We wish all our friends and family a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season. We're enjoying our stay here...work aboard is progressing as we wait for the fabrication of the new mounting bracket for the alternator. Michael has completed the wiring and says it's ready to pass inspection. We've also replaced our starboard upper shroud chainplate (due to crevice corrosion cracks in the old one), and begun to put things away and straighten out the boat. I happened to have my camera when I noticed the Tall Ship Cuauhtemoc go directly past Infini. She's in active service as a sail training vessel of the Mexican Navy.
We found a squatter on our hipped dinghy when we went to use it to reinstall our starboard upper shroud chainplate. The blue footed booby (sulu nebouxii) was using it as a perch to fish from. I was thrilled to get an up close and personal visit. He didn't move when we launched the dinghy, moved it around to the starboard side and started working...until he saw a fish to dive after. One of the joys of cruising for me is to be so close to nature and I've always held a special fondness for our aviary friends. Those webbed feet are an unusual blue, and each talon, or toe has a hooked nail on the end of it. They can dive from a sitting position on the water surface, or plunge from 80 feet in the air. Their wing span can be nearly 5ft (1.5m). What a sight...they're so much more streamlined and skilled then the pelicans I'm used to seeing. Their thick necks, streamlined bodies, long strong beak and webbed feet make them great sea hunters.
There's a nice big mess aboard Infini...Michael is deep in the project of rewiring and simplifying our electrical system to better reflect our full time live aboard demands. I made a quick trip to Florida to pick up a new large capacity Balmar alternator,
(a 94-165-12-IG Dual Delta Stator model), Balmar MC-612-H regulator and various other stuff. This trip coincided with the expiration of my Panama 90 day tourist visa, and to top it off I had a chance to visit with kids and grand kids! I also drove up to visit my sister in Georgia...no moss growing under these shoes! (sandals). We make progress every day, but the scope of revamping is huge, and we're both looking forward to sea trials in the near future. The evenings have been pleasantly cool, and there's been no significant rain to talk of.
We were more than ready for a nice break. We really do have much to be thankful for! This was the 5th year the VFW Ladies Auxiliary put on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. There were about 120 people...20 of them our new cruising or expat friends. The history of the holiday, along with Obama's Thanksgiving proclamation, and leading prayers were welcome.
We've been dealing with the reality that we've been using many more amps than we've been replacing with our current charging system. We nursed our three lead acid house batteries back to health, and bought a new starter battery. We have been revamping our charging system...hence going over our wiring and changing quite a bit to make it a more simple/user friendly system that we'll understand. Changing from AGM to lead acid has also been a learning adventure. Our friend Rick has been very patient helping us through this and teaching us once again what sometimes doesn't sink in the first time. Getting down to the nitty gritty cell health using a refractometer is just one more item to be stored in the 'ol brain.
We hope all our family and friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving....you are in our thoughts!
The picture is taken from the yacht club resturant of the anchorage...just the section where Infini's moored
Special family events still tug at our heart strings when we know we're not able to be there to share in person. Modern communication tools have made such a big improvement for the cruiser...but we're still adjusting to the fact our family thrives and flourishes without our physical presence. Perhaps it's because we're still working on major projects and have not yet departed on our long awaited passages, expected early 2010. So, Happy Birthday, Matt, and enjoy a wonderful, safe, healthy, and challenging year full of joy and satisfaction! We're thinking of you and send our love your way....and yes we need a current picture of you without your dreads!
We're back at the Balboa Yacht Club after spending the night at Contadora where the only other boat anchored was a friend we had met in Cartegena! Paul has been to Costa Rica and down to Peru in the last year. He has a fast catamaran.....some folks move around a lot....others like us take our time! Paul was one of the three single handers (all bald!) we did our one night of 'clubbing' with. It was good to see him at Contadora and swap stories. As to Infini,we've installed an aluminum 'rain frame' around two of our solar panels that will work as a rain catcher. The rain awning we use now over the foredeck can only be used when the dinghy isn't stored there, so this can be used anytime. We've still got a work list, but things are coming along...Michael has a dentist appointment to get his permanent crown put in; Sue will get an MRI of her knee, which is feeling a bit better but the stability/strength isn't there. She misses swinging from the rigging. We need to sew the leech of the roller furling jib as the sacrificial cover needs restitching from sun exposure. We'll get some advice on our engine driven refrigeration unit which is a bit low on freon and has moisture in the system. We've not been running it much lately, and it hasn't been really inspected/gone thru since we put it in over 4yrs. ago. The weather has been wonderfully pleasant....cool nights with partly sunny days and occasional rain.
