Successfully transitioned through the Panama Canal.
The transit through the Panama Canal was a fairly uneventful affair, we are happy to report. We picked up three backpackers; a Canadian and a German couple, to help us line handle. Officially you need to have 4 line handlers and a captain to transit the Panama Canal. We lucked out as they were lovely company and we got stuck in Gatun Lake for the night so we were lucky we liked them so much. They were looking for a way to travel to Colon from Panama City and wanted a more authentic canal experience. The kids loved having cool 20 something's on board, one that traveled by skate board
through foreign cities and the other two were musicians and traveled with their guitars playing along the way. I?m not sure if they expected to be babysitter's, but it sure was nice to have someone else entertain the kids for a change. Normally a sailboat is supposed to transit in one day, but our pilot was late and they let us tie up to a large commercial buoy in Gatun Lake, just outside the last set of locks on the Atlantic side. Everyone used the buoy as a swim platform and cooled off in the lake, with short swims since we had earlier seen a 7 foot crocodile. We also saw an introduced manatee, so that made us feel a little better about the crocodiles being predominately fish eaters. Surprisingly, Gatun Lake is really interesting because it is in the middle of virgin rain forest. The Canal relies so heavily on both the freshwater from the lake to fill their locks and also the lake to travel the 45 miles 81 feet above sea level across the continental divide that Panama preserves a great deal of the surrounding watershed. In turn the ecosystem is quite intact (if you dismiss the fact that it was artificially flooded 100 years ago).
Once we made it through the last locks we dropped our crew off in Colon. We didn't want to stay in Colon at all (it was a nasty place 14 years ago and we've heard it has only gotten worse), so instead we motored 5 miles north and entered the Chagres River. The River is only about 5 miles long before it is damned at Gatun Lock as it is used to help regulate the lake level for the canal. Since it is the dry season the top 6 inches or so is cold, freshwater and everything underneath is warmer, ocean water. Or at least so reported by Mike and the kids, I never did go swimming there. This was truly, probably the best anchorage we have ever had. We anchored in 40 feet of water, but with the tide changes the boat would brush up against the hanging ferns and other foliage so that we were really "in" the jungle. We saw Howler Monkeys eating fruit in the trees overhanging the river. At sun set and sunrise they howl in a disturbingly loud for their size manner. We were so close to the edge of the jungle, we half expected to wake up to banana peels all over the boats, remnants of a monkey invasion. We also saw beautiful toucans, caricaris, king fishers and more parrots than we could identify. There were small sloughs for the kids to explore by dinghy and vines to climb on. It was like, well it was like a jungle out there!
The Chagres River is also where the Spaniards crossed the isthmus to the Pacific from the 1500's until the canal was built. They brought a great deal of gold out from that river and it was heavily fortified. The fort is still present above the headland and the kids had a great time running around and playing Pirate Drake and Pirate Morgan. (It is interesting that our history tells us that Sir Francis Drake was a mighty hero and explorer. To the Spanish and all of Latin America, he was a dreaded pirate that plundered the gold they rightfully stole from the Mayans!)
The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.
Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.
Our favorite sailing quote:
"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron