What an amazing experience! We were exhausted when we finally dropped anchor yesterday afternoon in La Playita, two days after we started our transit. A welcome committee of friend boats were waiting for us and we got a real sense of achievement. We made it to the Pacific side!
We left Shelter Bay Marina Monday at midday with our three extra line handlers (it’s a requirement to have four line handlers on board). We radioed Cristobal Signal Station as soon as were anchored in the flats and were told the advisor would arrive at 19.45. A long wait… but nothing we could do about it. Two other boats were waiting too, one of them our buddy boat Taff Tumas. We couldn’t have arranged this if we had requested it but somehow we ended up crossing the Canal on the same day and even “nested” together through the locks. Hector, our advisor, was dropped off by the pilot boat at exactly 19.45 and asked if we kept him some dinner. Shortly after we lifted anchor and headed into the Canal just behind a big container ship. There are three locks to get through before arriving in Gatun Lake and the whole process took just over 3 hours. Everything went very smooth without any stress thanks to the professionalism of the line handlers and especially the advisor. Gatun is a fresh water lake and after a hot and sticky day a swim would have been very welcoming but we weren’t too keen on the crocodiles … Quick shower instead!
The next morning was a rude awakening when he pilot boat dropped off our advisor, Edwin, at 6am. We motored through Gatun Lake and arrived at the other side around 11am, ready for the three locks that would take us into the Pacific. Again, everything went very smooth and we all enjoyed the whole experience immensely.
The anchorage in La Playita is disappointing. It’s roly with many pilot boats zooming past causing huge waves. But it’s a convenient stop to stock up on fresh fruit and veg and have access to a big city before we head over into the Pacific!