Preparing to transit the Panama Canal


Tuesday 18 February 2014

So after a brief stop in Portobelo (nothing too exciting to be really honest), we are now in Shelter Bay Marina, in Colon excitedly preparing for our Panama Canal transit. Well not just that, we have to provision for the transit, a few days in the Las Perlas islands, a crossing to Galapagos, 3 weeks in the Galapagos, a 3 week crossing of the Pacific Ocean and then a month or two until we get to Tahiti! Susie is going to sink this boat.

Talking of Susie sinking the boat with supplies, the young lady has been re-allocating stuff (again!).

Susie decided we should use a cupboard in the forward cabin for our hanging clothes and move the books that were stored in that cupboard to our cabin. Good idea as our clothes don’t hang very well in our room squeezed in with the watermaker. While arranging this she then found a bottom shelf in the hanging cupboard and lifting it found more storage much to her delight. A good spot for our supplies of good old beer.

Adina approaches the Panama Canal breakwater

Adina approaches the Panama Canal breakwater

Sailing along our screen plotter with it’s electronic charts shows the boat’s position with a line out the front to show where the boat is pointing. It also has a second line that tells you where the boat is actually moving over the land (sea bottom) so to say. The reason is you may be steering the boat north but some strong current may actually be moving you east for example. In places with no current whatsoever the two lines should be pointing in the same direction. Make sense?

Two days ago I noticed the lines were out and thought that’s odd I didn’t expect any current but accepted it. Yesterday it was the same and the lines were quite different. Time to question Susie “Did you move anything magnetic recently?” She replied “Well the beer cans but I don’t think they are magnetic”. Furthermore we’ve never been able to find our boat compass which we know is hidden somewhere! “Was there anything electric in there?” “Oh yes, a black square box!” came back the reply.

So this morning Susie pulled the beer out, there is our boat compass, and using a magnet we now know that Boddingtons (British beer) uses metal cans!

So the next few days will involve provisioning and dealing with getting Adina transited to the Pacific Ocean. This involves a lot of paperwork and handing over of lots of money. Step 1 mail them all your details, and more importantly call them to confirm they have received your details. Job done, good thing we called as we were given an old email address. Step 2 arrange to get Adina measured and checked by Panama Canal officials – done. Step 3 the admeasurer comes onboard on Thursday at 8am, measures and checks the boat is capable of transiting the Panama Canal with all the enormous cargo ships. Step 4, once he has issued his papers head to Colon city, pay over lot’s of money, try not to get mugged (seriously!) Step 5 phone Panama Canal authorities and arrange an actual transit slot, and keep phoning to check it’s not moved. Step 6 secure four long ropes and wrapped-up tires to act as fenders for the transit. In addition find 3 people to do it with us as it’s mandatory to have one skipper plus 4 line handlers.

As for when we will transit we don’t yet know timings. This time of year, its peak season for yachts crossing the Pacific and so they typically transit in the evening. Timings are either a day or an anchorage halfway and finish the next day.

So it’s going to be some very busy days ahead with all we have to do plus we are hoping to squeeze in a visit to nearby Panama City. This year is actually the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal. In the next blog we’ll try and give some background to the canal, and what the transit actually involves. Indeed the canal has live webcams so if you are interested in a bit of using the old grey matter, and want to watch us transit, stay tuned!

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One response to “Preparing to transit the Panama Canal

  1. Catrin says:

    Yes please let us know when you’re transiting – I’ll be watching! One of the best days of my life (I did it in the other direction). How special would that be to stay overnight on the canal? I’ve been fascinated by the Panama Canal ever since I can remember – we had a map of the world on our wall and I was always intrigued by that tiny strip of water that separated two massive continents and linked two massive oceans, a real crossroads of the world.

    If you manage to fit Panama City in I’d thoroughly recommend it – bustling, polluted, but the buses are something else and the old colonial city is gorgeous.

    As alway, bon voyage!