Sun 1 Apr 2018 00:34
Shelterbay Marina was good. Scant of everything, but non the less good - relaxed. Did some jobs, missed some jobs, made progress.
Sergio made it! My colleague from VR's Argentinian office, came up to join x86. He was my host when I was in Argentina 20 odd months ago, and it was that trip that turned into a great adventure thanks to Sergio. He took me down to Patagonian to see the glaciers, and to Ushuaia to see the Beagle channel - awesome stuff. So this was my chance to repay - with the Panama canal transit.
We left Shelter Bay at 18:00, loaded with extra fenders, long/strong extra ropes, and 4 young (20ish), line handlers. The weather was a bit iffy, but we anchored a couple of miles from the canal entrance (the 'Flats') - good night - rocky, but didn't move an inch.
At 06:00 a tug boat arrived and a couple of 'Advisors' came aboard. One was doing his final exam, the other, the examiner. These guys are like pilots, only far less competent! When you sign the transit docs, there are so many 'not our fault/ not our liability' clauses, it's laughable. Anyway, I took the 'advice' that was useful, and ignored their instructions completely, when we would have otherwise rammed the lock walls!! Here's why:
Yachts go through typically in threes - rafted. If possible, it's a Cat in the middle and a mono either side. In our case - x86 was flanked by a Cat to Starboard and a Mono to port - me driving the 30 ton collective monster ...
It's a touch tricky! The raft wants to do it's own thing, due to the different hull shapes, and the currents. Man you need to be on the ball - twisting the raft with your two engines, and controlling the 30 tons. And then ... there are the 'two' advisors yelling in you ear - neither of whom has any idea of 'the feel' of the raft getting out of control! Hence the ignoring! However, when I'd successful rescued the raft from certain wall scrapping on several occasions (by ignoring them, and ignoring their howels at being ignored), they clapped themselves heartily on the back, for doing a great job! Anyway, I boast not, I definitely saved many a scrape, and prevented the other boat skippers from beating me to death - they being my 'fenders'!
After climbing to the highest that x86 has ever been, her bum was in fresh water for the first and likely last ever time - and was that noticable. Fresh is less floaty, and we had 8 guys and 860l of diesel aboard - the back steps were well awash and the anti foul line about 6 inches under!
Views we're great - locks are always fun. And the lakes we're also fun, with leviathans appearing regularly in the tight channel - us hugging the Starboard marks. Half way through the up locking, I noticed the skippers on the Starboard Cat on Skype! Great idea - so I called Karen and Chance :-)
The down locks we're wilder than the up ones. The final has a bad reputation for yachts, and we had strong cross winds. No worries (mid level stress!) - just ignore those advisors again! In fact I did loose it slightly, telling them to shut the hell up at one stage!
So, then we were in the Pacific Ocean - marvelous. Persian Gulf; Mediterranean; Atlantic; Caribbean; Pacific - and we haven't yet sunk, not even once!
Dropped off the advisors, then a second drop of the line handlers, then off to the Marina. Enroute we got a good shouting at, by the canal cops, for being in the canal fairway! Oops!
Made it to the Marina in pitch black and a good blow. Tricky, but we got tied up ok.
Big, big day!
All's well on x86, fresh bottom now salty again.