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Date: 15 Feb 2013 16:09:00
Title: Approaches to the Panama Canal

Lat 79:57.0N Long 9:22.0W
We left Portobello and headed towards the Panama canal. It was a lovely day
with perfect winds and sea conditions and we enjoyed just cruising along the
tropical coastline and majestic rainforest. As we got closer to the canal
entrance the number of ships in the waiting area increased tremendously. For
several weeks we had seen virtually no shipping, but now large cargo boats
at anchor were everywhere, either waiting to go through the canal or waiting
for work. I counted 41 cargo vessels which we had to weave our way through
to arrive at the entrance to the breakwater of the canal. Being close to
these ships, their structures towering above makes us feel so small and
delicate. Our destination was Shelter Bay, a marina just at the mouth of
the canal. We had been at anchor for so many weeks, the thought of going
into a marina was exciting. Sussanne was desperate to get access to wifi so
she could Skype the children and more importantly get a look at Arthur who
is now 19 months old.
Shelter Bay was an American army base years ago, when the Americans
controlled the canal. When they decided to hand the canal and all the
proceeds over to the Panamanians the base was vacated. The marina was
developed but the ruins of what the Americans had built are still very much
in evidence. We are on the edge of the jungle and you only need to go for a
short walk of a few 100 meters before you are surrounded by jungle noises.
Howler monkeys are prolific and the alligator population is doing just fine.
The bird life is also abundant, but neither of us are very good at
identifying the different types.
Even though the temperatures are well into the 90's there are no mosquitoes
as the constant breeze off the ocean seems to clear the air. Since arriving
it has been a busy few days. The boat needs to be cleaned thoroughly both
inside and out, salt water is corrosive and however much you try, inevitably
the salt gets down into the cabin area. Andrew has been checking oil and
fuel filters, servicing the generator, and fixing problems. However there is
always time for socialising with friends.
We are preparing for the Canal transit tomorrow. A BIG event. Evidently
there are live web cams where transits can be viewed. We'll be going through
the Gatun Locks mid afternoon local time (UK time minus 5) Saturday and the
Miraflores Lock Sunday afternoon.


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