Posts Tagged ‘Panamax’

Yin Yang (Part 2)

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Woke up
Got outta bed
Dragged a comb across my head…

Our Mooring

Our Mooring

Well, I’ll skip that last line.  I was up nigh on 6 am. About when the adviser was to show up. Fortunately the Canal Zone was on Caribbean time and he was running a little late. Logan was up shortly after and we awaited the pilot boat’s delivery.

Soon we saw the pilot boat cruising across the lake and our new adviser made a Superman like leap aboard. The Pilot Boat pulled away, not even coming close to touching the Whale.  Amado is our new adviser. Professional all the way. We promptly dropped the lines from the HUGE mooring buoy and began moving S across the lake.

The am was simply beautiful; Sun was rising, a threatening blue sky, light breeze and a calm lake, and we

Banana Cut

Banana Cut

expected or shall I say hoped for a grand day crossing the isthmus. We headed South through the Banana Cut; a service channel that would shorten our trip,

Captain Logan at the Helm

Captain Logan at the Helm

be more scenic, and avoid the close proximity of any ships.  By the time we were underway the entire crew were up and Caroline had put out a scrumptious looking fruit spread with some Yogurt Parfaits thrown in for a light breakfast. All morning we enjoyed picking at the food  while simultaneously harvesting Amado’s brain for all things canalish.

In the US developers would have bought off the  politicals enough that a similar canal would be lined with million dollar homes. In Panama; there are no pleasure boats allowed moving on the canal after 6 pm and there are NO residential facilities dotting the shores; period.  Remember, we’re not a pleasure boat here but a boat making a passage so we’re not in the 6 pm curfew group.  In addition we have an adviser with a radio that stays connected to the canal personnel at all times. Anyone can launch a boat or jet ski at one of the few ramps  on the lake and go out and enjoy the lake.  But by 6 pm they’re to be off the lake or else.  Not sure what exactly the “or else”  is but a few years ago there was a yacht club that was on the lake with boats like Elysium and the Whale.  Amado said that sometimes the yacht owners would have a few cocktails too many and venture out on the lake way after hours. Eventually the canal administrator tired of this and in one swoop of his pen wiped the yacht club out. It is no more. There is a building now falling down and a dock or two sinking into the lake. That’s all that is left. For individuals caught out on the lake late or wanting to stay longer there are huts at various places where they can hole up for the night.

Mark and Karen Keeping Watch on the Whales Bow

Mark and Karen Keeping Watch on the Whales Bow

We passed one of the only lakeside facility, the Smithsonian has a Tropical Research station on the lake that does scientific work. Amado indicated that we could take tour of the research station  by signing up in Panama City. Now something else to add to our plate. 🙂  We saw no ships in the Banana Cut but did see where they were mining for cement for the new canal additions and where they were hauling material dredged from the canal bottom for deposit elsewhere.  The canal is in constant dredge operation as during the rainy season Panama has many mud slides, often attempting to silt in the channel.

I discovered what a PanaMax Ship is too. A ship designed specifically to fill the lock of the Panama Canal, thereby maxing out all the capacity of the lock chamber for carrying goods between the oceans. You can often tell a Panamax ship because it has 13 containers across on the boats stern.

Coming up on lunch the sky began to cloud over and a small amount of rain began to appear. We all brought foul weather gear out to the pilot house in prep for needing it as we begin our lock down. But luck was with us, as we approached the

Going Down?

Going Down?

lock the sprinkling abated and we entered with cloudy, but relatively cool and dry conditions. Locking down on a hot summer day is akin to being in a sauna.  As the boat lowers in the lock the breeze is blocked by the walls and you end up in a hole approximately

In the Pit

In the Pit

50′ deep. Any breeze that is available simply travels over our position not cooling any of us. So the lack of Sun and the lack of rain was welcome. Going down is easier then going up.  The four line handlers still go through the drill of securing the monkey fist to the 125′ lines, feeding the lines out for the lock handlers to drop on a bollard and then wait. The doors close and we begin our descent.  Going down we don’t pull. We  ease the lines out as the boat requires, letting the weight of the boat drag more line out. With lines 1/2 wrapped on a cleat we just slack off, sometimes one side to move the boat to port or the other to move it to starboard or if we’re lucky and she’s actually in the middle we both would ease our lines. Caroline and Mark would do the same on the bow. We further got lucky as we were the only boat locking down so we didn’t share the chamber with any others; including any large ships with HUGE propellers churning up the water in front of us. This lock was easy and we motored out finished with 2/3’s of our lockage.

