Panama Canal Transit 8:55.5N 79:31.00W

Pacific Bliss
Colin Price
Thu 6 Jan 2011 22:28
Panama Canal Transit
The big one.
I realise colin has had me in training for this since our honeymoon,  he is so fliping sly!  so after 2 weeks transiting French locks I think he felt I could handle 'the big one'.  Only this time I had 2 kids and 7 adults to look after,  no mean feet.............
Colin got a ride on a boat 2 days before we were due to transit, which is always a great idea if your captaining a boat,  it also worked out that the other line handlers were due transit on the same day as us, So our buddy boat was buy chance a new buddy anyway this is a double plus.
Whilst colin was away the kids and I managed School and cleaning jobs in readiness for our guests, I also managed to make a load of food so that when folk need feeding on the trip I don't need to start everything from scratch. 
   Colins trasit started at night. which added a whole new dimension.
There is an unwritten rule that you have to treat your guests with great culinary delights,  and especially the professional who comes on board to guide you through the canal, your adviser,  these guys have a reputation for being rather bossy unhelpful and demanding,  but the two we are blessed with are complete gems.
We met our now merry gang of line handlers in Curacao,  and as they too are planning to transit later in the season it was there trial run.  I think they went home about a stone heavier and had a lovely two day break from there boats. 
Colin came back from his trial transite exhausted and storys of it not being childs play,  but we had heard this from our mates on Blue Sky.  Bring it on.  
Our transit
All our help on board arrive early doors which is lucky as we recieve a call to say get to the flats asap, this is the area before the canal entrance.  Just finishing lunch and the advisers arrive on both boats, before we know it we are pulling up the anchor and speeding toward the first lock.  Just with in sight of the gates and we raft up with Kalhani, no dramas, all very peaceful.  But this is really when the adrenolin starts pumping,  I can't ever remember having a burning desire to go through the Panama Canal in a small boat packed in next to a masive freight carrier and big black tug boat.  The heavens decided to open as we are thrown the monkeys fists, just adding to the atmosphere. 
You need to have 4 people to handle lines, 4 x 125ft warps and a bunch of fenders before you are allowed to start.  Often people help each other out as line handlers to get expereince before their own transit, and thats exactly what happened with us.  Fossi & Gaynor (s/v Talacam) and Bob & Debbie (s/v Passat) who we have known since Curracao came along to help which was great.
Gatan Locks - 1000 x 110ft.  We are really like a pea in a bathtub   Going up is the hardest work for the line handlers as the water rushes in.  Liz had the port stern line and had white knuckles by the end.  As the driver there is not a lot to do, just hope the lines hold and the handlers do their job
Rafted up with s/v Kailani before entering the lock        
Under the watchful eye and gentle encouragement of our advisor we were through the Gatan Locks before nightful without the any cause for concern.
Zinnia is amazing, and like Colin and I is utterly thrilled by the whole experience.  She laps up every minute of her canal time, taking photos, helping me looking after folk, getting them drinks.  She really is a boat girl.  She is so buzzed up that her usual early nights are forgotten when she is invited over for the evening on to our buddy boat. 
We had been living in a dry January for 4 days now,  but realised after all the excitement plus having 4 south african lushes on board a dry transit is impossible.  So as the Gatan Lakes are something of a no-mans land January was halted.  All little boats are required to spend a night in the Lakes due to many of the boats not being unable to get to the next set of locks in good time, its about 30 miles.  So after feeding the troops far too much supper and beer we all roll into bed about 1ish.  Z and C are camped out on our floor. The night is not long and the next advisor is on board soon after 6 in the morning, The crew  all with rather sore heads rally themselves, but the morning is a beaut and so watching the calm waters and rise of sun over the lakes is not difficult.  Well it wouldn't have been if I didn't have to make a fried breakfast for all on board. Our other bonus was that the locks at the Panama City end of the canal had been closed for a time during early morning so we saw very little traffic which made the motor very peaceful.  No hairy scary big ships bearing down on us - well not many.
 Some big ships to contend with along the way. This is a PanaMax ship designed to fit the locks with 1ft all round.  The new locks, due for completion in 2014, will take ships even bigger than this.
Day 2 - 28nm at 7kn to get to the St Miguel lock in time.  Quite a race.  But, its not all hard work   Cosmo beating up the advisor   I really never imagined the lakes between the two sets of locks would be anything other than industrial but they are a real wilderness, sadly still no crocs spotted but our advisor did don a crocodile glove puppet and attack the kids.  Our only bit of wild life worth spoting was the illusive howler monkeys when we where approaching the first locks.
 The Galliard cut where so many French died in their attempt to connect the Caribbean to the Pacific.  It is quite humbling.
Milaflores locks   John (s/v Kailani) & Colin.  The second lot of locks, going down, where a doddle and this time we had the whole place to our selves.  Colin gave all the folk on the viewing platform a show of  waving  the Jack flag and our buddy boat Joined in waving the Canadian flag, which seemed to muster far more cheering......  Watching the locks that morning must have been a bit of a bore given the amount of traffic we saw coming the other way.  and when we did see these huge buggers they showed very little attention, other than approaching at break neck speed blowing there ships horn,  damned discurtious if you ask me.
A whole new love affair has started for her, this time with the loveliest of Mummies, Marina, who is carm, patent and organised basically the antithasis of her own mummy, and what looks to Z like rather good swap material.
Friends on Oceans Dream managed to capture enough screen shots of us during our Miraflores transit to create a short video. It is on You Tube (Unlisted) here is the link.
Bridge of the Americas   Through the canal by 1pm a final meal to be made and fond fairwell to our lovely advisor and good byes to our lovely crowd of line handlers, they were fab.  The Ladies turned into the 'clean team' and washed up after every meal.  Cosmo had some very serious chats with Bob, and barley left his side.  And Fossie (the fossil) had a birthday to remember.  We wonder if we will ever see them again..........
 Toes in the Pacific for the first time. 
I have great plans of getting going with washes etc etc but settle in the end for a massive pressure headache and retire to bed,  just cannot take the pressure anymore..............
 Grandparents watching our transit online from the RCC club room in London.