Archive for February, 2007

Time Machine is in the Caribbean!

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

We made it to Colon in the Caribbean Sea. We got cancelled the first day and we were unable to make our Gatun lock time the next day (not our fault, naturally)… but basically, no major collisions, dismastings, or unintentional persons overboard and that’s what I call a successful canal crossing.

Details will follow once I sort through the many gigs of photos and video bits and pick out the winners.

False Alarm!

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

We got up before the crack of dawn even happened to get all the last minute stuff taken care of, motored up to Balboa and picked up our line handlers. Then they called us and told us that we weren’t going to go today. I guess the bank lady never turned in our paperwork when we filed and paid a week and a half ago. So we are supposed to go tomorrow. Same drill.

The Miraflores webcam doesn’t seem to be working but you can look for us on the Centenario webcam around 10-noon. Also the Gatun cam around 4-6pm.

Casco Antiguo

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Anti-bush graffiti. Street kid. Panama City

Casco Antiguo, Panama City, Panamá.

I was trying to take a picture of the graffiti when this kid jumped into the frame and tried to extort money for the photo.

Panama Canal: Woodwind goes to the Mar Caribe

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Waiting for the pilot boat. Pacific Side of the Panama Canal

We met Jan and Bruce at Monday Night Pizza a week before and were invited to come along as line handlers for their canal transit to the Caribbean. They crossed the canal first with Woodwind, their home-built strip-planked gaff rig, in 1989 for $50. Now it costs $600. Holy crap, I say. They swung by Time Machine at 6:30am sharp and we hopped aboard.

Jan and Jerry

Additional line-handling crew were Jerry and Nola on Moonsong from Alaska, also a boat they built themselves. We drank about ten cups of coffee while idling around waiting for the pilot boat to bring us our man for the day.

The bridge of the Americas. Panama Canal

At 10, our pilot showed up and we motored with purpose for the Bridge of the Americas and the Miraflores Locks beyond. Bruce and Jan were a little tense with this late start because the Pacific-Carib route involves a race across Gatun lake and if we got through Miraflores early, we would have a good chance of making it (Woodwind did not motor at 8 knots); if we didn’t make it through the locks early, we might not make it in time to the Gatun locks and would have to pay an additional $830 for holding up the show.

Cheyenne and Jerry

All that hurry to motor around in circles while waiting for the tourist boat with whom we were to transit the Miraflores Locks. We didn’t make it into the locks until well after 11am and it was looking like it would be iffy as far as making it across the lake in time for the Gatun Locks.


Joshua the Line Handler.

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Finally we entered the locks with two canal cruise boats packed with tourists. Our pilot decided to tie us up alongside the white tour boat for the flooding of the locks.

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

It was very exciting!

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Tied up alongside the tour boat, we didn’t have any line handling to do at all; so we took billions of photos.

Jan and Bruce. Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Piece o cake, baby.

Joshua. Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Jan. Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Jerry and Nola. Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

We chatted with the tourists from the white boat, one of whom rattled off the homeports of everyone aboard: “We got two of us from Texas, one from Connecticut, California, Washington, Illinois, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, some Canadians, and a couple from South Carolina.” “Huh,” we said.

turbulent water. Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Tied up alongside a large heavy power boat, the flooding locks had no effect on us whatsoever.

Ship. Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Our neighbors in the Miraflores Locks; there is always much waving and photo taking even from crew aboard the big ships.

Tanker Mommy Duckling. Panama Canal

The adorable tanker, “Mommy Duckling.”

Gatun Lake. Panama Canal

It was probably 1:30 by the time we got through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks and our Gatun Lock time was 4pm; with 22 miles to go against a stiff breeze, it was not looking very good for us. Bruce pushed the motor of Woodwind for all it was worth and our pilot got on the phone to request a later lock time.

Lucky for us, the lake itself is very scenic.

Gatun Lake. Panama Canal

Anticipations high, the pilot called the locks and told them we were 15 minutes away (even though it was more like 25) but as we came out of the Banana Cut to where we could see the Gatun Locks, the tanker we were supposed to be ahead of was just beginning to maneuver into the lock. Not a chance we could get through. We would all have to spend the night in the lake and Jan and Bruce were going to be charged the late fee. There was much throwing up in the air of hands and vociferous protestation amongst those aboard.

