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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


Trev exploring the estuaries looking for sloths


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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.


Safely into the first locks as the gates close behind us


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


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


Have a look at those 2 good looking blokes


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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…


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


We were only what felt like metres away from this propeller


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


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


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


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


Looking down into Miraflores Lake


Bucko easing the lines as the water level gently lowers


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.


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


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


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.


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…


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


Chook becoming accustomed to afternoon showers


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


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.


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


And Bucko cooked up some delicious hot cross buns


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


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.


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


Still unimpressed… Lunch at least


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


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


Bucko trimming on.


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


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


Much more impressive… Horse… I mean the Albacore Tuna


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


Bon Voyage…


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


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)


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 *