The excitement about the Panama Canal builds as we approach Colon and see many ships in the distance. In fact, check out this photo taken of our chart plotter. Each little triangle is a ship. They are almost all anchored, waiting to transit the canal (or in some cases to be loaded/unloaded in the port). Can be tricky to pick out the one that’s actually moving, that needs to be avoided!
Crossing the swath of ships, we get to Shelter Bay Marina. Ah, showers and laundry services and a restaurant!
Our new alternator was successfully (and expensively!) delivered. We installed it, and it works fine. A new propeller for our hydro-generator has also arrived, and is now installed. We discovered two broken bits of rigging hardware, and people have promised to help us with replacements, but they haven’t shown up yet. We have also noticed that the bolts holding the stays for our sprit (where the forward sail is connected) are starting to bend. The connection for these stays is not very well designed, and we are hoping to come up with a better solution before we head into the Pacific. In other words, we have boat projects still.
But also we have BPO things to do. For starters, this is the first place where the Key West boats and the boats that started in Martinique are together at a marina. So there is lots of socializing, both on boats and at the restaurant, as we all get to know each other. For some reason our crew seems to have an affinity for the Martinique crowd more than the Key West contingent. (Not that there’s anyone we don’t like, of course. And probably by the time we go through the Galapagos we will no longer be making a distinction about where boats started.) And Jimmy Cornell (BPO organizer) is in town, and planning some of our activities.
We had a delightful briefing by Jimmy about the wonders to come of the Galapagos, the Marquesas, the Tuomotus, the Society Islands (which include Tahiti), and even a little hint about what he’s cooking up for Indonesia. We’ve also had a less pleasant briefing about the administrative requirements for entering the Galapagos, which are onerous and at times non-sensical, and which seem to change almost daily. Boats have been turned away for not complying with unreasonable requirements!
But first comes the Canal. Transit through the Canal also has many requirements. Each boat requires, in addition to the “master” of the ship, four line handlers. We will have to hire two. And we must have four 125′ long 7/8″ lines. We have zero that qualify, but the BPO is providing these, plus tires to be available as fenders. A measurer has to come in advance, and ask lots of questions about the boat, measure its length and width, and provide an official number to identify it for Canal purposes. We’ve made it through this step. All the BPO boats had to be measured before the Canal Authority would schedule our transit. On Tuesday the Authority gave us permission to transit on Wednesday. Wait!! No one was ready; provisioning is not done; projects are in mid-stream. Jimmy had been pushing for fast transit because it can take many days before it is scheduled, but now he had to reply that we couldn’t go on the schedule offered!
The revised plan is for 6 boats to start Saturday and complete Sunday, and the remaining 5 to start Monday and complete Tuesday. With the revised schedule they could not give us an entire lock to our fleet of 11 boats, because every boat requires a Canal pilot (who gives directions where to go, how fast, how to tie up in the locks, etc), and this weekend being Carnival weekend they say they had to cancel some scheduled vacations to accommodate us at all! We are in the second group, which reduces the time pressure on us and our incomplete projects. Our two extra days won’t help much, though, since they are Saturday and Sunday, when we won’t be able to get any materials or outside assistance. The time will help me catch up with my blog though, before we head to the big no-wifi zone of the ocean…
With this post, I am going to consider Part 1 of the Blue Planet Odyssey complete. The BPO isn’t really divided into “parts” — this is my own view of it. Getting to the Canal staging area was, in my mind, the first part. Part 2 will take us through the Canal and include many adventures in the Pacific Ocean.