As we sailed into Colon harbour the Pacific crossing sharpened to a reality.
The anchorage lies to one side of the main channel into the Panama Canal with a steady stream of ships passing by 24 hours a day. Ashore in the Panama Canal Yacht Club there is an undercurrent of anxiety and anticipation. Everyone leans in to share plans and vital information.
“What are you feeding your transit crew? Make sure you have bottled water, some of the pilots won’t drink tank water.”
“I’m doing pizza, can’t go wrong with pizza.”
“Can I get Marmite here?”
“Do you want to share a taxi to the supermarket tomorrow?”
“We can get one together there but I think we will need one each to bring stuff back.”
Transiting the Panama Canal in a small boat in 2002 meant supplying a crew of five plus paying for an official Pilot to guide us through. The crew were one at each ‘corner’ of the boat to throw, catch and secure lines plus the Captain to steer. The pilot’s role was to direct us up through the locks from Colon to Gatun Lake, across the lake and then down the locks to Panama City and the Pacific Ocean. The transit starts at first light, around 5.30 am, with luck and good progress you can make the trip by sundown, around 6.00 pm. For half of the sailors, including Whimsey, the trip takes two days and includes a night anchored in the lake.
Catering breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks seemed to take on epic proportions and an element of competition. I decided on kedgeree for lunch and pasta for dinner, we provisioned with plenty of fruit, crisps and other snacks as well as cans of fizzy drinks. Space in the fridge was at a premium – note, cooked rice cannot be stored unrefrigerated. The batch made in advance fed the fish and the fresh batch was probably the best rice I have ever made.
More to follow…