Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Colon, Panama

Colon, Panama
27 May - 1 Jun 2011

First thing: find an agent. An agent is not required for transiting the canal. He just makes things so much easier. Yes, it costs more. But when I did the overall cost comparison, I only spent about $150 more than if I had done all the running around on my own. And I spent absolutely no time worrying about any of the paperwork or process.

I used Erick as my agent. He charged me a $300 fee. But for that he did the following:
He scheduled the admeasurer
He provided and delivered the required fenders (tires)
He provided and delivered the required set of 4ea 130' 3/4" lines
(This is a big one:) He put up the required $800 security bond.

Hiring a taxi to run around and do all the paperwork, plus renting all the equipment would have cost about $150.

Total cost to me for the canal transit was $909.

I needed to find 4 line handlers to ride with me for the two-day transit. s/v Hakuna Matata (Yi-lin and Vincent) agreed to help. I went to one of the boats waiting in the anchorage in Colon and found Eric (s/v Sur L'Eau) and Ben (s/v Free Spirit). They were waiting to transit and agreed to help me if I, in turn, helped them.

The agent called and said we had to be at The Flats for the Admeasurer at 0800, Monday. Stravaig, Galena, and s/v Detour motored around to
The Flats. The surveyor showed up at 0830. That was very prompt for Panama! We filled out a lot of paper and I was given my copies of each one of them.

The next day we were told that we would transit on Wednesday, 01 June. Wow! That was quick! We had been told that there was up to a ten-day delay. We had two days. Cool.

The fenders were delivered and I put the training wheels all around Galena.

Galena looking a little "Tired" the day before her canal transit

There are many rules to be followed for a transit. I was worried about just about every one of them. Speed is one. You have to be able to maintain 5-kts for two days. Galena sometimes has trouble with that if there is an adverse wind or current.

Then there's the whole line handler issue. I would have four strangers on board that I would have to feed and house for two days.

Don’t forget the whole locking process. I've heard horror stories of boats being crushed by ships or spinning out of control in the turbulence during locking and smashing themselves into the lock walls.

Now I was just one day away from facing all those fears. I didn't sleep well that night.

Wednesday morning we were informed that we had to be back at The Flats to pick up our advisors (pilots) at 1500. The advisor would arrive at 1700 but we had to be there 2-hrs early.

We were also told that the plan was for our three boats to go through together (Galena, Stravaig, Detour). That means we would only need 4 line handlers for the raft. Together we had 12 line handlers. That a lot of extra people.

In my case it was a blessing. Yi-Lin was free to play hostess to the rest of my crew. She did a fine job, too.

Most of the rest of the pictures came from her.

My advisor was Hector ("Hector, the Protector"). He arrived promptly at 1700. We were hauling up the anchor as his launch approached. He pointed to a ship coming up the channel and said, "That's our ship. We have to follow it into the lock. Get going."

So it started.

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