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Date: 10 Apr 2012 18:56:12
Title: Pacific Side!

Lat 08:54.89N
Lon 079:31.81W

We've arrived in the Pacific! Apologies for the delayed update on the Canal transit, which we completed in the early hours of Easter Sunday. We had a very smooth and easy transit, with no dramas at all.

We left Shelter Bay at lunchtime on Saturday and picked up our advisor Freddie. The advisor is on board for the whole transit and tells you where to go, when to approach the canal lanes and faster, slower etc. Canal rules state that you must also have 4 line handlers to manage a line on each "corner" of the boat as you go through the locks, so we also took along 4 Americans from the marina who wanted to experience the canal. A retired couple and some of their friends, a father and son.

There are two sets of 3 locks, one set either side of Lake Gatun. We rafted up with 2 other yachts, and luckily as we were the largest yacht of the 3 (and had paid for an agent so got priority) we were in the middle of the raft. This is a good thing as it means you are not on the edge and can't scrape the sides of the canal if anything were to go wrong as we were protected on either side by another boat! We motored into the first lock behind a rather large ship called "Wild Heather" which I'm sure my Aunt Heather will find amusing! It wasn't one of the biggest ships we have seen on the canal - not like the PANAMAX boats which are enormous but still pretty amazing to be so close to it in our little boat. As the water rose up the 75ft high walls, we eventually reached the top and proceeded to the next lock. By the third lock we had a pretty amazing view of the Caribbean Sea we had left behind!

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It was now getting dark so our 4.5hr transit through the lake was fairly boring which is a shame as it's meant to be beautiful rainforest either side of the lake, but we missed it all as the only thing we could see were the red and green channel markers, despite the full moon. In the "race" across the lake to the locks on the other side, we left the other two boats behind and we managed to jump ahead in the schedule and squeeze just in front of a ship earlier than we were scheduled. After a minor dispute between the lock controllers and the canal controllers over whether we were going through on the East side or the West side, we finally cleared the last lock and cruised under the Bridge of the America's at 12.30am on Easter Sunday. We had made it to the Pacific Ocean! We dropped off Freddie and anchored for the night in La Playita anchorage just around the corner from the exit of the shipping channel.

It's great to be back in Panama, where there are more services and shops more readily available.

We also have a new crew member as Dad arrived on Sunday night. It was great to see him and have an extra pair of hands to help with the boatwork and preparation that we need to do this week. We had a very productive day yesterday although the bank balance took a massive beating, and purchased two sets of dive gear, complete with tanks, two solar panels, and kite board and 7m kite for me! (I'll actually have to get on with it now!)

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Right, better go and work out how to fix these massive solar panels to our boat....

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