In between hardworking and fending the evil wall, okay okay… that may be an exaggeration; we found the time for a few videos, here are the compilations to give you a feeling of our experience. Enjoy!
We feel very fortunate as our trip with Bryan and Carey was a pleasure and a breeze. For this you need a boat well prepared, with a focused skipper and crew, a good neighbor in the lock helps also (for that Thank you, Wind Spirit), and for the rest it is pure luck; the last element of success. On a boat things can go wrong very quickly, the lines can get loaded, kinked in a cleat, fingers caught, the current can move your boat in a direction you didn’t intend in seconds and so on. Still if you prepare well, listen to the advisor and are aware of your surroundings at all times, the Canal is truly an amazing infrastructure, a well-oiled machine with expertly trained men.
The second day was dedicated to go down the last three locks toward the Atlantic. It’s a shorter distance and all locks are consecutive, according to the schedule we had to be ready for 9am though our advisor was not here before noon in the end we were in the lock at 1.30pm. The day before (on day one) Wind Spirit was told to be ready for 10 am, but by 6.30am they were calling them franticly on the radio, we are still amazed on how fast the crew onboard got ready so fast… Lesson learnt be prepared and ready for anytime! Truly though, small boats are more of a hindrance to the Canal’s organization we only pay around a $1000, when the cargos bring between $300K to $1 Million each. The crown corporation brings in the government coffer which rounds up to more than a billion a year, and employs 10.000 individuals well paid with good benefits; this is for a country with only 3 million inhabitants.
After one night at “Shelter bay marina” and some good chow mein, we made our way back to Panama City via the bus system. Found a spot on a dinghy to get to Letitgo and retrieve ours, “la boucle était bouclée!” (We had made the grand circle). Again thank you Carey and Bryan for your hospitality, the opportunity to share this great experience, this is undoubtedly a memory that will stick for a while.
Out it comes, and in we go… The locks don’t get much free time!
The “Monkey Men” as we’ve called them, they get you a messenger line that you then attach to your line.
A link between the dock and the boat.
This is the higher tech version of the Panama Canal.
The rowing dinghy who gets the line of the big ship as seen on yesterday’s post,
A pretty impressive sight compared
to the sizes around…
And this time around we were located at the bow (front) of the freighter, how close will it come?
Somebody is looking up front, not to worry
We were here, the mandatory picture
We are the king of the castle overlooking an other ocean.
We can feel the Atlantic such a difference, on this side they only get a 2 feet tide maximun whereas on the Pacific it is 20 Feet.
The new locks are still under construction, and showing a growing delay.
Here are the doors for them, from far away and at first glance you think it’s a building under construction, they are that big!
Back in Panama with the colorful Diablo
5.30am came quickly and by 6.30 we were all onboard “Copernicus”, the advisor was there as promise even a little earlier. We made it up the three sets of locks on the first day and had a nice sleep on Lake Gatun. Below we will take you on a virtual tour of this first day:
La Playitas anchorage, where we all anchor.
The advisor’s boat steaming toward us
Roy ready to take his big Jump
We are all cleared, we will be known as North 21 Charlie (N21C) for the day.
Copernicus our ride with Carey and Bryan. As you can see the boat is equiped with tires which are necessary for the transit.
And we had a few occasions to understand why…
The bridge of the Americas, Central America is on one side; South America on the other side.
Causeway with the new aquatic museum and Panama City’s skyline,
Port of Panama, which is rather small when you think of the traffic, few boats stop here.
This one was our neighboor in the lock, we will see his stern (back side) for a couple of hours.
Follow the green arrow and all will be good.
Like little flies on the wall, we are now rafted up.
Understandebly, the skipper was a little nervous; but all went well.
Do you think they are built to fit in the canal?
The legendary Miraflore locks,
Do you think the mosaic is from the original construction?
Those mules (locomotives) are here to stop the cargo.
Here, the small rowing dinghy is the intermediate to receive the messenger line from the cargo. Those will help get the cable from the mule.
Busy traffic under the Centennial Bridge
The cuts in the landscape are still clearly visible even after 100 years.
We get close and personnal, with some rather big fellow.
Tying on the buoy in Lake Gatun; a man made soft water Lake.
After a nice cruise, we had a delicious dinner and were ready for bed.
This is the waiting room for the last set of locks.
