Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wednesday 30th May

Balboa
Panama.

8 56.162 N
79 33.296 W

The day began overcast and for the second day in a row I had to shake Gerry out of bed for the radio scheduled roll call at 07.00hrs. The good news today was that we could hear Y Not very clearly, they were 90 miles away traveling in 5 knots of wind and having to motor sail. JJ Moon was just 5 miles behind them and all is well. Gerry crawled back into bed for another couple of hours and finally when we got up the sun was beginning to poke its way through the clouds. Contact was made with Alahandro – the mechanic who was getting our cylinder resealed; apparently the job was done and he arranged to meet Gerry at the yacht club bar at 11.30hrs. Sure enough at 11.30hrs we met Alahandro and he had the cylinder all ready to refit. Gerry paid up the money and then called for a taxi for me, our usual driver Alex arrived shortly after and took me to the Kuna Indian Mola co-operative. It was a group of about 30 stalls in one location where the Kuna Indians sold their craft work. Alex left me there for an hour and I had a wonderful time wandering around the stalls admiring the handiwork of these women and also a few men. I managed to chat with one lady who understood a small amount of English, she told me that the red head covers that the women wear are traditional and that the baby girls have their noses pierced shortly after they are born, she also explained the stories behind some of the embroidered pictures. I was quite horrified to realize that one of the pictures which seemed to be quite common to a lot of the stalls celebrated the Kuna Indian women mourning a dead man in a hammock! There were lots of themes and patterns of needlework; I could have spent a fortune. Two of the older ladies were actually working on pieces as I watched, they used incredibly small stitches and I wondered just how badly their eyes would be affected by the close work. As it was I bought a few pieces that I liked for the embroidery on the appliquéd animals, a couple more geometric pieces and ten small squares which weren’t the best quality work but had been done by a very young Kuna girl and I thought I would like to encourage her (they were also cheaper than the older women’s work). My hour there passed very quickly and before I knew it Alex was back searching for me amongst the stalls. I returned to the yacht club and took the water taxi back out to our boat where I found Gerry just finishing the installation of the hydraulic cylinder. Back in the salon I showed Gerry my purchases and he told the tale of installing the cylinder – not very exciting and not worth repeating, enough to say it’s back in place and hopefully we will have no further problem with it. Our next little project was to make some cold drink holders for the fridge. We had bought some plumbing pipe and a couple of end stops; we cut the pipe to the right length for the fridge, drilled holes at the top to attach some strapping on one side, cut the strapping so that it was double the length of the pipe and attached one side to the pipe. Then it was time to try out our invention by dropping soda cans down the tube on top of the strapping so that by pulling on one side of the strapping the cans could be pulled up the pipe. We found we had to make one minor adjustment and added a disk of starboard to the strapping to give it some stability and voila! We have tubes to store our soda cans in the fridge; no longer will we have to delve into the bottom of the fridge where they always seem to end up, just one pull on the strapping and a can will appear! We made 2 of these pipes, they each hold 5 cans – we were limited by the height available in our fridge but we are delighted with the result. It would also work for beer cans, not that we are going to use it for them! Of course the project required every tool that we possess and at the end of fabricating these new toys we had an incredible mess to clear up, the shavings from the pipe cutting and the hole drilling had managed to cover the floor of the salon as well as the counter tops and the chairs – I really don’t know how but it did so out came the vacuum cleaner. Once the mess was cleared up I gathered up the laundry and took the water taxi into the dock, found the launderette and did the last bit of laundry before we launch off on the first leg of our Pacific trip. The launderette was the cheapest we have found in our travels – 50 cents per load to wash and 75 cents per hour to dry. When I had finally got the last load dry I taxied back out to the boat where Gerry off loaded the laundry for me and then the two of us went back ashore for happy hour and dinner at TGIFriday’s before returning to the boat for the night.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tuesday 29th May

Balboa
Panama.

8 56.162 N
79 33.296 W

Not having to get up early doesn’t stop you from waking up at dark o’clock, luckily for me I can go back to sleep without too much problem, Gerry on the other hand has to get up. Those earlyish hours are his time for playing on the computer and the radio. Today was an exception for him; I had to wake him up at 06.55 hrs as he had arranged to try out the radio schedule with Y Not and JJ Moon at 07.00hrs. He got up and turned on the radio and I went back to sleep. When I surfaced again about an hour later he told me that the volume on the schedule from boats in Bequia hadn’t been particularly good, neither Gerry nor Barry could hear them but Ross could and we couldn’t work out why one boat could hear them when the other two couldn’t – it will be a bit of a concern if we are any great distance from one another during transit. Gerry was also bereft of friends to chat to on skype this morning – we assume Dale and Lorie must have taken off on their next hop northwards as they weren’t on line, we hope that they have a quick and safe passage. With breakfast out of the way it was only a short wait until the mechanic who is looking at our hydraulic cylinder installation / repair appeared in the water taxi. Gerry and he discussed the issue in the cockpit whilst I dealt with answering my emails. In the end the mechanic suggested to Gerry that it would be easier to get the leaking seals replaced on the old cylinder than it would to install the new one. Between them they took the old cylinder out and the mechanic took it away with him to try and get it fixed, we should hear from him in the morning. We waved goodbye to Y Not, they were heading out just before lunchtime; JJ Moon was apparently not going as they had broken something. Gerry and I had lunch on board and then I began to niggle about going ashore, I wanted to visit the Artisans market. We closed the boat up tightly (having learnt our lesson from yesterday) and caught the taxi into the dock. As I was walking down the pier our taxi driver, Alex, from yesterday waved at me – fortunately he was free and able to take us anywhere we needed to go. I explained that we needed a hardware store – I’d brought along my Spanish cheat sheet today so he could understand what I was asking for, and also that I wanted to go to the Artisan Market and the commemorative fountain for Arnulfo Arias Madrid – a past president who’s wife had commissioned this fountain to honour him. As you can see in the photo he is giving the V for victory sign to the people; according to my friend Lee (thanks for the trivia!), when the statue was erected some wit broke off the index finger giving the salute a whole new meaning - it was very quickly replaced. Where was I? Alex drove us first to the Artisan market which is located directly across from the memorial fountain; I hopped out of the taxi and suggested that Alex then take Gerry on to the hardware store whilst I browsed the market – good thinking huh? Off they went and I walked across the road to take photos of the memorial fountain then returned to the Artisan market and spent about half an hour wandering around admiring their work until Gerry found me and hurried me along. The prices of the work there were quite high and I found myself reluctant to buy anything without looking further a field first – I hope I don’t regret it later but there was nothing I just simply couldn’t live without. Gerry had been successful in purchasing the things we needed for a special little project we have in mind, he enthused about the shopping center that Alex had taken him too – it was a real mall and he suggested that we go back there to have a walk around and have some lunch in the food hall. So much for my plans to visit the Kuna Indian run Mola co – operative which we passed on the way back to this mall! It was 15.00hrs by the time we reached the Albrook mall and Gerry asked Alex to return for us at 18.00hrs – 3 hours to kill in a mall?! Well it was huge, bigger than the Avenues Mall or the Regency Square Mall in Jacksonville. Each of the corridors off of the main one were labeled with an animal species so you knew where you were at any time. Mum I know you won’t believe me but the food hall was H for – well you know! We walked the entire mall, we didn’t actually browse around many of the stores but those we did look at had brand name goods for less than we paid for the same thing in the States – it was dirt cheap to shop there, not that we bought anything. Oh I lie, we found the odd shaped batteries that we needed for the head lamps and again much cheaper than we bought them for in the States and Gerry brought a pair of ref walkers as his Crocs had just about died. Interestingly there were 3 souvenir shops in the mall, they all sold the same sort of things that were available at the Artisans market and the prices were pretty much the same, so even with the overheads of the mall they must still have been making a profit which made the prices at the Artisans market seem even more expensive. I will have to go to the Kuna Co operative to see what they are like there before I buy anything. The food court had all the usual food outlets – Micky D’s, Pizza hut, KFC, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robins, Sharro, Panda Wok, Subway plus a few places with grill style food. We elected to try one of these, of course the menu was in Spanish and no one spoke English so we used our best “Spanglish” to order grilled chicken with salad and diet colas, it came with rice and fried banana and the cost – just $11 for the 2 of us; there was plenty of it and it tasted good! The other thing we indulged in was a coffee – I had a toffee frappe, the first since leaving the States and Gerry had an espresso, they were a treat and a half! After we had eaten our early dinner we made our way back to the exit where Alex was to pick us up, arriving just 2 minutes before he did. It was a quick trip back to the Yacht club where we picked up the water taxi and returned to our boat. On the way out to our boat we realized that JJ Moon was no longer on their mooring and we assumed that they had fixed their problem and left after we had gone ashore, we will find out for certain on the radio schedule call in the morning. The evening vanished in a blur of me loading the blog and Gerry reading his book.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Monday 28th May