We're back in the Perlas Islands. We left the Balboa Yacht Club and sailed in squally weather to Contadora Island. Motoring is necessary so often that we were happy to sail in any weather! We spent one night at one of the northern anchorages of Contadora, and motor sailed down to Espiritu Santo the next morning in more rain but little wind. Along the way we caught a 3' mahi mahi, so all in all things are looking good! Now to try out our new fishing gear we bought for dinghy trolling. We did score a big one like this....it must be in the snapper family...our books don't positively identify it. And we'll let Sue's knee heal (she crashed it on a slippery curb while doing errands in town after our weekly breakfast of Dim Sam at the Lung Fung Resturant!)
Life at BYC has been interesting! The windlass has been completely taken apart, rebuilt and reinstalled. We've had our routine dentist and dermatologist visits, and finished our dodger-bimini rain 'window'. M is still working on the refridgerator condenser blockage. We've decided to spend more time in Panama then Ecuador, so we'll get back out to the Perlas Is. for another visit. We've also updated our Picassa web album pictures.
We moved to a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club after one night at the anchorage, where we dragged in a squall. Michael was not feeling well, and Sue was going to be in FL for a week....hence the move to a 'new' place for us. The mooring field is close to the Bridge of the America's and about a couple of hundred yards off the canal. The shipping traffic is constant, as are the work/ACP pilot boats. Not the most calm place, but convenient to taxi or bus to town. They don't have a dinghy dock, but provide a launcha service to pick up or drop you off at your boat. Sue went to Miami to pick up our extended stay visas for French Polynesia, but being so close to kids, made a trip to Orlando and New Port Richey. Michael tackled a list of projects....even completing a few! We've met more expats who are willing to share local knowledge and show us around....time is flying by.
(Infini is by the stern of the freighter)
For info on BYC: http://www.noonsite.com/Countries/Panama/Balboa
Wow, a week at Espiritu Santo went fast. After getting the engine running again, we tackled the sewing project of a rain 'window' to go between our dodger and bimini. So far so good for amateurs; we fit the complex compound curved piece with zippers (above)and twisties (into the hard dodger). Now just the 'window' part needs to be cut out. It was the first time we used the hand crank option on our Sailrite machine. The stitches look better than if we used the 110!
We enjoyed celebrating Wolfgang's (Lumme) birthday aboard Sea Fury, with a pizza party, and homemade cakes by Ute. Too much food! Grace and BatWing were also there. Dominoes and farkel were played. We left the next day for our 12mi. run to Contadora, then on to the mainland, a 35 mile run. We'll have to pickle our water maker again, as the water isn't clean enough to run it. We've been enjoying fresh fish, as our luck has changed and we've caught a few. We won't talk about the ones that got away!..The whale watching is also a good time passer, and the books we exchange are getting read.
