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Mistral of Portsmouth - The Panama Canal

We slipped lines at 2pm and motored to the waiting area. A force 6 wind and threat of rain didn’t dampen our excitement! We anchored along with our ‘nest buddies’, Far and Amanzi. Our advisor arrived at 5pm and we were off. Amanzi led, followed by Far and then us … in convoy up to the entrance of the first lock. Under supervision, we rafted up tight next to each other - Far in the middle and the 2 Oyster 56 yachts either side. We moved forward slowly into the first chamber. It is huge! With Chris on the helm, the adviser next to him, Tim and I each handled a line that tied the boat to a line handler at the top of the chamber … our role was to maintain tension in the lines as the water poured into the chamber - ensuring that in spite of water turbulence, the nest maintained its position and didn’t turn. Each chamber took about 30 to 40 minutes and we had 3 to get up to the Gaton Lake. We ate in the top chamber … quite bizarre having spaghetti bolognaise in the middle of the huge chamber half way up to the Lake. We motored out into the lake about 9pm and immediately untied our lines, motoring individually to the Northe bouy, where 4 yachts were tied together for the night. A lot more line faffing and we were all ready for a celebratory drink, good music and even some dancing on the back of the boat. Absolutely awesome!

An early morning start with Chris getting drone footage of the lake at sunrise - it is beautiful. Chris has done an amazing video which is now on YouTube … link below. His pictures tell the story better than I can.

We had a 50 mile motor to the other side of the lake through the tropical jungle that surrounds the lake - lots of bird life - pelicans, frigates, vultures but we didn’t see alligators or monkeys. Next, we reversed the process to move down and out of the lake. Rafting up again, and 3 locks down to the Pacific. We anticipated smooth sailing but of course, there is always drama. As we were coming out of the second lock, all adviser eyes were on phones (very bad!) or chatting and they missed the fact that the boats were slipping sideways. Too late, Mistral headed for the side of the lock and in spite of much yelling and shouting, 90 tonnes of boat couldn’t manoeuvre away from the side fast enough so we scraped along the side. 3 stanchions broken, fenders lost, capping rail (lovely wooden edge to the boat) cracked and scraped hull after we had just paid for the whole of the boat to be polished. The incident did put something of a damper on the adventure. So disappointing to have damaged the boat and of course, all parties felt terrible. Looking positively, we have since had all the damage repaired, everyone is safe and we are working hard to ensure that the bang did not impact our memory of the wonderful adventure. Another bonding experience if ever there was one!

We emerged into the Pacific Ocean pinching ourselves … Atlantic to Pacific and the journey continues!

Coming out of the last lock into the Pacific

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