Zephyrus’s Canal Transit

On Friday Doreen and our visitor PJ were line handlers on the sailboat Zephyrus as it made its transit of the Panama canal from the Pacific Ocean into the Caribbean Sea.


Zephyrus untied from their buoy at the Balboa Yacht Club and moved into the channel where we met up with our advisor for the trip.  The advisor is an employee of the Canal Authority and is getting his early experience at transiting the canal with the smaller boats.  He is in radio contact with the canal officials,  the pilots that are on the large ships, and any other advisors on small boats.


The transit really started after we passed under the Bridge of the Americas, which we had just passed under when I snapped this photo of Dan (Zephyrus‘ owner) and our advisor.


We entered the first lock (the Mira Flores lock) behind this ship and tied off along side of another small boat that was itself tied to a tug.  Both boats are visible as they lined up to enter the lock in this photo.  The small insert shows the lock doors closing .  We were sandwiched then between the closed doors and the stern of the ship.

We were lifted thru two locks to the Las Flores lake where we had about an hour wait before we could transit the third “up lock”’ then we passed under the Centennial Bridge, into the Culebra cut and finally into Lake Gatun.  Most of the rest of the day we motored thru the lake to the upper end of the Gatun Locks.  Since a ship ahead of us had had difficulty pulling their anchor up, the lockage down was delayed just long enough that we were able to squeeze in front of a large car carrier for the trip down.  We tied off to the ship’s tug for the lockage with the big ship just off our stern.


We exited the last lock into the Caribbean.  This photo is looking back into the lock as the ship that locked with us is just exiting the lock.  The visible tug is the friendly one that we locked down with, tied along side.

It was a dark moonless night as we dropped off the advisor in Colón and headed over to the Shelter Bay Marina where Zephyrus had nabbed a slip for a few days.  Frank from WindSong, one of the other line handlers, had been to this marina on other boats many times before; he was able to help guide us in – in the dark!  Since it was quite dark and late by the time we tied up, we could not find a taxi driver that would come and return we three line handlers to Balboa, so we all spent the night together on Zephyrus.


The next morning we took a hike into the jungle that surrounds the marina. On the hike we saw and heard several troops of howler monkeys and ended up at a lovely beach directly on the Caribbean Sea.