27 February 2015 - La Playita Anchorage, near Panama City, Panama
Well, we’re through the Panama Canal, and now getting ready to head out to the Galapagos.
To assist us with our transit, and upcoming voyage, John and Joy Ceelen (Diane’s brother and sister-in-law from Alberta) and their son Brian came to join us, arriving on 20 February while we were still anchored at Portobelo. Admittedly, it feels a little crowded on our boat with five people, when we normally spend months at a time just the two of us onboard - but its nice to have the company.
Although I’ve read a book explaining the history and construction of the Panama Canal, it made it all “real” as we passed through it. In short, the Canal is constructed roughly North to South and is approximately 82 km in length.
From the Atlantic side, our “Advisor” boarded us at “The Flats”, an anchorage near Colon, and stayed with us through the three Gatun locks taking us UP to the elevation of the Gatun Lake.
On the first night, we were rafted to two other boats, a catamaran in the middle and a smaller 40’ monohull on his port side. When we motored across the Gatun Lake, the other monohull couldn’t keep up, so he was delayed and we continued on without him.
We moored overnight at Gatun Lake, a surreal man-made lake, with crocodiles and howler monkeys in the jungle on shore. The next morning, we joined by a different advisor and set out to motor approximately 25nm to pass under the Centennial Bridge, reaching the Pedro Maguel lock and then the two Miraflores locks, in all three cases locking DOWN to the level of the Pacific Ocean. In summary, travelling from North to South, we locked UP to the level of the Gatun Lake and DOWN to the level of the Pacific Ocean.
Diane did a stellar job as the “helmsman”.
The Panama Canal is a marvel of engineering, and uses natural, fresh water for all the lock transits. All of this water normally drained down to either the Atlantic or Pacific sides, but is now “controlled” to provide a mechanism for the locking. This is a neat little video that shows how one transits the Canal.
One of the locks had a camera running and we had a friend send us a photo / screenshot from that camera. Our two rafted boats are small, but you can see the relative sizes.
We didn’t use an “Agent” to do the administration, saving at least $ 350-500, but did use Tito to rent lines and tires from. It was easy to do the administration ourselves.
Lots of very powerful tugs were in action.
Brian Ceelen made some time-lapse video of our own transit and I stitched it together into a short movie. Its really neat, as it shows us going through the stages. Brian tied his mother’s iPad Mini up on the starboard side, just under the solar panels. He made a separate movie for each of the different phases and I pulled it together and uploaded to YouTube.
We’re anchored now at La Playita, with about 40 other boats. The Pacific water is noticeably cooler, as when we went in for our late afternoon swim/shower shortly after arrival -the shrivel-factor was evident. It may be that I am the only one swimming every afternoon….
I have serviced the Volvo (changed oil and filter, changed primary and secondary fuel filters and greased some points in the drivetrain), and we have yet to return our rented tires and lines (we obtained 8 tires, 4 long lines and 1 fumigation certificate for a total of $ 119) to Tito. Brian and John took a taxi out to a gas station and purchased eight jerry cans of diesel and one jerry can of gasoline (two taxi runs) and Diane set out to buy another $ 850 worth of groceries. We are well stocked. Our Magma BBQ has completely failed on the inside shell, and we’ve replaced it with a Weber home BBQ.
Right now, we’ve got a small mechanical problem with an exhaust fitting, and Ali, a German cruiser is working on a solution for us.
To see previous log entries, just use the tab at the top.
SV Joana is listed for sale at this site (in case you're wondering why, we're not planning to give up the cruising lifestyle or our home, but most things are for sale and since we've met many cruisers who have listed their boat, we figured we'd do it too).
Countries Visited: (Departed Canada: May 2009)
Antigua: May 2011
Bermuda: June - August 2009
Bonaire: February - April 2014
Bahamas: December 2009 - March 2010, December 2010 - February 2011
Barbados: March 2012
British Virgin Islands: May 2011
Colombia: Oct 2014 -
Cuba: March - May 2010
Curaçao: May 2014 - September 2014
Dominica: May 2011, April 2013
Dominican Republic: March - April 2011
Grenada: June-November 2011
Guadeloupe: March 2013
Martinique: March 2012, March 2013
Panama: December 2014 (San Blas Islands), January 2015
Puerto Rico: April 2011
St Lucia: May-June 2011, December 2011 - February 2012, December 2012 - February 2013
St Martin /Netherlands Antilles: May 2011
St Vincent and the Grenadines: June 2011, February 2012, December 2012, April-May 2013
Tobago: March-May 2012
Trinidad: May - December 2012, June - November 2013
USA: August - November 2009, June - November 2010
US Virgin Islands: May 2011
Venezuela: November 2013 - February 2014