Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean… The Panama Canal and beyond

IMG_1388

No sooner had we arrived in Panama, the boat was pulled from the water so we could knock off some things on the “To Do” List. As we were waiting for crew to arrive in a couple weeks, we decided to do all the work ourselves to save a few bucks.

P3290823_thumb4

The antifouling paint was due. Repainting the hull of a boat may sound fun, but its infinity shitter than painting your bedroom ceiling.

P3290836_thumb4

After a quick high pressure wash and while the boat was still in the slings, I dropped the rudder bolts from up top while Ollie and the boys from the yard pulled them out. There was a bit of play in the bearings so wanted to check everything was OK.

IMG_0961_thumb4

We turned our attention immediately to the paint, Ollie and I in our sperm suits sanding back the bottom.

P4020841_thumb3

These next 3 shots, are for my fellow construction workers out there. This is A grade, safety meeting material. Can’t reach?, tie a ladder to the bucket.

P4020844_thumb3

This is a workplace health and safety officers wet dream. If you did this in Australia they’d probably throw you in jail.

P4020846_thumb3

Now in his defence he was wearing a harness, but failed to clip either of the lanyards on.

IMG_0963_thumb3

After a few days, fresh paint and the boat is looking fast

P4030851_thumb2

In 4 days we managed to sand back the bottom, reprime, slap a couple of coats on. As well as replace the rudder bearings, replace the prop blades, restock Diesel, Fuel, Gas. Plus a million other small jobs

P4040867_thumb2

That night was Carls 22nd Birthday Party. Carl is from Sweden and is sailing wherever the wind blows him in his 27ft Monohull. We gave Carl a trophy for his birthday, as you can see, Carl was magotted

P4050882_thumb2

The next day we decided to get out of the expensive Marina for a few days and head up Rio Chagres. Ollie was a bit worse for wear

IMG_0978_thumb2

Crossing the River bar at the entrance wasn’t difficult. The Chagres River is the river they dammed to make the Panama Canal possible

IMG_6120_thumb2

From the entrance it is navigable about 10 miles upstream all the way to the dam wall.

IMG_0993_thumb2

All day the monkeys come down the waters edge to check us out. However tempting them with a banana from a yellow kayak didn’t bring them any closer.

P4060913_thumb1

It was a new experience taking a boat up a jungle river, giving a nice break from white sand beaches.

P4050887_thumb1

Trev exploring the estuaries looking for sloths

IMG_6124_thumb1

The Dam level is low at the moment, so the hydro plant wasn’t running. This allowed us to dinghy right up beside it, and walk up the dam.

IMG_6131

Wouldn’t want to be standing here when it’s in full flood, or anchored anywhere in the river either

IMG_6159

We looked high and low for sloths, but when we actually figured out what trees to look in we spotted quite a few

IMG_6162

This guy was just near the boat, only 5 metres from the waters edge.

P4070918

The eternal hunt for the perfect piece of Bamboo for a spinnaker pole takes me on wild hunts along deserted beaches. Instead I found a new Yacht, ready for a new owner to sail away.

P4070928

The V berth needs a good vacuum and she’s good to go

IMG_6175

The last day we anchored the boat at the mouth of the river and walked up to San Lorenzo fort

IMG_6181

We’re not sure about the who, what, when or why about this place. So lets just pretend it was built by Sloths as a place to meet and make out.

IMG_6176

Cowabunga on anchor. We had the entire river to ourselves, sharing it with the odd local fisherman

P4090947

Back in Colon, it was time to do our major provision, for what should last us the best part of 6 months. 100’s of tins of Tomatoes, mushrooms and veg. Not to mention another 30 litres of Rum and 10 cartons of beer.

P4090949

Chook had just flown in from Gladstone to sail with us for a few months to Tahiti. We put him straight to work…

P4110009

My Padre Rossco had also flown in to do the Canal transit and sail with us as far as Galapagos.

P4120013

The search for Bamboo finally came to an end, we stumbled across this little plantation during a jungle walk just hours before we were due to leave for the canal.

P4120015

After carefully selecting the straightest pieces, we cut them down and trimmed them up.

P4120018

Success!… New and improved spinnaker poles. Mark II and Mark III

DSCN1679

With extra fenders put in place, we cast lines off and headed across Limon Bay to pick up our advisor who acts as a pilot through the locks

DSCN1683

Miko and his girlfriend from Finland on their 28 foot boat also awaiting their advisor.

IMG_6209

While waiting for our transit slot, we watched ships of all shapes and sizes pass metres away from us

IMG_6207

Ships which are designed to squeeze into the 110 foot wide canal locks, are built with about 1 foot of room either side, they are know as PanaMax. They are easy to spot as they are always 13 containers wide.

