“Pacific High” Panama Canal Part 2

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Hello darkness my old friend

When we arrived at Gatun Lake after transiting the first set of locks we attached to the mooring ball and the advisor was taken off our boat. The crew felt great and dinner and drinks were served. It was late and a long day. As we went to bed I circled the deck alone, I do this a lot before turning in to see that all is secure and review our surroundings. There is something wonderful about being on a boat at anchor at night but this was different. We weren’t in a bay or cove or some “usual” place. We were in the middle of a country that sat here dry for eons and now humans built a dam and created a lake that mammoth ships could cross. It seemed unnatural and it was. So there we are in pitch black, floating “on top” of a country. I hadn’t experienced anything like it and if we end up circling the globe I doubt I will again. And there wasn’t a sound.

Monkey See Monkey do

In the morning our advisor arrived and we headed off across the canal to reach the locks on the Pacific side of Panama. We had all been waiting for the “monkey fist” at the first set of locks but since we tied to a boat against the wall they never threw us one. Now when you read anything about the canal you won’t miss the monkey fist discussion. Monkey fists are small balls of line that are attached to a thin rope that the canal worker throws at your boat with the hopes that you catch it or at least are able to grab it when it hits you. Then you tie the monkey fist around your large lines and they pull your line back up to them so they can secure it to the wall and walk you through the canal. The conversation starts with you reading about the canal and a discussion about the monkey fist. Then your agent talks about it in detail. Then you practice with tying it to your line several times in shelter bay. Then your advisor discusses it in detail as you crew listens intently. Now you head for the lock. You see the guy on the wall swinging the monkey fist like a rodeo star. Then he simply tosses it to the advisor and its over in a split second. Wait…what? That’s it. Your advisor takes the fleeting glory of the moment. Your boat continues through the locks and they toss you your lines and you are in the Pacific. No one talks about the Monkey fist again.


Although the Monkey fist was much ado about nothing the rafting of another boat to yours was the opposite. They mention this a few times as a reminder like you know what it’s about and you have done it before. Then you steady yourself and wait for the neighboring boat to come aside and tie to you. Now this sounds easy but connecting two 36,000 lb Clorox bottles alongside each other is a challenge. They aren’t “really” connected and each wants to go their own way. Then one of you is the “operator” and since we had the cat it was me. So now we march off to the Pacific side locks with this appendage and nothing on our boat operates the same. We are drifting downwind in strong current yet the canal is only 110 feet wide and you really don’t have control. You start to slip sideways….the advisor gives you advice, you turn more….your crew gives you advice….you spin more and the canal guys give you advice…..and finally you are about to lose it and your faithful bride who has stood by you for 20 years watching you pilot boats in confidence…..gives you advice! Winds abate. Full astern wait for it, black smoke out the exhaust and phew. You are straight again. When we reached the Pacific and untied from our neighbor it was like taking your ice skates off. What a feeling, I will never complain about maneuvering our Cat again!

This video is Part 2 of our trip across Panama. Above ground! Enjoy…..


2 Responses

  1. Rex Jennings

    Really enjoying reading your posts. Visiting Bar Harbor Maine this week and was glad to find the website since the internet speed was too slow for watching youtube videos. Thanks for sharing your adventures and inspiring us. Fair Winds Happy Together!

    • happytogether

      Hi Rex, THanks so much. Amazing how much traffic the youtube channel gets and how little the website gets:) Enjoy Bar Harbor and thanks for watching and reading. It means a lot! Randy

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