Saturday, February 7, 2009

Panama Canal

Oh my goodness! I haven't written a blog on the Panama Canal! Well, we are
now in the Las Perlas islands and just anchored after and beautiful sail and
catching a fish. It's really nice here and tomorrow we are going to explore
a river that's supposed to be really cool in the dinghy.

So after sitting in the marina for a few more days after Costa Rica,
we quickly motored through all the huge ships to a little anchorage right
outside the canal called the flats. We waited here for a couple hours for
our adviser who would stay on the boat during the transit and help us get
through the locks and lake. Before leaving the marina that morning two of
our friends, Frank on Anemos and Andre on Tigre, as line handlers. They
would tie, loosen, and tighten the lines as we went up and down in the
locks. They would also stay onboard for the whole transit (two days) and
then take a taxi back to the marina where they would return to their boats.
Once the adviser arrived we served everyone dinner and then made our way to
the first pair of locks called the Gatun Locks. After finishing dinner our
adviser told us that we would be rafted to another catamaran and there would
be a ship in-front of us in the lock at once. Soon we came close enough to
the other cat to raft up and we were soon waiting for the ship to tie up so
that the two of us could also enter the locks. The other cat had three guys
onboard who were doing a delivery to Tahiti from South Africa. Why they came
two thirds around the world instead of just one we have no idea, but they
were really nice and the skipper and Daddy communicated well and neither
boat had the slightest ding. When we entered the lock the people on the
edges of the locks through down monkey fists (a type of knot with a really
heavy ball in the center of it) to the boat. Everyone tied the bigger blue
lines that were provided by the canal to the monkey fist and then the people
on the edge of the locks pulled in the lines. They were then tied onto
really huge cleats and the lock doors started to close. It must have taken
at least ten minutes to close the huge doors. They must have been uhh, at
the very least, 20 feet thick. They were huge! Once the doors were closed
water started to push us upwards. The water enters the lock entirely on
gravity. Of course you might think "Sure, how else?" until you see it. It
got really loud and the water made tiny whirlpools while it shot upwards.
The entire lock was soon filled to the top and we were getting ready to
motor out to the nest lock. This process repeated twice. Once we left the
last lock we had raised over 80 feet and we now floating on the top of the
Continental Divide. Since it was already 10 PM and we weren't allowed to go
any farther, the two boats de-rafted and started for the huge moorings that
we would tie up to for the night. A boat for our adviser soon came and he
jumped on, advisers don't stay on the boat for the night. Everyone was soon
in bed. The next morning everyone woke up to the sound of screeching howler
monkeys. After a large breakfast we were greeted by our next adviser who
would lead us through the last part of the canal. Today's agenda included
crossing the Gatun Lake, and going through the last three locks. After that
we would enter the Pacific. Cole and I both prepared for a long motor across
the lake and stuck ourselves to the roof of the house. Soon we started to
see some trees sticking up through the water where they had been drowned
when the lake was made. After a few hours. We entered the Gaillard Cut. This
cut was known to be quite dangerous for large ships because of its' sharp
turns, but being a little boat it was no problem. After hours of motoring
Mommy soon brought up lunch and we rafted back up with our friends on the
Moorings Cat. So far we had been really lucky with our advisers because most
people say that they can be greedy and not very helpful and both our
advisers had been really nice and very knowledgeable on the canal.
Unfortunately though, the other cat did not have a great adviser for this
section for the canal. We did find it pretty strange though when he all of a
sudden smelled food on Zen and so he invited himself over. Mommy being the
all generous cook offered him some lunch. Since this was exactly what he
wanted he quickly agreed. Since Mommy had no more left when he asked for
more he got Cole's leftovers. Anyways, we were soon in the last three locks
with a small powerboat in-front of us and a ship in back. Going down,
everyone said, was much easier than going up and the doors were soon
entering to the Pacific. Once outside the locks we de-rafted with the other
cat and both set off for either the anchorage or mooring field. We had to go
to the mooring field since it had a dock and availability to taxis. Although
all of our friends were at the anchorage and said that there weren't any
moorings left, we decided to go and check it out anyways. There ended up to
be plenty of free moorings and so after dropping off Frank and Andre we
picked up a mooring. We didn't go to the anchorage because there was a pool,
restaurants and hotel with a TGI Fridays inside it at the mooring field.
While we were there we ended up meeting some people on a the exact same
boat as us, just a few feet smaller. They ended up to be a really nice
couple who built the boat themselves. It was definitely the most beautiful
homemade boat I have ever seen with an unbelievable finish. We did end up
being able to visit our friends in the anchorage before we left for a little
island only an hour or two away. A day later we left for the Las Perlas and
anchored in a beautiful little cove with a really nice beach in dinghy and
kayak distance. Oh! I forgot to tell you that we bought a three person pink
kayak from our friends on Galivanter a couple days before we left. Cole,
Mommy and I love it but Daddy says that it's way too heavy. He also said
that we're going to get rid of it if we don't use it for a long time, but I
think he likes it too. On our sail to a different anchorage today we caught
a really big tuna and will be having fish tonight. Don is a really big help
on the boat and is really great to have around. We all hope that he'll come
to the Galapagos with us. Mmmm, Mommy must be cooking down in the galley
because it smells so good up here which might mean that we eat soon. Gotta
go, bye!

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