DSCN1710

We waited for this guy to clear the locks before we rafted the 3 boats together

IMG_1054

Max our advisor talking it through with the others. We rafted in the middle of 2 boats. A 50 foot Monohull on one side, and a 28 foot on the other. They don’t use the engines whilst manoeuvring, that was all left up to us.

IMG_1049

Even though we were in the middle, we still had to control the lines on the Starboard side as the little boats cleats would of been ripped out of its hull.

IMG_1020

Safely into the first locks as the gates close behind us

IMG_1038

Chook controlling the lines as they fill the lock. The lines are put under huge loads as the mixing of the salt and fresh water causes turbulence

DSCN1729

For the first set of locks we were tucked behind a 550 foot ship

DSCN1723

Have a look at those 2 good looking blokes

DSCN1731

“I hope there’s CHICKS on the other side…”

IMG_1058

Ollie and Bucko watching on as we approach the last of the 3 Gatun Locks which take us up into Gatun LakeIMG_1063

The locks are celebrating 100 years of operation this year. In that time they have worked faultlessly, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

IMG_1067

This is the last leg for Ollie who has been with us for 4 1/2 months. He’s sailed about 2000nm through 14 countries and is now a veteran of the seas. Without him, we would of been fucked. He’s off to cruise the US before heading back home in a couple months.

IMG_1081

As the day draws to an end, we clear the last lock, un-raft from the other boats and tie up to a mooring ball in the lake for the night… celebrating over a few quiet bottles of rum

IMG_6240

The next morning we were all set to go at 7am, but the advisor didn’t show up until 930.

DSCN1747

The lake is some 26 metres above sea level. Even though they dammed and filled the lake 100 years ago, the trees stumps are still visible.

IMG_6243

They were holding their annual Kayak race from one end of the lake to the other. The wind was 20-25 knots which knocked up a bit of a swell. Most of the Kayaks we saw were upside down and being rescued. There were even some kayaks in the middle of the shipping channel with no kayakers to be seen…

P4130028

Its pretty tight going at times, with 950 foot ships passing only 50 feet away.

IMG_6257

We were only what felt like metres away from this propeller

IMG_1089

It was to much for Rossco who takes a Jackie Chan power nap in the salon

IMG_6270

Gaillard cut. The bulk of the canals excavation took place along this 14km section. Centenary Bridge in the background.

Fullscreen capture 2052014 122959 PM.bmp

Rafted up next to Cowabunga’s bigger brother while we wait for the other yacht to raft up on their other side

IMG_1118

For the trip down into the Pacific Ocean, we were on the outside this time and not in control of any manoeuvring

DSCN1788

The 3 locks down into the Pacific are split into two sets, The Pedro Miguel and the Miraflores locks.

DSCN1808

Looking down into Miraflores Lake

IMG_1120

Bucko easing the lines as the water level gently lowers

DSCN1806

The tourists flock in the thousands to Miraflores locks to watch the passing of the ships

photo (5)

Cowabunga the closest boat in the 3 boat raft… being dwarfed by the huge container ship in the lock next to us. Caitlin’s parents awake in the early hours back home watching us on the Miraflores webcam.

P4130048

For the trip down we had a 750 foot ship behind us, which left little room for us in front

IMG_1140

One lock to go… to give us, and the boat, our first look at the Pacific Ocean.

IMG_1147

And here we are, the Bridge of Americas marks the end of the Transit from one Ocean to another. When you consider the alternative (Cape Horn), this is a much easier option.

P4140071

We picked up a mooring at Balboa Yacht club for a few days, to do some last minute shopping, provisioning and partying. This is where we said farewell to Ollie…

P4170081

… and welcome to Horse, who had just flown in from Brisbane.

P4170953

We motored 10 miles off from Panama to Taboga Island so everyone could settle in, throw the fris, and await some wind which would help us on our journey to the Galapagos. We didn’t wait long, as a good northerly was brewing.

P4170083

We set off the next day, motor sailing. First fish of the Pacific was less than impressive. But a good sign of things to come

IMG_1154

Rossco was given the rights to first big fish on the rod, and it wasn’t long before the reel was fizzing. Note the 500m of 60lb line missing off the spool meaning there was work to be done. The sailfish put on an epic display launching itself out of the water.

IMG_1157

After a solid hitout, we got the fish to the boat. Pulled the hook, and swam him for a while before he swum off into the depths. Sailfish are the fastest thing in the ocean, being clocked at 110km/hr. Faster than a gammin Cheetah.