Balboa
Panama.

8 56.162 N
79 33.296 W

It was rather a humid night out on the mooring, there was no breeze blowing down the hatch to keep us cool and there were large ship going past all night on their way to the canal, as they went past they put out a wake which rocked the boat from side to side for a few moments causing things to bang around, luckily everything is pretty securely tied down and it cause no problems. We began our day quite leisurely doing very little except for catching up with email (the connection here is free as part of the yacht club deal but it is quite a week connection so loading the blog and answering email takes a while). Gerry contacted our agent to get the name and number of someone who could install our new hydraulic cylinder for us, having got the contact’s number he arranged to have the man come out to the boat tomorrow to look at the work. By the time mid morning came around we decided that we were wasting the day and made plans to go looking for water maker filters and do some shopping. We called fro the water taxi to pick us up and it arrived very quickly. We made our way into the dock, which is at the end of a long pier where the fuel and water are dispensed climbed out of the taxi and walked along the pier to the yacht club office which is half way along the pier. Gerry checked in with them and then we finished the walk to the land end of the pier where I spotted Mags from JJ Moon waving at us. We headed to the top of the incline where Mags, Barry (JJ Moon), Sue and Ross (Y Not) were just paying off a taxi cab driver, they had just returned from shopping. We snagged the taxi driver, Alex, and asked him to take us to an address that Gerry had been given by the agent where we would probably be able to purchase the water maker filters that we were running low on. It was a short drive into the center of the city, I watched out of the windows with great interest as the city went by, it was quite run down and dirty to begin with and as we went further the buildings and surroundings became cleaner and obviously better cared for. Alex found the address we had given him easily and I waited in the taxi whilst Gerry went into the store to try and purchase the filters. He seemed to be in the store for ages and I mistakenly thought he had been successful however when he returned to the taxi the news wasn’t good – no filters but he had another store to try. We got a little lost trying to find the second one but eventually after a phone call to the first store we got there and this time we were in luck they had just what we needed in stock and they were fairly cheap too. Gerry bought enough to last us until we get home to Australia – we have a better idea now of how long each one lasts! Having accomplished the hard part of our foray into the city we asked Alex to take us to the supermarket, he drove us to the Rey supermarket which was closest to the yacht club and dropped us off just as it began to rain. We asked him to pick us up in an hour and made our way inside the store where we proceeded to fill a trolley (cart to you yanks!) with all the things we really needed but limiting it to how much we could carry in the back packs as the walk from the shore to the end of the pier is fairly lengthy when you have to carry heavy shopping. This of course didn’t stop Gerry from buying a slab of Budweiser beer, each can worked out to be .46cents – cheaper than we used to buy it in the States! I’m sure those of you who know us well will be shocked to hear that we didn’t buy any more chocolate (I think we could supply the US army with what we have anyway!) Once we had completed our shopping Alex drove us back to the yacht club, giving us his card incase we need a taxi over the next few days. We staggered down the dock under the weight of the beer and took the taxi back out to the boat, the weather had kicked up a bit and the waves were a bit bouncy – not much fun trying to get on our boat from the taxi but we made it. Ross was also on the water taxi with us and we arranged to meet at the yacht club bar at 17.00hrs for a beer and to talk about the passage south and radio schedules so we could keep in touch. We had about an hour before it was time to call the taxi again and head into shore the waves had calmed down a bit and things looked a bit brighter. We made it to shore, collecting Mags and Barry on the way, at the yacht club bar we met up with Sue and Ross and proceeded to drink a small quantity of liquid amber whilst putting the world to rights. Unfortunately as we sat there it began to rain heavily so we had to drink more beer. We managed to set up a radio schedule so that we could keep tabs on each other’s whereabouts during the Pacific crossing to the Galapagos; with luck we should all meet up there to compare war stories – or do I mean travel stories, I’m not sure of the difference! During a short break in the rain Gerry and I made our way to TGIFriday’s for dinner, we had just ordered when Mags and Barry joined us; Sue and Ross had returned to their boat. We had a nice meal and then made our way back tour boat. Once we unlocked the boat and got below we discovered a disaster; we had left 2 ports open over the galley and the rain had found them; there was water inside the people bowl! We couldn’t believe how much had got in, and spent the next hour drying things and mopping up what we could, some cushions would have to go out in the sun to dry in the morning (pray for sun!) – We won’t make that particular mistake again. After the clean up it was time for bed.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Sunday 27th May

Balboa
Panama.


