Tag Archives: catana

Barry Perrins from Adventures of an Old SeaDog

Leaving La Playita Anchorage…Slowly

The longer we stay at the La Playita anchorage, the fewer boats remain.  Our friends on “Quantum Dink” Dale and Justin (who are crew “Quantum Dink’s” owner, Kevin) left for Australia.  They will stop at the Solomon Islands which will be over a 50 day sail.  They are young, energetic, kind, and fabulous.  Check them out on YouTube channel “DJsDives”.

Dale and Justin from DJs Dives

Dale and Justin from DJs Dives

We had a very sad farewell to our good friend Barry known as “Adventures of an Old Sea Dog” who is heading to a new marina.  His boat “White Shadow” will remain safe while he heads back to Europe for several weeks.  Not sure when we will meet up with him again, but we hope it is soon. We’ve had many a good laughs, lots of beer, and great times with Barry!

Barry Perrins from Adventures of an Old SeaDog

Barry Perrins from Adventures of an Old SeaDog

Lots of people had told us about a huge veggie market in town.  So, we took “Uno Mas” on an adventure to find it.  We picked up dozens of fruits and veggies all for under $25 (see Facebook post on details).

Fresh Veggie and Fruit Market

Fresh Veggie and Fruit Market

Fresh Fruit & Veggies from Market $25

Fresh Fruit & Veggies from Market $25

Matt trying to make new friends.  Unfortunately, the shop owner was not too happy with him so close to his lady.  We might not be invited back to the La Playita Anhorage after today….

Matt making friends...

Matt making friends…

Easter in Panama was a little different.  They celebrate Good Friday as their Holy day and consider it far more important than Easter Sunday.  In fact, they have a law that prohibits the buying, selling and consumption of all alcohol from 12:01am Friday morning to 11:59pm Friday night.  That law also includes the prohibition of sex and boom boom music.  We stayed on the boat to avoid temptation.  I spent Easter Sunday at St Mary’s Catholic Church, behind a very imposing non-denominational church called Balboa Union.  It was a bit confusing as everyone pointed to this big church as the Catholic church, but after walking around, up the hill and in the back, you will find this lovely little Catholic church nestled in the trees.

Balboa Church posing as my Catholic Church, but in reality, just dwarfing it.

Balboa Church posing as my Catholic Church, but in reality, just dwarfing it.

Spring is here and Panama is blooming!  You can find red, yellow, orange, pink, and purple blossoms all around town.  And yet I desperately miss the beautiful blue bonnets of Texas.

Blooms in Panama

Blooms in Panama

We had several beautiful sunsets and sunrises to pass the days away…

Sunsets at the Anchorage

Sunsets at the Anchorage

We have been waiting on two deliveries.  One package arrived which contained our windlass spare remote and new foot controls.  The other package is a pallet of our house batteries.  We learned that they will not be here until mid-April, so we are out of here…off to Las Perlas for a week.

La Playita Anchorage Pros:

  • Great dinghy dock
  • Wifi (sort of “borrowed”)
  • Lots of cruisers
  • Access to several restaurants, transit system, and chandlerries

La Playita Anchorage Cons:

  • Dinghy dock costs $52 per week
  • Water is really, really dirty
  • Anchorage is rolly
  • Lots of traffic from fishing boats, ferries, and charter boats
Hotel Olas with dinghy dock out front, $2 beer and decent wifi.

Passage: Colon to Bocas del Toro

This post  missed the insertion into the blog – it was supposed to go live 4/7 so it is reeally behind.  Bocas del Toro are in the Atlantic side, part of Panama…but still a good post.

We completed our work in Shelter Bay and decided to sail to Bocas del Toro.  Since we have three weeks before our transit date it does not make sense to spend that time in the marina (even though it is really nice) when we can spend it exploring new islands.

Bocas del Toro is a province of Panama comprising many islands off the Caribbean coast and just 30 miles from Costa Rican border.  Christopher Columbus discovered this area on his 4th and final voyage in 1502 and was anchored in the same bay that Sugar Shack dropped the hook.  In the 19th century, several people migrated here bringing their slaves to avoid taxes including the Scottish, English, Knapp’s from Jamaica, and the Shepherd family.  For more history on the Bocas, visit this site.

Our dock neighbors, “Ka Lani Kai” at 50′ Catana, were short one engine and had to be hauled out.  It would be much easier for them to maneuver with us gone so we decided to leave around noon.  We originally planned on stopping at the Rio Chagres, a fresh water river, before heading all the way to Bocas del Toro.  That was the “plan.”