P4170090

Best estimates as to its size was about 1 and half of me. So we called it an even 9 foot, or 2.7m. They grow to about 3m at 100kg.

IMG_1160

4 birds sitting on a steel drum?

Fullscreen capture 2052014 11238 PM.bmp

Surprisingly, we sailed for most of the first 2 days. With spinnaker pole Mark II in action and plenty of current under toe, we were averaging 7.5 knots.

Fullscreen capture 2052014 11445 PM.bmp

Dolphins eye view

Fullscreen capture 2052014 11511 PM.bmp

Birds eye view with Bucko having a strenuous watch

IMG_1584

Problems in the engine room… The alternator bracket of the port engine sheered the two 8mm bolts which hold it to the engine block. Fucks me why, but we were down to one engine for the rest of trip as it was too difficult to fix at sea.

P4190963

It is 850nm as the crow fly’s from Panama to Galapagos, but travelling in a direct line is definitely not the fastest way. We headed south, to stay in favourable current and wind as far as Malpello Island. A Colombian Island which has a small military outpost of a few guys to ensure divers behave and fisherman stay away. Malpello marked the end of favourable current. For the next 5 days we pushed 1.5-2 knots of current. Killing 40nm a day… Painful

P4190111

Chook becoming accustomed to afternoon showers

P4190114

The things you see in the middle of the ocean. This floating tube had a net in-between it, and some sort of electronic transmitter broadcasting its position. We dragged the lures past it a couple times hoping to catch some fish, but no luck

P4190124

The LAST thing we expected to see was Orcas. Yes, Killer Whales, on the equator. There was no doubt as to what they where. There is plenty of doubt as to what the fuck they were doing there

Fullscreen capture 2052014 30258 PM.bmp

Terrible photo, but no mistaking them.

IMG_1165

Easter Sunday came and went, but the Easter bunny still managed to find us

IMG_1168

And Bucko cooked up some delicious hot cross buns

IMG_1188

Every afternoon, something would come and say g’day. A pod of Pilot whales hanging out with some dolphins

IMG_1211

End of day 5, as we near the equator

Fullscreen capture 2052014 125819 PM.bmp

And there it is 00 00’.000S. Marking our arrival into the southern hemisphere. Cruising along at 8.6 knots, pushing a tonne of current and 178nm left to go.

IMG_1223

We timed our crossing at a suitable time of 8AM. With rums in hand, we toasted to the gods and sacrificed some terrible 80% rum to Huey in hope of him getting angry and increasing the wind a little

P4240190

Still unimpressed… Lunch at least

IMG_1228

Chook AKA Captain Leadfoot was given some slippers so others could sleep below while he trudged above

P4230175

We wanted to make landfall during daylight hours, so making us of every possibility, the spinnaker was thrown up

P4230181

Bucko trimming on.

IMG_1229

It was only light, but we had enough angle to get the boat speed up

IMG_1235

7.5 knots of speed in only 9.5 knots apparent wind. Not bad from the big rig.

P4240208

Much more impressive… Horse… I mean the Albacore Tuna

P4240192

Sad face… Galapagos has got hardcore rules as to what you can have on board when you enter the country. Live plants are a big no no. So these chilli plants, which I have hand reared from seeds over the last 4 months, and were just starting to produce, had to go over the side… Booo

P4240193

Bon Voyage…

IMG_1241

Land sighted as we cruise along the coastline of San Cristobal, our first port of call in the Galapagos Islands

P4240218

We made it!!! Have a look at the size of Chooks right arm. After 7 days and 8 hours, we dropped anchor and cracked a bottle. We sailed over 1000nm through the water due to the amount of current we pushed, with an average speed of 5.7 knots. It was a very relaxing, steady trip. (Slow)

IMG_1388

For now we are enjoying the Galapagos, scoring some awesome waves while the Sea Lions watch over us and keep us amused. We will spend close to 3 weeks here, before setting off sometime mid-month on the 3000nm journey to French Polynesia. Taking some 16-21 days depending on wind.

One comment

  1. Sue Conway says:

    Hi Andy

    Thank you sooo much for your detailed and colourful descriptions of your trip. We feel like we are a part of it . . . and how amazing was that pic taken of Cowabunga off the webcam (amazing stuff). You all look so buff and tanned – all that hard work. She looked ‘sharp’ after the antifouling and paint job – well done!!

    I hope that my boy Horse (Chris!) is behaving himself . . .

    Love that photo of the two surfboards in the racks, with the seal on the beach – how cute.

    Wishing you a great time and thanks for giving Chris such a wonderful experience and passing on your knowledge.

    Lots of love
    Sue and Graham

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *