The transit of the Panama Canal 2010
Amado our Pilot through the Gatun Locks and into Gatun Lake
Jerry and Emma the bow handlers
Bill, Jim and Edward, stern handlers
Me, piloting Blue Sky.  The "up" was not as stressfull as I had anticipated.  This is normally the most difficult section with the turbulance from the rising lock and prop wash from the vessel in front.
The Canal is constantly being dredged and they continue to improve the canal by removing islands thus making less turns.  Normally the water in the lake is
Emma, Phoebe & Drake with Gillard Cut behind them, as we sail past Centenario Brigde.
There is no way a US Navy Captain would allow his vessel to be chained thus reducing his options to manuover so the linehandlers on the vessel attached mooring lines to the wire rope that the "mules" or trains, use to tow the vessels into and through the locks.  The strain was too much for the starboard bow line and it snapped!  Everyone aboard Blue Sky instinctivly ducked from the loud bang, but the Marines on the bow of HSV 2 didn't even flinch!  The starboard line handler working with the linemen for the lock had a new line attached and secured in record time.  Professionals make it look so easy, but we know how good these guys really are.
The Marines on the bow of HSV 2 in the photograph on the right  are taking a closer look at Phoebe & Drake as the show the homeward bound flag.  Every time I  was able to glance back at them, they were always scaning their field of vision. 

Check out the Stars & Stripes behind them.  I think this might give you a better idea of the wind and how it was a bit more of a challenge to stop "
Blue Sky!"
Colon, Panama and the entrance to the Panama Canal on the Caribbean side.  The photographs above from left to right, show the east (smaller) breakwater entrance.  We chose to anchor off the Club Nautico on the east side of Colon near the cruise ship terminal.  Above, is our view from the anchorage and a photo of Blue Sky at anchor with a cruise ship departing the dock.  There is not much room for yachts but we did manage to have as many as ten at ancho,r even, in less than desirable conditions.   The cost to anchor off Club Nautico was $5.00 per day and they had a security guard at the main entrance.  Ashore the club has a cantina and there is also a resturaunt that is operated independent of the club.  Down the street at the Cruise Ship terminal was a decent sized grocery store, so most of our needs were close by. Taxi's were .75c, which was a great option, as it is not advisable to walk in Colon.
Yes, you're seeing correctly.  For all you boat owners out there that are considering using a delivery captain.  This delivery captain anchored the cat & then dissappeared for four days.  This was as close as he got to us before I had enough, and used the dingy to push him far, far away.  Of course as soon as I did that he returned to the vessel about a half hour later and assumed all was ok.  We have been ANCHORED ON all over the world but this one was the most outrageous idiot to-date.  Once again boat owners, check out who you're turning your boat over to.  Don't think for a minute that they will treat it like you would.  Futhermore, make sure your insurance is up to date.  In the event that the vessel did damage to Blue Sky, I was prepared to contact our lawyer here in Panama.  Emma and I would have had a catamaran for sale real cheap.  Luckiliy for us the catamaran moved only to threaten other vessels with his idea of how to anchor.
Emma & I know how fortunate we are.  But to have both of our fathers join us for the transit of the Panama Canal was a treat.  Edward above left brought presents for the children and I had not seen my father Bill in over 5 years.  Way too long!  They traveled from Tucson & Reno to Los Angeles and then caught the same plane from there down to Panama City.  In Panama City they met up with Jim Machado (pictured left with me) and took a cab from the airport 2+ hours to the anchorage at Club Nautico in Colon.
Jim & Jim.  Jim Machado and his wife Chris were the first cruisiers we met in Mexico.  It was actually during the re-power fiasco of Blue Sky at the Coral Resort & Marina in Ensenada, Mexico where we became aquainted.  Both Jim & Chris offered the voice of reason during those dark days when the whole project Blue Sky almost overwhelmed Emma & I.  We caught up with one another again down in Puerto Vallarta a year later and have kept in touch along the way.  Jim has been through the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal was on his list of things to do.  So once again Blue Sky and the Mather family lucked out to have a yachtsman assist us with the transit.
Although Phoebe & Drake didn't handle lines, they helped drive Blue Sky across Lake Gatun.  Just as I made them steer around the Cape of Good Hope they put in wheel time in the Canal!
Now that you've seen the "tip of the iceburg" line-handlers check out the rock stars that also helped to get Blue Sky through the Ditch!  If you have been to Catalina Island on the Two Harbos side then you will recognize Rudy on the left (with my dad) & Jerry on the right sitting next to Edward.
The retires'  Bill & Rudy.  My dad put in 30+ years with Chevron & Rudy (he told me not to tell) did about the same with The Catalina Company at Two Harbors.  My mom & dad are up in Reno, Nevada enjoying skiing during the winter & Golf through-out the summer.  Rudy has just re-located down here to Panama.  He's a few hours north of Panama City and we hope to visit him on our voyage north. 
Look behind the crew on the aft deck of Blue Sky & you will see the massive container ship terminal.  It's actually four terminals & a loading/unloading dock that can accomodate two car carriers!  The turning basin is directly behind us and it was facinating to watch these huge vessels spin & reverse into their assigned dock.
I also enjoyed watching the loading & off-loading of the containers.  The logistics facinated me as many of the container ships would make multiple visits to the terminal..  They would take off or receive what they needed then head back offshore to the ocean anchorage only to return the next day or a few days later.  Emma said, "it was like watching paint dry."  What she forgets is that I was in the chemical business and I like to watch paint dry.
Grandfathers with their Blue Sky grandchildren.  Phoebe received her name from her maternal great grand mother on Emma's side of the family.  Drake is sitting next to his namesake William Drake Mather.
It was pretty cool to see how well the Calon Harbor Pilots could maneuver these huge vessels.  Must be nice to have bow & stearn thrusters just to keep everything straight.
Hanging out at the "Flats" anchorage awaiting our Canal Advisor.  We did not bother anchoring instead I was able to monitor the engine and make certain that we were not going to have any mechanical issues.  We arrived on time and only waited about 45 minutes for the advisor to arrive.  Once he was aboard it was hurry up lets get going.  So that's exactly what we did.  Gatun Lock here we come!
Pictured above is the arrival of the crew boat that delivers the "Advisors" to the transiting vessels.  The muster area before entering The Canal is the old Flats anchorage.  This anchorage was much more crowded before the Panama Canal Yacht Club lost its lease and was swallowed up by the neighboring container terminal.  Sadly it's reduced the choice of transiting vessels to either the marina or where we stayed at The Club Nautico.  Surprisingly, vessels were still showing up at the Flats using out-dated information.  They did not know the yacht club has been gone for more than a year and it took them a couple of days to figure out their options.
Heading towards the Gatun Locks.  The photograph on the left show the tanker that will get in front of us before we can enter the lock.  The deal is hurry up and wait.  Why we needed to get moving to the locks right away is lost on me.  When we arrived at Gatun we had to wait until this ship was "locked-in" until we could receive the smaller sailing vessel alongside Blue Sky in a "raft" before entering the lock ourselves.  We are proudly flying our new Blue Sky Soda Flag.  Thank you Tanya for organizing all the t-shirts, stickers & the flag.  We look forward to seeing all the Blue Sky Soda Crew on our return to Redondo Beach!

