My feet were dangling 90 feet in the air, hoisted to the top of the mast as we enter the first lock of the Panama Canal. After passing under the American Bridge with blue sky’s dotted with white fluffy cumulus clouds and the sunshine already letting us know that it is going to be a hot day we rafted up to Welcome to Yorkshire in preparation for entering the first lock. A short time later and with our Pilot on board we put our engine in ahead and guided our vessel which looked insignificant in comparison to the huge tankers that are over 200 meters, into the lock. We had a smaller ship in the very front followed by Geraldton and Team Finland who were rafted up together and then us and Welcome to Yorkshire at the back. To assist us in securing our like there are people assigned to throwing us a line for us to tie our mooring lines to and then they can pull this back to the Lock edge, attached at the end of these throwing lines are little bags with nits and bolts inside so you don’t want to try to catch them or to step out in front as one of our crew members almost learnt when she stepped out from behind the mast just as the person threw the line narrowly missing her nose.
As soon as we were in the hydraulic doors of the lock began to close. Once closed the water began to boil as the lock filled, churning up the mud from the lock floor. While the lock fills we needed to have the lines taken in at the same time, if we don’t do this the boat can start to skew in the wash and even slam into the Lock wall, so to save us all the paper work and the effort of explaining to Clipper Ventures how we sank there yacht in the Panama Canal we take up on the lines as the lock fills.
Once the first compartment or section of the Lock is filled we then motor through to the second section of the first Lock where again the doors close behind and we are raised another 15 or so meters. After completing this second section we are then freed to motor the short distance to the second Lock a few miles ahead. We again transited through in the same manner still rafted up to Welcome to Yorkshire only this Lock had one section instead of two. Safely through with no mishaps we travel further up river and under the centenary bridge whose construction was completed 100 years after the Panama Canal.
Now we are more than 800 meters above sea level travelling at dizzying heights, we motor down the Gatun Lake. At first we are snaking our way down a man made estuary that connects the Locks with the Lake framed on either side by dense Tropical jungle filled with monkeys and sloths. The lush green is contrasted with the wings of butterfly’s as they flutter on the wind. Eventually we emerge in the Lake it’s self spanning 20 miles or more and filled with lots of little islands. We are directed to the far side where we anchor. It is here that we say goodbye to our Pilot and await the next one.