Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Panama Canal

Our line handlers were on time, our tanks full, and everyone was excited to leave the dock. It was quarter to one and we had to leave the dock at 1 so we could be in the flats anchorage to pick up our advisor at 4:30 perhaps earlier. I went to crank the engine and…… nothing.

We had a hydraulic lock up; this is when water gets into the cylinders and the engine cannot compress it like it can diesel causing the engine to not turn over because of the pressure.

Vlad and I started bleeding the engine and we ended up having to pulling off the injectors so release the water from the cylinders. The motor fired up and started running. I guess I had gotten a bit of water in my fuel that day. We talked to the marina office; they informed Jennie that everyone was contacted that purchased fuel that day. We pulled out our receipt and suddenly the marina was backing out, giving us an uncommitted response. I had to decide whether to risk the transit or not. We went.

 (click on images to see the larger view)


I figured if there was a lot of water we would find out in the rolly trip to the flats. The motor held up fine and when we looked into the water separator filter there was no water. We fired up the motor again around 4pm and got ready to receive our advisor.

Our first advisor was great he sat everyone down and clearly communicated what was expected. We cruised into a raft with a very nervous French catamaran captain and did a few circles while waiting for a freighter to move ahead of us. Then a power boat rafted on the other side of the catamaran. It was an odd raft up as the majority of the power was on one side and the majority of the hulls in the water was on our side. We tended to zig zag our way through the canal. Up locking was great and our friends, Vlad and Attila on Bettie, and Marcus and Tamara from Darwin did an awesome job. Thanks guys, you were awesome!

We then motored into the lake and tied up to a 10 ft mooring ball and spent the night.

The next morning our advisor arrived 45 minutes late, and said we needed to make it to the other side by 11:30. I pushed our engine very hard. I was very nervous, and that little tractor motor was a champ. We ended up having a very confusing lockdown. We were told we were going to go down with all 4 ropes being used and us in the center. Half way through the lock we were told to side tie to a ferry. The advisor was having trouble on the radio and everyone on Cypraea was confused.

We tied up to the ferry and the workers started throwing pops and water at us and the passengers were talking to everyone. Captain Dave sat nervously in the cockpit. The lock doors opened and everyone thought we were going to be towed through to the next lock. We we’re not proceeding that way and the advisor lacked the ware withal to inform us. Captain Dave showed his Captain Bligh side, and hade to get the focus back. Then we motored through a small lake and go down two more locks. The first one was ok, but we had to separate from the ferry this time and reverse into a 2 knot current while the ferry untied from the wall and proceeded ahead of us to tie up against the wall in the next lock. This is where our boat with its full keel and tendency to spin the bow out to starboard was a prime candidate for kissing the wall with her bowsprit. Luckily we had a strong wind that gusted and kept us straight. All in all it went well, and we are now in the Pacific.


On a note of what kind of financial damages can occur if your motor fails during transit, and hence the nervous captain; two weeks earlier a French boat (now anchored beside us) broke down while up locking. The bill was $30 000, and they had spent 2 weeks in the lake. So I was not happy with how Shelter Bay dealt with their fuel issue, but then again there really wasn’t too much water in our tanks that our filters didn’t take out. It is great to be back in the Pacific, and it has been exactly a year since we last saw her, home sweet home.


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