8 56.162 N
79 33.296 W

The alarm went off and I hit the off button then looked at the time, Gerry had set it for 05.30hrs – definitely too early for me! The howling monkeys in the nearby rain forest were making the most awful noise – you almost didn’t need an alarm to wake you up. Gerry got out of bed and crept around, first making coffee – the smell of which pervaded the entire boat; then he began banging pots and pans about making breakfast I gathered. I ignored all attempts to get me up and stayed put until 07.00hrs – still too early by my reckoning but better than 05.30! The guys were all up, showered and ready to face the day having eaten eggs, bacon and toast and drunken orange juice and coffee. I pulled a couple of slices of bread out to toast just as the new adviser for the day stepped off of the pilot boat and on to our boat. We quickly introduced ourselves, we were lucky enough to have Oswald traveling with us for the second half of our transit. I enquired as to whether or not he had eaten breakfast yet or would like a coffee, he thanked me and accepted the offer of coffee; I guess he had eaten breakfast before leaving home. Gerry started the engine and the line handlers cast off the lines from the mooring, our second part of the transit was underway! Oswald directed Gerry to the “shortcut”, there are two passages through the canal, and one is shorter than the other – by half a mile! The large container ships all use the longer passage leaving the shorter one for the smaller boats like us. JJ Moon was in front of us and Y Not was behind us and apart from the three of us the passage was empty. Gerry upped the revs and we motored along at an unheard of 6.5 knots. Gerry’s comment was that the fresh water and no current assisted our motoring speed; the engine seemed to handle it pretty well. Unlike yesterday the sun shone and the day became hotter and hotter, we mostly tried to stay in the shade in the cockpit away from the glare. The scenery through the canal was quite spectacular; it is almost pristine rain forest, unspoilt by human invasion. Oswald told us that the wildlife has free run of the place and thrives quite nicely there. There is apparently a Smithsonian research center in the middle of the canal somewhere that can be visited from the Panama City end of the canal. We had about 4 hours to get to the lock at Pedro Miguel then it was a short distance to the Miraflores locks. The two passages through the canal join together at a certain point and then we began to encounter a few large ships traveling Northbound, we passed them with no problems arriving at Centennial bridge a little earlier than we needed to. JJ Moon had stopped to wait for us and Y Not as the three of us had to raft together to go through the locks. As JJ Moon has the largest capacity engine of the three of us it was to be the middle boat with Y Not and us flanking it. We rafted together, adjusting fenders to prevent any bumping and securing lines to the bow, stern and mid ship. From this point on we would be responsible for the line handling on the port side, Y Not would be responsible for the line handling on the starboard side and JJ Moon would be the driver for all three of us. We had to keep our engine switched on but for the most part just in idle mode. As each boat has 4 line handlers and an adviser the rafting together makes 8 line handlers and 2 of the advisers superfluous. I asked Oswald if it was always the center adviser who takes control in this situation, the answer was yes but the other 2 advisers still have to be alert to the possible problems during the lock passage. Once we were rafted together I cooked up hot dogs for everyone on our boat and we ate these for lunch, finishing off with some fruit and chocolate chip cookies (had to keep Gerry's levels up). JJ Moon motored us forward (with a few revs added by us for good measure) to the Pedro Miguel lock, Alphonso and Roberto caught the lines for our side and did a great job of keeping us in position in the lock. We were behind a small tourist liner in the lock but there was loads of space between the back end of them and the front end of the three of us. The lock gates closed, the water drained out and we were soon exiting the lock and motoring on towards the next set of locks at Miraflores. The camera on the lock at Miraflores was pointed in our direction as we approached according to the adviser in charge on JJ Moon. I stood in the bow and waved at the camera – just in case anyone caught it, the chances were slim and I would have looked like a dot on the horizon but I was there! We repeated the lock process through both of the Miraflores locks, getting lower each time. Finally the last set of lock gates began to open and we got our first glimpse of the Pacific. We were now on the downhill slope towards home! Once we were clear of the locks we untied our rafting up lines and were suddenly three separate boats again. We began motoring towards the Balboa yacht club where our agent had organized a mooring for us. Suddenly the pilot boat was heading towards us – it was time for us to thank Oswald for a safe and pleasant passage and farewell him. I gave him our boat card with the blog details so he could look up the photos. If you are reading this Oswald, again many thanks, we had a great trip and would welcome having you, Rick, Alphonso, Roberto and Winston as part of our team again! Oswald stepped on to the pilot boat and roared into the distance whilst we continued on to the yacht club, Roberto knew the radio operator at the yacht club and spoke to him about our mooring, I think he was really telling the club what great people we are! Anyway we were directed to a mooring tire and the guys tied us on – how nice not to have do it ourselves for a change. They then undid the tires that were acting as fenders around our boat and handed them to the man who had come out to fetch them. It cost us $1 per tire for him to take them away. Alphonso, Roberto and Winston then gathered together their gear and with our eternal thanks ringing in their ears climbed into the boat to depart to their homes. They didn’t make it very far before we had to wave them back, Alphonso in his haste to get home had left behind his hat, sunglasses and cell phone! We offered to return them for a fee – they took our trash ashore for us! It was about 10 minutes later that we found Winston’s cigarettes and lighter on the foredeck, we will give them to Enrique and hope that they make it back to Winston (even though he needs to stop smoking!). Gerry and I opened up the hatches to let some air through the hot boat and then took the covers off the solar panels; they were soaked from the previous night’s rain and were going to take some time to dry out. Once we had indulged in a shower and clean clothes we called the water taxi (its part of the yacht club facility as there are no docks as such for dinghies) and went ashore for some dinner. Roberto had told us that TGIFriday was close to the dock; we found it and went there for dinner before returning to the boat for the night.

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Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th May

PHOTO GALLERY OF OUR LINE HANDLERS AND ADVISERS
What a great team of guys!

Alphonso - Line handler














Roberto - Line handler














Winston - Line handler














Ricardo - Adviser



















Oswald -Adviser

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Saturday 26th May

Gatun Lake,
Panama.


9 15.675 N
79 54.126 W

This was it – the first day of our transit through the canal. Gerry was up early trying to add navigation soft ware to my computer – in the event that our other computer dies he wanted the information ready to use on my computer too. It obviously wasn’t an easy install as the black cloud which hovered around Gerry’s head would attest to. I sorted the laundry into loads and was ready to go to the laundry but needed assistance to carry it all so I had to wait for Gerry to finish what he was doing first. By the time we were setting off to the laundry at 09.00hrs it was getting to the popular time of day for the laundry, our immediate neighbours were also on their way there as they were leaving with us in the afternoon. We both arrived at the laundry within seconds of each other only to find that 2 out of the 3 washing machines were in use and both the tumble driers were in use; we resigned ourselves to a long wait. Sue (our neighbour ) took the final washing machine to do the first of her 2 loads and I had to wait for about half an hour for an empty machine. Sue and I waited together in the small amount of shade provided by the building, we daren’t move too far away as there were several other people looking to use the facilities too. Sue had done both her wash loads and I had finished one and was half way through the remaining 2 wash loads before we managed to snag one of the driers. Sue threw all her stuff in the drier and by midday she had finished her laundry, I however still had to dry 3 loads of washing. With only one drier it was painfully slow and it took until almost 15.00hrs to get it all done. Again I daren’t leave the place as people were removing clothing from the other drier before it was dry and loading their own. I needed our stuff to be dry as I couldn’t have a load of wet laundry on the boat for the transit. Gerry came to find me at about 14.00hrs to let me know that my sister was online and wanted to chat to me, I left him in charge of the drier with strict instructions to guard it with his life whilst I went to the boat to chat on line. On my way back to the laundry from the boat I detoured to the craft lady who was back selling her wares today. We communicated with much pointing and simple words, I discovered her name was Lola (and no she wasn’t a show girl and neither was she anything to do with Eric Clapton!) and that she was a Kuna Indian from the San Blast Islands and she learnt my name and that I was an Australian going through the canal this evening. I purchased 2 more bits of her work and she presented me with a bead necklace as a gift before we said our goodbyes. I returned to the laundry to finish the last of the loads then returned to our boat. Whilst I had been gone our tire fenders had been delivered and Gerry had begun to position them around the boat. Our 3 line handlers had also shown up and introduced themselves to Gerry before vanishing until 16.00hrs. Gerry had been listening to the signal station and had heard that JJ Moon and Y Not, the 2 boats we were supposed to be transiting with had been instructed to be out on the flats to pick up their advisers at 16.00hrs whilst we had been instructed to be out there at 17.00hrs to pickup ours – we weren’t quite sure what had changed and were a little concerned. Gerry went to the yacht club dinning room and ordered 6 boxes of take away to go with us for the evening meal whilst I stashed the laundry away. When he returned the line handlers were with him and introduced themselves to me, we were going to be accompanied by Alphonso, Roberto and Winston. We showed them the interior of the boat including where they could sleep and how the toilet flushes; having stowed their gear in the forward berth they went out on deck to finish putting out fenders and then Gerry decided that it was time for us to cast off and make our way out of the marina to the flats – the anchoring area just before the canal entrance. We were going out a little early to find out why our traveling companions were going out an hour before us. As we reached the flats the other 2 boats were just picking up their advisers from the pilot boat, we looked out for ours but no one appeared and the other 2 boats began to make their way to the canal entrance causing the panic level to rise even more – we wondered if we had been cancelled and not yet been informed. I fed our starving line handlers some sandwiches and fruit as they hadn’t eaten since the morning and it would be quite late before we got to eat dinner. 17.00hrs came and went and still no sign of our adviser, the line handlers suggested calling the signal station for confirmation of his imminent arrival, we called and were told that he was on his way. 20 minutes later the pilot boat approached us and we were joined by our adviser – Ricardo. We breathed a sigh of relief- we were still going! Rick immediately set our minds at rest by giving us a simple explanation of the process and drawing several diagrams to illustrate his instructions. Rick also told us that for this first part of the transit we would be traveling by ourselves in the center of the lock – bonus, it was the prime position! The other 2 boat had been joined by a motor boat for the transit so they still rafted up as a 3 some. We began to make our way to the canal entrance at Rick’s instruction and then the skies opened and it began raining cats and dogs, we could only just see the front of the boat – not very helpful as we were to be following a large bulk carrier into the locks. As we reached the first lock the rain subsided and a rainbow appeared. I took over the steering as Gerry was going to be the 4th line handler – going up on the bow with Alphonso whilst Roberto and Winston worked the stern lines. Rick issued precise instructions for me to follow as we entered the locks, guiding me to steer the boat first to starboard where the shore side line handlers tossed 2 lines with weighted monkey fist ends that flew on to the boat. The starboard handlers (Alphonso at the bow and Winston at the stern) caught them and threaded them through the loops of our long dock lines. I was then instructed to steer to port where the process was repeated and the port handlers (Gerry and Roberto) did a great job of catching and securing their lines. We motored forward into position in the lock and then the shore line handlers took in the slack on our lines and secured them to the huge dock cleats, the deck line handlers then had to take up the slack and control the lines as the water level in the locks began to change. Once we were in position the lock gates closed behind us and we were in a chamber which began to rapidly fill with water. There was a little turbulence as this occurred but the deck line handlers kept the tension on the lines right and we were comfortable without moving too much until the water in the chamber had equalized with that of the next chamber; we were now several feet higher and ready to move into the next chamber. An alarm sounded, the lock gate in front of us opened and the ship in front of us began to move forward, its prop shaft turning caused quite a bit of wake which I had to steady our boat though. Then it was our turn to move, the lines came off the cleats and the shore line handlers walked with their throw lines in hand forward to the next lock whilst the deck line handlers gathered in the large dock lines onto the deck. The process repeated itself twice more and then we exited the final Gatun lock into the Gatun Lake. Through out the process the rain continued to start and stop and both Gerry and Alphonso got wet – the price of fame! Rick was fantastic, he talked me through every move and was very lavish with his praise, thanks to him we had a very smooth transit through the Gatun locks – we’d have him again any day! As we left the locks behind us we made our way to the mooring buoys in the lake, again Rick guided my every move with patience and detailed instructions. I couldn’t believe the buoy when we reached it – it was enormous! It took a couple of attempts to get the boat moored but once we had the lines on we weren’t going to move anywhere! JJ Moon and Y Not were moored on the buoy next to us, the motor boat had apparently gone on through the rest of the canal. Once we were settled on the mooring Rick called up his pilot boat to fetch him, I was a bit upset that he wasn’t able to stay for dinner with us but he had to go home so we thanked him for his expert assistance and bid him farewell as he jumped onto the pilot boat. Then it was time for us to light the bar b que, throw the chicken on to cook and reheat the fried rice and chow mien that we had bought for dinner. Chocolate cake followed for desert and then it was time to wash dishes, shower and hit the sack. Rick’s parting words were that the adviser for the second part of the transit would be joining us at about 06.00hrs - like I needed to know that!

