And in the end it goes fast! Our She San is through the Panama Canal and is now in the south of the bridge of the americas and surrounded by many small but also even more large ships.
We are impressed but at the same time we have to get used to the new situation… The water is rather cold and turbid, the swell from the surrounding traffic is more than annoying, even for a catamaran, the fees for the dinghy are hilarious (54 $ for one week only to be able to put the dinghy on a pontoon in the marina and disembark) and the first two days looking for fixing and replacing equipment left us really disappointed…. but well, nevertheless we are happy to be through and look forward to discover the pacific in the near future 😉
Goodbye to San Blas
But let me go back to the end of my last blog in San Blas when my parents Heide and Pete are leaving…
Soon after we also have to say good bye to Guna Yala and especially to our cruisers friends, who we don´t expect to meet in the pacific soon.
Good opportunity to do so is the birthday party of Arthur, he becomes 4 years old and Elaine and Peter have been baking the whole day long.
Next to the whole Guna family of the house next to the Pura Vida of course a lot of crews come to congratulate, bring presents and eat the delicious pastries and cake. Especially cute are the girls of Arthur´s age with their Mola dresses and their mamas and grandmas dressed in the traditional way due to the occasion.
Preparation for the Panama Canal Crossing
The next morning we have an early start at 5 am because of our 75 miles trip to Colon. We anchor in the flats, a large area marked with tons next to the container terminals and the canal because we have appointment to get measured the following day between 8 and 11 am. Well, we are the last of the four boats present to be measured, and when we are finished at 2 pm he advises us that now it is too late to go for the payment at the bank.
So we go early next morning with the dinghy to the other side of Colon, leave the dinghy in the Yacht Club and catch a taxi on the street in order to go to the Citibank. We find it funny because the Citibank is located not far from our anchorage, but just not reachable from there…
We engine back to Puerto Lindo and in the evening after 6 pm we fix our canal transit date to the 10 of February, which leaves us 3 weeks of time. In order to prepare we reinforce our cleats with stainless steel plates and some fresh layers of polyurethane, fill up the diesel and look for crew who helps us as line handlers.
For the transit of the canal every small vessel needs next to the captain 4 persons as line handlers,
so we need a minimum of 3 other persons.
We write to ask some friends in the morning and the first ones to show interest are Martin and Ellen from the Acapella. We immediately drive with the dinghy to the Panamarina and find out that it is feasible even though they will just return from the Netherlands few days before.
The same day after having a great Goulash at Hans´restaurant Casa X we get to know the Swiss couple Lilian and Hanspeter from the Whisper and within minutes they also are happy to come with us.
First “vacation from the boat”
Since we have two weeks “spare” time, we pack our backpacks with the hiking shoes, sticks and raincoats and start off into the mountains.
Well the start is a bit difficult, we had planned to take a taxi together with Vivi and Felipe from the Carapitanga who have a flight to Brasil. But the road is blocked by a demonstration, so the taxi driver prefers to stay in Portobello and do nothing… We get help from the marina and a lift to the other side of the road block, walk through it and take a taxi on the other side…
After three taxis and one bus we arrive in Albrook and since we would like to buy a new camera we have to immerse into this huge shopping center, oh my god. After the peacefulness of San Blas it is a great cultural shock for us – too many people, noise and especially so many goods that no one really needs… in San Blas I was already happy when the vegetable man came by at least every two weeks…
Hiking in El Valle de Anton
Next challenge is the bus to El Valle de Anton, on the way up the hills Reto almost wants to get off, since in every curve the tires are making noise and the fully overloaded bus seems to loose its traction on the road…
Once there we happily move into the room we have reserved with Victoria which turns out to be a house for ourselves. We enjoy it and especially the hot water, the television and the warm blanket…
Our first hike leads us up and over the mountain called “India Dormida” and at a certain point of the walk towards it I realize it really looks like a sleeping woman!
With the walk towards it through the half of the valley we have nicely enough at the end of the tour and especially I am happy to relieve my feet from the hiking boots until the next day!
The next morning we hike up the Cerro Cara Iguana where we are almost blown off the top. On the way down we see our first snake, good that we could see her well and stop accordingly.
In the afternoon we visit the El Nispero Zoo and find some interesting animals, unfortunately sometime in some quite small cages.
More Hiking in Boquete
Then we take the 3 busses from El Valle to Boquete and make it in 9 hours to the little city surrounded by mountains in the north of David.
We like the size of the city, there is a lot going on, but it is not too big.
The streets are full with many indians who find work in the numerous coffee or vegetable plantations, but also quite some tourists are wandering around.
We check in to one of the backpacker hostels which is clean but just a bit too busy for us. The next try is not busy but also not clean, then finally we find a place we feel comfortable in.
Boquete is at almost 1100 m above sea level and has an awesome climate for hiking during the day. The nights become pretty cool, so after a year in the Caribbean we have to get used to wear sweaters again.
