Cruising with Soggy Paws
Soggy Paws is a 44' CSY Sailboat. In 2007, we set sail on a 10 year around the world cruise.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Panama Canal Transit - Day 1 Recap
The transit wasn't very hard. We had good advisors on both legs (the evening lock up, and the next morning lock down). They both spoke good english, knew what they were doing, and knew enough about small boats to understand the situation. Dave is really good at driving Soggy Paws, so everyone was pretty calm.

Getting Ready to Leave Panama Canal Yacht Club

On the lock up, we were supposed to 'side tie' to another vessel. That's what Dave requested when we scheduled our lockage, and that's what the plan was when the Advisor got on board. He even pointed out the boat we were going to tie up to (the Islamorada, see pics in another post)

Our Advisor Comes Aboard Near The Flats

But as we were getting lined up for the first lock, he said the plan had changed. It was something about that it was not safe to have 3 small boats AND a big boat in the locks at the same time. And we were the last guy/smallest boat. So we got bumped to the other lock (there are 2 locks side by side) doing what's called 'center chamber', behind a big ship. (They always put the small boats behind on the up-locking and the small boats in front on the down-locking).

Waiting Our Turn To Go In

The reason you want to request 'side tie to a tug' is that you raft up to the tug (or larger vessel) and THEY handle the lines along the wall. We just tie up to them. It's much easier for the crew on your own vessel. (As long as the crew on the other vessel is competent.)

'Center chamber' meant that we had to work... They put us in the middle of the chamber, behind the big ship. We had our 4 long lines out bow and stern, and then we had to keep tightening the lines as the water rose.

As we approached the lock, we had our 125' lines ready with a loop in one end and flaked out on deck, with the bitter end secured to a cleat. The Canal line handlers up in the lock threw us a monkeys fist tied to small line, and we tied that around our loop, and they brought the loop up to them and dropped it on a bollard. Then we tended our lines as the water rose.

Jim Readies His Line

It was really hard work... the lines are so thick and stiff that we had to pull the slack in on the line with one hand and take it up around the cleat with the other, bending over the whole time. Because of the way the water comes in, it pushes the boat from one side or the other, so usually only the lines on one side or the other of the boat get any slack in them. The boat line handlers on the other side just keep their line secure.

In the first chamber, Ron and I were on the stern, and I did all the work. Ron gallantly offered to switch sides with me for the next chamber, and I gratefully switched sides with him. But the direction of the 'push' switched sides too, so I had to work again.

Dorothy, up on the starboard bow, had a little trouble getting her line secured at the first chamber, but we had Jim Yates on the bow with her, and the advisor was right there helping out a little also. By the second chamber, we were all 'old hands', and had no further problems.

Dorothy on the Starboard Bow

Locking up at night wasn't hard. We took the advisor onboard at 5pm and got to the approach area of Gatun Lock about 6pm. We had to wait for the other boats (a large ship and 2 other smaller boats). We got to the first chamber before dark, and then once in the locks, it's all lit up.

Entering Gatun Lock at Night

When we got thru the last chamber at Gatun Locks and went out onto the lake, it was pretty dark out there. Though our advisor knew about where it was, and it would show up on radar, a waypoint for the bouy would have been useful.

Gatun Lake Sailboat Bouy: 09-15.665N 079-54.138.

There are two huge moorings there, and at least 4 35-55' boats could raft up to the two, easily. The moorings are so big that you don't tie off to it from the bow, but actually side tie (raft) to it.

Jim on the Mooring in Gatun Lake

We finally got secured about 10pm, and the pilot boat showed up about 10 minutes later to take our advisor off. The Soggy Paws crew had a congratulatory drink and a snack, and went promptly to bed.

Our Advisor Leaves for the Night

We were the only boat we could see on the lake. The other two smaller vessels that we were supposed to have been locking through with... a large fishing vessel and an excursion boat (the Islamorada) had gone on. Unfortunately, it's not as exotic and remote as it sounds... The mooring was off some kind of maintenance facility that was also pretty lit up. But we did hear a very loud troupe of howler monkeys on shore. We looked for, but did not see, crocodiles.

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Anonymous geodesic2 said...
Wow Sherry and Dave, Great Pix - thanks for the adventure. Nice to see Ron and Dorothy 'out and about' Now you are in the Pacific - you said 'see you in Tahit' I take that to mean no Galapagos or Sea of Cortez ??? Just curious
Keep up yhe great work on your site.
s/v Geodesic2 FL/USA

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