Panama Canal, Day One

Tags: Panama, Panama Canal

Date: December 30, 2022

After a nice and quiet Christmas, it was finally time for going through the Panama Canal. Originally, we had planned to do that in the spring of 2020, but Corona virus got in the way.

Since it is a bit of a complicated process, we hired an agent to help us with the paperwork, etc. There is a requirement that an advisor working for the Canal Authority is aboard the boat during the canal transit. The advisor's role is a bit like a pilot's, but with an advisor, it is the captain (Bjarne) that has the last word and all the responsibility. With a real pilot, that is a bit different.

Apart from the advisor, we also needed to have four line handlers to deal with the lines in the locks. Felicie was one of these, so we needed to get three additional people aboard to handle the lines. Our agent handled the contact to all these people along with quite a bit of paperwork. He hired three excellent young guys to handle our lines. Several weeks before the transit, a person from the Canal Authority also came out to measure our boat.

Finally, we needed long solid ropes and large fenders for tying up in the locks and for protecting the boat. One morning around 4 am, some of the professional line handlers had just finished the transit of a boat going from the Pacific to the Atlantic and they dropped off a big pile of fenders and lines on our boat. To their credit, they were very quiet. The only little issue was that this happened over a week before our transit, so we had the deck full of this gear over Christmas on the Chagres River.

The project started in the morning of December 29 with the three line handlers showing up in Shelter Bay Marina and coming aboard. We then anchored outside the marina to wait for the advisor. He showed up late in the afternoon on a big pilot boat:

The advisor is the guy in the yellow t-shirt.

We then waited for a short while until we were assigned to be locked into the canal behind this ship:

Here we are headed toward the first locks with the line handlers on deck and the Atlantic Bridge in the background:

We had gone over the bridge many times, so it was exciting, to finally go under it. It was late afternoon and became dark before we entered the first lock. Here we are, waiting:

There are three locks in a row when going into the canal. Here we are after going up one of them:

Looking back toward the Atlantic:

These first three locks took us up to Lake Gatun, which has a surface around 26 meters higher than the sea. We tied up the boat to a very large mooring buoy. A pilot boat came to pick up the advisor whereas the three line handlers slept aboard. When Felicie wasn't handling the lines, she did a lot of cooking, so everybody was happy. The young guys especially loved "Svensk Pølseret" (sausages and potatoes in a tomato based cream sauce).