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Date: 24 Mar 2015 21:27:36
Title: Panama Canal

09:15:7N 079:54:2W

Sunday 22nd March
Gatun Lake Mooring

We met several times with Roy Bravo our agent, while at Shelter Bay Marina and completed formalities. He decided not to clear us in for a few days so Denis could avoid having to get a tourist visa. We provisioned in Colon with the non-perishables. The marina layer on a free courtesy bus to the local supermarket. We had two hours to shop and load the bus.

During the stay we had a list of jobs to do: servicing winches, securing the toilet step and getting an Ecuador courtesy flag having priority.

Old Tyres and Lines
We needed eight old tyres wrapped in plastic as additional fenders and four 120feet mooring lines, these were delivered the night before departure.

Entering the Panama Canal
I was so excited about this part of the trip. A lovely American family were off two hours before us as, it was so frustrating waving them off while we waited. Finally our departure time came and we arrived at The Flats Anchorage Colon ready to pick up our adviser, only to find the Elin the American boat still there waiting with a French boat that had been there three hours. We had a cup of tea and our advisers all arrived together. Robin our lager than life and totally cool adviser got us under way straight off and as we approached the first lock, Gatun, we rafted up while under way. We were outside, the centre boat giving power and the two outside boat using forward and reverse to steer. The lock walls towered above us as we entered the first of the three lock flight. Two monkey fists on thin line zoomed through the air and landed across WD. Denis and David on the foredeck and Ken and Robert in the cockpit scrabbled to quickly attach the bowline from the mooring line. These were hoisted to the top of the lock walls and placed on bollards. The same happened on the yacht  on the other side of the lock. I played the engine forward and reverse to keep us straight. The lock gates closed on our last view out on the Caribbean Sea. The water rose nine metres and our line handlers took in the line keep in us straight and in the centre of the lock. Considerable turbulence shoved and attempted to skew us against the lock wall.

The dock hands fed back our lines and walked along side to the next two locks where repeated the process. We were in the locks behind a large freighter, as this left the last lock we motored out, realising the sun had set long ago and we had been in bright orange light. suddenly my instruments were very bright and I couldn't see the navigation lights we had to follow. a still star lit night greeted us as we came alongside a huge mooring bouy. Denis leapt on and secured us, we were joined by SY Elin.

Both David and Robert had had to be persuaded not to swim. I had heard stories off large crocodiles in the lake. They contented themselves with a bucket shower. It was a beautiful starlit night, as we settled down to sleep, Ken and Robert choosing to sleep on deck. We couldn't help but be moved at the thought of the hundreds of people who had died from malaria to create this wonder.


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