With Matt at the helm, we left the marina as I started to stow our lines and fenders.  We had (4) lines holding us to the dock and 4 of our large A4 ball fenders and 8 of our F4 tube fenders.  I wanted to stow them before they got wet, not such a good idea.

Heading out of the marina into the breakwater, between the “explosive anchor markers” and the sea wall was like being in a washing machine.  The seas were coming from every direction, the wind was howling, the boat was banging on each wave causing huge splashes.  And where am I?  At the bow, on the tramp, holding on to the netting with one hand, and the fenders with the other.  Not my brightest moment. I returned to the cockpit soaked to the bone as Matt said “how was your bath?”  Not the way I anticipated starting this voyage, but the fenders are all stowed.

Our destination is 145 miles away from us and for some reason we got our timing mixed up. Matt had said it would take 18 hours to get there and that stuck in my head.  If we had done the math, we would have known we were way, way off.  We usually use 5 knots as our average speed which would get us to Bocas del Toro in 29 hours.  Even if we averaged 6 knots an hour it would take us 24 hours,

The forecast showed good winds for our passage, but they were going to die down over the next few days.  We set the main and jib with one reef, after the hour it took us to get out of the marina, motor 3 miles out of the channel, and clear the breakwater.

It was a great, fast sail in the beginning, we had 18-25 knots of wind, 2 meter waves and an average speed of 7.5 knots.  With our good wind and the prospect of no wind over the next few days we decided to skip Rio Chagres and do that on the way back to Colon.  At dusk, the wind started to slow down so we shook out the jib and carried on as night descended upon us.

Matt made dinner and as I cleaned up he took the first night shift 2000-2300.  The winds slowed down considerably and he brought the jib in.  On my shift Matt only slept for about 30-40 minutes before waking up again.  The winds had shifted and were now on our nose making our main sail useless so we brought that down as well.  Motoring along at 2,000 RPM, head into the wind we should be making 5 knots.

But wait, we weren’t!  Off the peak and down a wave we would average 3-5 knots, but in the trough and up the wave we would average 1-3 knots.  It was pitch black at night and we could not see what was causing us to slow down so much.  Sure, the waves were big, but 1-3 knots, come on?

Around 0400 Matt checked the pilot charts and realized that we were in a strong easterly current that was pushing us in the opposite direction we wanted to go (it was in cahoots with the wind).

We arrived to the Bocas del Toro channel around 1430 and what a welcome site it was.  Several islands surround the Bahia Almirante, including: Isla Colon, Bocas Town, Cayo Bastimentos, Cayo Nancy, and Isla Christobal.  Our friends on “Wandering Rose” were anchored on the southern tip of Bocas Town so we motored around the huge reef and anchored our ship.

Bocas del Toro Town, or just Bocas Town is at the southern tip of Isla Colón, in the Caribbean Sea.   Bars and restaurants fill the waterfront making for a colorful photo.

Bocas Town waterfront view.

Bocas Town waterfront view.

We were exhausted, but felt the need to go ashore and explore.  The dinghy dock at Hotel Olas was pretty easy to find as the hotel is a bright yellow.  Our friends Dave and Mary, “Wandering Rose” were there interneting away. They gave us a few tips about the island before we set out to explore.  It was close to 1800, the sun was setting, on a Sunday during carnival.  We did not expect to see many stores open, but we were surprised.  The town was starting to stir, locals were putting on costumes, and music was blaring, as we explored the small town.  We did not stay out long as we were hungry and tired.

Hotel Olas with dinghy dock out front, $2 beer and decent wifi.

Hotel Olas with dinghy dock out front, $2 beer and decent wifi.

PASSAGE TO BOCAS DEL TORO:

  • Total miles traveled: 145 miles (+3 miles out of the breakwater)
  • Total travel time: 27:23  (less 1 hour to leave breakwater)
  • Overall trip: 5.3 avg
  • Max speed: 12.5
Sugar Shack entering lock 1

Transiting the Panama Canal on Sugar Shack Part I

So, what does it take to cross the Panama Canal?

First, start with planning – interview and hire an agent, fill out a bunch of paperwork, request a Panama Canal Ship ID #, head to Shelter Bay, inspect and admeasure the boat, and get your transit date – 6 March.

Then figure out which friends can come help with the line handling. You need 4 line handlers on every boat.  There are a lot of people in Shelter Bay marina who offer to be your line handlers, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity so we opened it up to our friends. Obviously, it’s just more fun to experience this adventure with people you love.

