Panama Canal - Transit

Sans Peur
Grete & Fred Vithen
Fri 17 Aug 2018 16:54
Balboa Yacht Club (South Pacific), Panama City  8 56 28 N 79 33 48W  10-17 August

We have been moored at a buoy since we arrived in the afternoon Friday the 10th August.
This is not a real marina here, just buoys.
And upon using VHF channel you request transport to the 120 m long jetty. No dinghy rides allowed.
It's a bit odd to be moored very close to the famous Panama Canal with the constant stream of oceangoing huge ships passing day and night. 
A new thing is the tide. Up to 6 ms difference. We need to be careful when anchoring in the future.
Today we will check out from Panama and start our sailing towards the Galapagos Islands.
Tonight we will anchor outside Flamenco Marina at the very end of the canal.
Tomorrow we are doing a day sail (about 30 Nm)l to islas Las Perlas, still Panama where we will stay a couple of days.
From there the distance to Galapagos is 850 to 1000 Nm depending on which route we will choose to take.
ETA Galapagos Monday 3rd September.
We have requested an Autografo (a kind of cruising permit) for a month using an mandatory agent.
There is an endless list of paperwork and checks. Somehow we will fix.

Panama Canal transit, 9-10 August. Altogether 6 locks, 30 ms.

7 people onboard; 4 obligatory line handles, captain and 1 (but two arrived 2, the second one learning but still demanding) advisors. A bit crowded. Dinner has to be served.
Niklas & Anders from Swedish boat Hafsorkestern joined us as line handlers. Together with Grete there was three. We hired a line handler, 100 USD. 4 sets of 40 m lines plus 8 ballon fenders was brought onboard, the lines are also mandatory. You hire them as well.

In the afternoon the 9th we took of from Shelter Bay (that's called the New Flats, an area where you wait for your advisor from the Panama Canal). 
We had to manage the 3 Gatun Locks (about 3 x 10 ms, locking upstream) this day. Locking upstream is more challenging then downstream.
Then we spend the night on Gatun lake.

What made the locking even more challenging was that suddenly we had a thunderstorm. The water was pouring down and lightnings very very close (less then 100 ms) and scary incredible noisy. We where all soaked.
And we lost 2 instruments. No wind vane and one of our autopilot displays stopped working. Same shit that happened to us in Turkey in similar bad conditions. Shit, shit ...

Then approaching the first lock we had to tie together with a small cat. It's ok, and something they always do. But knowing that the two boats together had by far more then enough people, lines, fenders, advisors ... Efficiency is NOT the strong side of these countries. 
And these advisors treat you with no respect. We doubt very much that they have any clew about to handle a sailing boat. Very annoying.
Instead of telling you what they want you to do it's Faster, faster .... slower, slower, ... neutral, neutral .... pointing left or right ... 

In other words instead of making the passage/transit into a nice memory it's more of have it done. Sad.
The canal and locking experience of Europe is a fantastic experience. And no costs.
We did 500 plus from The Netherlands to Black Sea. Some much bigger then this. River Main to Danube you rise about 30 ms in one lock. 

Niklas and Anders working hard with one line entering a Gatun lock.

The little catamaran fixed to us. He was 6 tons, we are 27.

Locking upsteram you are at the back of the lock.

Leaving the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic side).

In a year more then 100.000 huge ships transit the canal.

Locking down stream the sailing yachts are in the front. 

This is easy. But the ship behind you is incredible big.

Last lock. South Pacific next.

We are moored just after that bridge.