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The Journey - Vicariously Experience a Semi-Circumnavigation Here!

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posted on Mar, 28 2004 @ 10:49 PM
We sailed through the Cristobal harbor breakwater at 1 PM yesterday, having had a brilliant night's sail punctuated by an intentional jibe and adjusting our position to accommodate ships heading for the Canal. In one case we were required to call up the ship on VHF and agree avoidance path. About two miles from the entrance we were required to call Cristobal Signal Station (traffic control). We were directed to an anchorage area called The Flats where boats anchor to await measurement for the assessment of fees and filling out of various forms needed to effect the transit. This was accomplished by 8 AM this morning. The Queen Mary 2 was at the berth adjacent to the anchorage, a magnificent sight.

I think that the sail will prove to be the easy bit. You cannot believe the disclaimers and all of the negative possibilities that are brought to your attention and can result in damage. We have been more or less obligated to use a nested arrangement, with multiple yachts rafted up together. If any line breaks or cleat rips off, mayhem amongst the nested yachts can result.

The agent that I hired told me that I would be asked when I wished to transit by the Canal authority. This did not happen so I still have no idea at this point.

The Panama Canal Yacht Club is a very interesting place full of friendly cruisers and lifetime alcoholics. Pretty typical of third world yacht clubs the world around.

Anyway, the sail was completed and the next leg, an arduous 50 miles apparently commences.

All the best.


posted on Mar, 28 2004 @ 10:50 PM
Well, here we are, still on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal. We received word on Monday that our transit would not be Tuesday, but Saturday (tomorrow) at 0410 hours (gotta see that actually happen).

The upshot of this is that crew members Peter and Bill got on a bus and headed for Panama City and home while my new crew mate, David Addington, from Fripp Island, settled into a somewhat longer than expected holiday in Panama. We have taken advantage of this by busing down to Panama City, visiting the Gatun Locks (again, for me) and doing the last provisioning. We have enjoyed dining at the Panama Canal Yacht Club where a great dinner including drinks and desert ends up costing about $6. Going to miss this aspect of Colon (but only this).

We have rented tires wrapped in plastic bags for fenders for the transit and the boat looks pretty neat with these set up along the sides. We have also rented lines, you are required to have four each 110 ft long. Finally I have rented 4 line handlers that I must pick up at the yacht club at 3:30 AM tomorrow.

The people we have met on the streets and buses and taxis here in Panama have been great. Friendly, cheerful and helpful. Other than the fact that we are in a very busy port, this could be a pleasant stop. Won't forget this one in a hurry but both David and I are looking forward to the trip down the coast to Ecuador. One step at a time though.

Take care,


posted on Mar, 28 2004 @ 10:51 PM
Yes, we made it unscathed and what an experience. At 3:20 AM yesterday, I took the dinghy in and picked up four line handlers and a 4:45 AM, the pilot adviser arrived and we got underway toward the Gatun Locks. At 6:30 AM we entered the first lock in a "nest" with two other smaller boats, Let's Go proudly the center boat in the nest now three boats across. The center boat is used to position all three. My line handlers joked that we had the best position since we now had two massive fenders on either side should something go wrong. We locked together with a car carrier whose prop wash on exiting each lock was not as bad as we had expected.

At the top of the Gatun Locks we entered Gatun Lake for a 28 mile dash to the Pedro Miguel locks. This is a race where it is every boat for itself to see if we can keep up with the ships making their way to the down locks. If you cannot, then you get to spend the night at anchor in the lake, a costly and time consuming affair. Let's Go (my line handlers called her "Vamanos") took off and the pilot allowed us to raise sails. So under power and sail we managed to beat the ships to the lock and in fact overtook one (who had to stop to exchange pilots). We never saw our nested colleagues again. At Pedro Miguel, we went down "center chamber" and at Miraflores, "sidewall tied" along the wall of the lock, so we got to try out all the techniques for locking a yacht through.

I had arranged for Patty to open an internet link that allows one to watch a web cam at the Miraflores locks. The idea was, of course, for her to see the boat on its transit. Unfortunately, we were making such good time that we were about three hours ahead of where I told her we would be. I called on the sat phone and left a message. When I contacted her again, she was watching but just a few minutes too late. Our pilot advisor called the person in charge of the web cam position and she moved it just in time for Patty to get a cheery wave from me before we disappeared from sight as the water drained out of the lock.