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Friday 25th May

Colon,
Panama.

9 20.716 N
79 54.555 W

Well today came in a hurry, it was to be our last day in Colon as the scheduler had brought forward out transit date and we were going to be going through the canal on Saturday evening instead of Tuesday. Gerry pickled the water maker today as we haven’t run it for over 2 weeks. Once that was done we fiddled around doing clearing up on the boat until almost lunchtime when we called a taxi and set off for the supermarket complex. Once there we wandered around the complex, which is huge but unfortunately is mostly empty. We weren’t sure if the place is in the process of being built or is too expensive for most shops and is being left to run to rack and ruin, either way it was a shame to see such an enormous complex so empty. We found a small pizza place and went in and ordered lunch which went down very well. Then it was on to the supermarket to purchase the final things that we needed for our transit. I hate to say it but I know that Dale and Lorie at least will appreciate it; half of the shopping trolley was filled with Gerry’s favourite food – chocolate. Honestly I can’t begin to imagine what the check out chick thought but we won’t run out of chocolate this side of Christmas! Having stocked up it was time to head back to the boat and stash everything away – always a fun job. On the way back we passed lots of buses that were the old yellow American school buses in a previous life, they certainly look different now with their paint jobs. I thought that some of the artwork was incredible and took photos as we zoomed past at a rapid rate; the photos aren’t great but they give you an idea. I looked out for the ladies selling the craft stuff as I wanted to make further purchases but they weren’t there today. We made our last trip to the bar for happy hour and a cheap meal then visited with one of the other boats that are transiting with us to impart some “knowledge about fishing” – what a hoot, we’ve caught exactly 2 fish and people are asking our advice! Still we parted with what little knowledge we have gleaned plus a copy of the “cheat sheet” (thanks Dale and Lorie). Really it was just an excuse to drink wine and chat, we eventually left them as they still hadn’t had dinner.
Back on the boat we watched Black Adder for the millionth time – it never fails to make us laugh, before going to bed for the last night (hopefully) in Colon.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Thursday 24th May

Colon,
Panama.

9 20.716 N
79 54.555 W

Today we thought we would go and see the Gatun Locks operation from the land. We took a taxi to the locks site where we paid a $5 admission fee each and then climbed the steps to the top of the locks viewing platform. From here we could see the entire lock system leading from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gatun Lake where we will be spending the night after passing through the first three locks. As we arrived there was a ship in the last of the Gatun locks heading southbound, we watched as it inched its way clear of the lock and out into the Gatun Lake. As soon as the ship had cleared the entrance / exit another large container ship began to make its way into the lock system from the lake end, we watched the entire process of the locks closing behind the ship, the water emptying out of the chamber and the ship sinking down below the sides of the lock; at the same time the next lock along was filling with water until it reached an equal level to the lock that the ship was in. Once the water in both locks was level, an alarm sounded and shortly afterwards the lock gates were opened by remote mechanisms. When the gates were fully open the mules, small trains which run on rail tracks along either side of the lock, slowly pulled the ship into the next lock where the process was repeated. At one point in the transit the mules have to go down a large slope which could be compared to a rollercoaster ride at the fair, if they were to loose control at this point it would be a total disaster. It was a fascinating process to watch, the water drains out of the locks at a rapid rate and the ships sink below the chamber walls very quickly; the water filling the locks causes quite a bit of turbulence as it pour in and it was easy to see why the boats inside the locks have to be firmly lashed to the side cleats, I could easily imagine us bobbing around like a cork if we weren’t tied up. We watched a couple of ships making the transit southbound and then it was time for us to leave. From what we can tell it appears that the smaller boats (that’s us) transit late in the afternoon / evening when going southbound, then stop in the lake overnight and continue through the Miraflores Locks the next day, completing the passage in the middle of the afternoon. The whole system is an awesome feat of engineering and we were very glad that we took the time to go and see it from the land perspective; it will be a very different view point when we go through on Saturday. On our way back to the marina our taxi driver took us on a detour to an animal refuge, it was small and had animals which needed care and attention before being let back out into the wild, we saw macaws, lorikeets, toucans, turkeys, several species of monkey, raccoons, ocelots, a couple of dogs and a single deer. They all seemed to be well cared for and we made a small voluntary contribution towards their care. Our next stop was the supermarket, we were happy to find that the supermarket was well stocked with everything we needed and was reasonably priced – can of coke was .47c. We did a bit of stocking up but will have to return there again as we need fresh fruit and vegetables before we leave here. After the grocery shopping we made our way back to the marina, weaving between the colourful buses which take up most of the road. Once back on board we began vacuum bagging some of the purchases and stashing others into whatever holes we could find. By the time 16.30hrs came around the sky clouded over and the rain started. I wanted to purchase a couple of “embroideries” for want of a better description, from the Little Indian ladies who sell them at the Yacht club so I went armed with a pocket full of cash and the camera to find them. There was only one lady there today but she had all the craft work out on display I picked out 4 pieces that I liked and then haggled over the price, they were more expensive than the ones I had purchased in Colombia but at the end of the day they were still cheap for the amount of work that they take. I know they aren’t everyone’s choice of art work but I love them and that’s all that matters! I was also fascinated by the features of the lady that was selling the stuff and asked if she would mind having her photo taken, she quickly donned a head dress and then agreed. This lady had row upon row of tiny beads strung around her arms and legs in intricate patterns, I don’t think she ever takes tem off, her skirt was a sarong wrap and her blouse was made of the hand sewn embroideries similar to those I had just purchased, her nose was pierced and she wore a beaded necklace, my photos don’t do her justice but I was glad she let me take them. The truly astounding thing about her is her height, she is under 5 foot – made me feel like a giant! I returned to the boat with my purchases and insisted that Gerry admire them. Then after donning wet weather gear we headed to the bar for happy hour and hamburger dinners before turning in for the night.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wednesday 23rd May