The picture was taken at one of our 'trash burns' on the beach....'hanging out'
After spending 3 days trying to fix an engine problem at Isla de Cana, (a beautiful protected bay with a waterfall...a great place to celebrate Sue's birthday, but a serious encounter with no see ums!), we got towed about four miles to this beautiful island by Roger & Norma on Sea Fury. They and few other cruisers helped us trouble shoot why we had no salt water flow; and after removing literally every hose from the seacock onwards, removing the oil cooler and heat exchanger to clean them out, changing the alternator belt, removing, inspecting and changing the impeller in the salt water pump...still no flow! Hmmm. As it turns out, Infini has a bypass valve allowing salt water to circulate thru the condenser for the engine driven refrigeration system. We turned the valve, allowing water to flow directly from the salt water pump to the oil cooler, thereby bypassing the condenser, and all's well. It took days to figure all that out! Cleaning out the obstruction in the condenser will be left for another time, as we have a 12 volt reefer unit to cool the boxes we use daily, and don't use the engine driven system that often anyway. At any rate, there are about 5 other cruising boats here, and the fish are abundant. We now appreciate why this is one of the 'favorite' anchorages in the Perlas Islands. Whale sightings continue, and the daily squalls are allowing our water tanks to stay topped off. N08deg25min, W078deg51min
After provisioning, laundry and getting air for our scuba tanks, we departed Las Brisas anchorage and motor sailed to Isla Contadora, where we had anchored before. There must have been a fishing tournament as 45 sport fishing boats of all sizes and descriptions pulled in throughout the afternoon and evening. For you fishing aficionados out there, admiring the Bertrams, Hatteras', and custom yachts nearby was awesome. In the background, we spotted some humpbacks cavorting around. The weather deteriorated a bit during the evening, and as we rolled, so did the sport fishers. In the morning, a fuel barge showed up to refuel those yachts, and we eventually pulled anchor and motor sailed in about 8 knots of wind to Isla Bayoneta. The currents between these islands in the Perlas are really impressive; the rips are audible as well as visible. We prepared our Spanish mackerel we had caught on the way to Contadora for dinner. In the early evening the sky lit up with innumerable lightening flashes which were occurring so quickly we couldn't count them. At about 2030 a line squall from the NE hit us which we estimated packed 40-45 knots of wind (instruments were off) along with the requisite rain and lightening; scary stuff. The anchor held well but the hour storm gave us some anxious moments in the pitch darkness. This morning the sun's shining, and we're waiting low tide to go exploring some of the beaches. The tides here are about 15-17', so the beaches and reefs are completely covered at high tide. The two small dinghy patches (necessary due to chafe which occurred at the dinghy dock at Las Brisas) placed yesterday morning seem to be fine, so we'll complete our coffee and launch the dinghy in a bit. N08deg29min,W079deg02min
We're so happy to have shared our entrance and introduction to the Pacific with our good friends Fleur and David. The wind didn't cooperate to let us sail (what else is new), but we were able to experience a few different anchorages, and do some beach combing before heading back to the mainland so they could catch their plane to Florida. Gracias amigos....you will be missed!
We spotted two humpback whales just north of Isla Pacheca. We didn't get too close, but observed their tail slapping behavior for a good half hour. We anchored at Pacheca, but the wind turned strong NNE during the night, putting us on a lee shore and causing a sleepless night. Our snubber just about chafed thru, which would have caused a great deal of surge on our chain, but we effected repairs at 0400 and rested until departure at 0715. Right now we're anchored at Isla Contadora (N08deg37min, W079deg02min), where the water's calm, and breakfast is being made. Later we'll go and explore the island. BTW, for you cruisers out there, our Zarpe was from Cristobal to Balboa, and check-in to Balboa was easy. I went to the Port Captain's Office, where he told me he'd send a Boarding Officer out to the boat. I told him I had a bit of running around to do, and he said not to worry...just call when I got back. The Boarding Officer showed up about 20 minutes after my call and I dinghied him out to Infini. He was extremely courteous, did the necessary paperwork in about 10 minutes, and there was no cost at all involved. The next time we see him or the Port Captain will be to get our Zarpe to Ecuador.