The channel to the canal narrows as you get closer to the locks as seen by the tanker over Jim's shoulder.
Entering the 1st of the three Gatun Locks.  The double lock doors can be seen on the left the black sqaures identify them.  See how close to the stern of the vessel in front of us we were!
The photograph left is a full 2nd Gatun Lock looking back at the first.
We arrived at the mooring ball at 9:30pm, after a nice hot meal we were all ready for bed. 

Panama Canal Transit Day Two.

Dawn on the mooring in Gatun Lake.  We are side tied on the port side to the mooring.  Two spring lines one aft and one forward hold us to the mooring with a mid-line keeping it all together.  The dounut of the mooring is made from a semi-soft polyurethane.  Becuse of the scum,we used fenders to keep us off the mooring otherwise I don't think it would have damaged the boat.  The smaller sail boat remained rafted to our starboard side overnight.  We seperated as soon as the new advisors arrived and they made their way through the lake via the short cut, "Banana Cut".  We went the long way around via the main channel and met back up again at the Miraflores Locks.
a greenish color.  With all the works going on, the lake has turned a coffee brown color.  The huge crane above is used to lift the gigantic steel lock doors.  The locks have a set of two doors thus when one needs repair they can lift it out of the way and the canal can continue uninterupted. The giant crane was designed and built in Germany prior to World War II.  Three such cranes exist.    One in Russia, one in England and this one which was sold to Panama by the US.
The canal is also going through a huge expansion project, for the mega tankers and container ships that require transit. Our first sighting of the expansion was at the entrance to the Gatun Locks. It was from the mooring bouy in the lake we could see the enormity of the project as huge earth-movers were carting away a mountain.  On the Miraflores side between the upper lock in Gatun Lake all the way along the shore of Miraflores Lake and down to the two lower Miraflores Locks, work appeared mush further along.  They have leveled out the whole stretch and a very large cement works was being constructed.
The second day was much more stressful for me than the first.  There was a little tail wind that made it alittle more exciting to stop Blue Sky.  We were making 2 knots in neutral down the locks.
Rudy was assisting the smaller vessell, Nico,through the lake.  Once they were safetly rafted to us he came aboard to help Jerry with our bow lines. 
Having Rudy & Jerry on the bow freed Emma up to work with our Dads and Jim Machado at the stern.
The line handlers from the lock 1st throw a "monkey fist" which is attachted to a thin line.  Once Blue Sky's line handlers received it they attached our huge mooring lines and send them back to the linemen on the lock.
The photograph below is our locking down companions the USS HSV 2
I had the "homeward bound" flag made by Carol Anderson from Seattle Flag Makers.   She shipped it to my Dad in Reno and he hand delivered it to us in Colon.  I did not think I would be displaying it until we were inbound to Redondo Beach but I could not resist showing it off to the Navy.  They are the one vessel that would actually understand what it means.  For a complete definition of the flag, go to the link above.

These two pictures give you a good view of a canal.  The water drops/raises approximately 30 feet.  The US Navy ship waited until Blue Sky was clear until their mule trains pulled them through the canal. You can see the trains working in the photograph on the bottom left. 

Rudy below, is waiting to release the bow lines. The water is now level with the Pacific Ocean, once the locks opened we were back in our home waters, which we have not seen for five years. 
Jim talking to his wife Chris on the telephone.  She stayed in Puerto Vallarta, where with other cruisiers watched the internet to see us on the Mira Flores Web-Cam.

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One final note,  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you Blue Sky linehandlers.  Without our Fathers, Jim, Rudy & Jerry's assistance the transit of the Panama Canal could have easily been a much different story.

You all made it one of the most satisfy voyages of all of the passages that we have undertaken over the past 5+ years.

I do not comand the language proficiently enough to express how truley thankfull I am, Emma, Phoebe & Drake included, to have been so fortunate as to have shared this experience together, with you.

Thank you is insufficient.


Jim, Emma, Phoebe & Drake