Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Panamá Canal – Day Two

[Kyle]6:30am came and went with no sign of our advisor. So did 7:30, and then 8:30. Our guys seemed totally unconcerned. Rick said this happens a lot during the dry season. They wait to pile up boats to save water. Jakker gave up and one after another of them jumped in for a swim. The guys hung out on the trampoline talking in animated Spanish. It was Eric’s birthday, so Maryanne baked him a surprise Pineapple Upside-down Cake while I read to her. He had no idea it was coming until the finished product – complete with a candle - arrived. I think it’s a trip he’ll remember.

Afterward, it was 10:30 with still no sign of life from the Pilot Station, so I decided to have a go at resoldering the starboard start button again. I tried and tried, and was sure I had a good, strong connection, but the engine wouldn’t start. Actually, now neither engine would start. I tried the screwdriver thing on each and that didn’t work either. It was now 12:30 and we were all pretty sure our Advisor would be there soon. As a last-ditch option, we have a button that ties all of the batteries together for emergency starting.

Hurry Up and wait....

Our house batteries were fairly low. Our wind generator had it’s blades removed and the solar panel was covered in a cushion to protect against impact of the monkey fists (it’s just a kind of knot. No monkeys were harmed…) that are used to weigh down the ends of the leader lined tossed down by the lock crew. We had also had lights on all night so the guys could find their way around.

Well, we still were able to muster enough amperage to crank an engine and get the alternator charging, and then we cranked the next. Our Advisor, Amaldo, showed up ten minutes later, with orders to go as fast as we could. I couldn’t help but think, “Well, if you were here six hours ago…”

Never mind. Off we went, chugging across beautiful Lake Gatun. We cut every available corner as we followed the channel through the islands. There’s no recreation on the protected lake and the canal traffic is told to keep moving. It’s a shame. It’s such a pretty place. Infinity charged ahead, clearly trying to ditch us. Jakker made a much slower getaway. We could still see them when we got to the Guilliard Cut, winding its way across the Continental Divide.

As we approached the end of Lake Gatun, a huge black ship called the Mobil Pearl passed us. We fell in behind her, and then she slowed down to make a tight turn. She passed us again on the next straightaway only to be left behind again on the next turn.

Eventually we are moving... But it will take a few hours to get to the first lock

At the Guilliard Cut, there was no more room for passing, so they fell in behind. She would be our lock mate for the drop to the Pacific.

Passing through cuts and under the Centenial Bridge

We arrived at the Pedro Miguel Lock just before sunset. We were told there was a delay because one of the ships ahead was having engine trouble. There were still four ships ahead of us and the black Pearl. Infinity could be seen up ahead. I kind of wanted to go through with them just to see their disappointment at it, but mostly I didn’t.

The Pedro Miguel Lock.. eventually!

We rafted up to Jakker and Begonia was now engine #1 and #2 of a three-engined trimaran. We got permission to enter, but just before we got there, we were told to turn around and wait. We made a flawless turn around in the tight space between the edge of the channel and the adjacent Pearl. Then we were told we would be going around a couple of tugs, through their wash, and tying up to the wall to wait. It went so well! We both did it like we drove this weird, three-engine contraption all of the time.

At the starboard wall, our lines were handed over for that side. The guys on the port side had to throw their lines a long way. One of the guys kept winding up and winding up, only to fall short. The advisors and the lock guys on our side were teasing them. I was in the galley washing dishes, only half paying attention when BOOM! The monkey fist hit the cabin square in the side. I was in the middle of a big drum and I almost jumped out of my shoes! With lines attached, we entered Pedro Miguel Lock and the Mobil Pearl was brought in snug behind us. One step down and we were in the one-mile long Miraflores Lake.

We stayed nested for the trip across the lake. I think we were both starting to enjoy our three-engine boat.

Our final two locks were the Miraflores Locks. I was setting up for another nested center locking when our advisor kept giving me instructions to stay close to the wall. The lockkeeper had decided at the last minute that we would be tying to the side, with Jakker outside of Begonia. We were not ready for or expecting this. (Our Advisor later told us it was not supposed to be done, especially with catamarans). This is where having professional guys that do this three times a week really paid off. They knew exactly what to do and changed everything over without a hitch, all while the Mobil Pearl was bearing down on us. They were sooo good to have around.

After that, it was decided it would be safer to split up the raft and tie to the sidewall with Begonia and Jakker fore and aft for the last lock. Again, Maryanne and I didn’t have to do anything except watch the guys handle it for us. As the water calmed, I looked up at our masthead and saw the waxing gibbous moon almost straight overhead. The doors parted and a slight sliver of the Pacific came into view in the floodlit waters on the other side. Then they opened like a movie curtain and we were suddenly in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

We motored out into the darkness away from the lock. The Mobil Pearl passed us again, for good this time. To our left over the city, a huge fireworks display started. Wow! That was really nice of them to do that for us! Amaldo told us the fireworks were by the ACP to commemorate the end of their summer concert season. Summer concert season? Okay, Buddy.

The fireworks finished their Grand Finale. The pilot boat came to pick up Amaldo, and then Rick directed us to his pickup at the Balboa Yacht Club.

The launch came and the tires and lines were thrown in. Then it was hasty goodbyes and the three of them made mad leaps to the lurching boat. Suddenly, it was just the two of us again. I put the engines into gear, but the port remained in neutral. The port transmission was not shifting at all. We were so glad that hadn’t happened the last time we tried to shift, in the canal with that big ship behind us.

Finally we made it, and fireworks welcome us to the Pacific Ocean!

We motored the last six miles to our anchorage at La Playita using only the starboard engine, dropped the anchor and backed down as best we could. It was after midnight.

No comments: