Friday we departed Shelter Bay Marina and transited three locks of the Panama Canal up to Gatun Lake where Interlude anchored for the night (9d15.57'N, 79d54.94'W, 50 ft). Yachts under 125 ft are no longer allowed to transit all the way thru in one day. Our pilot came aboard where we were stationed in the 'Foxtrot' anchorage AKA 'The Flats' at 1645 local and we transited after dark in the well lit canal anchoring at 2020. There was some finagling to allow us to go center chamber and not be rafted with other boats but our Pilot managed to arrange it. We were going to be side tied to an ACP tug but the tug only had one mooring line tying it to the wall and would not take us. So at the last minute on our first lock we had to tie to the wall ourselves behind the tug. There were no Canal workers on the other side wall to take our lines to hold us center chamber. The wall is nasty concrete and there was tremendous turbulence as the lake water filled the lock to raise the ships. We
managed to avoid any damage but it was not pretty. They did have some guys for us so we could go center chamber for the next two locks.
On Saturday our new pilot came aboard at 0800 (1 hr late) and we motored across Gatun Lake at 10 kn to make our 1045 time slot at the Pedro Miguel lock. We had a nice ride down to sea level in all three locks tied center chamber with only two other small vessels in the locks with us. We were thru by 1240 and the pilot was picked up shortly thereafter. Dropping off our crew and 12 supplemental tire fenders was easy at the Balboa Yacht Club using their water taxi (VHF 6 with a phone call ahead by our agent Tina McBride). Our line handler crew was a couple from another yacht in the marina, a 15 year old cruiser kid who had been thru the canal twice already and a 30 year old Estonian traveler with sailing experience in the med who has been driving his car all thru the Americas and now wants to crew on a yacht going across the Pacific. Having a yacht savvy crew as opposed to professional line handlers may have saved our new paint job.
Breaking up the transit into two days is not really a bad thing. The break on the Lake was welcome and being thru by midday gave us time to find a good spot to anchor and clean up. We are now anchored at the entrance to the Canal at La Playita de Amador (8d54.47'N, 79d31.49'W, 30 ft). The tides on this side can be over 20 ft (compared to 3 ft on the Atlantic side) so we have to be careful.
We already have our clearance papers so Costa Rica here we come!
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