Crossing Log Entry 7: pilots, locks, and moorings, oh my!
The moment has come - Panama! Read on to hear more on our Canal crossing (and of course, more jokes from our favorite comedian onboard).
GALLEY OFFICER LOL, 10/17/18 @ 08:04 HOURS
My last entry was the afternoon of the 14th, just prior to the evening event of the big Halloween party at Shelter Bay Marina. Unfortunately I forgot my Space Boots, Space Pants, and even my Space Fanny Pack at home - if only I had known I was going to be around for some kind of Halloween Party, I surely would have packed my Galactic attire!!
At any rate, the next day on 10/15, we had a personal tour guide, Rico, take us around the coastal town of Colon. Rico showed us the local sites and even let us indulge in some local food and bevs served out of an industrious 20ft shipping container! Nick got his hands on some Panamanian hand-sewn linens, and woke up in the morning rocking some sweet new gear, commenting on how comfortable and breathable they felt in this hot and humid air. To the right is our epic view of Atlantic Bridge that spans the Canal entrance! That night, Jim relayed the news from Tina, our Panama Canal agent, that we had been given final clearance and were officially scheduled to depart the Marina at 1200 hours, for entry into the Canal at 1430 hours.
All very excited, but tired from an eventful day around Colon, we got some quality rest in our deluxe, tarped-in (see previous entry), shore-powered, air conditioned, penthouse version of Trilogy IV accommodations. The one downside… SOME people (ahem, Nick & Kai) have been stepping on one of the air mattresses we’ve been using pretty much daily, so it now has a slow leak in it. Since this requires an air refill at least twice a night, Katie (nicely) asked if I could take one for the team and use the busted mattress, and because I’m a nice guy, I agreed to take the hit. ;)
Below is Kai, surveying the first Canal lock at night, as we await entry...
And here we are - Canal time!! WOO! I have to quickly note, the Trilogy IV is starboard side and stern-tied up to the oddest, most obscure mooring ball/float disc that I have ever seen in my life! The mooring is on Gatun Lake in the town of Gamboa, which rests in the middle of the Panama Canal. Ok, now that that’s out of the way…
Constructed in 1913 and one of the 7 wonders of the modern world, the “original” part of the Panama Canal consists of three locks. Each lock chamber is a whopping 1,000ft long and 110ft wide, allowing ample room for many types of vessels, including our sailing Trilogy catamaran. We started for the first lock at 1630 hours, pulling up anchor with the Pilot, Orlando, onboard. When he first boarded T4, I gave a friendly hello only to be greeted with… silence. Needless to say, no one was quite sure how to read him after that awkward exchange. But after around five hours onboard together as we floated through the first lock systems of the Canal, we got to know Orlando pretty well!
In reality, a very nice and genuine guy, Orlando has 33 years of experience as a Panama Canal Pilot, and he shared crossing stories with us, as well as tales of his own visits to Oahu and Maui. He even took off his fancy dress shoes so that he felt more comfortable among our barefoot crew. We ended up getting through the last of the original three locks at about 2130 hours, with no complications to speak of. Seeing the doors of each lock close, and the chambers bubble up & fill with water from beneath like a giant boat jacuzzi was truly an incredible sight and experience. And a success!! As one small side note, the Panamanians have actually constructed a new Canal as well, but its use is limited to the Supermax Ships, with each chamber measuring in at 1,500ft long and 180 ft wide - MASSIVE!!
Take a look at the 689 ft container ship behind us who shared each of the three locks of the Western edge of the canal with us! And of course, Lowell flashing the ship his best “le tigre”. :)
We were all pumped that we successfully made it through the first 3 locks of the Canal; next, we floated on to our (ridiculously) complicated next situation that awaited us... the mooring. Definitely testing our patience, Nick spent quite awhile scrambling around deck, trying to navigate the most intense mooring securing session of his life! The main issue: the mooring float disc kept continuously rotating around, undoing the securing to the ballard bit cleat. This made Nick have to repeatedly secure the line to the ballard bit and immediately run full speed in the opposite direction, trying to beat the float’s rotation as it unwound the secure line. Add to this a very dark night, and it was safe to say we were all pretty flustered. BUT, we prevailed (hooray!) and Nick’s efforts paid off, successfully securing T4 for the evening. After a bit of time had gone by and we were able to relax more, we all had some pretty good laughs over Nick, the hamster, running around the mooring wheel. See, we’re all still friends! ;)
And now it’s a beautiful morning here at the Canal! Volunteering for meal duty, I just made an enormous pot of egg, veggie & shrimp fried rice for breakfast (there was a TON of rice left over from last night’s burritos!) and we all hungrily devoured quite a bit. Sugar Daddy Kai and Raghoul are now napping the morning away after what must have been an exhausting morning eating heaps of breakfast, and everyone else is reading - or writing a blog entry! :) We eagerly await as 1030 hours approaches, when we will be assigned another Canal Pilot and continue our journey on to the last three locks here in Panama! Until next time…
Edited by: Cyndie Ellis