Sunday, 26 March 2017

Panama Canal and setting off towards the Galapagos

Las Perlas islands
Log entry reads: 0900 depart Rio Cacique on Las Perlas islands, Bearing to waypoint 230 deg; Distance to waypoint 818. Crew, C&N.  We have done overnighters before with just the two of us and we have done overnighters with crew who were laid low by seasickness, but we have never done 5/6 days two up.  However wind is 3 knots, at least it is from 015, and forecast is that we might get up to 15 knots for a couple of days, so it may be a lot of motoring.

Las Perlas are a collection of islands, only 30NM out from Panama.  A few fishing villages and one island with holiday homes, but otherwise deserted and beautiful.  We spent two nights off Isla Pachega, where there were thousands of pelicans and frigate birds, and we were woken up by wave-slapping noises all around the boat.
 What was it? Could it be wind-on-tide?  In the morning we found that is was rays jumping. And jumping high! Then two more nights on Isla Canas and a discovery dinghy trip up the mangrove-lined Rio Cacique. We have had to learn about tides again as they reach 4m here.

Panama City and the disappointing La Playita marina was three days of non-stop shopping, cooking, vacuum-packing and freezing. Engine and generator checks, rig checks.  Old Panama fun, with architecturally interesting Spanish heritage.  Nicky has made plans and provisioned for 60 meals for 5/6 people, and the freezer  which is exchanging heat with 28 deg water has slowly, slowly gone from just negative to now a healthy minus 16 in the cooler ocean waters. Every space under the cabin floors is filled with tins, cans, bottles, etc.  Chicken, pork, beef, lasagne, ratatouille, babotie, peppers de-seeded, all vacuum-packed, labelled with expiry dates, so that the Galapagos authorities will not be unhappy. No seeds of any kind allowed, so our netting hung from the saloon ceiling and filled with fruit, lemons and limes, will have to be eaten or juiced before we get there.

Taking a yacht through the Panama Canal was a
once-in-a-lifetime experience. First, the canal is highly evocative of the struggle to build it by the French, who attempted a sea-level canal, and then the Americans who finished the canal in 1913. 35,000 lives lost, many from Caribbean islands. 
Total height above sea level is only 26m, which compares to the 49m of the Caledonian Canal, but the recently opened new locks on the canal can now take post-panamax vessels which carry 3x the number of containers of the original.  We waited for our transit advisors to come on board anchored off Colon,
then we went up the three locks into the Gatun lake; most Oysters nested in groups of three boats, though we were alongside a French catamaran, where a keen but unskilled grandfather failed to understand that ropes have two ends, that if you are rising 8m in a lock, the ropes will need to be tightened and that chatting at that point to your grandchildren is not that smart if you are controlling the windward side of the nest!  Our transit advisor, Ricardo, was charming, calm and helpful.

Overnight moored up six abreast in the Gatun lock, we set off early am and then waited ahead of the Culebra cut for the vast MSC Elodie to come through.  Then down through Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks, under the Bridge of the Americas and into the Pacific!

So I guess this is what we came for – big passages in a boat in her element.  We loved the Caribbean, and particularly the new geographies of ABC, Colombia and the Panama Canal.  We loved having 15 friends on board.  And now we are looking forward to seeing how this two-person team fares on a long passage.  We feel tuned up and hope Calliope is too!  And then we look forward VERY MUCH to seeing Pippa and Alex in the Galapagos, with Roger and Dinah then joining us for the long passage to the Marquesas.

No comments:

Post a Comment