Time for an update, at last. La Plahita 08.55N79.31W

Salsa af Stavsnas
Ellinor Ristoff Staffan Ehde
Fri 19 Apr 2013 18:14
We are at anchor on the Pacific side, at a place called La Plahita 08.55N79.31W
As we left Shelter Bay on the 15th of April we had a big load of people on board, there where 4 adults and two children plus ourselves.
It was the family from Free Spirit; Marianne, Lars, Lilly and Ona, plus their crew member Oskar. Then we had Billy from Sunrise who took a longboat from Lemon Cays in San Blas to shore, then a jeep to Panama City and then a bus from Panama City to Colon and then a Taxi to Shelter Bay, just to help us out! We tried to save him this trip but he would not take a no.
The canal regulation is that you have to have four line handlers on board and we had more than that!
We anchored at the flats as directed and waited for our advisor. They where announced to come by 15.00 but arrived half an hour earlier. And on top of all the people we had on board we got TWO advisors, one to be examined as an advisor by the senior that came with him.
We headed to the first docs, called the Gatun Docs. Outside we where tied with two other boats and Salsa stayed in the middle. Meaning that I had to steer the whole package (that felt as I had done it before, and suddenly somebody said, must be like a trimaran).
That also meant that all line handlers we had on board had to do NOTHING. Because the boats on each side of us had to work with the lines to the docks.
The docks are HUGE and the current wild when it sets off. All went well and by 1800 we had been moved 29 meters up from sea level to the lakes of Gatun. At that time the biggest man made lake in the world. The only way to create a passage through Panama at that time. The French who started the project thought they could just dig a ditch and then it would work, but with the tide on the Pacific side and almost no tide on the Atlantic side that would not work. The lakes provide the canal with water and the locks act as ....locks for the tide situation.
Since there is always a lot of fresh water needed to the locks the lakes are totally "WILD", meaning that no humans are alowed to live near the lakes. Reason, if they start to cut down the djungle the rain might not fall....
We moored over night in the lake and the advisor told us NOT TO SWIM, Alligators in the lake are hungry.
I did not see any but some crew members saw three by the locks.
We had a great evening/night, drinking Portwine from Porto that Free Spirit had saved for a special occasion.
We talked about life and it became very interesting and deep discussions.
To late we went to bed, some sleeping on deck.30 degrees at night is no problem to sleep on just a madras.
Next morning, new advisor showed up at 06.30. Long drive to Miraflores Locks, it took about 4-5 hours in 6 knots. Wonderful scenery, just broken by big ships coming through this wilderness.
We where budled again but this time only two and two. We got a lock time by 12.10 and where done by 1400.
By Bridge Americas (the bridge that connects South and North America for the cars) we left our advisor to a pilot boat.
Then we went to Balboa and left lines, tires and line handlers ashore.
Coming to anchor we just fell asleep. Totally exhausted.
Ellinor had been in the galley for 24 hours, and I had been at the wheel and taking responsibility for our transit. But I think Ellinor had most of the work load.
We had two days of shopping here in Panama City and that is the worse! To take in all the traffic, messages, translations, cost, money, advises etc etc.... Contrast with San Blas is enormous. But believe it or not, in a shopping mall that is so much USA you can think of, you can find a Kuna woman in traditional clothings talking on the cell phone while her teenager is trying a new make up.
The world is changing fast.
By the way I'm reading "Galapagos" by Kurt Vonnegut
That is a story to read on the way there!
Tomorrow we hope we can go to Las Perlas. We should have left today, but we did not get a gas bottle we ordered to this morning.