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.
at 8:27 AM
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!
at 11:51 AM
Can you find Michael in the picture? The leaking water tank project (again!?) has begun....The salon table's been moved out of the way. Access thru the existing floor hatches is extremely limited, but I've been promised that the beautiful new floor won't be touched! The bulkhead has been cut away, as has the forward end of the tank and the top. Then see Michael crawl back in and cut the aft end out, then it's into the next tank and repeat the whole process, in order to be able to make one tank out of two, done by taping together fabricated fiberglass panels inside the existing shell. (No job for the claustrophobic). I think I've done pretty well not having a complete meltdown! Our life together has been building and rebuilding boats!...I was hopeful we wouldn't have a MAJOR project like this to do while we're living aboard, but this too shall pass and we'll be back to life at anchor with more lessons learned. The saying goes---cruising is repairing and fixing your boat in exotic places. We're at a nice marina....and meeting people from all over the world. I hope to get some 'line handling' experience helping boats through the canal when I'm not required as 'first assist.' M's take: the guy in New England who fabricated these polyethylene tanks then charged a lot of money for them should be.....oh, never mind....take a deep breath....If access wasn't so limited, this project would be a piece of cake. As it is, it's going to be rather challenging, so stay tuned....
at 1:48 PM
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.