Colon,
Panama.

9 20.716 N
79 54.555 W

Another day of hurry up and waiting. The sun came out early in the morning making the whole place hot and steamy. We stayed onboard all day, reading books, playing computer games and relaxing. Gerry got the urge to “do something” and changed the engine oil, this totally exhausted him as he then went to bed for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Enrique appeared when Gerry was sleeping, he had brought the 4 lines down to the boat for us. The best thing was the news that we were going to be transiting the canal on Saturday 26th and of that didn’t work out then it would be Sunday 27th – we just have to wait for the word! I found a new game to play on the computer – music trivia; it’s the computerised version of “guess that tune” or in this case guess the artist. Gerry and I both knew a lot of the records but sometimes the artists came as a surprise to us both, anyway it was fun to play it for a while. We managed to have a chat with our daughter today which was lovely, it will be great to have her with us for a while in the Pacific – when we eventually get there. Our nearest neighbour was due to transit the canal today and we were surprised to find that they hadn’t left by the time we were heading to the bar for happy hour. When we asked what had happened they told us that their transit time was 19.00hrs, this came as a surprise to us as we thought the time from this end was always 16.00hrs. It was pouring with rain by this time and we wondered if that was the cause for the later departure, but apparently not, this is just one of the regular time slots. I hope we get to leave at 16.00hrs as leaving later means that you arrive at the lake in the middle of the canal where you moor for the night in darkness. Anyway we went off to the bar where we met up with an English lady who invited us along to dinner with her and an American people off of another boat; they were going to the Chinese restaurant in town. We went in taxis, shared a set course meal and then came back in taxis. The meal was OK, but to be honest the Chinese food at the club was equally as good, still it made a good night out and we enjoyed the company of some new people. When we returned to the dock our neighbour had gone and there was a new boat in his place. Once back on board we quickly settled in for the night with the rain still beating down on Panama filling the canal.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tuesday 22nd May

Colon,
Panama.

9 20.716 N
79 54.555 W

The first thing we had to do this morning was to phone Enrique to make sure that the admeasurer was going to be coming out to the boat today to do our paperwork. Gerry came back from making the call with the news that yes we were to proceed to the anchorage on the flats where we would be seen by the admeasurer sometime between 10.00 hrs and midday. Getting off the dock was easier than getting on to it; we unplugged the power and water, singled up on the dock lines and then started the engine. Gerry steered us out whilst I gathered in the lines, leaving them on deck for our return later in the day. We motored out of the marina and over to the flats where we dropped our anchor in 32 feet of water, as before we laid out every bit of anchor chain we possess – we didn’t want to be drifting into the channel leading to the canal. Then we sat and waited, and waited and waited. The sky clouded over and the humidity became uncomfortable, but we were only going to be here for a short while so we put up with it and read our books whilst anxiously keeping an eye out for the tug to arrive with the admeasurer aboard. We saw several container ships entering the canal, a couple of new sail boats arriving and a procession of dinks going backwards and forwards to the marina but no tug with our man aboard. It began to spit with rain and we closed up the hatches, still no tug, Gerry said he was hungry and maybe we could have some lunch (that’s his way of saying could I make some sandwiches or something). I disappeared down below, it was now getting on for 13.00hrs, I put together some sandwiches and cut up some fruit, handed the plates up to Gerry who was still sitting in the cockpit only to be told “there’s a tug coming this way”. Yeah right! It went past us, then came round us and finally came directly towards us, before we had even had a single bite of the sandwiches; it was the admeasurer at last! The tug approached our starboard side where we had all our fenders situated but the stormy weather was making it difficult for the tug to get alongside close enough for the admeasurer to jump onto our boat. Suddenly he shouted to us that he would prefer to see us in the bar at the marina in 45 minutes and could we go in there? What do you say? We could have stayed there in the first place and saved ourselves the bother of maneuvering in and out of the dock and having to clean off the anchor chain for the second time! We smiled and said we would see him there. The tug took off, I put the lunch into the fridge, started the engine and Gerry hauled the anchor in, cleaning off the mud as he went. We motored back into the marina and tied up on the dock again, fished the lunch out of the fridge and devoured it before grabbing our documents and making our way to the bar. The admeasurer was there filling in paperwork for another couple so we bought a drink and sat waiting for our turn. When our turn came we found the admeasurer to be very pleasant and efficient, filling in the numerous forms quickly and competently, he explained the whole procedure for going through the canal and answered our questions as they arose. One thing we questioned was why he wrote on the forms that we could sustain a speed of 8 knots through the canal when we had told him 5 knots. He reply was long winded but the gist of it as follows:
If you are traveling northbound you must maintain a speed of 8 knots as the passage is completed in one day, so you have to declare 8 knots on the paperwork.
If you are going southbound (as we are) the passage is done over 2 days with an overnight stop in the lake in the middle so the speed isn’t so critical – a minimum of 5 knots is essential.
Unfortunately the paperwork for both directions is the same and if you declare less than 8 knots on the paperwork then you are charged a fee for delaying traffic in the canal. As the southbound passage is over 2 days this fee isn’t applicable but to “trick” the computerised fee generator the form must read 8 knots so he always puts that a boat can do 8 knots to save us being charged a fee. Phew!
Anyway the form filling was completed quickly and we were told we could now take down our Q flag; I was surprised that he didn’t come down to see the boat at any point, maybe the quick glance he had out in the bay was enough?! We now had our transit number and all the copies of the paperwork to add to our growing mound of papers, all we had to do now was wait for the passage time. We returned to the boat and then waited for Enrique to arrive with our passports; he appeared just after we had made some coffee and sat with us chatting about the passage, his role and answered questions about where we could get a few things we needed. Enrique advised us to do almost everything once we get to the other end of the canal; he has contacts there for almost everything we need which will make life a lot simpler. One of the things he has done is provide us with a cell phone so that we can contact him or he can contact us if there is any change in the plans, we need to be ready to go through the canal at any time a space becomes available so Enrique is going to bring us the lines we require (4 x 120 foot ¾ inch lines) plus the tire fenders x 10 to hang around the boat sometime tomorrow. We are going to use 3 of his line handlers rather than trying to find some “free loaders” for the passage as they are experienced and competent, Gerry will be the 4th line handler whilst I drive the boat. We will also have a port supplied adviser onboard – which is a requirement of the canal authority all in all there will be 6 of us onboard for the passage and we have to supply food and drink and sleeping space for them all – I think it will be cozy I just hope that it doesn’t rain as the enclosed cockpit will be hot humid and uncomfortable with us all huddled inside. After Enrique left we spent an hour answering email and looking at the canal webcam, we knew a couple of the people who were transiting today, and then it was time to have some dinner. We ate at the yacht club again, making the most of eating very cheap Chinese food. Eventually we returned to the boat for the night to enjoy the comfort of air conditioning

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Monday 21st May

Colon,
Panama.

