After the preparations to start the Canal transits the World ARC fleet completed their Panama Canal transit and are now berthed at La Playita Marina near Panama City.
The crews all enjoyed their journey through the Canal, and the completion of this stage is an achievement that every sailor hopes to do once in his life and a milestone in the Rally.
Before departing Shelter Bay Marina all participants received a briefing from Rally Control on the procedures and timings of the transit and what they could expect during the various moments. Long lines and extra fenders that are required during the transit were delivered to the yachts the evening before and at 1300 the fleet left Shelter Bay Marina to reach the “flats” anchorage where they awaited the arrival of their advisors.
Each yacht had an advisor on board for the duration of the transit - the advisors are trained by the Panama Canal Authority to assist in the transit of smaller boats through the Canal. They extremely knowledgeable not only about the procedure for a ‘handline yacht transit’ and the safe operation of the Canal, but are also well informed about the Canal history and are all extremely helpful to make sure everyone has a smooth and enjoyable transit.
The yachts then rafted together in nests of 3 or 2 boats before entering the first locks - Gatun at approximately 1645LT.
Entering the vast locks was a challenging maneuver at first. Long lines are sent to walls, the huge gates close behind you and soon the water starts bubbling all around as the chamber is flooded. Up locking is slightly more difficult than down locking because of the turbulence created by the flooding of the chamber but the skippers and line handlers all did an excellent job keeping the rafted nests safely in the centre of the locks.
After completing the third lock of the Gatun Locks the gates ahead opened into Gatun Lake where the nest separated and it was then time to take a mooring for the night.
The following morning the group motored across Gatun Lake before coming together in nests again and making the first down lock at Pedro Miguel Locks and then 2 more down locks at Miraflores Locks shortly after.
The crews now have a few days to visit Panama City and also to get provisions and boat supplies, before heading off across the Pacific.
The fleet will get together on the Las Perlas Islands again before sailing off to the Galapagos Islands on the 10th February.