Since we are planning on a canal transit with the Time Machine, we decided to volunteer as crew/line handlers on someone else’s boat first. We were referred to a boat we never met called Adagio (a 38-foot Morgan) by some other people we never met and took the bus to Colon to meet up with Dimitri and Meri. Also crewing was a Caribbean sailor named Ray.
The intrepid captains of Adagio and our hosts for the canal transit, Caribbean to Pacific. We arrived about five hours too early and so did a little wandering around Colon before heading out to the boat. We pulled anchor and picked up the canal pilot at around 4pm.
Heading into the canal, where they got them big ships, for the Gatun Locks.
Carlos, our pilot, was an incredibly nice guy who explained all about how the canal works for us line-handling virgins.
The sun set just as we arrived at the locks and we met up with the two other sailboats we were to tie up with. Annapurna was a 48-foot Hans Christian that was built like an old-fashioned bathtub and weighed probably a billion pounds. The French Boat was another 37-ish footer and was built of aluminum. The two smaller boats tied up on either side of Annapurna, who amusingly had about 20 people on deck—all experienced line handlers—and they had nothing to do but stand around offering “advice” to us outer boats.
We had to wait for the Baltic Reefer to go ahead of us. These things are BIG.
By the time we entered the locks, it was totally dark. The outer boats were responsible for the line handling, much to the chagrin of Annapurna’s weathered crew, and we made the lines fast as the doors closed us into the first lock.
We were to be raised, 44 feet at a time, to the level of lake Gatun and once everyone was situated in the locks, millions of gallons of water started gushing in from below. The effect on our flotilla suspended by ropes in the middle was alarming and we started to lumber around in the locks, first pulling all the weight of the three boats on one corner line (attached to one little cleat) and then another. Meanwhile, we had to take in the slack as the boat rose. Ray and I were on bow detail and we watched nervously as the line tightened on our forward cleat, making loud popping noises, then loosened and we had to quickly take in slack before it tightened again.
When we got to the top of the first lock, the lock line handlers tied light lines to our thick ropes and tossed them back down to us, walking with the lines to the next lock as Annapurna was finally called into action to motor us forward.
We repeated the process three times to get to the level of the lake and while the bow cleat held, the aft cleat bent to the side by about an inch from the stress. We exited the locks, untied ourselves from the other sailboats, and motored over to the moorings to tie up for the night.
The next morning the pilot boats came by with new pilots for the day. We got a guy named Pat who was incredibly hung over after playing poker the night before.
The lake is something like 25 miles long and we had four hours to motor to the other side to the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks; if you hold up the show, you get charged the big bucks. Most boats lie and say that they can motor at 8 knots even if this is an impossible hull speed; Dimitri was able to keep us at a comfortable 6.1 knots the entire way with no problems.
Master motorers, Adagio passed The French Boat midway through.
They are widening the canal and building a new set of locks. There was lots of construction in the cut.
Passing under Puente de Centenario; we are almost to the Pedro Miguel locks.
Did I mention that these ships are really big? In the narrower sections of the cut you pass very close.
Arriving at last to the locks. Pat is looking a little less green and we reunite with Annapurna and The French Boat for the trip down.
Since Ray did all the work on the way up, I get to do the work on the way down. Here I am looking
like a dork rough and ready.
DAMN those things are big.
Entering the locks. Going down is way way easier than going up. The movement of the flotilla was imperceptible and I just played out line when necessary.
The mule dudes giving us the thumbs-up.
We’re done! We are SO OVER those locks.
Crocodile on the beach. Might be stuffed.
Welcome to the Pacific! (Bridge of the Americas)