9 20.716 N
79 54.555 W

Today we sat waiting. The admeasurer was supposed to be coming out to measure our boat and fill out the paperwork needed for us to transit the canal. We were told that he would be coming out to the boat between 09.00hrs and 12.00hrs. So we sat and waited. It was humid and uncomfortable but we put up with it as we were going to be tied up in the marina in the afternoon with the promise of air conditioning and water plumbed into the boat – luxury! At 11.45 hrs our agent called us on the VHF and told us that the admeasurer had cancelled us for the day and rescheduled us for tomorrow – all that waiting for nothing! We told the agent that we were going to be tying up in the marina very shortly and he arranged to meet us there. We hauled in the anchor which was covered in thick gooey mud; luckily it washed off a lot easier than the stuff in Luperon, and proceeded to motor into the marina. We were allocated a slip which was on the T junction of the first dock, behind a 44 foot French, Swan design boat which had a beautiful bright red paint job (bet it goes faster than all the other boats because of its colour!) We drew up alongside and I was about to leap off on to the dock with the lines when a man appeared and caught them for me, tying us up to the rusting cleats. We very quickly got the power cord plugged in, unfortunately the power outlet is only 15 amps and we really need 30 amps to run the fridge, freezer, air conditioner and all the power outlets including the battery charger. Not to worry we could manage by alternating the running of the fridge and the air conditioner. The man who caught our lines introduced himself it turned out that this man was our agent – Enrique Plummer. We chatted for a while and handed over our passports and boat papers in order for him to clear us Panama and organize the transit through the canal. It seems like there is a mountain of paperwork attached to each transit and we are glad that Enrique is doing it for us. When we asked about the admeasurer Enrique told us that there was only one working and he was snowed under but he would definitely get us done in the morning BUT we needed to go back out to the flats to anchor so that the admeasurer could do all the boats out there at the same time – it was a small inconvenience. Once we had asked our questions about the paperwork and Enrique had taken our passports away to get the visa stamps (he was going to take them to Panama City rather than the Colon office as it was apparently less traumatic to do so – Colon officers want to physically see the passport owners whereas the Panama City office doesn’t), Gerry and I made our way to the Yacht club bar for lunch. There is a Chinese cook there and he does a good chow mien, it’s much better than his regular meat and vegetable meals. There were a couple of “art and craft” vendors plying their wares in the yacht club, I was keen to buy a couple more of the Brazilian style embroidery pieces, having already brought a few in Colombia I wanted to add to the collection however when I asked they wanted $20 a piece – that was $13 more expensive than the ones I bought in Colombia and I wasn’t sure I could justify the extra dollars. Once we had finished lunch we returned to the boat for an afternoon of scrubbing the decks and then, once the scrubbing was done, watching the rain descend in bucket loads! We had been invited to a 50th birthday bash for an Australian guy on one of the other boats in the Marina, so at the appointed hour we made our way to the bar, bought a drink and joined the smallish group of Antipodeans who were getting stuck into the stories of their sailing (or their beer). There were about 20 of us and after a few beers we all adjourned to the dinning room where someone had arranged for a meal to be served (it turned out to be more Chinese!), along with various bottles of wine and finally birthday cake. As the evening went on, and the antipodean crowd became more lubricated (that’s drunk by any measure), the noise level rose and the jokes and lies became bawdier. Suddenly one of the older gentlemen stood up and offered to entertain us with some “Australian flavour Poetry”, he then proceeded to recite his version of “The Bastard from the bush”, I can’t remember when I last heard so many swear words in a poem or laughed so much at a recitation!. This rendition was closely followed by a Maori “welcome song” sung by a New Zealand school teacher who could just about stand up without falling over. The evening degenerated from there on in, the birthday boy kept pointing his cam corder at everyone throughout the evening – I’m sure it’s a birthday he won’t forget in a hurry!
As we listened and laughed along we wondered what Dale and Lorie would have made of this gathering – it was very typically Australian with the exception that the men weren’t at one end of the room whilst the women were at the other. It was bawdy, loud, funny interesting and entertaining, made up of Australians (plus a couple of blow in Kiwis, Pomes and a Yarpie) of all walks of life with one thing in common – we are all nuts – oh no that wasn’t it – we are all on sail boats stuck in Panama! A good time was had by all and we went back to our boat home having met some new and interesting people.There is one thing to say about the dock and that is every time a large boat goes through the channel into the canal it sets up a wake which rocks the boats in the marina quite violently, we didn’t notice the motion when we were out at anchor on the flats but in the marina the motion is quite bad and we needed to have all our fenders out to stop the boat from hitting the dock and causing damage (to the boat – the dock is beyond the damaged point!). We spent the night in air conditioned luxury. Gerry’s sore throat and cold necessitated taking medication prior to going to bed, along with the alcohol he had consumed it made sure that he slept like a log. Happily my sore throat hasn’t developed into anything worse and I’m trying not to share Gerry’s “boy germs”.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Sunday 20th May

Colon,
Panama.

9 20.716 N
79 54.555 W

Many happy returns of the day Phil, do what ever makes you happy!

Another day at anchor and it started to rain early on in the day. It became very hot and humid and then it rained some more, in fact all day long it alternated between hot and rainy, it was no fun as it meant we kept opening and closing the hatches, trying to keep things dry. It was so humid that we sat around naked for most of the day (no don’t let your imagination do the graphics!) We read books and chatted but didn’t do much else. Gerry suggested going to the yacht club for dinner but I said that we should use up the fish in the freezer which we did – it was far better than the fish I had at the yacht club the previous night. We learnt that the admeasurer was going to be coming out to our boat to measure it on Monday morning between 09.00hrs and 12.00hrs. This is the start of the process to get through the canal, once our boat has been measured we are assigned a number and transit date after which we wait until it is our turn. We then surround the boat with car tires to act as fenders, remove anything which may get broken, hire on 3 line handlers (one of us also has to be a line handler), take on a transit adviser and then if our turn isn’t postponed or cancelled we get to go through the canal.
All day long we watched as various boats made their way to the canal entrance which is less than half a mile from where we are at anchor. The traffic in both directions is endless and we have seen huge super cargo carriers go into the canal followed by small yachts – usually in a flotilla of 3 or 4. We won’t know until we have been measured how we will be transiting but judging from the amount of yachts waiting to transit I would imagine we will be going in a flotilla. The canal has cameras set up along the locks and they record boats going through, you can watch this progression on your computer at:
www. pancanal.com/eng/photp/camera-java.html
I’m hoping that some one will record our passage through the canal so we can watch it at a later date from a different view point than the one will have at the time – any volunteers out there? I will of course be letting everyone know by email the exact date of our transit when we know it! For those of you who like facts and figures here are a few on the canal.
The canal is 50 miles long from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean.
It runs from northwest to southeast with the Atlantic entrance being 33.5 miles north and 27 miles west of the Pacific entrance.
The sea level section of the canal on the Atlantic side is 6.5miles long. This section of channel is 500 feet wide.
Ships are raised or lowered 85 feet in a continuous flight of 3 steps at Gatun Locks.
Each lock chamber is 110 feet wide and 1000 feet long.
The length of Gatun Locks including the two approach walls is 1.2 miles.
After traversing the Gatun locks there is a 23.5 mile passage through Gatun Lake to the north end of Gaillard cut. The lake covers an area of 163.38 square miles.
Gaillard cut is 8 miles long.
At the south end of Gaillard cut ships enter the 5/6 mile long Pedro Miguel Locks and are lowered 31 feet to the 1 mile wide Miraflores lake.
The 2 step Miraflores locks follow and are a little over 1 mile long, lowering the ships back down to sea level on the Pacific side.
At the end of the day the wind began to kick in and we had to anchor watch for a while to make sure we weren’t going to drift – we are anchored in 40 feet of watch and we have every inch of our chain out, Luckily the wind died and we didn’t move so we ended up having a good night.