We do several hikes, starting with the beautiful “lost waterfalls” hike. We are surprised to pay 7$ per person, but when we see the path leading up the jungle to the 3 waterfalls we understand that quite some maintenance needs to be done there.
Also, it is private property like almost everywhere, so it is the right of the owners to charge the tourists who want to hike on their property.
On the next days we hike the hills on the other side of the volcano – there the paths are hard to find and on the top hikers are not really welcome on the private property.
We walk the pipeline trail with nice vegetation but one rather unspectacular waterfall compared to the 3 waterfalls.
We take the bus and walk to the hot springs and walk up to Palo Alto via the butterfly farm- the family owned garden “mi jardin es su jardin” seems to be closed to the lack of the gardener…
Highlight Hiking the Quetzal trail
Finally we hike the Quetzal trail back and forth. On this trail we are supposed to see Quetzals and we are actually lucky, right in the morning we hear and see one of the colourful males.
This hike of 14 km and 1000 m is just ok for us, so in the end we are not disappointed that we didn´t take on the challenge to hike the volcano itself which with 1800 m and 28 km.
Without any skies to go back down again this would be a bit too much on our knees on the way down…
After 8 days in Boquete we take the bus back to Panama City and enjoy one day of sightseeing.
We have a look at Panama Viejo and the Casco Viejo, but especially we enjoy the Mercado de Mariscos and eating the ceviche in the bars around the corners (but sometimes it is important to check out the smell of canalisation before sitting down…).
On Monday morning we purchase a roll of 183 m of rope for our She San that we use for the canal and catch the buses back to the Panamarina.
We have 3 days left to redo and strengthen the davids for the dinghy, do the inspection of the mast, wash 15 kg of laundry, fill 500 l into the water tanks and make the swimmers ready for our 4 guests / line handlers.
Crossing the Panama Canal with SHE SAN
On Friday, the 10th of February at 7 am Ellen and Martin and Lilian and Hanspeter come on board and we sail from the Panamarina to the flats in Colon. Thanks to a nice wind from the back we arrive there just after noon, so good time to get lunch, have a nap and wait patiently for the advisor to come on board.
Thanks to our first passage of the canal with the Rousalka we know that here in the canal appointments are just an orientation :-)…
Then at 4 pm our advisor Roy comes on board and we quickly realize that he is quite experienced. He waits for the boats that go into the locks together with us, then we go anchor up and follow them.
Some delays make us altogether slow down, so Reto even has to put the return gear in, since the wind pushing us makes us too fast.
Just before the first of the Gatun locks we tie up with a 54 ft yacht, but being a Catamaran Reto has the task to do the main maneuvering. Not always easy since our neighbor not always seems to understand well and does the opposite…
We move into the locks with the last bit of daylight and it doesn´t take long that the first of the locks doors is closing – the Atlantik stays behind us!!
Like in a hot tub the water comes in everywhere around us and starts to move and make bubbles and within a few minutes we are lifted up the 8 meters of height of the first lock.
Roy is doing a great job, everything goes well and after the 3rd lock we loosen the lines between us and the yacht, engine over to the huge boy where we attach with lines from the bow and the stern to spend the night.
In the end it took a bit longer than what I had expected, so as a result the pasta is not “al dente” any more ;-( We enjoy the dinner nevertheless and have some beers, wine or rum, depending on preference…
The following morning our neighbor wakes us up with the engine at 6.40 am, good idea because 15 min later our new advisor Larry already stands on board. We immediately start off into the lake Gatun, have breakfast on the way and have lunch just before arriving in the Pedro Miguel locks.
With a thai curry in the stomach we move together with our yacht from the day before, move into the locks and wait until the “tourist ship” comes that is going down with us. We have a cruise ship in mind and are really disappointed seeing that this is only a small ferry together with the total of 4 sailing vessels. Incredible the amount of water that goes down into the Pacific just for 5 small boats like this!!!
When we move into the Miraflores locks we understand from the messages from home that finally this webcam is working. So we are double nervous – we can be seen in the internet and the locks procedure is moving us toward the pacific. Down two more locks and then the doors open – the pacific lies in front of us – wow!
We pass the doors of the locks and probably everyone has the feeling that that was it. But we still have to untie form the yacht. In that moment it happens, the front line is loosened too quickly, too much pressure on the back line, the yacht drifts into a right angle with her heck approaching ours…Reto only screams “kniiiiife” and while I get it and cut the rope through I already hear the noise of our solar panels…then a loud “blopp” – the dinghy of our neighbor must have gotten a hole – the rope is cut and we are finally free…
With this shock in the knees we move south and pass underneath the Bridge of the Americas, we say good bye to our Advisor Larry and move into the anchorage of La Playita to find a place for the night. Unfortunately the ground here is holding not so good so it takes a few tries before we feel confident enough to stay – well luckily there is not much wind in the next days….
Then we toast to each other with the Pacific arrival beers, wine and rum, but soon after Ellen and Martin have to leave – they have the same passage in front of them a few days later!! We continue the party with Lilian and Hanspeter and start to digest the happenings….