By 2 PM we were tied up at the Balboa Yacht Club depositing our line handlers and waiting to load fuel and water for the leg to Ecuador. Our agent was on hand to obtain our clearance documents from the immigration person on duty. David and I then put the the boat on its mooring and pounded back a whiskey or two to celebrate our arrival in the Pacific. It was a fantastic experience.



posted on Mar, 31 2004 @ 04:45 PM
Buenos Everyone

As Jimmy Cornell states in his book, World Cruising Routes, "All passages southward from Panama, along the west coast of South America, are very difficult because of persistent southerly winds and the contrary Peru or Humboldt current which sets north throughout the year......During calms it will be necessary to motor to counteract the strong north setting current".

Well, here we are nearly 180 miles out from Panama City motor sailing in incredibly flat seas. We are doing about six knots at very low engine revolutions(at 1200 RPM we could motor all the way to Ecuador). We are getting a big boost from a southward setting current and therefore making pretty good speed over the ground. The wind is pretending to strengthen and soon we should be sailing again. So far, it has been about half and half.

We left the Balboa Yacht Club moorings Sunday morning after our Canal transit on Saturday and headed for Isla Bona, a volcanic islet 22 miles south of the Canal. This little spot turned out to be a wonderfully protected anchorage and a nesting ground for pelicans, one of whom adopted Let's Go upon arrival. On the way over we threw in my short fishing line and kiwi lure and caught two Wahoo in about fifteen minutes. more fishing for awhile. David, who is an extraordinary cook (no one is going to lose a pound on this voyage) is going to allow me to make fish stew today..the secret weapon for consuming large quantities of fish so that we can once again throw out the line.

We left our islet at 4 AM yesterday intent on anchoring once again before leaving Panamanian waters but we decided to just keep going since the wind had come up and we were making excellent progress. Neither one of us got much sleep since the sails required constant adjustment and at midnight we threw up the gennaker. In addition, there was a parade of ships heading to the Canal,all extremely well managed and seemingly aware of our presence. There was no need for the radar since we could see from their running lights, their intended course. However, still had (have) to keep a weather eye. This morning, a container ship passed close to port, heading for Chile, no doubt taking advantage of the same current we are. At least the weather is benign

It's only 9:30 AM and hotter than hot. And beer time is still two hours away. Oh yes, sailing again at 6 knots with 10 knots true wind well aft. And here comes another ship!

All the best,

Lat 5 deg 59 min N
Long 80 deg W

posted on Apr, 1 2004 @ 01:58 PM
The sea and sky have a distinctly familiar look to them. Grey, topsy turvy, rain showers evident. Patty and I have been here before. I suspect that the easy bit has just ended at 9:30 AM EST, April 2, at Lat 2 deg 5 min N and 80 deg 40 min W. The wind has just popped up from the south, where we are heading. David is at the galley table doing his art work, blissfully unaware but no doubt happy with the cool breeze pouring in the hatch over the table where he is working. Let the battle begin. This has been too easy up til now. To be fair to the crew though, the GRIB (gridded binary data-weather charts) indicates little wind in our sector so we just motor sail on through it like we did on Sea Lark back in 1981.

For the last few days we have sailed and motored sailed in sunny blue skies and starlit nights with strange creatures that only make themselves known by their heavy breathing. At sunset a couple of evenings ago, we did spot a whale and while I was up on the foredeck at midnight dropping a sail, I could hear whales blowing ahead. Thank goodness for a metal boat.

The track we are taking seems to be very popular with shipping as we continue to see several a day. Just this morning, five have passed our way, two heading south and three north. I have set up guard zones on the radar to give an audible alarm should a ship enter the zones, one at 10 miles, another at 5. Having tried it, it definitely works!

The closest bit of land is now Punta Galera, Ecuador, some 85 miles to the southeast. Our final destination at La Libertad lies 250 miles ahead. So one way or the other, we are Ecuador bound!

Take care everyone,


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