Panama Canal


Canal Transit

29th to 30th April

Line Handlers – James, Carolyn, Gabriel, Steve
It’s been a stimulating fascinating fun rewarding and pretty tiring couple of days.

There are lots of well-written descriptions of the Panama Canal, the history, the engineering, its importance in economic and political terms, current statistics et al. (Just do a quick internet search to find it.) I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to go through with Henrietta.

First Adviser, Osualdo
Left Shelter Bay marina about midday on Saturday, with my ‘line-handlers’ Steve, Carolyn, James and Gabriel, anchored for a few hours below the first set of locks (Gatun) while awating our ‘adviser’ Osualdo. Then late afternoon, rafted three abreast with a catamaran in the middle, gently entered the first lock behind a red cargo ship. Shuffling slowly forwards and upwards, it was dark by the time we’d climbed the three giant lock chambers, each 1,000 ft long, to Gatun Lake, which is the vast man-made lake created by damming the Gatun River that stores the water for the locks. Overnight tied alongside a mega mooring buoy.

Dark by the time we’re up to Gatun LLake level
Next day, after sleepless night, (hot still sticky weather), a quick swim in the fresh water (crocodiles, so you don’t hang about), and breakfast, while we await a new ‘adviser’ (boats that stop for a night, like us, have one for the ‘up’ bit, another for crossing the Lake and going down.  There are now four yachts rafted alongside the buoy, and I count eight or nine nationalities represented. Everyone is excitable and chatty.

Then, with ‘adviser no 2’, the affable and informative Carlos, on board, we motor most of the day across Gatun Lake, stopping briefly alongside another mega mooring buoy for lunch in heavy rain. Arriving for the downward locks on Sunday afternoon, we lose the catamaran and raft instead with two other monohulls.

Then, lock down in front of a slinky white cruise ship called “Seven Seas Mariner” and, with another cruise ship, “Amsterdam”, dark blue, no rust) in the adjacent lock, there’s a fairly frantic  photographic orgy going on. We feel like film stars – ok for half an hour maximum. In case you think there are lots of cruise ships, there are not that many. These were the only two we saw amongst the steady stream of cargo vessels and tankers, all weekend. Perhaps they put all us leisure types together so we could have the photo orgy.

Bridge of the Americas ahead
Thank you to all my crew. Everyone was appreciative, knowledgable, interesting, polite and helpful beyond measure.  

My crew departing and taking hired lines and fenders
Now its Monday and aPublic Holiday in Panama – as it is in Britain. I’ve been to colourful market and have lots of oranges and onions and goodness knows what, and  I wobble and roll about on a mooring as ships, tugs and Panama speedy types motor earnestly back and forth. Time to go shopping again, post this update, have a look round Panama City, and decide where to sail next (or not). I’ll wait for more wind…..


5 thoughts on “Panama Canal

  1. Thanks, Mike. Really enjoyed your description of the transit; you’ll have had your heart in your mouth a few times, I’m sure. Will continue to follow your travels with considerable interest. Brilliant.


  2. Mike Thank you again for your interesting description of your canal journey. With so many ‘crew’ that looks to be an expensive experience. Seems they were quite a smiley lot so the shock of having so many on board should not have been too great. Did they all live aboard for the whole transit? Again quite disruptive and different from your usual lifestyle. You seem to have enjoyed the experience.

    Regards Richard



  3. Dear Michael

    Just been reading your description of going through the Panama Canal – it must be so fascinating and what an amazing time you are having! It all seems a far cry from life here! – look forward to catching up with you again soon – spoke to Margie last night and she sounded in good form.

    Love Julia


  4. Congratulations on your new destination Mike. It made my birthday to hear your ansaphone message. Sent email via Garmin but not sure if it sent, hence this message.
    Speak soon. Love Margie X


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