The World ARC 2018-19 fleet has successfully crossed the Panama Canal!
The last week and a half has been a busy one for the World ARC fleet. With a record entry of 38 yachts, the fleet was separated into 4 transit groups. Each group started their transits on a different day, leaving the marina at around 1330 before, one by one, calling San Cristobal control station for authorisation to cross the main shipping channel to position themselves in readiness. Once across the channel, each group then either anchored or held station at "The Flats" holding area while they waited for Panama Canal Authority advisers to board boats and give instructions to head for the locks..
Once under way, yachts then started to motor towards the first set of locks and to prepare for rafting together alongside each other in 'nests' of two or three boats just before entering each lock. After an amazing experience inside the locks the skippers moored their boats onto huge mooring buoys in Gaton Lake; tlikely to be the highest point above sea level the boats will ever be moored! Certainly a 'high point' of the rally so far. As participants relaxed for a while moored alongside each other, many took the opportunity to celebrate their negotitation of the first set of locks, further excited by the prospect of heading to the second set of locks the following day to begin their descent into the Pacific.
On each occasion, the fleet were awoken early the next morning by unbelievably loud howling on the shore of Gaton Lake; howler monkeys greeting the World ARC fleet to an early morning chorus which sounded strangely prehistoric. The Canal Advisors returned to the boats between 0700-0800 and gave instructions for the fleet to head on towards the second set of locks; a five hour motor across Gatun Lake with unbelievable views and in the company of some incredibly large ships passing in close proximity.
The second pair of locks were easier to negotiate as the boats had only to ease their lines whilst on their way down. Once the gates opened the fleet made their way in the Pacific Ocean with the spectacular sight of passing under the Bridge of the Americas to enter the Pacific Ocean - a first time for many of the boats.
Check out the time-lapse of Atem's trip through the canal:
Once the Canal Authority advisers had been picked up by pilot vessel, each yacht made their way to Panama City's La Playita Marina. By the evening of 4 February the fleet was once again together and an optional crew dinner was held at a local Lebanese restaurant where participants were greeted and entertained by belly dancers whilst dining. This was also the last chance the fleet had to say well done and farewell to the ARC Panama fleet who were leaving us. Congratulations and good luck to the 4 ARC Panama yachts - Kindred Spirit, Orion, Exocet Strike and Wiki.
The World ARC fleet is currently on the island of Contadora in Las Perlas enjoying the lovely beaches and stunning weather Panama is offering before embarking on their next Leg to Galapagos.