It was a tenuous start to a wonderful transit, as a leak in our manual fuel pump started when we were underway with our adviser Hector to our first set of locks at Gatun. (M says the copper fuel rail snapped off right at the junction of the exit nut of the pump. Michael(Captain McGyver)and David did a fast repair so we were able to make our 1530 time slot. Our first three locks going up we side tied to a bouy tender,(smaller then us!) so Fleur and Sue had it easy. We were behind a small freighter and a fishing seiner from Cartegena. It was great to be locking during daylight, and at our mooring doughnut in Lake Gatun by 7pm. It was a beautiful cool night and we had a pleasant sleep in the Lake. Victor, our new advisor, arrived to a ready crew at 6:45am. The weather was great for our 5 hour motor across the isthmus, and we center tied for the three locks down; with Fleur and Sue on the bow lines, and Art and Dave on the stern lines. (And a big thank you to Dar for taking the pictures!) We were behind two tour boats, so Infini's image is on many a camera. A bottle of champagne was popped when we were safely through and in the Pacific...a double celebration, as it is our 28th wedding anniversary also! A proper libation to Neptune was offered before we all toasted Infini and our successful transit. Right now we're safely anchored (we won't even discuss the white out squall conditions that greeted us just as we were ready to anchor - we waited it out) on the north side of the Amador Causeway (N08deg55min,W079deg39 min), Las Brisas, and are one of about 40 different types of vessels here. We went ashore to celebrate with a meal at the 'Wine Bar', and our friends from the sv Rose of Sharon, Joe & Sharon, joined us. A happy, satisfied and tired crew!
We're off through the Panama Canal....
Gatun Locks somewhere around 5-8pm
You can follow on www.pancanal.com
Times are not a definite, as there are many variables.
Tomorrow we should be at Miraflores and the Bridge camera's between 12-2 or so. Much better possibility of seeing us, as it will be daylight. It's raining and the sky is full of clouds, so visibility on the camera tonight may not be good.
David's mom Fleur flew in last night, and our friends Art & Darlene from Wayward Wind will help us line handle also.
It's been hectic to say the least....will try to update when we can.
Infini will be back in her home waters....as she had her first 17yrs. in Seattle.
After seeing friends and family in both Mich. and Florida, we had a wonderful trip to Europe. We spent a few days in London, Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Venice before visiting our son in Utrecht, The Netherlands----the highlight of our trip. Ty and Amber were the best tour guides ever; our week was over way too quickly. We can see why Ty enjoys it there. I've never seen so many bikes commuting and not crashing into each other....I'm glad we had mostly country roads to contend with when we bicycled one day. I'm really glad we had the opportunity to make this trip!
We're on the hard in Shelter Bay Marina (Colon, Panama) where we'll leave Infini for a few months while we go back to the States, celebrate two college graduations, and visit family. The haul out went very smoothly and there's been lots of prep work to do before departure. We're hauling back four fifty pound bags of "stuff" and expect to ship other stuff back to Panama by commercial shipper instead of playing pack mule. We continue to meet lots of interesting people and see some amazing boats here. One notable personality we visited with (and came through the breakwater at the same time) was Webb Chiles. He's completing his fifth (!) circumnavigation and, as you can imagine, has lots of stories. Great fun! So, for now, we're off to do some land cruising, and don't expect to make any blog entries until our return mid July. Hope everyone has a great summer and we'll update this Blog in a few months. Ciao!
We're working our way west. We had a great sail (no engine!) from the San Blas back to Isla Linton with the wind over our starboard aft quarter. The swells gave us a sleigh ride and our boat speed averaged 6-7 knots; a real treat. It's been fun to meet up with some other boats we know.
The dinghy engine (Tohatsu) had been acting up so Michael took the carburetor off for a thorough strip down and cleaning and it's running fine now. We had picked up the 'crazy ants' somewhere, so it was exciting to find a boat with the liquid ant poison drops we could put around which resulted in a quick easy fix that I hope lasts! We'll be hauled out next week at Shelter Bay Marina, so we're in the process of deciding what we can bring home to lighten the boat some, and make room for what we'll be bringing back with us. We've found that the longer we're aboard, the less "stuff" we need...and that you can find most things eventually!
We enjoyed a quiet night in the W. Holandes, anchored by Miriadiadup; then on to the E. Holandes, the infamous 'Swimming Pool' once more. We arrived for a rare 'classical music' concert on BBQ Island. Susan from sv Wooden Shoe is a professional cellist player/composer/teacher. One of her former students was on holiday sailing with her, so there was classical guitar also. We've been snorkeling different reefs from the last time we were here. The wind has been 12-15 kts. pretty consistent, so that determines where we go to snorkel. I never cease to be amazed by a great feeling when drifting over a big, beautiful aquarium. Watching a school of squid hover around me, coming within a hands length away, changing colors and doing their wonderful squid maneuvers is special. I'm thrilled to join in the 'fitness classes' on the beach at 10am. Yoga was being done until Suzanne moved on; now the classes are with various fitness trainers. Oh, how out of shape I've gotten!...This is a real good wake up call to keep some type of exercise routine aboard...I do miss it!