Jan is wondering if they have enough rum aboard to pacify this crew.

Bruce serenading with a bullhorn

There was, of course, and before too long Bruce was serenading the howler monkeys with vintage television themes: “Chey-yenne, chey-yennnne! Where will youuuu be campingggg to-niiiiiiight!” (Oh brother!)

The irritation of not making the locks passed quickly really and we were all delighted to find ourselves with the engine turned off (whew!) in a tranquil freshwater lake with a sunset and howler monkeys in the trees. We all jumped overboard and splashed around in the sweet water (a huge treat for folks who have not had a proper shower in months), keeping an eye out for the crocodiles.

Gatun Locks. Panama Canal

We were all up early and ready for the pilot by dawn. Drinking coffee. Having breakfast and drinking more coffee. By the time he finally showed up at noon, we were READY.

We were first in the locks and as forward as possible, which gave us an awesome view down the locks to the Caribbean. Once again, the trip down the locks was a piece of cake.

Gatun Locks. Panama Canal

We were alone this time, suspended in the middle of the lock, with a big humongous container ship right behind us. Ayyy!

The doors opening at the end of the Gatun Locks. You can also just download the video (2 MB) if you’re having trouble with the embedded player.

Follow-up Porta-bote Review and Aftermath

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

We had held out posting our 1.3-year dinghy review until we heard back from Porta-bote on our inquiry regarding warranties (so we could include at least one piece of useful information for our “used porta-bote”-Googling friends). Since they didn’t respond, we just posted the review anyway and mentioned that Porta-bote was not being expedient about getting back to us (with a palpable note of irritation). We again emailed Porta-bote, this time to ask about outboards since we were looking to possibly buy a 9.8 Tohatsu and the company used to deal Tohatsu outboards, and we got a fantastically prompt response. So Joshua responded once more asking if they had received our previous email regarding the Porta-bote and if there was a warranty; again, no response. A couple days later, Joshua responded with an irritated ‘curious-you-respond-so-fast-to-a-potential-sales-lead -but-not-to-a-warranty-inquiry’ and gave the URL for the bote review blog post, in case they were interested. Within one hour, a lengthy rebuttal was posted to the blog by Sandy, the president of Porta-bote. Of course, I had to type out my lengthy response to his very defensive response, and well you know how it goes. And he still hadn’t answered our question as to whether there was a warranty.

But at last Sandy has responded to my response to his initial response and has confirmed that yes, there is a one-year warranty on the plastic seats and transom. He also added: “if you treated an aluminum or fiberglass or inflatable dinghy the way you described treating your poor porta-bote so vividly in your blog, you wouldn’t have a dinghy left to say nasty things about. 59,989 owners can’t be wrong! Yeah for Porta-Bote!” Which, for one: I have to say I’m surprised to hear he read so extensively in my blog because I only described one incident where the bote took a wave that trashed the transom. Another: what makes him think we treated our bote poorly? By exposing it to the harsh sun? By using the rowing set-up? By actually taking it in the ocean? That an inflatable or hard dinghy of another material would have survived the abuse we supposedly lash upon our poor bote is false, as any owner of such a dinghy could verify. And did I really say anything nasty? I feel I wrote a fair and constructive review.

But back to the warranty; our bote is 1.3 years old (although the seats broke at around 9ish months and the transom at 11 months), yet Sandy has generously offered to replace our seats and transom at no cost. We sent a reply asking to have the seats and transom shipped to my mom’s house so we could pick them up next time we visited but never got a response. Two weeks later and about when we had given up of every hearing from Porta-bote again, Mom sends me an email saying that a tall box full of some weird black plastic things just arrived!

So there you have it: all you broken transom/seat bote owners (provided you are in the US) can get replacements if it’s been less than a year. If it’s been more than that, well, I guess you have to assert yourself as a major pain in the ass to get any response.

Links to our other posts on the subject of Porta-Bote.

1.3-Year Porta-Bote and Kayak Review
Porta-bote Redux Redux
Porta-bote Again

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell