Out of the canal and into the Pacific!
Sunday 3rd March 2013
Distance run: 35 nmiles
We were all up and ready to leave by 0600 this morning, and by 0630 most of the other boats in the lake had left for the next part of the transit. By 0645 we were beginning to think that we would be spending a day on Gatun Lake, but eventually our advisor George turned up a few minutes before 0700. He then suggested we needed to take the Banana Channel shortcut in order to make the Pedro Miguel lock on time! In fact this shortcut was closed a few years back because they were harvesting mahogany and there was a danger from floating tree trunks. George is a National Park warden in this area and knows it very well. He said the shortcut should have been reopened a while ago as they had finished logging, but the authorities hadn’t got around to it yet. In any case, it was a nice ride between islands and we rejoined the main channel just as the other boats were passing, so we did make good time.
George, our advisor for the second half of the transit. Motoring through the Banana Channel on Gatun Lake.
As we motored towards Gaillard Cut the wind became fair so we unfurled the yankee and motorsailed. We passed some pretty big ships going the other way, and had to move right over to the side to keep clear.
Motorsailing towards the Gaillard Cut. Giving the big ships as wide a berth as possible.
Soon we caught the first glimpse of the Centennial Bridge, the newer of the two bridges that span the canal and link North and South America.
First glimpse of the Centennial Bridge across the canal. We passed under the bridge to reach the ‘down’ locks.
Soon after we passed under the Centennial Bridge we arrived at the first of the ‘down’ locks – Pedro Miguel lock. This one is separated from the next two Miraflores locks by a small lake, the Miraflores lake. We rafted up with Saliander and Sheer Tenacity before entering the first lock, and the routine was much as it had been yesterday, except that of course the water was let out of the lock and we went down rather than up. The lines were handled in much the same way, only today they had to be let out rather than taken in. There was no big ship in the locks with us going down and that made life a lot more comfortable and less stressful. We motored as a raft across Miraflores Lake and entered the first of the last two locks soon after midday.
Just after entering the first Miraflores Lock. Now in the second, with the Visitors’ Centre in the background.
The raft behind us as the water level drops in the second lock. The Visitors’ Centre disappeared from view as we dropped way down.
Our passage through the ‘down’ locks went without a hitch. We untied ourselves from Saliander and motored under the Bridge of the Americas which is apparently the gateway to the Pacific Ocean. We had made it safely through the canal. We untied the tyres from the sides of the boat and piled them on deck ready to offload them and the lines (which were on hire) at Balboa Yacht Club. We bade our crew a hasty farewell and thanked them for their hard work, and they left on the tender from the yacht club with the tyres and lines.
The crew celebrate our arrival in the Pacific Ocean. Tyres and lines piled up on the foredeck ready for offloading.
Bridge of the Americas, the first to span the canal and gateway to the Pacific.
Now just the two of us again, we motored a mile or so down the big ship channel until we saw the anchorage at La Playita, on the south side of the Amador Causeway, and there we dropped the anchor. Sheer Tenacity joined us at the anchorage not long after, and we were soon raising a glass of bubbly to celebrate our arrival in the Pacific Ocean. The next leg of the adventure has begun!