Panama Canal Transit 14.07.2011

Thu 14 Jul 2011 17:03

Panama Canal Transit 14.07.2011

Up at 04.00 (yes really) in the dark, we went to our dock to pick up our line handlers at 04.30. Of course they were late. Then to meet the advisor 'near buoys 2 and 4'. We manage to arrive early and wait for our advisor. For entertainment we listened to Flamenco Control trying to avoid losing his temper with a submarine which is encroaching the channel. The conversation went round in circles:

Tower, 'Sir, you are not authorised to enter the channel, you do not have a pilot, please clear the channel immediately'.

Submarine, 'I have a pilot boat here.'

'Sir, you do not have a pilot, leave the channel imediately. I have not allocated you a pilot, you do not have a pilot.'

etc, etc

Eventually the submarine left, so our hopes of a really cool transit with a sub were sunk.

Our advisor turns up and we are off. We later found out that the day we left several boats dragged their anchors and even moorings in 50 knot winds. The whole day was quite windy, which sometimes worked quite well for us. We were glad to be on an inland waterway.

We started the locks rafted to a canal launch, which was rafted to a tug against the wall. At one point we tied up directly to the wall while we waited for a ship to join us. In the last lock we were held centrally by our 4 ropes, so we have now experienced all 4 methods. The water in the first locks gave the appearance of boiling as the water rushed in.

We hoped to be able to transit the canal in one day and we were approaching the final lock, when the advisor mentioned that if we didn't get in within 5 minutes we would be out of time. We coaxed a few more revs out of the engine and the advisor called up the waiting panamax ship to ask if they would wait for us. They agreed, so we slipped in front of 65,000 tons! As the ship entered behind us the shore line handlers were making jokes in spanish. We asked our guys what the joke was and it was about the ship, well, entering behind us!

Caroline took the helm for most of the transit, so Murray did the cooking (Warship 51's Chilli) and acted as 4th line handler, but even so, the line handlers said 'Good-bye Caroline, good-bye el Capitano'.

We had arranged for Salamander to be lifted out the next day, so with just one night in the marina we expected a quiet evening. Within half an hour of tying up we met Ed and Val and their daughter Sarah, who invited us for dinner, so we took the rest of the chilli!

In the morning, we zipped round to the haul out, which had brought the staff in specially, were lifted out and spent the day cleaning and packing. The barman doubled as a taxi driver, so the lift to the airport was sorted. Gary is picking up the engine parts and bringing them to Shelter Bay and themarina is putting de-humidifiers in for us, so all we have to do is get to the airport on time and catch the flight home - 'simples'.