We're anchored between Nuguarchirdup and Tiadup Islands. (We don't even try to pronounce them.) We've been here before with our son Ty, but Waily's Kuna Lodge wasn't open for guests then. The lodge appears fairly primitive but we haven't visited there; there's limited electricity via a generator, etc.; the few thatched huts for rent appear clean. One of their workers rakes the beach daily! At Infini, resident Kuna paddle by trying to sell their catch of fish and lobster (it's closed season for shellfish, but they don't seem to care), and the women try to sell molas. My response is "gracias, pero tengo mucho molas, no quiero mas". Most do speak a little Spanish, but not English, so they politely leave us alone, and seem to remember the boat as to not visit daily. They're usually alongside newly arrived boats before the anchor is down though...I guess that's a Kuna tradition by now.
We're swinging gently at anchor between Nuinudup and Banedup Islands. One of the pleasures out here is to find old friends sharing the same anchorage. David and Damon on Bruadair are here...it's nice to catch up and share stories. And of course meeting new folks and snorkeling new sites keeps us busy when we're not cleaning, reading, or whatever....It's dry season, so the hatches stay open; a constant easterly breeze is refreshing and so far it's been bug/noseeum free! We can see why this is one of those 'sticky places'! The picture is of the cruiser potluck on Easter Sunday.
We had a nice motorsail to Chichime in the San Blas (45mi.) It's great to be back to the world of small, sandy, palm tree covered islands with friendly Kuna Indians. The crystal clear water...sound of the surf, and many places to explore underwater will be a nice way to spend our last month before we fly back to the states & Europe for graduations! This area sees a significant increase in the number of visiting yachts every year flying flags from many different countries. Some anchorages are very crowded...but there's always another choice not far if you want solitude.
We're back at one of our most favorite places...along with about 18 other boats.
It was a motorsail to get here again, with confused, short choppy seas. This time of year the wind is out of the east...of course the direction we're headed. Michael figured how to get our e-mails (Sailmail) using our phone/computer instead of SSB/computer. (We still need to be in phone range for a signal). So much faster and less work! One step at a time! We ran the Honda generator for the first time when we ran the water maker. Keeping up with battery health/status is so very important. Energy use vs. input is a constant check. The wind and solar are a huge help in this area at this time of year. We were excited to see our Florida friends Joe and Helen on Deja Vu anchored next to us...(they've now left their boat in Panamarina, and flew north for the summer. Michael also took the time to make a nice bowl from a calabash gourd....very light, great for chips or popcorn!
Had a nice motorsail slog to windward in 20 knots ENE, and arrived Portobello for lunch. Everything continues to work fine, and today we'll run the watermaker, which hasn't been run since it's been pickled in Nov. Our friends Marilyn & Ken from Dream Ketch'r have already called to say hello, so it looks like we'll stay awhile and explore before heading towards Linton. The Tohatsus 9.8 started right up on the first pull after not being used for four months. So far, so good. It's sure nice when everything works as it should!
We're going ashore to explore Fort San Fernando, which sits on a bluff just off our port bow.
We made it! Finally, we left Shelter Bay Marina after arriving there a little over three months ago. Of course, there was a trip back to the States, high winds, charging issues, etc....but we left early this morning and motorsailed in a stiff ENE breeze to our favorite nearby island outside Colon, Isla Naranjo Abajo. Everything worked perfectly, so it would seem that our wiring and charging issues have been resolved. We are so thankful! Right now we'll rest a bit, straighten up, and then clean the boat bottom which is really fouled with barnacles. Tomorrow, if conditions improve, we'll move to Portobello or Linton. Meanwhile, it's good to be back at anchor and gently rocking as we listen to the wind blowing (20-22 knots) and watch the white caps roll by.
