Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tuesday 22nd May


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



Post a Comment

<< Home