On Passage for Galapagos. 06:55:68N 79:30:84W

Zipadedoda of Dart
David H Kerr
Thu 14 Feb 2008 08:53

We departed from Isla Del Rey in the Las Perlas group at lunchtime today.


It was another hot and sultry day and it was with some sadness that we had to pack away the dingy and prepare the boat for the near 1000nm passage to Galapagos. Not least because the (F”*)^&%g) generator has died once again. This time it’s the starter motor that has jammed or failed. Either way it is a major project to fix it, so we decided to head off early for Galapagos to conserve our water stocks.


But enough of this negative piffle. PART 2 of the PANAMA CANAL experience.


On the second morning, our transit adviser, Roy Paddy was once again delivered to us by pilot boat at around 0600. As soon as it was light we set off in single file for our next destination Pedro Miguel locks, for the start of our decent to the Pacific Ocean.




We were instructed to head for the Banana cut, which is a short cut across the Gatun Lake, and is only used by yachts, pilot boats and work boats, because the turns are too tight for the larger ships. This man made lake is enormous. 423 square kilometres to be exact! The passage across this lake and the surrounding islands with in it are just stunning. There are petrified trees, sticking out of the water (outside the channel of course), and the place is just crawling with wildlife. There are Toucans, all manner of other bird life, and of course crocodiles……………These guys haul themselves out of the water and just sun themselves at around midday. We saw several of them in the distance and on one occasion in the water swimming past us some 50 metres away. So no one was too keen to go for a dip!


Some of the Islands along the canal side are available for rent. Apparently a small one can be rented for a one year arrangement for as little as $150 a year. Some of these looked absolutely enchanting, with their native style of (temporary) structures.




The flotilla had to dodge some interesting obstacles, like mega container ships and massive, scary looking, dredgers.




The dredgers are there to carry out routine maintenance and also to widen the bends, and as part of the planned 10 year expansion of the canal. At the present time the canal can accept 98% of the worlds commercial shipping. That is 2% of the largest vessels that it cannot accommodate. Like the new Cunard Queen Mary passenger ship. So there will be a new set of locks at each end of the canal that will be capable of handling all the worlds shipping and at the same time with double the capacity of the canal transits.


After Pedro Miguel locks we headed off to the last pair which are called Mira Flores. At this pointed there is a Visitor Centre in a three storey canal side building, which also houses a restaurant and the Webcam. So at this point all the crews on the yachts went crazy, jumping up and down, waving hats and all sorts of things at the cameras. Wendy from Heidenskip who was on our boat even dressed up in a Dutch Flag. Very fetching too………


The last lock is the most tricky of them all. This is because the fresh water from the canal system mixes with the salt water from the Pacific Ocean. Due to the different density’s of the water, very strong currents can (and do) occur and can quit easily sweep a yacht into the canal side of worse still into the lock gates as they are opening. We had a few heart stopping moments, but once through the last gates and past the Bridge of the Americas, there was a massive sense of relief and achievement in managing a safe transit.


We then headed south along the side of the causeway (built from spoils from the canal construction) that joins Flamenco Island with the mainland. This presented a magnificent vista of Panama City.



Then into Flamenco Marina. Now that was an unforgettable experience………………………………..More of which in the third and final episode of the Panama Canal, Zipadedoda saga………..