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Apsara: Messages From The Boat:

Apsara's Log: Panama Canal


April 27, 2004   Panama Canal Web Cam - Wednesday (see photo, below)  

Greetings from the crew of Apsara.

After a wonderful couple of months in the Windward Islands, the Venezuelan offshore islands (the Roques, Aves, etc), the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire,.) and the awesomely beautiful San Blas Islands we find ourselves finally at the end of our transatlantic crossing: the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal.

[Many of you are busy and will not have time to read all this, so let me jump to the last point first: we will be transit the canal tomorrow, Wednesday afternoon and if give a hoot, you can see us go through the Miraflores locks on the Canal's Web Cam. (don't know the URL but google "Panama Canal Mira Flores Web Cam"). We'll send messages tomorrow with an estimate of the exact time as it gets closer but expect the afternoon.]

Tonight we're sitting in a calm anchorage inside the seawall at the northern entrance to the Panama Canal, near Colon, Panama.. Somewhere around thirty boats are anchored nearby, like Apsara awaiting their transit. There are a dozen more or so at the Panama Canal Yacht Club, and because of the backup boats are biding their time for somewhere between one and two weeks to get through. We have been lucky as we have only waited two days and expect to transit tomorrow morning. This is a result of a "fortunate" measurement of our normally 57 foot boat resulting in a total length of 65.8 feet. If over 65 feet one gets a pilot instead of a "transit advisor" and piloted boats only wait a few days. (There is a shortage of Transit Advisors and thus if the measurements are less than 65 feet you generally have a much longer wait.)

All ships except yachts are kept from hitting the sides by locomotives, three on each side, that have steel cables running to the ship. A pilot with a lot of experience takes command of the ship, and by radio directs the operators of the locomotives when to ease and when to tighten the cables. There is no computerized system for either advancing the locomotives or tensioning the lines; it's all done by judgment calls and it really doesn't seem like it would work but it does. In fact, although the locomotives are of a more recent design, the entire system works in the same way with the same equipment, more or less, as it did when it opened in 1914. All yachts are required to have four line handlers on board in addition to the helmsman, and there also will be a pilot on board to direct our movements. We also must have four lines 125 feet long, and those we rent. Apsara is also covered with fourteen old tires wrapped in garbage bags acting along with our regular fenders to deal with unplanned but possible contact with things we don't want to contact.

Web Cam: You may be interested to know that when we'll go through the Miraflores Locks we will shown by the web cam These are the locks after the lake on the Pacific side, so we'll be going down from the Lake when you see us. Right now all I can say is that, unless we get bumped, we should be there between noon and 4:00 PM Pacific time tomorrow. So if you're interested, check your email during the day tomorrow and give more accurate times as the day progresses.

Apsara in Miraflores Locks

As for us, our pilot is scheduled to arrive on board at 3:45 AM (!) and I will have to dinghy ashore at 3:15 AM to get our two line handlers. Since we have arrived here in Panama every morning around 3:00 it has rained torrentially for three hours before stopping and clearing to a hot moist day. This morning the dinghy had 18 inches of water in it. We assume it will rain tomorrow. Also, we have been told that 98% of the time the pilot is one to three hours late in arriving. So we are looking forward to being wet, very tired, and bored from 3:00 AM until 6:00 AM or so when the Show will begin.

_________________
s/v Apsara
www.svapsara.com

Next message from this location: SEE APSARA TODAY IN THE CANAL!

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