The following lock was less than an hour away and we were making good time. The Whale can move.  Time for lunch.  We approached the lock and were early enough that our adviser suggested we tie to one of the moorings. We tried to bow tie but

Caroline da Boss

Caroline da Boss

the wind and currents were fickle here and Logan was concerned about the mooring hitting the boat between the tires.  He is a good captain, aware of what’s going on with the crew and how anything is going to effect the boat.  Always watching, always anticipating.  Caroline too is a   good  “Boss” and had already prepared a huge tray of Ziti and a salad. Like starving dogs we woofed down the delicious food she had prepared and waited for the ship in the locks to clear out.  Amado told us that the ship was to pick up the mooring we were on (the ship would pick up

PanaMax on a Mooring

PanaMax on a Mooring

both moorings actually) and we would need to vacate.  And vacate we did choosing not to argue with the adviser nor the ship. The adviser could call upon the canal gods to fine the Whale and the ship could call upon Neptune to sink the Whale. Neither option viable. So we moved off the mooring as lunch was cleared and motored to the other side of the channel away from; as Caroline describes it, a RORO.  A RORO is a car carrier and stands for Roll On Roll Off.

After the RowRow cleared the chamber Amado had us slowly move in. We were lucky again as we would be the only vessel going down. Seems such a waste. A 1,000 foot lock for  a 60′ boat. But for us the lockage was

Waiting to see the Pacific

Waiting to see the Pacific

sweet. Again no rain, but clouds, and no ship which meant no propeller turbulence as the ship moves out of the lock chamber. We all took our positions, caught and tied the monkey fist and in 10 minutes or so were 30′ lower and only 30′ now above the Pacific Ocean. 🙂

Once the lock handlers cast the lines off the bollards we hauled them in while still attached to the monkey fist and Logan moved the Whale forward into the next chamber. There we fed the  125′ lines back out and up the wall to be secured for our final descent. Down again in about 10 minutes and we awaited the doors to be opened to the Pacific. While we were in the locks Amado had contacted the lockmaster to have the camera zoom in on the Whale and those watching could get a close up of the “strenuous work” the line handlers had to do. 🙂

In the Pacific

In the Pacific

The doors swung open and out we went. The Bauhaus Cruising Guide identifies a lot of short lived currents moving every which way at the Pacific entrance to the locks (the guide states it is due in part to the mixing of the salt water and the fresh water from the canal) and Logan rapidly moved the Whale down the center attempting to keep us in the currents the shortest amount of time. Hard to believe but the Pacific side smelled different. Maybe because I wanted it to or maybe it was the big city of Panama that we smelled. We all breathed a sigh of relief. The major work was done for W/ and I and for Karen and Mark.

Bye Amodo

Bye Amodo

The Crew and an Advisor

The Crew and an Advisor

Amado would be picked up by a pilot boat on the other side the  Bridge of the Americas, then the Whale had a slip in a marina that we would end up at.  Before Amado left we celebrated with the brew of the “cruisers choice” – beer; all except Amado – the consummate professional who had a can of carbonated water! The breeze was picking up and the swell was back (an ocean vs a lake) and we all looked forward to an evening in the marina.

dabossatdahelm

Caroline Womaning the Helm

Caroline (the Boss) was to take the boat into the slip but choosing a safer course she told Logan to handle that particular task. Guess that’s called delagate and it’s much easier to do when you’re the  “Boss”. Logan moved the boat effortlessly around in the marina and backed into the slip. Thereupon we immediately discovered there was a surge entering the mouth of the harbor.  Logan and Caroline dug through the lockers for more lines to secure the boat and when finished the Whale looked like it was caught in a spiders web. Caught she was but she would be securely tied there through the night.  We gently rocked and rolled, tugging on the lines, listening to the creaking of them in the hawse holes and shared some sundowners as by now it was getting late. Late enough to walk and fill our bottomless stomachs with some good food. Caroline wasn’t cooking tonight!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

ps W/ and I would like to thank the crew of the Blue Whale for inviting us along and sharing in their adventure. For all 6 of us the Panama Canal transit was a first and the delight showed on the smiles each of us carried across the isthmus of Panama. We wish them the best and sincerely hope our wakes cross again.