After a nice night sleep on Lake Gatun, we have made it through the last three locks, the team and the advisor were spot on and we had no trouble. Thank you Carey and Bryan for this fantastic experience, we doubt we will forget those two days anytime soon. We shall be traveling tomorrow and we will have a full report with a video very soon.
Just a quick post to let you know that we just finished the first three locks with ease. Thank you to Geir Ove, that immortalize the moment of your passage in the Miraflores lock. We were on the first boat above.
We will spend the night on lake Gatun and finish the trip tomorrow morning, before returning Monday to Letitgo.
Another day touring (read shopping) in town and even better Dim Sum
Yesterday was a trip to the old Panama ruins, but we don’t have anything to show you as we turned around when they asked for $5 a person to walk around 3 stones with over grown grass around them. What can we say Captain Morgan did a good job at burning the first Panama City down… We then explored the Cinco del Mayo area to get familiar with the lay out. Truly the city has a pretty big discrepancy in quality of living hence staying aware of your surroundings is important or a quick turn could easily take you to the slums… Still we make it happen and the bus system is slowly starting to make sense and is not as intimidating as it was just a week ago.
So today we were joined by Carey for another trip to Dim-sum and some long range shopping, we succeeded in our missions! You guessed it we came back with a full load of boat parts, more chocolate bars and some great photos of daily life in Panama.
Tomorrow we will be doing the canal crossing on Copernicus, as you need four lines handler per boat. You may be able to see us on the webcam of the canal; we should be passing Miraflores lock around 10am. Keep an eye for a grey monohull with a very tall white mast, and a Canadian flag at her stern: here is a picture. If somebody is able to do a screen shot we would be happy to get a copy.
Now we are talking silly picture ops, for you Emily.
Before the transit system was established the Diablos were the king, now add to this picture music as tame as the painting and you get the full experience.
In Panama the uniform is de rigeur and why not polish you brass while on the way.
The elections are coming in a few weeks, flag posters are omnipresent and the action is getting more intense.
What a whirlwind the last two days have been, so much so that we chose to stay onboard Letitgo to catch up. On one hand Benjamin is back to school, he had an extended (due to internet difficulty) March break, and on the other hand we had to work on our lists and redrafted them, finally we researched on where to go to get those items… A few loads of laundry have been done; we filled up the tanks of diesel to avoid condensation and slept tight. We also achieved the first repair: change a weather proof cover on a toggle switch, what can we say, we start small to warm up!
In the mean time while at anchorage we watch the various boats coming and going though the canal, just a few hundred meters away from us. Truly, the anchorage is a non-stop revolving door of cruising boats, some preparing for the canal transit while others readying to cross to the Marquesas each being a milestone for most crew, which makes for a busy channel 72 on the VHF. This is exactly what we were expecting: A melting pot of cruising boats with a wide variety of nationalities represented in boats’ flag and crew. Here you find a large array of vessels from the 5 spreader boat to the young hippy on a near derelict state one, all together sharing the same dream of living a life on water and visiting far away land, in other words living outside the box.
This brings us to a topic that has been widely covered in the news lately, a vessel that was sailing across the Pacific and found themselves needing assistance 900 miles out of the Mexican coast: The controversy of sailing away with your young children has raised many eyebrows and concerns. Our hearts go to this family who now has to regroup after such a dramatic experience. Choosing to show the world to your children outside the common path always raises critics from outsiders, why? Because we choose to be outside the comfort zone, this does not mean we are failing in our parenting on the contrary we are choosing to show them the world in a more realistic way and they learn things differently. Truly there is an undeniable risk involved but isn’t it the same on land? Are the roads so safe? Do you know where your children are while you are at work? While travelling with young children represents more challenges on a sailing vessel for the parents, the little ones also get to grow close to their parents and see nature at its best. Leading a life of voyage is a very enriching life and we wish them a good recovery with hopefully more sailing adventures ahead of them.
Back here in Panama we have a mission, refill our banks of spare parts and provisions. With that in mind today we diligently went to Allbrook mall (the largest mall of all South America, 700+ stores) at opening time, spending 5 hours roaming this vast place of consumerism; a one of in our family story might we add! Believe it or not we conquered and were happy about it, more zap straps for the tool box and a new cell phone which will bring a hotspot for us three, a treat!
For the past month Emma and I had decided to keep her visit in May a secret from Valerie… But it back fired, Valerie got it out of me after not sleeping last night and every time we mentioned Emma, she would start to fizzle. So yes! Emma is coming to visit us for two weeks in May, we are all looking forward to it, welcome back onboard Letitgo Emma, and we can’t wait.