Our agent, Eric Galvez met us on the dock within an hour of our arrival at Shelter Bay and gave us the run down before the Panama Canal inspector came on board.  The next day we were measured and inspected and received our Ship ID# and transit date.

Successful inspection and ad measure.

Successful inspection and ad measure.

Fast forward three weeks later…

After we arrived at Shelter Bay for the second time, we received our four “rented” one inch in diameter, stretchy, non high-tech 125′ lines and 8 fenders from our agent.  You are required to “rent” these lines and fenders despite what you already have on the boat.

We received our transit time of 0500 which was a bit of a surprise as we had hoped to get the 1600 time slot.  Oh well, we’re flexible.  Since our transit time was a lot earlier than planned, we had to leave the marina a day early.  We pulled away from the slip around 1630 on 5 March and headed over to the Flats Anchorage.  Not sure why they call it the “flats” as the anchorage is not flat, it is very, very rolly.

Matt, Wayne, Heather, Michael and I enjoyed a nice dinner, a little rum and went to bed around 2000 so we would be well rested.  Our 0430 wake-up call came fast, but we were excited to get our day started.   The pilot boat showed up and Francisco our advisor jumped aboard.

IMAGE: Top shows pilot boat rafting up to us to drop off pilot; Middle shows Michael greeting Francisco; Bottom shows Heather offering a breakfast snack to our pilot.

Our pilot, Francisco arrives on board.

Our pilot, Francisco arrives on board.

Anticipating the adventure.

Heather, Michael and I enjoying the early morning.

Heather, Michael and I enjoying the early morning.

Sugar Shack passed under the new bridge being built.  The sunrise coupled with the lights make this a stunning photo.

New bridge under construction at channel entrance.

New bridge under construction at channel entrance.

Uno Mas” caught up to us so we could raft up to them for the first three locks.

IMAGE” Top is “Uno Mas” approaching Sugar Shack w/ Skip, Tracy and Stacy at the bow, Angie at adjusting the fender, Mark at the helm and on our boat Francisco assisting Matt with raft up; Middle: “Uno Mas” crew, Right shows how the blue lines are tied through two cleats, and bottom shows the 2-3′ loop that we had to make.

Rafting to Uno Mas

Rafting to Uno Mas

As we approached the first chamber, we steered toward starboard (the right side of the chamber) so that “Una Mas” could pick up their first lines.  Panama line handlers toss two monkey fists (balls loaded with a lead shot) toward the boat.  Then the line handlers on “Una Mas” take that monkey fist, put it through the loop in the rented blue line (2-3’ loops were pre-made when the rented blue lines were attached to the boat).  Once, the monkey fist goes through the loop, it is then tied back to itself with another bowline knot.

Once the bow and stern lines are attached to the starboard side, our two boats moved toward the port side (mainland) where Sugar Shack catches its monkey fists and repeats the process for our bow and stern lines.  So, now Sugar Shack has a blue line (up to 2 Panama line handlers) on the port bow and stern and “Una Mas” has a blue line (up to 2 Panama line handlers) on the starboard bow and stern.

From here, the Panama line handlers slowly walk our two nested boats into the first lock where we will be center chambered.  Once in place, the Panama line handlers pull the monkey fist lines, which are attached to our blue lines.  The blue lines are then secured to giant cleats at the top of the canal.

Our two boats were behind a power boat called “Mi Panga” which was behind a large tanker.  It looks like these are our transit partners through all 6 locks.

IMAGE: Top entering 1st lock with “Mi Panga” in place behind the orange tanker.  Next image are our two Panama Line handlers waiting to toss the monkey fists to us.  3rd and 4th images are us being walked into place inside the lock.

Line handlers at work in first three locks.

Line handlers at work in first three locks.

IMAGE: Top: “Sugar Shack” and “Uno Mas” are center chambered behind “Mi Panga” and a giant cargo ship “SC Taurus” from Hong Kong.  The line in Wayne’s hand leads to the Panama line handler at the top of the wall.  Bottom shows Michael holding the blue line being walked by another Panama line handler at the top of the same wall.

Panama line handlers walking our nested boats to center chamber.

Panama line handlers walking our nested boats to center chamber.

As the water fills the chamber, Michael and Wayne on Sugar Shack and 2 teams on “Una Mas” Angie & Tracy and Stacy and Gene, constantly take up slack in the lines to ensure the boats are secured in the center of the chamber.  The water started at 45 and rose to 72 in about 10 minutes.

