Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Making our way to the canal

Punta Mala turned out to be just the beginning of a long struggle against the current to get to Balboa and the canal. We knew there would be current at the cape itself. What we didn’t expect was the current against us all of the rest of the way. Normally we average five knots when we motor. For this leg our average was more like 3.5 knots, and that was with wind to help us. The slog was punctuated by a thunderstorm that John narrowly missed on his watch and a couple of downpours.

About 15 miles before Balboa we passed an island (Otoque) with a beautiful anchorage. We had thought that we would stop early and anchor there, but Orinoco had left the previous anchorage ahead of us, so we were by ourselves. Although Panama is generally safe, anchoring alone isn’t recommended. In this case, we could see pangas fishing in the cove, so we decided to continue on. We finally anchored at Taboga Island just before dark and spent a wakeful night. The anchorage was too deep for our main anchor, so we had to use our secondary. Both are the same size, but the secondary has longer rode because it’s rope. Rope stretches, so the anchor alarm kept going off. We were glad to get out of there in the morning.

Orinoco was anchored at the Flamenco Island anchorage and said the Balboa Yacht Club (BYC) didn’t have any moorings available when he called them. We checked out the Flamenco anchorage and even had the hook down for a few minutes, but we didn’t feel comfortable with the close quarters there, so I got on the radio and called BYC. They said they would find a mooring for us, so with some relief, we came here. John took the launch to shore and had us checked in within a couple of hours.

That was yesterday. It was a really big day because while John was checking in, he met Enrique Plummer, a yacht agent who had been recommended to us to arrange our canal transit. We called Enrique later, and he met us yesterday evening and started all of the paperwork for us immediately.

The admeasurer is scheduled to measure us tomorrow morning. I’m not sure when we’ll be scheduled to transit. They don’t schedule that until you’ve been measured. It could be as early as Friday, though, Enrique says. We’re going to be busy tomorrow getting ready just in case we really can go on Friday. We need to get provisions to feed our canal adviser and line handlers, and we need to get fuel too. The fuel dock is right here at BYC, so that helps.

Here’s a link to webcams at the Panama Canal. When we know when we’re scheduled, we’ll post it and you can watch for us.

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