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The Panama Canal

Thursday 8th - Friday 9th February Panama Canal

Eventually, it was our turn to experience the great Panama Canal. There was a lot of excitement and preparation involved. As usual, Jenevra and Fergus handled all the arrangements seamlessly. Extra lines and fenders were loaned, and instructions on rafting were given. However, for our traverse, we did not raft; we were going through with a ferry. The ferry would moor to the wall, and we would moor alongside the ferry, and Madeleine, the beautiful Outremer 45 owned by Chris Hill, would moor alongside us. Cosy! We were also assigned extra line handlers and three consecutive pilots for our journey. Luckily for us, Stuart McIntosh, who was sailing on Promise IV, an Alliage 56, volunteered to be one of our line handlers, as his yacht wasn't ready to go through the canal. Once everything was double-checked by Fergus, we ventured out of the marina.

We motored gently towards the Panama Canal leaving the Atlantic Ocean behind.

It took two days to traverse the Canal. The first day we travelled towards the three sets of gates which comprise the Gatun Locks. These three locks took us up to Gatun Lake. There was no great rush, we meandered knowing we would meet everyone on time. This operation has been carried out for decades and everyone knows the procedure. Iain was in his element.

Once in Gatun Lake, we had an overnight stay with Madeleine on a mooring buoy. The Pilot boat helped us tie up and here our first Pilot disembarked. We spent a pleasant evening sipping sundowners, getting to know our contemporaries.

The next morning we waited for the second Pilot to arrive, and again made our way towards the next lock. The Pedro Miguel Lock. A single lock which would drop us down to the Miraflores Lake. One step closer to the Pacific Ocean. Again, a gentle day on the way, and a seamless entry into the lock.

To add to the excitement of the trip, there were live cameras at each lock to enabled our family and friends to join us. It was very exciting to receive messages as we navigated our way to the Pacific. This journey was quite a pivotal moment in our circumnavigation made very simple by the expertise of all on board. Everyone had a position on the boat and all line handling and coming alongside was executed with precision and skill. Iain was relaxed and happy.

Canals are not new to us. When we were not messing about on the rivers in Essex, we crossed the North Sea to Holland where many a summer was spent on the canals and inland waterways. Indeed, when in Ipswich, our chariot is kept in Ipswich Dock, which can only be entered via a lock gate. However, the scale of these locks were truly something to marvel. The Pilots and Lock Operators knew their stuff. Nothing was left to chance and each manoeuvre was seamless. Iain was enjoying life!

This gave more time to enjoy the architecture and engineering of the canal. Built between the years of 1903 - 1914, the canal is a lasting and important testament to the many who transformed traversing between the Atlantic and Pacific easily. A vital part of the American military strategy during World War II.

Without ceremony, the last set of gates of the Miraflores Lock opened, and we were officially in the Pacific Ocean on our way to La Playita Marina, Panama City. There was no fanfare, no dramatic change of scenery, or welcome banner, but we felt the elation of our achievement nonetheless.

For the next few days we became tourists in a big city. Our first evening was spent with the Ogilvie family, including Bill and Amanda Hawker from Dilema, a Moody 54. We found ourselves in a very unique restaurant set within a museum dedicated to vintage cars on Calle 5A Oesie. A most eclectic and novel theme.

I am not a car enthusiast. For me, a car needs to work, look pretty, and get me safely to my destination. This evening, Bill and I chose to sit together. I made the mistake of asking Bill if he knew anything about these ancient vehicles. In one quick move, Bill proceeded to show me photographs of the vintage cars he has lovingly restored over the years, explaining all the repairs in some detail. My night was set; I could see I was going to become an expert on paint colors, radiators, and starting handles, to name but a few parts I understood. To break Bill’s flow, I flippantly mentioned my only reference to these relics of the past was my maternal grandfather, Edwin Archer, who died before I was born. He had a black Model T Ford in Chennai, South India. My mother would tell stories of traveling to boarding school, church, or outings sitting in the back with her mother and siblings.

Before I could finish, Bill whisked me off to show me the very same Model T Ford, shining, in black, in the restaurant. I cannot explain the rush of nostalgia and understanding which filled me in that moment. As I stood beside the car, I felt a connection to my departed grandparents. I could see my mother with her family and I understood another part of my heritage which until then had only ever been an imagined scene.

Well, that was it! Bill and I had become firm friends. The evening was as pivotal as traversing the Canal! This called for a completely new me!

Tonight was not a white wine sort of evening. Cocktails were in order. Scanning the menu I settled on a Negroni, bringing back memories of a very fine time in Florence. A look of dismay from Iain. To continue in the same vain, my usual, fish or chicken Caesar salad with dressing on the side, would not cut the mustard! This occasion called for The Model T Ford prime beef burger with chips! Iain looked shocked. It had to be done, and my new friend agreed! Today history had been made in more ways than one.

Sharing a Tiramisu with Bill Hawker

After a fabulous meal, we were feeling very jolly and proud of our achievements. We made our way to a roof top bar to celebrate the night away, knowing there would be many more moments just like this.

Thanks to Bill and Jayne for the wonderful photographs of the evening!

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תגובה אחת

15 ביולי

Wow Jax, The Panama Canal looked amazing and we loved the story of the lucky hat - more lucky than you knew - so glad Iain got it back! I thought the end of the ankle story was going to be a trip to the hospital - so glad it wasn't! Your rainy weather is mirroring ours in the UK, but we have an ambient air-temperature of 15 degrees - I suspect yours is a little higher!! Keep the commentry coming!

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