With all parties secured, the water starts rushing in at 3 million gallons per minute.  They use over 52 million gallons of water to bring boats through all six locks.  The boats will rise 3 feet per minute in the first three locks.   On the side of the lock, they have measuring indicators to watch as the water rises.  The image shows two empty locks (1 and 2), bottom image shows partially filled lock and bottom right shows full lock.

Water level indicators on canal wall.

Water level indicators on canal wall.

After we reached the top, the Panama line handlers toss the big blue lines down to the boats, while holding on to the thin monkey fist line.  They then walk the boats down to the second lock where we repeat the process.  Pull lines up, cleat, take up slack, close gates, fill chamber, move forward, lock 3.

Sugar Shack at the top of the first lock, waiting to be walked to 2nd lock.

Sugar Shack at the top of the first lock, waiting to be walked to 2nd lock.

Osvaldo Traversaro captured a great photo of Sugar Shack and “Uno Mas” going through the locks and posted it on Marine Traffic.

Sugar Shack and Uno Mas going through the locks.  Photo courtesy of Osvaldo Traversaro

Sugar Shack and Uno Mas going through the locks. Photo courtesy of Osvaldo Traversaro

All the blue fenders are ours (we have 5 large A4 (round balls) and 6 F4 (long tubes).  The white ones are rented from our agent and are a bit puny, but we’ll take what we can get.  Wayne is on our port bow, Fernando (red shirt) is by the mast, Heather is just past the dagger board, Matt is by the solar panels, Michael is at the port stern, and I am not pictured (at the starboard helm)

These are views from the top of the 2nd and 3rd locks looking back down the canal (where we just came from).

View of the first three locks after being raised to Lake Gatun level.

View of the first three locks after being raised to Lake Gatun level.

When it was all said and done, we moved up 83’ in elevation before entering Lake Gatun.  This was the second time Sugar Shack has been in fresh water.  The first time was Rio Chagres and I’d call that brackish water to be honest.

We untied “Una Mas” and the two of us started our 20-mile motor to the other side of the lake.  It was really calm with no wind, but there were twists and turns as you follow the red markers across the lake.  We all took turns at the helm as we motored.

Motoring across Lake Gatun.

Motoring across Lake Gatun.

Matt finally rested for a few minutes after a stressful morning.

Matt resting a bit in between locks.

Matt resting a bit in between locks.

Six miles before the last locks, at Gamboa, we were instructed to pick up a HUGE mooring.  A large cargo ship was due to pass us and they needed us out of the way.  Before the 325’ cargo ship carrying thousands of containers passed us, “Una Mas” rafted up to Sugar Shack on our mooring.

Gamboa mooring for a lunch stop.

Gamboa mooring for a lunch stop.

Osvaldo Traversaro captured us at the Gamboa mooring and posted it on Marine Traffic for us.  Super cool of him, wish I could thank him.

Sugar Shack at Gamboa mooring.

Sugar Shack at Gamboa mooring.

To be continued – please stay tuned for Transiting the Panama Canal on Sugar Shack Part II.  Coming Soon.

Check out the time lapse video Matt put together at youtube.com/svSugarShack.

Sugar Shack Panama Canal Transit Crew:

  • Matt
  • Christine
  • Wayne
  • Heather
  • Michael
  • Francisco (adviser/pilot)

Uno Mas Panama Canal Transit Crew

  • Mark
  • Angie
  • Stacy
  • Gene
  • Skip
  • Tracy
  • Adviser and Trainee

Stacy captured these stunning shots of Sugar Shack as we were heading to the first lock just at sunrise. So pretty, thank you Stacy!

Sugar Shack on the move towards the first lock.

Sugar Shack on the move towards the first lock.

Our good friend Josh, captured these live web cam shots during our Panama Canal transit (thank you Josh!)  First image is us entering the first locks (early), 2nd image is us leaving first locks (see far left side); third image we are entering into the 5th lock and the bottom image is Matt on our Bimini waiving.

Web cam shots of us transiting the Panama Canal

Web cam shots of us transiting the Panama Canal

Most compelling evidence that we are all having a great time:  Matt has his arms spread wide on the starboard bow (does anyone know that song?), and Heather and Michael enjoying some lovin.  Wayne keeping a watchful eye out.

Sugar Shack crew enjoying the transit.

Sugar Shack crew enjoying the transit.

Surprisingly, the locks are pretty long and each boat has to be hand walked into place.

Sugar Shack entering lock 1

Sugar Shack entering lock 1