T1 Ocean Crossing Entry #3: Panama Canal to Cabo

Panama Canal to Cabo - The Dream run and a Hitchhiker


After 12 days of waiting, we were eager and excited to finally be going through the six locks separating the Atlantic from the Pacific. Navigating through one of the engineer marvels of the modern world was a real education. As we approached the 1st lock we welcomed our "Canal Advisor" on board, to assist us through the locks. We rafted up with two smaller cruising vessels with Trilogy 1 being the center vessel. These smaller yachts would be pulled through the locks by us as one unit. The whole lock system is gravity fed, raising and lowering about 40 ships a day, 85 ft up and down.  This generates about 15 million dollars per day of income for the canal (great business model). The whole process took about 24 hrs and was a great experience. However as the last lock opened to reveal the Pacific Ocean, that was a really special moment for all of us. One step closer to home!

Hello Pacific Ocean

Hello Pacific Ocean


After saying adios to Panama, we had seven days of near glass surface conditions. We sighted Whales, Dophins, Seals, Rays, Sea Turtles and Avatar-levels of bio luminescence at night!!  Well worth the 12 day wait to get through the canal. We basically managed to follow a veil of calm conditions up the 1400 nautical mile passage. Only the last 50 miles were rough as we came into Cabo. Tyler left his hatch open that night and had a good chunk of the Pacific Ocean land on his bed at 2am. 

smooth sailing
hitchhiker enjoying a free ride to Cabo

hitchhiker enjoying a free ride to Cabo

We picked up a hitchhiker off the coast of Puerto Vallarta; a small finch (not sure what type) landed on our deck one afternoon and spent the next 36 hours travelling over 300 miles with us. As we neared Cabo he decided his ride was up and flew off to enjoy new scenery. He was very friendly…even crapped on my bed to show how much he appreciated the ride. Nick was particularly fond of the little rascal, chasing him around the boat playing tag with his sandal. The small joys right?


smooth sailing at the helm

smooth sailing at the helm


There is still 2700 miles left to sail before we reach Maui. That’s a lot of miles. So what does it look like “behind the scenes”? when we aren’t blissfully soaking up the sun and watching dolphins surf our wake? I'll give you a glimpse of how we go about our days at sea.  We stick to routine. It goes like this: 4 crew divide the day/night into blocks of 2hrs. Each crew is on watch for 2 hours at a time, the remaining 3 are free to do as they please for the 6 hours they are off watch.

20 mins before officially "on watch" the crewman inspects the vessel. Starting with a visual inspection of the rudder rooms to check for hydraulic fluid leaks, we move on to inspect the fuel hatches, visual check on the crash boxes, anchor, rigging and finally inspect the engines using a laser temperature meter plus a visual inspection. The whole inspection takes about 15 minutes. Post inspection, you relieve your current on-watch crew mate at the top of the hour. He/she lets you know the ship traffic and anything else that may be significant.

visual inspection of the fuel hatch

visual inspection of the fuel hatch

This process goes on 24 hrs a day. The only exception is at night—we don’t inspect the engines from 8 pm to 8 am as a courtesy to our sleeping crew off-watch. To keep everyone's watches varied, the "dog watch" is introduced at 4pm. The “dog watch” is two, one hour shifts from 4 pm until 6 pm. This changes the schedule each day so the same person doesn’t have wake up every morning at 2 am for two hours. Very clever system. During your watch you enter the coordinates into the ship’s log at the top of each hour and write down the oil pressure and coolant temp at 30 mins of each hour. 

 Everyday the boat needs re-fueling. When we leave port we take on about 1400 gallons of fuel. It's a lot. Two 300 gallon flexible bladders and 10 50 gallon barrels, plus the two internal tanks that can hold 150 gallons each. Captain Jim has a clever system of hoses and an electric pump that allows us to move fuel around with relative ease. We have about a 2700 mile range at 8 knots. Enough to make to Hawaii just in case the wind doesnt cooperate.  

 Everyone has been cooking cleaning, washing up, the whole vibe in the boat is great. A real team effort by all. So much ocean wildlife along this coast every day we saw something really cool. Also a lot of book reading, not a lot of talking and lots of naps. Tyler and I have figured out some gym work outs on the boat to keep in relative good shape. The cooking has been excellent and have plenty of snacks to stave off boredom. There is plenty of La Croix too!! Always either dolphins, birds, turtles around to keep us company. Captain Jim has probably read 20 books, Tyler is learning French, Nick is reading about how the canal was built and I'm 1400 pages into a 3000 page fantasy novel called Name of the Wind. 

 “Once you've been at sea for more than a couple of days things can get a little weird”

I personally have very strange dreams. One particular dream where by I wake up at night to see all 3 of my crew mates sleeping and realize that means no one is at the helm! The 1st time this happened I woke up jumped out of bed and ran to the helm only to see Nick on watch. I quickly went back to bed very relieved, he must have thought "what was that about?". I had a little chuckle to myself and went right back to sleep.

Being out at sea is very monastic. The days just drift by. For the most part it’s been very relaxing and a great time to contemplate life, your future, think about your friends, your family and things that you don’t normally have time (or energy) to think about. Everyone should probably do an ocean crossing of some type for their health and sanity—the ability to day dream is just so good for ones well being! With that being said, being a ship at sea has its dangers, so you can't forget where you and must always be alert and "on point". Tthe Sea shows no mercy. Big ships dont care either and there's plenty down here in Central America.

The weather has been very calm and very hot, we've motored the whole way from the Canal. It's been like glass, a few bumps here and there but smooth motoring, hopefully we'll get sails up when we start our final leg back to our Maui ‘ohana. 


Only 2700 miles to go....!

Written by Rich Foster

Edited by LiAnne Driessen