The Panama Canal!

 

 We woke at 3:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 19.  This was the day that we have prepared for…..Slow Dancer's transit of the Panama Canal!  We had our radio on and were prepared to motor to a predetermined location to pick up our Advisor.  We already had aboard our friends, Tom and Steve as well as two paid line handlers, Ray and Demetrius. Late the previous night we received a call that our Advisor would come to us at 4:15 rather than us motoring the 40 minutes to La Playita.  Cool!  However, we had to unhook our mooring lines and motor around in place.  Our Advisor, Rick, arrived at 4:25 via tug and jumped aboard SD.  He told us that we would be transiting tied to another sailboat and behind a huge freighter.  We motored slowly toward the first lock giving our buddy boat time to catch up.  It was dark, but the light from the canal and the port were bright giving us enough light to see where we were going.  We waited outside of the huge doors waiting for them to open and let the freighter in.  After it was settled, we slowly motored in and threw two lines off of our port side up to the line handlers on the top of the wall.  The other sailboat motored up to us and with plenty of fenders between us, we tied together. The doors closed and there we were, going up.  We did this for two additional locks and we were through the Pacific side of the Canal.  Now to motor the 27 miles through Lake Gatun toward the Atlantic locks.  We had to give it all that we had to get to the locks before our huge ship, but it was faster. Lake Gatun is fresh water with jungle on the sides.  Looking up ahead, we saw what looked like a log….no, it was an 8' crocodile!  No swimming in this lake!

 Thinking that we would have to overnight in the lake because our ship transited without us. The only other ship coming our direction this morning was a hazardous cargo ship.  No one can go through the canal with this kind of ship.  Miraculously, our Advisor worked some kind of magic and another ship at anchor became activated and we were scheduled to cross with it.  It had become windy and we had to wait about an hour before our turn.  We ended up tying to a side concrete wall of the staging area.  We had fenders, but still needed to push SD off of the wall to keep from scraping.  Finally the doors opened and we entered, then our buddy entered and tied up to us.  We went all of the way to the front of the lock as our freighter would be behind us on the three locks down.  Wow…..he was huge and close!  After we had all settled, a whistle blew and the doors closed.  We were on our way down to the Caribbean.  Three locks later……we had arrived!

Our captain, Ken, motoring our way toward the first lock

The ship that we will transit the first three locks with

Rafting up with our buddy, a boat from France
Gates close as soon as we pass through them

Pulling our lines to the top of the wall to tie off





Exiting the first lock

Ken and Demetrius

Tom and Ken working together

Off we go into Lake Gatun

Tom and Steve holding us off the wall with Advisor, Rick supervising
Wow….this thing is huge and coming right at us!


…and just like that we arrive in the Caribbean!

We dropped our Advisor to his ride and proceeded to head into Shelter Bay Marina as the sun set




8,000 miles, 2 1/2 years later and we have a whole new ocean to explore!













 

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