3/3 Here's the update. Hugo, a Brazilian from the catamaran Beduina, stopped by this afternoon to help me sort out all the electrical gremlins. He's an electrical engineer, and knows his stuff. Before his arrival, I had found a bad battery selector switch (remember, we had that exhaust hose leak in November, and it sprayed all over the wiring of all three battery selector switches, as well as everything else within range). So, we found three bad battery selector switches, two bad fuse holders and fuses, a bit of "confused" wiring, as well as those bad alternators. Expecting trouble, I had bought two new battery selector switches when we were in Florida in December (why didn't I buy three?) and a few new fuse holders. Two of our alternators went off to an alternator repair shop in Panama our friends have used and highly recommended. We'll get the story on them in a day or two, but I'd expect blown diodes. Our charging system and monitor are now working properly, so we expect to depart on the next weather window. Talk about weather, it's blowing like stink. The squalls have rolled through here with little to no notice, and the gusts have been impressive. With the closing of the Panama Canal Yacht Club, this marina is full to the max, and it's quite an international flavor of cruisers here. Lots of kids (I think I counted 15 in the pool yesterday!) also. We've met some really nice folks, and look forward to seeing some of them "down the road."
A great start to the day... my Valentine joined me for a morning walk! Our friend Sergio joined us...he spoke Spanish (one of his five languages - we still have a LONG way to go!) with the park ranger when we stopped at the entrance to the San Lorenzo Park. We had visited the fort at San Lorenzo when we took Infini into the Chagres River. The fort sits at the entrance on the bluff. We didn't want to walk the 10 miles by road this time. The road goes through undeveloped jungle (that's all there is for miles and miles around here)...so our eyes were peeled for anything that moves. We heard the howler monkeys before we saw them. The toucans were making a loud racket, and we watched them maneuver amongst the branches for awhile. The strange coati meandered across the road. The woodpeckers are huge and colorful down here...and the blue morph butterflies are still a favorite. I'm still hoping to see my first boa in the wild. We visited a beach called Playa anam Diablo,where Michael found one of our favorite sea beans in the heart shape....I put it in the middle of the pictures of other beach combing finds.
Our plan is to get some things done in Panama City early next week, then get back out on the anchor!
We were invited to serve as line handlers aboard the megayacht Carl Linne. She's a 106' custom Dutch built cutter/sloop (2003), and is, as one might expect, absolutely beautiful. The Captain, Greg (Australian), and crewmembers Steve (Canadian) and Gabi (Swiss) were very gracious and we hope we helped a bit to contribute to the history of the yacht, as it had never been in the Pacific before. We side tied to a tug for the first part of the transit Tuesday evening, and the next day side tied to small passenger ferries on the way down to the Pacific. We didn't have to tend any lines this way, and the entire transit went very smooth and was quite enjoyable. If you're interested, the Carl Linne is available for charter at http://www.charterworld.com/index.html?sub=yacht-charter&charter=carl-linne-1373. We returned to Shelter Bay Marina via taxi with the five large bumpers borrowed from Song of the Sea, the 112' Swan docked here.
The winds and seas are really starting to build, and the next few days should bring very unsettled weather to the area. Pictures of the yacht and transit are in our Photo Albums link.
A bunch of cruisers from Shelter Bay Marina got together to clean up a section of beach at the intersection of the western most breakwater into Cristobal Bay (Colon) and the mainland. You can walk on the breakwater out to the entrance where the big ships come in, but it's slippery and dangerous, and most cruisers are content to walk the beach or jungle paths. This section of beach chosen for clean up had tons of plastic and debris, refuse from who knows where or when. The crew from the 86' Nordhavn, Cari Ali, organized the endeavor, and even brought trash bags for everyone. Plastic, rubber and trash were bagged by about 20 cruisers throughout the morning, and it's hoped that we have made just a small difference in this beautiful area. Michael's left of center in jeans, gray T shirt, and cap. It's too bad that in so many places ecology and recycling aren't a priority at all. Mother earth and our seas are surely suffering from this oversight.
