Monday June 7, 2010
After the Seamanship Derby yesterday, the crew were rewarded with a power shower, cold juice and popcorn, Donald had been saving some ice in the freezer. It has been surprisingly hot and muggy since we arrived in the Caribbean Sea, hotter than any of us remember it being before. Hotter than many folks here are used to. For that reason, we had three days of power showers in a row – we usually don’t bathe daily, but in the heat it’s so refreshing to stand under the fire hose and have a moment’s relief. Kind of makes me think it’s the Picton Castle’s version of kids running through the sprinkler in the back yard.
Cold juice, or cold anything to drink is a special treat. We have five big chest freezers on board that store all of our meat and dairy products, as well as some frozen veggies, but we have no refrigerator. We use two coolers like fridges, replacing the ice packs in them daily to keep them cool. Because the freezers and coolers are used exclusively for keeping essential ship’s stores cold, to drink anything cold is a real luxury. We bought a few bags of ice in Anguilla that we’ve been saving to add to the containers of water and juice so we broke some out yesterday afternoon to celebrate the end of the Derby.
Following the power shower and the snack, the Captain held a muster to talk about Panama. He discussed that we would arrive at some point on Monday, going to anchor to make the necessary preparations to transit the Canal and then to wait our turn. We don’t yet know which day will be our day to make the transit, as we have to fit in wherever the Canal authority schedules us. He talked a bit about how the Canal works, that there will be a pilot and professional line handlers aboard for the transit, and that once we get settled on the Pacific side we have huge amounts of shopping to do in Panama. We’ll be buying a considerable amount of galley provisions as we won’t have the opportunity for full and complete grocery shopping for a while, not really until we get to Fiji, as well as some deck supplies and things to take with us to Pitcairn Island and other ports that we visit. The Captain talked a bit about some of the interesting things to see and do in Panama – visiting Old Panama City, the old quarter of the city and the Canal museum. You can do normal city things too, go to movies, wonderful architecture and museums, crafts, jungle treks, shop for the things you wish you had brought but forgot, etc.
We had a fantastic sailing passage from Bonaire, making 170-180 miles per day most of the time, under all square sail except the mains’l. As expected, we had to motor in calms the last 50 or so nautical miles to Panama. We fired up the main engine about 0600 for the final push towards Panama. Land was spotted by the 8-12 watch, and the lookouts were increasingly busy reporting ships and buoys as we approached the entrance to the canal zone. All jungle with very little signs of people living anywhere nearby. Just before 1500, as we were an hour outside of the breakwater under heavy over cast sky, it started to pour down rain and the rain kept up until just before we anchored. The traffic in the canal zone is highly regulated, with two entrances through the breakwater and different designated anchorage areas both inside and outside the breakwater for different sizes and kinds of vessels. We’re currently in anchorage area B, the northwest part, which is for all vessels with a deep salt water draft of less than 10 metres. Conveniently, it’s also close to a new marina at Shelter Bay with a dock where we hope to be able to take our small boat ashore. This marina is very nice and recreated out of an old US Army base and boat basin.
As we came through the breakwater, we could see the massive cargo terminals, storage areas and general infrastructure designed for the massive amounts of ships that come and go through these waters – and big and small ships anchored everywhere. After the sun went down and all the ships in the area turned on their lights, there are so many that it looks like a big town or small city, when it’s really just ships. And our little barque seems, well… little in comparison to some of the giant container ships and tankers anchored not that far away.
Once we got anchored, we spoke with our agent who told us that the crew members who will be joining us here in Panama would be arriving at the marina shortly for us to pick them up and bring them aboard. We’re pleased to have them join us. When the skiff came alongside with people and their luggage, most of the crew assembled amidships to greet the new joiners. There are a few familiar faces who have sailed with us before plus a few new folks. While they’ve been waiting for the ship to arrive, they’ve checked out Panama City, so they’ll be able to offer some advice on things to see and do.
Tomorrow will be an all-hands work day as we prepare the ship to go through the Canal. Nothing can stick out over the sides of the ship, so that means we have boats to bring inboard, davits to turn in, yards to cockbill and so on. We hope to go through the Canal on Thursday – once our transit time is confirmed it will be posted here so you can keep an eye on the Panama Canal website and see us on the webcams at the locks.