....and down the other side of the mountain

Pearl of Persia
Andrew Lock
Wed 20 Feb 2013 02:07
Having stepped up from the Atlantic side of the canal with the help of three
Locks, we were now ready to step back down towards the Pacific. We spent
the night in the Gatan Lake, and at 6am the following morning the pilot boat
arrived and dropped off our pilot. These guys speak perfect English and as
he told us all canal business is conducted in the English language, even
between Spanish speaking boats and the pilot boats.
We had a 5 hour trip through the lake towards the locks. We had to provide
the pilot with all food and water. So I cooked him his breakfast and kept
him happy with all sorts of drinks and snacks during the long hot day.
Gatan Lake is huge and of course is fresh water and not salty. Being a rain
forest and jungle, we were warned that alligators were prolific on the
shores. So dipping your feet in the water was not recommended! There were
also numerous vultures hovering above the trees. Our pilot told us that as
it is breeding season for the monkeys, often the little babies drop out of
the trees. This provides the vultures with quite a nice snack!
The long trip through the river was interesting. We passed so many large
cargo ships, cruise boats and tankers. Usually in a sail boat you keep well
away from these giants, but here in the narrow river bed we passed them
frequently at an arms length.
When we got to the mouth of the first of the three final locks, we rafted up
with the two boats that we had been tied to the previous day. This is a
little stressful, as there is a lot of line handling to do, and when two
boats come together you have to be quick and exact. When the pod was
created we proceeded towards the first lock. This time we started high and
watched the water drop as the lock was drained and brought us to the right
level. I knew that there were world web cams situated at the pen ultimate
gate called the Miraflores lock. I managed to get in touch with the
children back in the UK and they were able to watch us pass through that
lock. As the gates to the last lock opened, we were faced with the
Pacific Ocean, and the famous bridge called 'The bridge of the Americas'.
We have come a long way from Lymington in England!
The whole trip through the canal was quite intense. All the boats
travelling through the lake were quite close to each other and so you could
never take your eye off the steering. When tied up together you had to be
careful not to drag to one side or the other. So by the time we got to our
anchorage at a place called La Playeta, we were all pretty exhausted. To go
through the Panama canal has been an amazing experience, and one that we all
thought was very special and unique. We are now anchored over looking
Panama city in the distance.
Andrew has left me on the boat for two nights to help another boat from the
oyster group to come through the locks. I think he explained that each
boat needs a minimum of 5 people on board. There are a few boats with us
ladies on board on our own. The comforting thing is that we all have VHF
radios and have the radio switched on at all times. This allows any of us
to contact someone else if there is a problem.
I hope you enjoy the photos. It may just help you to see how we were rafted
up together and what the size of the lock doors were.
I will put the photos in a separate entry and try and explain each photo.
The exploring of panama city and what we find and see will be in the next