Panama and its Canal are like an hourglass and the cruising sailor is like the sand. The Marina is where they all gather while waiting clearance to transit the Canal. There is a certain happy excitement in the air especially with first-timers to the Canal transit. The Marina facilities offer poolside breaks from the heat and boat chores and events like potlucks, jam sessions (which Jordan took part in), yoga, and even free shuttle to the far side of the harbour for groceries, etc.
Right after our arrival, our first chore was to find an agent to take care of all details and scheduling relating to the Canal transitting.
To contact Stanley for your transit, his cell is (507) 6523-3991 and email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a lot of tasks and coordinating of people and time before a boat can transit the Canal. Stanley of course handled it all. So when it was time to go, our boat had all the necessary large fenders and 4 long lines, and a Canal Advisor, which is a low level Pilot, all provided by Stanley. The main task for us was to provide 4 designated line handlers which we found happy volunteer sailors to do (with me being 1 of the 4).
The Canal transit from the Caribbean involved entering a set of 3 locks that raised us about 90 feet to Gatun Lake. From there we motored about 30 miles across the Lake and over to the Pacific side of the Isthmus where 3 more locks dropped us into the Pacific.
We learned that the Canal has operated for over 100 years, non-stop 24/7, with 35 to 40 vessels per day, among other interesting stats
Our transit date was April 24th when we entered the first lock around 16:00 with a large freighter in front of us.
Approaching first Gatun Lock
Slowly raising up
View from behind as water raises (30-ft difference in water levels)
At about 19:00, we were in Gatun Lake and tied to a large mooring with another sailboat for the night. We had for the most part prepared hearty meals and menus for our crew in advance.
Many thanks to our 3 volunteer line handlers
Early the next morning, we were joined again by our Advisor for the remainder of the transit. After about a 6-hour motoring, we arrived at the locks on the Pacific side where we were lowered back to sea level by 15:30 on the second day. Through each lock, we were nested (rafted) to a large catamaran in the center and another monohull on the other side. A large and somewhat intimidating freighter also shared the locks with our nest, but this time behind us.
Sea Turtle on starboard side of catamaran (bottom far left)
A graphic animation
A closeup of the daunting companion behind us
For most world cruisers, to transit the Panama Canal and see just how large and incredible an undertaking it was leaves a lasting impression and serves as a notable milestone for the log. For us, it was particularly excitingly significant as upon exiting the Canal on the Pacific side and going under the Bridge of Americas, we crossed our track that we had laid down almost 10 years ago, making us official world circumnavigators!
Opening the doors to the Pacific!
Bridge of Americas
Our next passage is going to be our longest, Panama to Victoria, and we may be at sea for as long as 60 days. That's when we will arrive back in our home port after 10 years and having sailed well over 50,000 nautical miles...
N09°22.028' W079°57.042' Apr 15 Shelter Bay Marina
N09°22.187' W079°56.297' Apr 24 "The Flats" (waiting to transit)
N09°15.654' W079°54.165' Apr 24 Gatun Lake mooring
N08°54.585' W079°31.538' Apr 25 Isla Perico (south side)
N08°55.198' W079°31.733' Apr 26 Isla Perico (north side)