Monthly Archives: February 2015

Panama City 2/10

Stray Catz is anchored in Panama City. What a change in scenery and culture from all of the last year. We haven’t seen a skyline like this since we left Miami.

Smithsonian Biodiversity museum with the Panama City skyline in the background.

Smithsonian Biodiversity museum with the Panama City skyline in the background.

Panama City Skyline from the approach to the Canal.

Panama City Skyline from the approach to the Canal.

Skyscrapers and cranes and oh yeah, plenty of big ships going by. Real public transportation too. You know, buses with air conditioning and separate seats for everybody. Although they’re still standing in the aisle when the seats are full.
It looks like we’ll be here through mid March waiting on some parts. Among other things we’re adding a couple hundred feet of anchor chain. Something about these 16 foot tidal changes here in the Pacific compared to the two foot change in the Atlantic. Some spare parts and the usual maintenance stuff that keeps us floating. We’ll take a trip or two over to the Las Perlas islands which are only about 35 miles away, and possibly get in a jungle river trip too along the coast south of PC.

For those who we haven’t told personally yet, our plans have changed a little. Instead of crossing the Pacific this year, we’re turning north and heading up to Mexico. Stopping at all the countries along the way. Next year this time we will head west across the Pacific. It was a tough decision requiring a lot of thought. Unlike most of the rest of our decisions. With Kylan talking more and more about college, we felt it necessary to visit the USA and many colleges. The plan is to sail up the coast (not the easiest way to go) and into the Sea of Cortez in MX. Sometime around late June we will park Stray Catz in a Marina in northern S of C and travel to the USA. We’ll be back on Stray Catz around October and cruise the SofC till Feb/Mar then head off to the Galapagos and beyond.

Meanwhile, next week is Carnival here in PC. It may not be a Rio size party, but we’ve never even been to Mardi Gras, and I’m sure it beats the one in Providencia.¬† We went to a movie theater and saw Taken 3 and planning another trip to see Jupiter Ascending. (NO Spoilers) The english speaking movies are limited, but the theater is very nice. The mall the theater is in is HUGE! Yeah a mall, and I’m not even a big shopper, but I’m still in shock.

Here are some more canal crossing photos.

This is the observation deck for the Miraflores locks.

This is the observation deck for the Miraflores locks.

These locomotives act as the line handlers for the big ships.

These locomotives act as the line handlers for the big ships.

Kylan untying us from the mooring buoy. The strong wind pushed us away and we had to go back and pick him up.

Kylan untying us from the mooring buoy. The strong wind pushed us away and we had to go back and pick him up.

Under the Bridge of the Americas.

Under the Centennial Bridge.

 

 

 

The crew taking a break between jobs.

The crew taking a break between jobs.

 

 

 

 

 

Kylan and I on the bow in Miraflores locks.

Kylan and I on the bow in Miraflores locks.

Descending into the abyss.

Descending into the abyss.

approaching Centennial Bridge.

approaching Centennial Bridge.

Tug traffic headed the other way.

Tug traffic headed the other way.

Enjoying our first Pacific sunset in a long time.

Enjoying our first Pacific sunset in a long time.

Other boats waiting for the fill.

Other boats waiting for the fill.

Canal Authority line handlers. Way up there. It takes 8 to 16 minutes to fill the locks. For us about 10.

Canal Authority line handlers. Way up there. It takes 8 to 16 minutes to fill the locks. For us about 10.

Bucket list: Panama Canal transit [./]

We made it through the Panama Canal! We did it! We actually did it! And on our own boat. YES!!!!

OK, so I got a little excited about it. It’s only something I have wanted to do since I was a young kid. I finally did it. Next time it’s the long way around. You know, Cape Horn.

I want to send out a big THANK YOU! To everyone who tuned in to watch us go through the canal and to those who were able to send us pictures they captured on-line. I was humbled by the number of people who responded and have contacted us about the transit. I was trying to submit updates to the 4 strange byrds facebook page, but for what ever reason they didn’t make it to the page. I’ve no idea where the updates went.

For those who are interested here is the canal crossing rundown.

We left the Shelter Bay Marina at 2pm on Sunday and headed over to the waiting spot for our canal adviser who was supposed to be there at 5. We sat there until around 7+ pm when the adviser finally showed up. About 45 minutes later we headed for Gatun locks.

Rafting up before the first lock.

Rafting up before the first lock.

We rafted up to another boat from the USA as we entered the locks. The up locks are much more challenging than the down lock, but the line handlers on Stray Catz (all volunteers) did an excellent job. The line handlers on the other boat two of which were professionals didn’t do as well. At one point the lines got loose and that meant Stray Catz was heading toward the big ugly concrete wall. They got the line under control and all was well, but lets just say there was some yelling on their boat and some scrambling with fenders on ours.

Leaving the Gatun locks about 2330 we stayed rafted up to the other boat and drove about a mile to a mooring buoy. We were tied up and engines shut down about midnight. Kylan and I grabbed the spot light and were able to spot some crocodile eyes over by the shore. A little to far to capture on camera.
Expecting our next adviser at 0600, the alarm went off at 0545. After crawling out of bed and surveying our surroundings. The sunlight barely creeping over the hills. I wondered if I misunderstood the time. None of the other boats in the area were stirring, but by 0610 here came a pilot-boat. With the adviser on Stray Catz we were on our way by 0620. Still no one on the other 10 boats in the area were moving.

Motor-sailing through the Panama Canal.

Motor-sailing through the Panama Canal.

The wind picked up from behind and with the advisers permission we had the jib up to supplement the engines.

Five hours later we were approaching the Pedro Miguel locks and by this time we could finally see some of the other boats way behind us. We tied up to another mooring buoy and waited almost an hour for our time slot through the locks. That is when we found out that the other boat we had come through the first locks with had transmission trouble and would not be joining us.
The down locks are quite peaceful.

The locks are opening.

The locks are opening.

You can hardly tell your descending. Other than the walls keep getting taller and you have to let out a little more rope. The Pedro Miguel locks are only about a mile from the Miraflores locks. We reached Miraflores locks shortly thereafter, and that is where all of you got to see us.

View from the web cam.

View from the web cam.

It was great fun and exciting. There is an observation deck over the Miraflores locks and it was fun waving to all the people up there watching us. After the locks we motored a few miles in the Pacific Ocean to the anchorage where we broke open the champagne and celebrated a safe and successful crossing.

Time to celebrate!

Time to celebrate!

Then it was goodbye to the line handlers (except Kylan), and a huge sigh of relief as I collapsed on the couch.

Goodbye to the line handlers.

Goodbye to the line handlers.

Our volunteer line handlers, Kylan, Russel, Dianne, Arnold and Vincent were fantastic. Thanks to all of them for keeping Stray Catz scratch and dent free. All did a wonderful job and were great company. And special  mention to Maribel for her help to Anna keeping the advisers and crew fed.

 

Miriflores locks

Coming up on the locks now. I hope your all ready.