Isla San Jose

Anchored in the bay we were treated to one of the most spectacular lightning displays I have ever seen. Both high up in cloud and ground strikes.

Toni got these using an iPhone, the lightning so consistent. One ‘in cloud’ burst right overhead and the thunder was almost instantaneous.

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Isla Del Rey & La Esmeralda

Picked up the anchor and did a slow steam down the east coast of the largest island, Isla Del Rey. It is a national marine park and known for Hump Back Whales, we saw several but never close enough to photograph.

The coast looked wild.

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local fishermen

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We turned up at the village of La Esmeralda late in the afternoon.

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A local fishing boat was alongside in a flash and we bought 5 fish which we grilled for supper.

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Next thing we were flooded with young lads who thought diving off the boat was the best thing ever

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And they kept coming

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We gave them some pizza, some wolfed it down but one lad carefully divided his piece into three and shared it with others. Next was pop corn which produced a huge bun fight with some lads getting double hands full and others nothing, another bowl was split up into several smaller bowls with better results.  The lads waiting for more

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Lois rounded them up for a photo, but some were too shy

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Water pistols were well received and we let them keep them, I could imagine them getting a slap from Dad after a poorly planned shot.

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We were going to anchor there for the night but we would be having visitors all night so moved down to the next bay where we promptly chased out by the transport police who has some sort of base there.

So we steamed across the channel to Isla San Jose to anchor.

 

 

Islas de las Perlas (Pearl Islands)

After three days of wharf surfing we decided to head down to the Pearl Islands for the weekend. Only 34 Nm away it was a short steam on Saturday morning.

The Pearl Islands are named for their pearls although there was not much evidence of them. They are now mostly holiday resorts for the wealthy of Panama but are also used for desert island programs on TV – Survivor programs.

Pelicans were everywhere and came very close at times.

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Typical Offshore Island

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The beach where we anchored for the night. We anchored close in to try and get out of the swell but the 15 foot tide forced us to move out again to prevent a grounding.

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This is Concordia Island which is the most built up with a hotel and private holiday homes.

Flamenco Island

After the transit we dropped the pilot and then went alongside the La Playita marina at Flamenco Island.

These used to be islands but are now connected to the mainland with a causeway built using material from the canal widening.

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Looking back at the islands, the canal / Balboa approach signal station visible and Panama City in the background.

The marina was prone to surge and we broke three mooring lines while there but otherwise was fine.

Miraflores Locks

Given the short distance we steamed down to Miraflores with Catalyst rafted alongside.

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The gates open after we dropped down in the first chamber, the museum and visitor observation platform visible to the left.

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The control station

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The gates open in the first chamber

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A look at the incline between the locks, tracks for the mules and also the track they lock onto.

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A photo from instagram, photographer unknown but thanks.

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The final gate opens. The swing bridge on the left used to carry a railway line over the canal.

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Catalyst makes a quick getaway, anything to beat Lois to the supermarket.

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It was a great transit, the crew demonstrated good seamanship skills and we all had fun.

The canal is a magnificent piece of engineering but for others its just a good fishing spot

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The Bridge of the Americas and behind that the Pacific Ocean

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PS: Lois gave all the groceries back.

 

Pedro Miguel Lock

We caught up with Catalyst who had gone alongside. With us to tie up to they came back to centre chamber. This is the Pedro Miguel lock, the first set of locks on the Pacific side with just a single chamber. Next are the Miraflores Locks, just under a nautical mile further along the canal, with two chambers.

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The Ocean Dream entering the lock.

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Looking down the canal toward the Miraflores locks.

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The Catalyst rafted up alongside, the crew looking a bit thin on it.  If they knew where their groceries were we would be fighting off a boarding party.

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The Ocean Dream moves into position

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A close up of the Mules

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The Gap

As we got closer we passed the diversion to the new locks:

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At this stage the Pilot was getting us to slow down, he didn’t think the Ocean Dream would slow down enough for us to overtake but after a chat with their Pilot he asked me for full speed again.

We went down the port side of the Ocean Dream with her still moving ahead, more radio chats and she went still. Nice Pilot had given us a chance. Our Pilot says, Can You?  With a long wait as the alternative just watch.

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At this point it looked like a big gap, I was more worried about their lines hanging down getting fouled on the mast or an antenna.

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The Pilot was worried about their bulbous bow but it was well tucked in under the flare of the bow, we would be doing damage before that.

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The Ocean Dream crew woke up and pulled their lines up as we ran the gap

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No problems, the Bridge Team have a laugh.

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The Race

We had a pleasant morning, except for being chased away by the dredge, watching east bound tankers passing through. Mostly LNG tankers so the traffic was one way.

About 0900 the Catalyst steamed slowly past, they had anchored by the Gatun Locks and probably had a early start. Not easy on an empty stomach I would think, we’d had a great breakfast of ill gotten gains.

Eventually on the nav system we saw the first west bound ship enter the canal after the Gatun Lake and head our way.

I warned the team we could be underway soon as we needed a west bound vessel to lock in with.

Here she is passing us about 1200:

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But still no Pilot.

At 1400 the pilot arrives and cheerfully tells me we will have to wait until the passenger ship is close. When I tell him it is well past he is on the radio and then asks if we can get going quickly. We need to catch up with her as the next three ships are too big for us to lock in with. All of us would then have a long wait until the right ship arrived.

The anchor was quickly up and the MTU was built up to 1760 RPM, the highest I have ever had her (max 1800 RPM).

Nice still water,:

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The Pilot wanted us to stay on the starboard side as there was a container ship behind us who might want to overtake, he’d have to be quick:

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Rain Forest down to the canal banks

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Twists and turns

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The hard bit in the Galliard Cut, much wider than it used to be:

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Close up, the recent expansion done by modern methods, the early canal a lot more man power involved.

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The new bridge built in 2004:

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Close to the bridge, the Pedro Miguel Locks in the distance, no sign of the Ocean Dream

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As we round the corner we see the Ocean Dream had not yet got to the lock

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But as we closed we saw she was inside the extended lock wall

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A close race!

 

Mid-Canal

We had a pleasant run down the lakes and into the start of the cut eventually anchoring near the dredging base. All done in the dark.

This is the view in the morning, the Pilot was determined to anchor close to the dredge despite their objections. The next morning they chased us off so we picked up the anchor and moved a 100 metres.

The dredge

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Looking back along the canal, we moved from this position to a position between these and the next set of mooring buoys. Another dredge in the background with an east bound tanker behind. The dredging base to the right. There was 4 dredges working along this short stretch.

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Looking across the canal. The train crossing the bridge is carrying containers across the isthmus. The larger container ships discharge one side, the containers are railed over and loaded on another container ship. Now the large locks are open and the canal wider the ships may go back to transiting the canal.

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