Cruising with Playpen
3/27/03 Balboa Yacht Club
Fred threw his back out, and was alternating between ear and back meds. Fortunately, the pain med worked for both.
Ft. San Lorenzo is accessed by a bumpy gravel road through the jungle, which opens up to the Rio Chagres, and beautiful fort ruins. The pirates used to sail up the Chagres and hike overland to Balboa to plunder. Panamanian runners would go from the Caribbean forts through the jungle to Balboa to warn of the impending attack.
There’s a lot of history in panama—from the Indians, to the pirates, to the Colombians, to the building of the canal, to Noriega, to the acquisition of the canal and the responsibilities of running and maintaining it. The Canal Museum is a wealth of information about the incredible task of building the canal. This area was teeming with workmen of all nationalities, military leaders, engineers, doctors, drug dealers, and thieves.
Driving across country today we saw de-forested, terraced hillsides, sparse jungle, lots of concrete plants, billboards for the free trade zone, lots of colorful buses, and lots of uniformed school kids. We arrived back at BYC about 7:30 and bumped into our agent, Pete Stevens. He had 2 huge fenders and KFC for us. Guess we’re really going tomorrow!
Back on Playpen, Fred & Fred inflated and set up the fenders and lines. Pete said we’d be rafting with Annie and Alyssa, and our line handlers would arrive at 0600. We watched the Balboa scenery for one last night—I really enjoyed the mooring and watching the ship traffic.
4/1/02- lines, fenders, KFC arrive
4/2/03-0600—Miller, Jorge, Roberto, line handlers, arrive.
0715—Miguel, adviser, arrives to meet us at Buoy 12.
0750—Begin approach to canal under clear skies, 80*, 10kn wind on our bow.
0920—In position behind "Antiope", a 500’ refrigerator ship from Nassau. Fenders juggled on Playpen to fit "Unidad", our tug. Last minute changes put us tied to a tug, and Annie & Alyssa rafted together and tied to a tug.
0940—Enter west chamber of Mira Flores Lock. Passed an alligator just outside lock
0945—Going up! Secured to tug, water boiling around us. Started going up before completely secured to tug, but lines and fenders look good.
1000—Out of 1st lock, secured again to tug, going up in front of viewing stand at Mira Flores.
1025—Exit Mira Flores Lock—1 mi. to next lock. Scramble to move fenders and lines to starboard side.
1100—Enter Pedro Miguel Lock
1125—Exit lock into Lago Gatun. 20 kn wind on bow
1200—Lunch time—KFC & hot dogs. Line handlers relaxing on back deck. Advisor eating in salon (off of windy bridge). Clouds building on the horizon
1350—Exit shipping channel into Banana Cut, which cuts through islands and lots of dead trees sticking up just outside channel. Must pilot carefully—especially in the wind.
1430—Received word we’ll be nested with Alyssa & Annie for the 1515 lock. Wind 30+gusts, choppy seas
1440—anchored before Gatun Lock. Wind down to 15+/-
1530—waiting for hazardous material ship to enter lock. Apparently there’s a problem with a locomotive at the lock.
1635—secured to Gatun Lock wall with Annie & Alyssa tied on port side.
1700—Secured to tug, "Mehaffey" on port—another change in plans. Annie & Alyssa are rafted together in center chamber. Going down! Antiope off our stern.
1715—Into 2nd Gatun Lock
1735—Out of 2nd lock and into 3rd
1740—Bow line was secured to tug, stern line wasn’t caught; no spring line. Current turned us sideways and 180*. Our stern hit Annie’s dinghy hanging from her stern and tapped Alyssa. Our bow pulpit hit the tug. Finally got turned and secured to tug backwards. Trying to figure out how to get out of this mess. Line handlers looking pretty sad. Capt. disappointed.
1805—Tug Capt. got permission to tow us out of lock—backwards. We had engines revved to try to prevent backwash up exhaust pipes. Antiope bearing down on us.
1810—Cast off tug in mid-channel, turned around and tested engines to get out of Dodge! Wind=18-25kn on bow. Antiope steamed past us at full bore—rock & roll.
1825—Alyssa reports no damage. Annie has dinghy damage. We agreed to handle it ourselves and not involve officialdom
1900—anchored in F anchorage (the flats) off Cristobal. Too windy to launch Whaler. Hailed a passing dinghy to take line handlers ashore
1915—Port Captain aboard to write up incident. Said current in that lock is wicked and catches lots of boats. We think the tug was also maneuvering to stay off the wall and caused even more turbulence.
1945—We’re settling down, assessing, and very thankful that no one was hurt. Wind is howling in the crowded anchorage renowned for poor holding. Capt. will sleep in salon tonite to monitor. Tomorrow we’ll look over Playpen in daylight. So far, we see no damage.
4/6/03 Colon to Portobelo 9* 33.33N 79* 39.69W 18nm 3 ¼ hr.
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