Thank you for the plug, we were able to set it up. We can now create a hotspot on the boat and all devices can be connected. We are again with the lastest technologie onboard.
Benjamin renewing his knowledge of the last apple product.
All under one roof, we couldn’t resist.
Those are the treasures we needed after two years out of the consumer world.
Sunday is the perfect day to visit Panama City with a car, as you can zip around and find places to park. We got lucky and had our experienced friends leading us around, from the fish market and their famous “ceviche’s” to the modern center and old town. The skyline of this city is impressive from the Trump tower (Dubai copy) to the hurricane one (twisted one, London copy) you can see that some money is flowing around.
We didn’t have a great lighting for photos, but we will still take you for a tour. Welcome to Panama City and its heritage.
Here you can see the contrasts between old town and the new modern highrises.
The government finally realized the value of having a restored old city. It also helps when the presidential palace is located on the heart of it now.
Only problem you neighbors maybe scatter that have been here for 40 years.
Kuna woman wearing modern traditional costume, with all the beading work on their leg and arm; they are all around town. Some live in town to escape their island and very conservative way of life.
With that said the “molas” are never far behind, we got a lesson on the various quality and design, now it’s a matter of finding the one that will catch our eye and touch our heart.
As you know we have been craving it for one year and finally resolved to put an end to this. Thanks to two bus rides, a great cruisers’ guide for the city and Google map we were sitting in front of a beautiful array of Dim Sum in less than two hours, what can we say; we travelled all the way to Panama City for this. Well maybe for other thing too, but we have our priorities set right. In the anchorage we also reunited with cruiser’s friends from Vancouver and we will be doing the Panama canal crossing with them, it should be Thursday or Friday this week; we will keep you posted so you can keep an eye on the webcam.
Some Vancouver friends joined us for the week-end from the Caribbean side where their boat resides, they had rented a car. Their visit was a real treat as when we last saw each other we were still in the dreamer phase, they helped us get our bearings into the city, took us around, and shared their knowledge of Panama. Thank you so much to have come all the way and taken the time to be with us. Of course fuel and heavy provisions were purchase, transported and stocked onboard Letitgo with greater ease which is truly appreciated.
We celebrated our reunion in style, what do you want to eat? One quick phone call to another cruiser, this yielded us a high quality Lebanese restaurant. And in a city of expatriates we had the choice; you can find everything here in all budget range. What a pleasure to be here, free anchorage rolly once in a while, a secured dinghy dock to get to land, a cheap and efficient bus system and a beautiful city. Panama is a treat and we are biting into it fully.
Benjamin and his Chinese photo op.
And our friend knew a good adress for French pastries…
Nothing like a belly dancer and a hooka to bring you to the Midlle East.
This is just apple flavored Grandma, relax.
Pour rassurer les grands-meres de Benjamin: C’est juste au parfum pomme! Relax
This was the last day of wind in the gulf, truly we used every last blow of it and after a frustrating hour we got to sail all the way until we anchored. Approaching the entrance of the canal, we had 100 boats on the AIS in a 10nm range; this reminded us of our debut in the sailing world in English bay in Vancouver. It was a fun slalom around the tankers, on trapeze on a Nacra F18. At the time we had to make sure not to be on the lee side of them as the wind would be shielded, and would have left us stuck.
We discerned the skyscrapers even if the day was hazy, a sight last seen for us in San Diego a year and half ago. Even if our excitement was palpable we are not sure of how long this will last? Another question all together, we will find out undoubtedly. The program for the next few weeks is rather simple, cross as many items from the “No we don’t have this in Mexico/Costa-Rica” list, in order to bring back Letitgo to its 100% stocked in maintenance inventory. In between, we have already had our old time favorites: Dim-sum! Something we have been craving for a while… And lastly visit the site of this very busy historic city of course
Last night when we went to bed we were reminded of New-York: going to bed soon as your head touches the pillow, you start hearing all the sirens and traffic go by 24/7. Here at the anchorage it’s the same, a working port that never stops, tug boat /port tender going and coming all night long, the roaming of the large diesel engine, like everything in a few days we will not notice anymore. Still we are ready, bus card in hand (thank you Tara, beautiful Lagoon 440 from the Nederland), we will crisscross this city and enjoy all it has to offer.
What a good sense of humor in the registery department of this company.
Et les belges font leur propre blague, “Reefer” veut dire petard en anglais.