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Saturday 19th May

Colon,
Panama.

9 20.716 N
79 54.555 W

We woke after a good night sleep feeling refreshed and ready to begin the checking in process. Gerry had to go to do the checking in stuff by him self whilst I had to wait on board for him to return. Of course it was Saturday so everything ground to a rapid halt. Gerry wasn’t able to check us in but he let our agent know that we had arrived and were ready for the canal passage whenever it could be arranged. Once Gerry returned to the boat we collected up the leads for the computer and then headed into the Yacht club / marina to register our laptop for internet access. Once it was registered we checked our email and I loaded a couple of day’s worth of blog notes and photos. Gerry got bored waiting for me to do it so he suggested that we have lunch and take the computer over to the dinning room table and finish my blogging there. Of course once we got to the dinning room tables we noticed the huge signs which say "No computers at the tables”. I packed it away and we had lunch and then made our way back out to our boat in the anchorage. Gerry had organized for us to go into the Marina as soon as there was a space – we would be waiting until Monday for this to happen. Our afternoon was spent relaxing reading books and tidying up some of the mess we had made during the transit. We decided to go ashore for dinner, again at the yacht club/ marina where the food isn’t terribly exciting but it is very cheap. We chatted with an elderly American man in the dinning room about Panama and his life here, he has warned us to be very careful here as the unemployment rate is around 45% and the crime rate reflects that. I think the name of the place – Colon, is very apt from what I can tell. Anyway after a pleasant evening we dinked back out to the boat for the night.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Friday 18th May

Colon,
Panama.

9 20.716 N
79 54.555 W

The good news from overnight was that there was an off shore breeze – enough to be able to fly both the main and the jib and turn the engine off for a while, saving a bit of fuel. The night was pretty uneventful with only a couple of ships passing by. Gerry came up from one of his sleeps and complained of a sore throat, I would have been sympathetic if I’d had the energy but I still felt pretty yuk myself – I think he just wanted to keep me company in my misery! By heading in towards land we skirted the San Blas Islands during the night, apparently they are great cruising grounds but we were just glad to have the power to get us past them. At sun rise I was on watch – the sun tried to appear but it was well hidden behind the clouds, Gerry appeared and said he was feeling a bit better, I too felt as if my throat and the sweats were getting better, hopefully the pair of us are over the worst of it. We sailed, motor sailed or motored depending on the wind direction at various times during the day. At no time was the wind over 12 knots, it made for a slow passage but we knew now that we had enough fuel to last us till Panama even if we did end up having to motor all the way. We watched the coast line of Panama pass by, both of us commenting on the smell of wet jungle that seemed to come from the shore. The sky clouded over and became quite black as the day progressed, we thought we were going to be on for some huge showers but they never eventuated. The coast line of Panama slipped by mostly hidden in cloud but we could see the outline of the mountains with the clouds hanging between them – a pretty sight. As the afternoon began to lengthen into evening we were suddenly noticing that we were surrounded by very large container ships – I had been expecting them much soon than this. Within the last 2 hours of our trip we were passed by a good number of them, either on their way to or from the canal, these great monster carriers dwarfed us and I was very glad we were doing this last stretch in daylight hours, I wouldn’t have wanted to be dodging them in the dark! At last the buoys marking the entrance to the docks and canal came into sight, there were at least 20 large cargo ships anchored outside the area and we passed them all, motoring into the East entrance of the port where we hailed the canal signal station for directions for anchoring. We had apparently used the wrong entrance – we were supposed to use the West entrance but the guide never said that and to be honest I can’t see what difference it made – we weren’t a huge container boat! Anyway we were directed to the anchoring area where we dropped the hook in 32 feet of water. Q flag flying, we made ourselves comfortable; ate dinner, showered and went to bed. The trip was over and we still had at least 20 gallons of fuel left – all that worry was for nothing.

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Thursday 17th May

At sea

9 55.806 N
78 00.037 W (at midday)

The day dawned, again overcast but the lightening had ceased thank goodness. The wind was still pathetic at 5 knots on the beam with sea swell of 6 – 8 foot but at quite long intervals. We continued to motor, putting up and taking down sails all day, depending on the moment, it wasn’t good sailing weather but it wasn’t bad weather either so we didn’t complain too loudly. Just as we were resorting to a game of “I Spy” out of boredom, Gerry noticed a couple of dolphins swimming alongside us; I grabbed the camera and took off towards the bow to see if I could get pictures of them. As I got up front, a whole load more appeared and I watched, fascinated as they rode the bow wave, leaping and diving across the front of the boat and racing along side us. I couldn’t believe how many there were, I called Gerry to come up front and watch as they were having a ball playing in the water beside us, we were doing 5 knots at the time and for the next 15 minutes or so they kept up with us – boy can they swim! There must have been about 25 – 30 of them in this pod including some young (presumably, as they were small) ones, they all had taupe top sides with white underbellies – I guess they are a certain species of dolphin. After a while they began to drop off and we returned to the cockpit and our books. Within half an hour we were joined by another(?) pod, these were large dolphins, again taupe and white, but there were only about 10 of them this time; again they had fun chasing the bow wave, leaping and racing alongside us, they were a joy to watch and livened an otherwise boring day. As we continued on in flat calm water we suddenly noticed that there was a lot of drift wood in the water and it wasn’t just small pieces, it was huge great tree trunks, we were very watchful and managed to avoid hitting any of them and just as quickly as they had appeared, they went. We were miles from any land at the time and wondered just how many other logs we don’t see as they are hidden by the waves. As the light began to fade we began to notice that there were fish leaping out of the water all around us. At first I thought I was imagining them but Gerry said he was seeing them on his side of the boat too. They were good sized tuna from what we could tell and we were convinced that something big had to be chasing them but we never saw anything except them. If we had a fishing net we could have scooped them out of the water and had ourselves dinner for the next week, as it was we didn’t even have a line in the water at the time as I still didn’t feel very well and couldn’t be bothered to try and catch fish. Just before night closed in around us the wind came around on the nose (bet that none of you are surprised by that!) and we knew we wouldn’t be sailing for the rest of the way if it remained there. Gerry began to worry about the amount of fuel we had left and tried to gauge how much more we would use in getting to Panama if we had to motor all the way, the bad news was that we began to loose speed as the current seemed to be pushing against us now as well as the wind. We got down to 3 knots and Gerry decided that we should head inshore a bit in the hope that there might be an off shore breeze overnight and we might be able to at least put up the jib to help us along. As the watches for the night began we wondered if we would make Panama before the weekend.

