Locked Up, Let Down and Set Free – Transiting The Panama Canal

Locked Up, Let Down and Set Free – Transiting The Panama Canal

The big day has arrived and we’re all giddy like a bunch of kids on the last day of school. The Panama Canal wasn’t something I dreamed about and honestly, it wasn’t even on my radar before buying a sailboat. Now, here I am about to wet my pants like its something I’ve been waiting my whole life to do.

Our choice of crew might have a little something to do with it.

Transiting the panama canal with friends

Peter and John (AKA The RV Geeks) are good friends but it’s more than that. Put them in front of any sort of electrical or mechanical gizmo and you’d think they were given a sack of candy.  They bring a childlike excitement to learning how things work.  MythBusters doesn’t know it, but they need to add these guys to the cast.

Then there is Jason’s mom. Mary is hands down the most spontaneous, reckless in all the right ways and ready for adventure person I know.  She has instigated, or participated in, some of our biggest adventures (like ice climbing in Alaska).  She is a hard working business woman but she knows how to cut loose.

Put them all together on Curiosity and their enthusiasm is infectious. As expected, they are the perfect fit for this journey.  So, grab a beverage and settle in for the ride! We’re floating through history, getting locked up, let down and set free into the Pacific Ocean.

Peter and John were busy tending to lines but managed to capture footage of their experience too. In true Geeks style, they dig into the man-made wonderment and engineering. They illustrate how the canal cuts through a country and uses water to lift us up 85 feet and set us down in the Pacific Ocean.

Planning Your Panama Canal Transit?

Turns out planning and preparing for the Panama Canal wasn’t as difficult as we expected. We shared everything we learned about how to transit the canal with or without an agent here: gonewiththewynns.com/no-agent-transit-panama-canal  Spoiler alert…we saved the cash and didn’t hire an agent.

Extra fun facts…

The Panama Canal at night is reminiscent of a river walk.

full locks transiting the panama canal

Talk about a mooring ball! I think this thing was made for a tanker. It’s an interesting way to moor up but let’s hope it doesn’t catch on. This is closer than I would want to be to my neighbors on a regular basis.

mooring up at gatun lake panama canal

In all the excitement, I forgot to get my written approval to fly our drone while transiting the canal.  Doh…Face Palm!  However, we did have just enough time for a quick flight around Gatun Lake before we took off on day two.  The new locks for the big ships are very impressive from up here.

drone view of the panama canal
transiting the panama canal drone view
drone selfie panama canal gatun lake

As part of our transit duties, we are expected to provide bottled water and lunch for the adviser.  I was super nervous about this. I read a horror story about an adviser being displeased with the offerings and requesting a pilot boat to deliver take out at the expense of the boat.  It’s a nasty $250 fee!  Yikes!

I am sure that is a rare instance, and who knows what the full story is, but I didn’t want to take any chances!  So, I provided a build your own sandwich buffet.  Tuna salad, chicken salad, hummus, veggies, fruit, an assortment of meats and cheeses, granola bars, chips, sodas, juices and anything else I could come up with.  Everyone was satisfied and stuffed to the gills!

Most importantly we made sure our galley, salon and cockpit were all clean & tidy. Nobody wants to dine in a messy, grimy, gross area.  If you’re boat is tidy and the food looks fresh you’re less likely to get complaints from the adviser.  Also we didn’t know we’d have to feed 2 people.  Thankfully we had plenty of food for the adviser and the adviser-in-training.

lunch for the panama canal adviser and crew

Our adviser and trainees were awesome!  Roy was relaxed, incredibly nice, laughed at my jokes (extra brownie points of course), gave us tidbits of history along the way and was professional all at the same time.  We lucked out big time.  Thanks for being awesome Roy!

our panama canal adviser

Mary drew the short stick and in this instance, its winning! Because we were rafted up to another boat, we really only needed two line handlers.  That meant Mary got to sit back, relax and enjoy the transit!

scoping out gatun lake along the panama canal
transiting the panama canal

Our raft buddies, (french delivery captain and his first mate) were rad dudes.  We had fun chatting in broken English, French and Spanish. We bonded after I let them borrow my iPad with the Predict Wind Offshore app to see what the weather looked like for their passage to Mexico.  Their eyes lit up like Christmas lights.  They were blown away by the information and had never seen an app with weather routing capabilities.  It was exciting to share and talk about passage making with a captain…while on passage.  Made me feel like a real salt.

panama canal transit crew

A Whole New World!

It feels like we’ve been let out into a whole new world.  So many possibilities and route options, which way to go?  South America, Galapagos, Easter Island, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Thailand…oh who knows. No matter which direction we decide to point our sailboat, it will be an adventure.

panama city just after exiting the canal

Sharing Is Caring

Thanks for joining us and making it this far!  We’re able to keep the sails up because of viewers like you.  If you liked this video and post, please share it.  You could email it to a friend, share it on your facebook or twitter page, pin it to your future sailing destinations board or even send it to your favorite news anchor (extra bonus points if you know Ron Burgundy).  It helps us out tremendously and for that, we thank you.

Sailing Report

To see our full map with interactive pins, click here: gonewiththewynns.com/map

Panama Canal Map
  • Dates: November 28 – 29, 2017
  • Nautical Miles Sailed: 42
  • Cell & WiFi: We had good cell reception through most of the canal.

Gear Used In This Video

Cameras Used to Capture This Video