Panama Canal

Photo credit for these photos belongs to Chris Hourley on s/v Sky. He was at the visitor’s center when we went through and later gave me these photos. Sky is sailing to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – see their website (and some great 360 videos by Chris on their Facebook page) here:

We went through the Panama Canal.  It was impressive, exhausting and bigger/longer/different than I expected.  We went up three locks into a manmade lake and down three locks into the Pacific.  We spent the night in the middle/Gatun Lake, rafted (tied up to) other boats in our group, and had two different advisers on our boat, directing the whole thing. 

We’re in the middle. I’m in the blue shirt, waving my arms for some reason, and Joe is in the straw hat, driving.

Each boat in the group (our total group was divided into three sections) had an adviser but we were in the lead raft of three boats and we were the middle boat (therefore driving the raft) so we got the lead adviser running the show with us. 

The first day, we left Shelter Bay around 2:30 pm, then anchored outside the canal and waited.  A tugboat showed up around 4 pm with a bunch of people and drove around, dropping them off.  We got our adviser on board and went through the first three locks with him.   We made it into Gatun Locks around 8 pm, rafted a bunch of boats together and went to sleep.

At about 7 am, we were awake and waiting for the new adviser for the second set of locks.  He and the rest showed up about 9 am.  I think they said something about being at the meeting place at 5:45 am but, due to traffic on the Canal and a bridge that is behind schedule, things around these parts seem to run late.  In any case, we motored about 3 hours with him to the second set of locks, then passed through them behind a ferry boat that took pictures of us while we took pictures of them.  Too bad we couldn’t trade photos!

By around 5 pm, we were in the Pacific, headed towards La Playita marina.  Read about our steering mishap in the next blog!

Even amongst our group going through the Canal, there was much misinformation and misunderstanding. I thought there were about 8 continuous locks – didn’t know about the lake in the middle which is actually the reason the locks exist.

Many people thought (or in my case, never thought about it at all) that the Atlantic is higher than the Pacific (or vice versa).  Turns out they’re the same height but the manmade lake in the middle (Gatun Lake) is higher because of the geography of Panama.  They couldn’t blast out all the bedrock so developed the locks to get over the “mountain” in the middle.  All kinds of other confusion but I won’t share it or you will be confused!

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