The transit through the Panama Canal Part II: Check out our 2 minute time lapse video at youtube.com/svsugarshack.
After about 2 hours and lunch at Gamboa (in Lake Gatun), we started toward the Pedro Miguel lock. While on the way, we passed what looked like a giant hotel resort, but reality it is the Smithsonian Tropical Research Center which was founded with the purpose of increasing and sharing knowledge about the past, present and future of tropical ecosystems and their relevance to human welfare.
As we neared Pedro Miguel, we rafted with “Una Mas” again and followed “Mi Panga” into the 4th lock. This time, “Mi Panga” was close to the wall (starboard), “Una Mas” rafted to them, and we were on the other side of “Una Mas.” We were three boats wide and had NO port lines up to the port wall. It was a struggle with huge winds and an outgoing tide that was pushing us toward the forward gate. At one point, Sugar Shack almost squished “Uno Mas” between us and “Mi Panga” as our bow tried to go in front of them. Luckily we had tons of fenders out and there was not a scratch on either boat.
Note: The current pushes you back as you go through locks 1-3 but they push you forward in locks 4-6. They change somewhere in the middle of Lake Gatun.
A tug boat came in behind us and the large orange tanker came in behind the tug. This time, “Mi Panga’s” line handlers had to release or give slack on the starboard blue lines (instead of taking slack in). “Sugar Shack” and “Uno Mas” only had to manage the steerage to keep the boats in line.
Nobody was happy about this rafting situation and evidently, they were not supposed to have us do this. All rafting is to take place as you enter the locks, not once inside.
IMAGE: Top shows our solar panels and boom super close to tug’s bow, Middle Matt and I at Tug’s logo, Bottom two are tug workers and tug logo.
Moving from lock 4 to lock 5, “Una Mas” untied from “Mi Panga” and Sugar Shack untied from “Una Mas.” We all made our way to lock 5 with all lines on board. Locks 4 and 5 are not connected to each other.
We passed a super cool “welcome sign” on the wall of the canal.
We had to raft up to “Una Mas” again before we entered the 5th lock. At this point it has become a non-event, easy peasy.
This time, in lock 5, “Mi Panga” rafted with the tug at the front of the lock, then “Una Mas” and Sugar Shack were center chambered, then the large orange tanker came up to our stern.
Here is an example of one of the panama canal gates (there are two of these on each side that close behind all of the boats)
IMAGE: This collage is a combination of locks. Top 3 images are lock 5 with “Mi Panga” tied to tug and orange tanker behind us. Bottom image is lock 4.
Pull lines up, cleat, release slack, close gates, release water, move forward, lock 6. The last three chambers did not have the measuring gauge on the walls so I could not note the number of feet we fell.
As we moved forward we saw a group of cars that are used to move the large cargo ships. Their lines are secured by these cars as opposed to line handlers.
We so badly wanted to say “Yeah we are in the Pacific” but technically we were still in the canal channel. So, instead we screamed “Yeah, we transited the Panama Canal.” This is a shot of the last lock as we are entering the Pacific side of the Panama Canal.
Matt was in charge of music so for each lock he played a rockin tune at full blast for all to enjoy. We had everyone from our advisors, to the tug folks, and “Mi Panga” singing along.
- “So long, Farewell, ” played on Lock 1:
- “I’m on a Boat” jammed in Lock 2
- “Welcome to the Jungle” blared in Lock 3
- “Days like these” played in Lock 4
- “California” rocked the house in Lock 5
- “Celebration” blasted in Lock 6
We had hoped to find Van Halen’s “Panama” but could not down load it in time. Everyone chipped in to help with the 125′ lines – they were fun to man handle.
After we came out of the canal and were pretty close to the Balboa Yacht club, we saw the famous Bridge of Americas. The Bridge of the Americas is a road bridge in Panama, which spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. It was completed in 1962 at a cost of $20 million, connecting the north and south American land masses.
After we removed the lines that had us rafted to “Uno Mas,” we each motored down the canal channel toward Balboa Yacht Club where we would stay for the night. It was a short motor, maybe 45-60 minutes. Our agent had arranged a mooring for us, so we just hailed the Balboa Yacht Club water taxi when we arrived. Within 10 minutes, the pilot boat came to pick up Francisco and another 5 minutes had the water taxi on our stern.
The water taxi assisted with a mooring and then came back to pickup the lines and fenders to give back to our agent, Erick. Sweet, the boat is getting less cluttered. We hailed our friends on “Uno Mas” as we had planned to party, party, party. Unfortunately, the long day and all the prep wore most of them out so they were in for the night. However, Gene and Stacy were ready to play. Matt went to pick them up and they joined us for a champagne and jello shot celebration.
IMAGE: Wayne, me, Matt, Heather, and Michael Sugar Shack Panama Canal Transit Crew.
Stacy and Gene join Sugar Shack in our celebrations.
“Uno Mas” was planning on hanging out at the Balboa Yacht Club, so we had made arrangements to take Stacy and Gene on our boat. We picked them up early the next morning as we had a 40+ mile sail to Las Perlas Islands. It was a crowded boat with 7 people: Matt and I, Heather and Michael, Wayne, Stacy and Gene.
- 35-40 boats transit each day
- 10 boats transit the new locks each day
- The Neo Panamax
- New ship for the new locks are 1200’ long, 106’ wide and carry 40,800 containers.
- Require 3 pilots on board
Sugar Shack crew: Matt, Christine, Wayne, Heather, Michael, Francisco (pilot), and trainee who was on our boat for 2 locks.