Category Archives: Caribbean

Panama Canal Transit

In the Gatun Locks, Panama We have been in Shelter Bay Marina for 10 days now and are starting to go stir crazy. The marina is very isolated; that means great security but pretty boring for us. There is a bus that takes cruisers to the local shopping center that can take up to an hour to get there (depends on how lucky one is when the bus arrives at the canal crossing). It is a $30 cab ride back if you miss the return bus. We decided a nice diversion would be to help a fellow cruiser to transit the Panama Canal. Each vessel that transits the canal requires the captain, four people to handle the lines, and a pilot (hired from the canal authority). It helps to be familiar with boats to be a line handler but agility and a bit of strength is all it takes…Gatun Locks, Panama We volunteered to help Derek on Adagio II, an Australian flagged Jeanneau 42. He provided meals and drinks during the transit and taxi fare from Panama City back to Shelter Bay. It was a great experience for us!
We boarded Adagio at 11 am on Sunday May 13 and left the marina for the Flats anchorage area just outside the entrance to the Gatun Locks. Easy work in the Gatun Locks, Panama We were anchored by 11:30 and waited until 1:20 before the pilot arrived. We pulled anchor immediately and started toward the Gatun Locks. They are a series of 3 locks, 108 feet wide by 1000 feet long, raising the boats about 30 feet each. We were behind a large ship, Almasi, in this series of locks. We rafted up to a catamaran for this transit and they handled 3 out of the 4 lines. So we had a Mooring in Lake Gatun, Panama relatively easy 3 hours that it took to go through the Gatun Locks.

Once through, we untied from the cat and it continued through the rest of the canal while we tied up to a mooring ball for the night. This was like no other mooring that any of us has tied up to and it took the 3 men a while to decide the best way to tie on. The pilot left us here and we had a pleasant night on Lake Gatun.

Leaving the Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama The next morning our new pilot arrived at 6:30 and we were off toward the Pedro Miguel Lock. We had to wait at the start of the Gaillard Cut where the Chagres River joins the canal. We tied up to another mooring while we waited for the ship that we were going through the next 3 locks to arrive. At the Pedro Miguel Lock we rafted up to a tug boat already tied on the side of the lock. It was at the front of the lock and we were somewhat intimidated watching the Auriga Leader come in the lock behind us. It was a quick lowering by 30 feet before heading to the Miraflores Locks. Miraflores has two locks and we were by ourselves tied in the middle of the locks. Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama Again the Auriga Leader came in behind us. This was the most work for us line handlers. The canal staff on the sides throw a messenger line to each handler that we tied to our big lines. These lines get put on bollards on the edge of the lock. Each of us then had to control our line so that the boat remained centered in the lock as water is removed from the lock.
Sailing under the Bridge of the Americas, PanamaOnce out of the Miraflores Locks, we were officially in the Pacific Ocean. Going under the Bridge of the Americas was like when we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. Captain Derek had trouble keeping the grin off his face! It was 6 pm before we reached the Flamingo Marina where we got off Adagio and took a taxi back to Shelter Bay Marina arriving at 9:30. A very long but satisfying day!
Transiting the Panama Canal was an unforgettable experience!

ARC Gloria in Aruba

ARC Gloria in Aruba Our first day in Aruba we decided to walk into Oranjestad to look around. It only takes us about 10 minutes from where we leave the dinghy to reach the Renaisance Marina complex. When we reached the harbour we noticed a tallship near the cruise ship dock. We went over to see if we could get a tour of it. To our surprise the tallship belongs to the Colombian Navy and they were giving tours. The ship is a three masted barque and is used as a training ship. It was built in Spain in the 1960s. Our “guide” was training to be a diesel mechanic. The ship has nice trim and the boat was built to look old.
Richard on ARC Gloria in Aruba But the nav station has all the latest electronics. Karen on ARC Gloria in Aruba We were told that there are no winches to help raise the sails and it sometimes takes 3 men to handle them. Of course the Colombians are not known for their size!

Anchored in Aruba

Snowaway sailing, Bonaire We are anchored a quarter mile north of the runway and a mile south of the downtown casinos and glitz of Oranjestad.
We had a good downwind sail from Curacao averaging about 6 knots. As we neared Aruba we had some positive current with us and were often over 7 knots.

Christoffel Park, Curacao

Christoffel Mountain, Curacao We decided to drive to Christoffel Park today to hike up Christoffel Mountain, to the highest point on the island. The “mountain” is only 375 m high and takes about an hour to hike up. It takes as long to come down as well due to the rocks that we had to climb over!
The park itself is about 2,300 ha and has two sides. The Northern route takes one toward the ocean and is fairly flat. We took the Mountain route to Christoffel Mountain. It cost $25 US for the two of us to visit the park for one day. Christoffel Park, Curacao There are several hiking trails in the park including one that one may sight a white tailed deer. We were not so lucky.
Christoffel Park, CuracaoThe start of the trail was very pleasant through forest. Then the rocky part started! We had read a review of the hike before we went and it had recommended that gloves should be worn. So we took our sailing gloves and we very thankful to have them!
Christoffel Mountain, CuracaoThe view from the top was amazing. They say on a clear day one can see Venezuela and sometimes Bonaire. Not for us today! But it was a great hike and we were glad to have done it.
On the way back to the boat we stopped at the Rose Garden Chinese Restaurant for a great meal. It is close to the Rib Factory and Best Buy Supermarket.
Tomorrow we will be getting ready to leave Curacao for the next of the ABC Islands, Aruba. We are looking to hike to its highest point as well!

Aloe Plantation, Curacao

Aloe Plantation, CuracaoThe weather is still overcast but the winds are starting to decline. They should be at about 16 knots from Sunday until Tuesday and then start to rebuild on Wednesday. Our current plan is to move to the north end of the island on Tuesday and then sail to Aruba on Wednesday. The seas will be low, about 4 feet, but the winds will be almost 20 knots so we should have a great sail.

Ostrich Farm, Curacao Today we drove to the Aloe Plantation. Unfortunately they were not in production mode; they just had huge fields of aloe growing. They had a video to show how they processed the aloe and lots of samples of their products to try. We bought a bottle of their aloe gel; it is 98% aloe and is NOT green!
There is an ostrich farm near the aloe plantation so we drove over to see it. The tour was about an hour long in an open air truck so we just had lunch there. It was the best pumpkin soup we have had in the Caribbean!

Resturant Playa Forti, Curacao Playa Forti, CuracaoWe drove up to Westpunt at the northwest end of the island. We plan on anchoring near Playa Forti so we wanted to see what the seafloor was like. There were some nice corals in about 20 feet of water but due to the overcast weather, we did not see the fish very well. We had a very pleasant drink and some shrimp at the Restaurant Playa Forti overlooking the bay. The owners of the restarant are from Colombia and they allowed us to change into our snorkel gear in their bathrooms. It is the type of restaurant that we try to find on our travels…