After a month and a half in Shelter Bay Marina for new bottom paint and forward hatch, we made our Panama Canal transit to the Pacific side on Dec. 15. Our good friends from Mammoth Lakes, CA Bev and Bret Bihler came with us as line handlers stayed for an additional 10 days. The weather continued to be cloudy and rainy but the transit itself was very interesting.
Voyager ready for the canal transit
Although we had scheduled to make an afternoon transit, things were changed after the pilot came aboard and we were delayed to almost 9pm before we were into the first lock. There was a large container ship ahead of us that had alot of trouble despite using 3 tugs to get lined up properly for the first Gatun lock which delayed us further. We had the option of side tying to a tug or going center chamber by ourselves. Joining the tug seemed easier as only 2 line handlers one bow and one stern had jobs. It was a good choice as the turbulence when the container ship started up made steerage a challenge.
Torm Regina trying to get aligned
Voyager coming into the Gatun lock
Byron was on the helm as usual, the Pilot(Jose) was telling him where in the canal to go, Bret and Bev were on the bow and I was on the stern with the son of our canal transit agent who had made many transits. In the Gatum locks we were moved up 84 ft in three separate lock steps. The lights were bright so vision was not a problem. We went through the 3 locks that night and reached our anchorage area in Gatun Lake around 10:30pm. The pilot was picked up and everyone went to bed.
tied to the tug Sajalices
tug captain talking to our pilot
locks closed behind us and water flooding in
yours truely and the pilot- Bret was taking most of the pictures
electric locomotive tow for large ships
entering next lock, our tug is on the left. We had to release our lines to the tug between each of the 3 locks.
Jose and Byron
Voyager's Captain and First Mate
this shows the flooded lock we are in and the one we just came from behind us
last lock for the night and turbulance as Torm Regina leaves
The next morning a new pilot (also named Jose) arrived at 6:30am and we were immediately underway. We traversed the lake and entered Miraflores locks. Here we went down 84 feet to the Pacific also in 3 separate locks. Going down we went center chamber by ourselves and down was easier than up. We finished and had our anchor down in the anchorage area outside of Las Brisas Marina by 2pm.
grey day and rain as we make our way to the Miraflores locks
passing large car carrier
Centenial Bridge and another car carrier
entering Miraflores locks #1 with Bret and Bev on the bow
lock closed behind the small tourist boat behind us
our line handler James as water is evacuated from the lock
water evacuated and locks opening
canal worker attaching our line
this shows the depth of the drop in the water level
Bev hard at work
ready to leave last Miraflores lock
Bev at the end of the trip
Jose, our second pilot before leaving
Panama City skyline
We rested the next day-the weather was raining all day but Sunday we took a tour with a taxi driver to Panama Vieja-the original city of Panama that the pirate Henry Morgan burned down, Casco Viejo- the city replacing Panama Vieja, the supermarket to reprovision and back. On Monday, we traveled a short distance to Isla Taboga, about 8 miles from Panama City. It is a very popular spot for Panamanians. Many small hotels and houses but very few restaurants and only 1 small grocery store. The water was clean but there were constant small water taxis and ferries speeding through the anchorage which made it uncomfortable for swimming off the boat.
church that anchors the town square in Panama Vieja
photo shoot in the plaza
Panamanian Christmas decorations- one of many decorated buildings
traditional Kuna woman and her modern friend
shrines on Taboga
house decorated for Christmas
Next we went to visit the Las Perlas islands about 6hrs further west. On the way I caught 2 Dorado and we saw many bait balls. Finally there are fish to catch!
We stayed a day at Isla Contadora where we encountered new parrot fish, different angel fish and wrasses and where small sting rays were jumping out of the water across a wide field of vision. BIG FISH TOO!! The water was 83 degrees but definitely colder than in the Caribbean. After a morning snorkel we are now on our way to Isla Del Rey and the island of Isla Canas just off shore. December 24th found us looking for a calm anchorage. The south swell made us roll Off Isla Canas, Rio Cacique anchorage and Punta Cocoa anchorage. We went to Rio Cacique because the cruising guide said you could take the dinghy up the river but there was a full break of white water across the opening the day we were there. This morning we left Punta Cocoa for Isla Viveros which is protected from the north wind but not much from the southern swell. We left the next morning Christmas Day looking for a calm spot to cook our Christmas dinner. We were transiting a pass between Mogo Mogo and Casaya at low tide( so we could see the rocks) when we hit uncharted or mischarted rocks and bent our propeller. No damage anywhere else but that was enough as we could barely make half speed due to the tremendous vibration created by the prop damage. We opted to return to Isla Contadora anchorage because we trusted our anchorage spot there and the 27th we make our way back to the Las Brisas anchorage under main and auxilliary engines. We thought we could get hauled out in Flamenco Marina but they do not have a lift that will pull more than 50 tons. Now we have divers scheduled for next week to remove the prop for repair. We just hope the shaft was not bent because we need to haul to check that.