Thursday, 9 June 2016

Panama to Mt Isa To NZ and back to Panama

I left our home, a 12m cruising yacht, and husband Eric, in Bocas Del Toro in Panama in March and flew to Mt Isa, Queensland, Australia for a months work. It is always lovely to catch up with work colleagues and other agency staff I have worked with in different places in Australia.
Photographing the birds and fauna at the lakes and billabongs and having BBQs in the outdoors is one of my passions







Changing a punctured tyre

It was time to say goodbye and head to NZ for the arrival of our Grandchild.


Little Ruby arrived 2 weeks late on the 13th of May. It was so hard to say goodbye.
We have 5-6 mths to sail from Panama to Auckland, NZ where we will complete our world circumnavigation


My brother Ralph and I left Auckland on the 23rd of May bound for Panama to join my husband Eric aboard our yacht "Erica".



I had always wanted to fly on the Air NZ Boeing 777 with the new black and white logo


Little did we know that in LA Ralph's luggage would be fail to arrive in Mexico City where he would transit to Panama. I had a longer layover in LA and flew direct to Panama City arriving minutes after his flight. We stayed overnight in the city and walked to the Multi Plaza from the hotel to buy some essentials as the luggage could not be found. I had a 1.6m x 0.8m solar panel and a large propellor in my luggage so I was very happy to see that arrive safely!  Ralph's bag turned up 4 days later thank goodness



The next afternoon we caught the overnight bus to Almirante where Eric picked us up. He had been aboard for 2 mths at the Bocas Del Toro islands where he had been doing maintenance and preparing for our Panama Canal transit and entry paperwork into the Galapagos islands.



It was a 10hr bus trip and we arrived at 1830hrs. After a good nights sleep we motored acros the bay






We spent a couple of days relaxing before heading to Bocas Del Toro


Here we stocked up on food and fuel and Eric renewed his visa. On the 29th of May we set sail for Colon. We passed several island resorts before heading out to open sea



We stopped at Zapatilla Cays for a night and Escuda de Veraguas island for another.
The next day we left after daybreak and had some good sailing and motor sailing to Colon before the wind died. Dolphin played in the bow wake


Our arrival at the Colon breakwater entrance was at 0350hrs. It was a good time to arrive as the shipping was minimal.


We tried phoning the Admeasurers office all day to no avail to arrange measurement and inspection required for the Panama canal transit. Eventually after finding a more recent phone number we got hold of the Department and the next morning Kirsty came aboard and did the necessary measuring and paperwork




We were then able to move away from the port area to Club Nautico where we had access to the shore.

 Ralph practicing his Spanish...Could I have 3 rum and cokes please?



A taxi driver took us through the streets of Colon to Citibank where we deposited $1875 USD for our canal transit payment. ( $800 of this is given back if no damage is caused by us during the lockage.



Once this was received we were to be scheduled a date and time.
While we waited we arranged for 2 line handlers to join us and ordered tyres for protecting the boat and ropes to tie up to the sides of the loch walls.
Unfortunately there was a problem with our deposit and the bank hadn't sent the necessary papers to the accounts department so we were unable to schedule a transit time!
After scanning some documents they had given us and emailing them to the accounts department just before the bank closed for the weekend we were able to go ahead with planning a Sunday departure, 2 days later


....A happy skipper!

Our 2 line handlers arrived... Tyler had answered our request for a line handler online and travelled down from Boqette (Near the Costa Rican border) for the experience and Marisio joined us who is an experienced  local line handler.
We had to cover our solar panels to prevent damage from ther steel balls (monkey fists) which are thrown from the canal walls to propel the lines to the boat.


Our first Advisor was Hastroabarto. He was with us through the first 3 lochs at Gatun and left us once we anchored for the night at Gatun Lake.


We slowly made our way towards the Gatun lochs.


The loch on the right are the old lochs and on the left is the new lochs to be opened this month.

A ship went into the loch ahead of us




The line handlers on the loch wall threw us the light lines with a monkey fist attached. These we tied to the heavy lines which they then pulled up to the Loch wall and tied off once we were in position in the loch chamber.


By the time the ship had eased into the first loch daylight faded




Everything went well with the lockage and we were hungry by the time the anchor was set in the Gatun lake. A large pre- prepared lasagne went down well.

During the night we were almost thrown from our bunks when a tug boat roared past causing a huge wake on our side which made the boat roll badly.
The next morning at 0700hrs, now Monday the 6th of June our next advisor Evaan arrived.The breakfast of banana fritters with syrup which was laid out on the table had to be quickly put away as the pilot boat came alongside.
We made our way across the lake and into the Guilliard Cut


It was a big job in the galley preparing and serving snacks and meals to 6 people..3 of us, our 2 line handlers and the Advisor. Accommodating 2  extra people was also challenging as the boat had been stocked for a long ocean passage so space was tight. Then all the cleaning up afterwards....Linen to wash and dry and supplies re stowed


The next set of lochs was the Pedro Miguel loch where we tied alongside a Tugboat with a ship behind us.
We went into the loch first





Then the ship came in being manoeuvered by the tug


The tug moved forward and we tied up next to them.

The next lochs were the Miraflores lochs where there is a Panama Canal museum and 4 storey viewing area. Here we were on our own with the ship behind us





Due to a misunderstanding with communication I pulled in a line which should have been slackened and the boat got caught in a strong current causing it to swing out of control but with 2 strong linehandlers on the bow the problem was quickly resolved. It gave the spectators in the viewing tower something to take photos of...

The rain turned into a torrential downpour as we left the last loch into the Pacific Ocean







It quickly became almost whiteout conditions with thunder and lightening all around and our Latino linehandler became extremely vocal and animated giving contradicting directions from the bow to the Advisor who also became hysterical!!

The tyres and lines were dropped off into an open supply boat and the line handler disembarked.The Advisor insisted he stayed onboard as he was concerned about the poor visibility and boat movement in the harbour. A support vessel came alongside several times for him to disembark but the sea state was too bad to do this safely. We just wanted him off our boat so we could calmly navigate ther harbour to a safe anchorage.
Eventually after seeking some shelter behind a breakwater the support vessel was able to safely come alongside for the advisor to disembark




We then continued to a sheltered anchorage and set the anchor...The rum and cokes were good!!


















SV Erica

SV Erica

About Me

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We met in 1971 and it was Eric's dream to build his own yacht and sail the world. This became a joint dream but it was not until 1994 that we were able to start building. "Erica" was launched in 2001 after 7yrs building her. It then took us 5 yrs to prepare her and ourselves before leaving NZ to see the world

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