Preparing for the Panama Canal and Pacific Ocean

Shopping during lockdown in Panama and COVID-19 is tricky, but this has to be the most surreal shopping experience we’ve had. The photo shows the “shop” we bought all our drinks from! This couldn’t be further from our pre-ARC Atlantic rally preparations in Las Palmas if we tried. I dream of a Spanish Hipodino supermarket now. We have a 1000-into-the-wind passage 😳 followed by a 3000+ nautical mile passage to prepare for, which means a lot of weeks at sea and therefore lots of food needed aboard.

The shop

We’ve been officially measured at a length of 54.5ft, that’s including the dinghy hanging of the davits, (but we’ve still no idea why the Swedish call our yacht a Hallberg Rassy 46ft – it clearly isn’t) and we’ve parted with over $2000 to pay for our passage through the canal, eeks! We’ve also met with our canal agent, paid for two extra line handlers to help hold the four 100m long ropes to hold us safe in the canals and been given giant fenders to use too. There are yachts that have been smashed to match sticks against the tankers in these locks so I’m slightly terrified now as well as being very excited at seeing such an engineering marvel. This is right up my street and Chloe and I have being doing school projects with the boys on the construction of the Panama Canal so I’ve got two very excited junior civil engineers too. There is a live webcam of the canal so you could watch us go through if that’s your thing. We will start the canal at Panama time 6am (UK 12 noon) on Thursday 6th August 2020. We will ascend the three monster locks to Gatun lake and the giant cut through the mountains, then motor cross the huge lake and cut and go down three more monster locks the other side to the Pacific. Almost sounds easy! It will take the whole day and we are hoping to finish before it gets dark.

The boys have enjoyed being in Shelter Bay marina, Colon as there are 14 children here of all nationalities and ages to play with. They disappear off to play on other boats and around the military compound grounds which gives us precious moments to sort everything out for our onward voyages. We know they are safe although there is a large resident crocodile in the marina to keep you on your toes. Everyone is fully masked and gloved up here too.

Inspection

The current plan once we are through the canal is to anchor for a night, sail to Las Perlas islands and then to the Galápagos Islands as they have just opened to cruising yachts. We have a large number of permits, forms and medical tests to do first but we believe there is a way through now, fingers firmly crossed. Then we will cross the Pacific to the Marquesas and French Polynesia and stay there for the cyclone season in the Southern Hemisphere. In fact that’s only halfway across the Pacific. We will sail around the Marquesas, Tuamotos and the Society Islands before heading west once the cyclone season is over to Tonga, Fiji and Vanartu (if the borders open) and onto Australia, hoping they are open too by then. Sounds a plan!

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