Thursday, July 9, 2009

Through to the Pacific

This last two days have been among the most exciting days for me. On Tuesday, Dracula and Rudi showed up at the last minutes with themselves and their luggage as it turned out that they were the line handlers. We left the dock at 13:40, hardly in time to meet our "advisor" who was supposed to board us at the "Flats" at 2:00. Fortunately, he was late and we got him aboard on time.
We rushed to the Gatun locks, but the tanker that was supposed to be ahead of us in the locks ran into some problem and we had to wait for a replacement freighter which arrived at 4:00 p.m.
We then started the process of going through the three locks and rising by a total of 87 feet . I had read all kinds of horror stories about going thru those locks together with big freighters, and the damage on the yachts, and the monkey's fists damaging hatches and solar panels, and so on and so forth that I was a little nervous. In fact, everything went super smoothly, with everybody on the side of the canal doing a very professional job, and all we had to do was to enjoy the ride and marvel at this huge organisation. It took about one hour to go through those three locks after what we went to a mooring buoy in the Gatun lakes for the night.
Wednesday morning, another "advisor" showed up and we were off at around 7:00 a.m. At first, under a very heavy and continuous rain we sailed again at full speed toward the Pedro Miguel lock, going through the lakes and then through the Gaillard cut that had cost so many lives to open. On each side, we saw people at work maintaining and improving the canal.
We got to the Pedro Miguel too early and again had to play the waiting game until the freighter that was going to be with us in the locks showed up. This time, since we were going down, instead of being placed behing the freighter, we were ahead of it, and it was impressive to be there, tied up in the locks and watch that big boat creep forward on us. However, as had been the case in the Gatun locks, everything went without a hitch and we were soon out of Pedro Miguel and into the Miraflores ones. This time, two locks for Miraflores and one for Pedro Miguel. In each lock, we would go down by about 30 feet.
At 2:00 in the afternoon, we were out of the locks, sailing towards Balboa where the "advisor" went off and then onto Flamenco marina where we planned to spend 2 nights to rest, digest this wonderful experience and prepare for the trip to Ecuador.

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