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Wednesday 16th May

At sea

10 24.735 N
75 32.607 W

Gerry got up early, whilst I lay in bed pretending to still be asleep, I had woken with a sore throat, head ache and the sweats – not a good way to begin a passage. He secured the outboard motor to its stand and hauled the dinghy up onto the foredeck and tied it down, then I heard him talking to Terry and Roger our nearest neighbours, they had come by to wish us a good trip – it was time for me to get out of bed! We finished securing the stuff that moves when we get underway and then it was time for us to leave Cartagena and head to Panama. We upped anchor at 08.00hrs and began motoring out of the harbour. The day was overcast and muggy again and we were the only boat on the move, it was a very quiet leaving, we would have liked to have spent more time here but we were glad to have had at least the time we did. We managed to hear the cruisers net as we made our way out of the place – someone new had picked up the ball from where the previous lady had left it 2 days ago! Overnight there were 5 new boats in the place – it strikes us that each harbour has a boat exchange program going on – Miss Cath. and us leaving today, Lioness, Neos, Calypso and Second wind leaving tomorrow in exchange for the new arrivals overnight. We cleared the wall with its 11foot depth clearance and set our auto pilot on course for Panama. The wind was non existent and we motored on a flat calm sea at the beginning of the trip. We were about 4.5 miles out from the harbor when we suddenly had a hitchhiker join us; a little bird flew onto the jib sheets and made its self at home. We couldn’t work out where it had flown from as we were nowhere near land. I expected it to take off again pretty quickly but it stayed and found itself a perch on the radar. As we got further and further out from land we began to worry that it would die on us from lack of food and water so I threw some bread out on deck for it and placed a container of water out incase it wanted a drink, it was beginning to look like it was going to accompany us to Panama. Gerry finally though there might be enough wind to put up the sails – ever hopeful, it didn’t do a great deal for our speed but he persisted. A couple of hours further on and the bird was still with us and beginning to chirp for some unknown reason – maybe in reply to the squeak coming from the boom as it moved. A large container ship was about a mile off of our port side and all of a sudden the bird went, we think it must have hitched a ride on the container ship – it was still going to end up in Panama but it would get there a lot quicker than we would. The winds continued to be light and variable for the rest of the day; we motor sailed when we could and just motored when it became impossible to fly a sail. Night time approached and we began watches – mostly to see how close a container ship would get to us during the night, Gerry and I both had one at ½ a mile off our side – mine to port and Gerry’s to starboard. The sky was lit by lightening all night, it was quite a show but as many of you know I’m not keen on being on a boat with lightening flashing around me, there are too many metal things poking up that it could hit! Needless to say it didn’t hit us and we made progress through the night albeit slow progress as the little bit of wind that we got came at us from every direction imaginable. Whilst I managed to do my share of the watches I can’t say I was too alert, I felt like the sore throat and headache, accompanied by horrendous sweats were knocking me sideways and the tablets I had taken to help me feel better were good for sending me to sleep – keeping awake was a priority on watch!

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Tuesday 15th May

Cartagena

10 24.735 N
75 32.607 W

Today was to be our last day in Cartagena. Gerry took off early in the morning to go and collect our purchases from the old city that would be ready this morning. I rounded up the last of the laundry and bagged it up ready to hit the Laundromat when he returned. Almost as soon as Gerry reappeared he jumped back in the dink and headed into the dock where he handed in the laundry, collected our passports from the agent and then went to pay our bill at the club. Whilst Gerry was away doing the “important stuff” I began cooking up some ready to eat meals plus some salads to have ready for the trip, it’s much easier on me to have some things ready to eat than to try and cook if we are rolling around or pitching badly. By the time all these things were sorted out it was early afternoon and we still hadn’t had any lunch, Gerry thought I needed a break from the kitchen so he suggested that we go in the supermarket and get something to eat in the café there, I wasn’t going to say no and we took off in the dink for the dock. The supermarket is just a short distance to walk and we were soon picking out some rolls and a drink. Incase I haven’t mentioned it before the supermarket is excellent; it has almost everything that you need including an ATM inside the store. We took out some cash and proceeded to fill a shopping basket with a few essential supplies, there would have been a whole lot more except Gerry pointed out that it was now 10 minutes before 15.00hrs and we were meant to be meeting the guy who had made our new cushion covers at 15.00hrs at the club so I had to curtail my shopping spree. We quickly paid and made our way back to the club where we found the guy waiting for us – he was on time for a change! The cushion covers were done and we were quite pleased with them even though they weren’t the colour we had originally wanted. We paid the residual on the agreed price and Gerry took off out to our boat with the cushions and the shopping, returning a short while later with the computer – he wanted to check out the weather for the millionth time! I stayed at the club and chatted to a few of our neighbours until he returned. Once Gerry had checked out the weather (it was still good to go in the morning), we returned to our boat to finish bagging up the pre cooked meals and to pack away our freshly laundered clothing. We decided to join the rest of the crews for a last dinner in the club before saying good bye to them and heading out to our boat for the night. We weren’t leaving too early in the morning so we just hoisted the dink onto the davits for the night; the tying down of everything would be done the next morning.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Monday 14th May

Cartagena

10 24.735 N
75 32.607 W



It was a calm night thank goodness and we woke to a sunny day. Once we had run the generator to top up the batteries, added a container of water to the water tank, collected up all the laundry (I wanted the covers from the sofas in the salon washing as they were sticky with salt and humidity), gathered our computers up to take ashore we dinked in to the dock. Gerry got rid of our trash and too the laundry to the ladies who do it whilst I set up the computers, we had been getting very low speed connections which wasn’t right and we were trying to figure out why and what we could do about it. Once we had the internet connection established Gerry spoke to the club manager about the speed, we found that we could get good speed on one computer but not the other. This was the first time we have had such a problem and the computer that we normally use was the one with the low speed – not good but at least I could use the other one to do my blog stuff and emails. The problem appears to be with the club and not our computer as several other people are having the same problem, not that it helps us but at least we know! I added some photos to the blog site for the past week – sorry they are a bit grey but that’s how the sky has been! Once I had done my computer stuff Gerry took the computers back out to the boat and collected our passports to give to the agent so that we could get clearance to leave (he needs them for 48hrs prior to us leaving here). Once we had off loaded our passports it was time to strike out for the old city. We walked along the harbour road and over the bridge into the old city, it was a fair distance and the sun was extremely hot; by the time we reached the city walls we were drenched in perspiration. We passed through the gates in the outer wall and began to meander through the streets. It is quite picturesque with ancient buildings which open up into courtyards. A lot of the buildings have been turned into shops, bars and cafes. We made our way to the Cathedral which is near the Parque de Boliver, and went inside for a look. We were accosted by a tour guide who for $10 offered to give us a personal tour of the cathedral, the Palacio de al Inquiscion, the gold museum and the surrounding places of historical interest. We agreed and set off with him. All through the tour he told us of the history of the place and pointed out various items of interest, he was worth the money. Unfortunately the gold museum was closed for the day (apparently only on Mondays!) so we didn’t get to see that but I figure we already know a fair bit about gold from Gerry’s work so maybe it wasn’t such a loss. At the very end of the tour he deposited us in an Emerald Factory store where we browsed and learnt about Colombian Emeralds. After that we were left to our own devises and first stop was to find somewhere to have a cold drink and something to eat. We found it quite expensive to eat in the old city but we were beyond caring at that point – any food and drink would have worked! Once refreshed we wandered around by ourselves for a while, making our way to the museum of Modern art (the sculptures outside captivated me but the “fine art” inside left me wondering what anyone sees in it). We then wandered to the Maritime museum but unfortunately the “Monday closing” seemed to be operating here as well even though it didn’t say so on the hours of opening sign, disappointed we made our way back to the city entrance where the horse drawn buggies were beginning to gather in preparation for the evening tourist trade. We were quite foot weary by now and decided to head home, the walk back seemed to go on forever but we made it, collecting our laundry as we passed through the marina on the way to our boat. Whilst we were gone a new boat had come and anchored between us and our nearest neighbour, the neighbour had already spoken to the new arrival about how close he was to both of our boats and the probability of a disaster if we have another squall like yesterday’s but the new arrival was apparently very “off hand” and uncaring about anyone else. Our biggest concern is that he appears to have dropped his anchor over the top of ours and if the wind changes direction and we swing we will probably hit him, let’s hope it stays in the same direction until we leave here on Wednesday. Back on board it was time to cool off and relax before having a shower and going into the club for dinner.

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