry, boat cleaning and hire a car for 4 days exploring. We would recommend doing as much as possible from Shelter Bay Marina.

Luckily we had joined Vulcan Spirit on their transit 2 days previously, a very valuable experience. Our 4 x 80ft lines and 12 tyres arrived at midday, 1hr before we were due to leave the marina. We then moved to the flats anchorage about 2 miles away to wait for our advisor to be delivered. As soon as he set foot on Mawari we had to lift the anchor and head towards the canal. we negotiated the 3 upward locks in a raft with 2 catermarans, sharing the locks with a middle sized commercial vessel. There were a few tense moments maneuvering between the lock chambers but no real problems. The 20nms across Gatun Lake, to the 3 downward locks, took about 4 hours. The moon was full and we flew the Genoa at about 7kts. So far so good!
At Pedro Miguel, we rafted with one other boat which was held against the lock walls by 2 x 80ft lines. A 2-3kt current was with us and the wind behind us, just the reverse of ideal. . .. Snappy line handling and a top quality captain are essential if you want an undamaged boat in these conditions! The stern line has to be caught immediately to avoid a collision with the unforgiving sides of the lock. At this point our Advisor announces that everything up to now was just a walk in the park, just what four tired crew want to hear at midnight as they try to control the 2nd largest investment of your life . ..
We finally arrived in the Pacific at 1am, dropped anchor, inflated the dinghy and delivered Ali, Richard and Edwin, our wonderful line handlers back home, phew!
Summary: We had a good agent.
It was great to go through on another boat first
We would not go against the wall again, even in a raft.
We wish we had spent more time exploring from Shelter Bay and less time in La Playita
I don't want to do it again!

So here we are, on the other side, with nothing but adventure ahead of us, WOW!

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