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 2 Recap
When we woke up the next morning, there were about 8 large ships out there on the lake, between us and the main channel. From what we understand, part of the route between Gatun Lake and the next set of locks is too narrow for large ships to pass each other. (I think the part that's the problem is Galliard Cut, but I'm not sure). So they have to sequence the ships so there's a group that comes thru in one direction, and then a slug that comes thru in the other direction. And the tail end of each group waits in Gatun Lake.

Our Advisor Finally Arrives

We were up and ready to get going by 6:30am, as instructed. But our advisor didn't get there til about 8am. We got underway immediately and took the 'Banana Cut' route. It is a small boat channel, and saves about a mile and a half. We had about 25 miles to go to the next lock (Pedro Miguel), and an appointment for 12:30. So we had the pedal to the metal the whole time, even cutting corners on the wide sweeping channels (at the direction of our advisor) to save time. It was a pretty trip but I didn't see much of it... I was too busy feeding people. Jim and Dorothy took lots of pics. I was making breakfast and lunch, mostly.

You Can Still See Trees from When Gatun Lake Was Flooded

A Car Carrier called a RoRo (Roll On, Roll Off)

Dredges Keeping the Channel Open

Ships Passing By in Channel

The USCG Training Ship Eagle

The down locks on the Pacific side are two sets of locks... Pedro Miguel and Miraflores, about a mile apart. I think there are 2 chambers in Pedro Miguel and 3 in Miraflores. As we started into the first chamber at Pedro Miguel, the dark storm clouds that had been gathering finally opened up. It absolutely poured on us for the entire time we were in the locks.

As we pulled out of the last chamber at Miraflores, the rain quit. Our advisor (who had said, when Dave asked him if those dark clouds were going to rain on us, "No.") said he had never been in the locks in such heavy rain. He was not dressed for it... he had a jacket but it was more a windbreaker than a heavy rain jacket. At one point, once we got secured, he gave his radio to us to keep it dry (they are special radios on special frequencies, not standard VHF).

Our Advisor, Happy to Be Through the Locks Safely

Once you exit at Miraflores, you are only a few miles from Balboa Yacht Club, passing under the famous Bridge of the Americas.

The Bridge of the Americas

Onward To The Pacific!!!

We had called ahead on the phone a couple of days before to get a mooring at Balboa Yacht Club. They don't take reservations, so we called the afternoon before and again the morning of. Fortunately this time of year it's low low season, so there was a mooring available. For $25 a nite, it's not bad... convenient. But not absolutely necessary.

Now that we've been in the Flamenco anchorage, that would be perfectly fine too. (The Flamenco anchorage, at least this time of year, is around on the other side of the causeway from BYC, pretty much right where Bauhaus shows it). In the Flamenco anchorage you pay $5.25 per day for dinghy dockage, for a floating dock with security. They supposedly have a $5/bag trash fee, but we've never been asked for it yet. Dave thinks the dinghy dock fee is reasonable, and apparently there's no way around it... we've asked several people and there seems to be no other place to leave your dinghy on this side of the causeway. But someone else told us that they don't enforce/check your receipt. So if you pay for a few days at a time, once a week or so, you can cut your costs by a third to a half. However, you know Dave, he insists on following the rules, so we are paying for every day.

Customs/Immigration issues... You have to get a zarpe for somewhere when you leave Colon. Your choice is to zarpe to Balboa, and then pay for another zarpe later to leave the country, or zarpe onward to whereever you are going next. For us, that was Costa Rica. For only $20, Tito in Colon got us our onward zarpe. Versus paying about $50 in Balboa on top of a $20 zarpe for Colon to Balboa. What we didn't realize when we made the decision was that, once you have your international zarpe, you have 48 hours to clear immigration and (theoretically) leave Balboa.

There is an immigration guy at Balboa Yacht Club, and our 48 hours was up at 5pm the day after we completed the transit. Dave asked him if we could stay overnight and leave in the morning, but he said we had to leave that day. With him right there, we couldn't really stay. So we left for Taboga that afternoon (only 7 miles away).

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