Infini is back together again. All the tools and supplies have been stored away, and everything's been vacuumed and cleaned. With the upholstery back in place, we're back to our comfortable home. Overall, it took about two and a half weeks for this project, which must be record time, and we retained 115G capacity. THANKS FOR YOUR HELP RAMONE!! We still have a few things we want to do while we're here at the marina, before leaving back to the San Blas. Winds have been 15-20 from the N-NE, with seas running 6-9', so there are a handful of boats waiting for the winds to calm down before heading out. For those of you boat watchers out there, there's a 112' Swan (14' draft!) and a 86' Nordhavn (gorgeous paint job!) here at the marina, joining the other luxury yachts, sailboats and crews from all over the world who have stopped here.
All private yachts need an advisor (a Panama Canal employee), four 'line handlers', and a captain to transit the canal. You can hire the line handlers, but most cruisers get their friends to help them out. It was our first trip through and we learned a lot helping Denny aboard his Spencer 53 ketch - Jubilant. (svjubilant.com)
We left Shelter Bay Marina and anchored in the 'flats' near Colon, waiting for our advisor to arrive. Instead of the 5:30pm arrival time, he was delivered at 7:45. We learned we were to go through with another ketch--Black Pearl. We rafted together (tied our two boats tight to become one--now a catamaran?!), and began our transit south through the Gatun Locks at 9pm. It was very interesting in the dark....but the locks are lit up like a city once you get in. There are a series of three locks at Gatun....steps going up to Gatun Lake, about 85ft. We had a near catastrophe in the first lock. Our port bow line was not secured tight when the water started rushing in....and the force is too strong to pull the boat back in position without a winch. What saved Black Pearl's starboard bow from crushing against the wall was their bow thruster. (Jubiliant doesn't have any...and neither does Infini...we would have had damage if it were us!) The next two locks went much better....(Yes, Michael and I were on the stern lines through this all!!). We untied from Black Pearl and went to a mooring for the night, where our advisor got picked up around 12:30. We finally had 'dinner' at 1am--- the barbecue was fired up and Michael grilled steak and chicken. We all went to bed on a full stomach.
At 7am a different advisor got dropped off, and we motored 4 hours through the continental divide to the Pedro Miguel Locks...the start of our descent down to the Pacific Ocean. The scenery was great; though the water is a dirty brown. The canal is going through a widening project, and the heavy equipment and dredges look like tiny toys compared to the massive landscape. We rafted up to Black Pearl again, but immediately found out their engine quit just before we were scheduled to go into the locks. It was mayhem for a bit as things were sorted out, but decided to continue since they got their bow thruster working again. We were now the 'lead boat', but with limited maneuverability. We took them through to the last set of locks--the Miraflores. Going down seemed to be an easier job, and a smoother ride. After the last set of locks, we reached the Pacific Ocean and Black Pearl was now under tow from an ACP boat to an anchorage around the corner from Balboa Yacht Club. We dropped our rented tires (bumpers) and four 100' polypropylene lines off, and anchored at Playacita. Once the boat was secure we went ashore for a well deserved congratulatory meal before taking a two hour taxi ride back to Infini. BTW, a crew member's mother in Denmark and his girlfriend in Texas were able to follow our trip through the canal's live web cams. www.pancanal.com We'll let you know when we make the trip in Infini -- maybe July?? --so you can follow along and see real-time pictures of Infini as we go thru the locks!
We're back aboard after an uneventful flight to Panama City. We stayed overnight at La Estancia, a small, personal type hotel (old officers quarters) 0n Ancon Hill we enjoyed, albeit very briefly. Our 200 lbs of luggage, and two large backpacks, including our new alternator and stainless steel pipe for the exhaust system, made it back to the boat just fine, and the exhaust system has been repaired already. We had a cruiser potluck this afternoon, as Bruce, the haul out yard manager and his family (April, Kendall & Quincy along with their adopted sloth) are leaving here after a stay of two years. We'll all miss his genuine caring, professionalism and help. There are lots of new boats here, and some old friends who have returned as well. For now, everyday has a project list, and we'll keep everyone informed when we leave here.