Friday, April 16, 2010


Part II

7:30am rolls around and on come the engines. I theorized that if I just laid there long enough they would go back off and I could reclaim my three and a half hours of sleep. No dice. By the time I dragged myself from bed we were already headed toward the locks and I had to rub sleep from my eyes as I placed bumpers about the boat. We patiently waited as a cruise ship and freighter cleared the locks ahead of us before our new advisor instructed us to squeeze in front of a massive, massive super-tanker that we would be sharing the locks with. This is when the advisor found out that one of our lines was only 90’. “Captain, we have a problem.” Yup, you can pretty much freely interchange that with, “Hey hold my beer while I show you something,” as last words. It couldn’t have been much of a problem though, because it was quickly decided that instead of being in the center of the lock by ourselves we would just go in ‘side-wall’ as they called it, hugging a wall instead of being in the middle of the lock, bumpers to starboard. Our Panamanian line handlers did all the line handling, naturally, and the rest of us moved bumpers up and down and up again depending on where the wall was.

Once we were settled in and the super-tanker was ready BING! went the bell, down went the boats. I wish I could say that it was like a washing machine in there. That we had to throw ourselves between the boat and the wall to keep the hull from breaking in half and sinking to the bottom, but no, smooth as could be. “43,” Alonzo, one of our line handlers says to me. “Okay…” I replied. “When we reached 43’ the door will open,” and open it did. I didn’t exactly notice on the locks coming up, but these are some serious doors. Huge metal things that looked like they were built in, well, the early 20th century. “Look! The handrails collapse as the door opens!” Dan exclaimed like a kid who just discovered how cool Legos are.

With the way clear we pushed off the wall and rode into the next lock and were enthusiastically pursued by our super-tanker lock buddy, a little too enthusiastically pursued perhaps. We were just securing our lines to the wall when we heard the sound of cables tightening and banging against metal. Looking back we saw a whole lot of boat bearing down upon us. “

Captain. Captain? Forward Captain,” our advisor said, in what I considered a far too regular tone of voice. “FORWARD DAN!!!” I screamed, just to be….encouraging. We scooted out of the way in time and found a quiet corner at the very front of the lock. Bing, you get the idea. We dropped down another 30’ and then moved forward into the last lock. The mood was light. Our friend the super-tanker managed not to run us down this time and we roped ourselves onto the wall. 30 vertical feet later we pulled out of Gatun(?) lock and into the great Caribbean sea.

 I stood triumphantly atop the boat with Judy, Jan, and Deb and discovered just how well fixed the horn was. Capt. Dan blasted a ‘fair well’ to the Panama Canal. We dropped of our advisor and line handlers before skirting around our first Caribbean reef and pulling into Shelter Bay marina. From the Pacific to the Atlantic in two days, how’s that for going places.

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