After two months in Costa Rica we have transited the Panama Canal. Costa Rica to us was disappointing when compared to the other Latin American Countries. The country is much more expensive and we did not find the people nearly as friendly as in the other countries. The paper work checking in and moving about the country was a real pain. I estimate we wasted 6 to 8 days chasing after port captains, immigration and custom officers.We did see some different species of monkeys the highlight of my stay in Costa Rica, not really. We did meet some good people in Golfito where we had a great time and would liked to have stayed longer.
Mary’s brother Joe joined us in Golfito for the trip to Panama. The sail from Costa Rica to Panama is an overnight trip. The weather forecast was for fair winds but that did not materialize instead we had a very slow and rough trip across the Gulf of Panama, around 2 AM we got caught up in a fishing net but, somehow, it untangled itself and floated away as we were complicating our dilemma. We were surprised and very pleased.
We checked into Panama ( more paper ) and stayed at La Playita Marina for a week as we arranged for our transit through the canal. We hired an agent to handle the paper work and arrange two line handlers. The process involved an inspection of the boat after which we were given a number and an estimated date and time for the transit. On the morning of the transit the canal authority deliver an “advisor” to our boat by means of a tug. At 7:30 with our two line handlers and advisor we left the marina for the entrance to the first set of locks 7 miles away passing under the Bridge of Americas.
As we neared the lock we were informed we would be rafting up to another sailboat which would be rafted to a tug that was being used to maneuver the huge ship that was in the lock with us. Rafting to the other sailboat was a bit unnerving as the line handlers on the other boat were not experienced boat people and kept missing lines being thrown to them or failing to secure them properly when they did. We did this three times as we went through the three locks taking us up the 85 feet to the 22 mile channel across Gatune Lake at the end of which we anchored for the night in sight of the locks that would take us down to the Atlantic in the morning. The line handlers stayed on board, the advisor went ashore.
The next morning we get a new advisor and head for the locks. This time we are in front of the massive ship but again tied to the other sailboat and tug. You can see from the photos these ships are built to just fit through the locks having 2 feet of clearance on each side. As you watch them approach from behind it is a little intimidating to say the least. In a hour we are dropped 90 feet down and into the Atlantic ocean.
For me the canal was very impressive realizing that this was built over one hundred years ago, first stated by the French and finished by the US after the French company went broke. The amount of material moved is beyond comprehension. For a brief history check the link http://www.history.com/topics/panama-canal
We are in the marina at Shelter Bay near the city of Colon, where we will leave the boat for the summer. ‘We plan to return to Newfoundland and continue out travels around out beautiful province.