Day 123, Year 1: A Different World
Date: Friday, February 17, 2006
Weather: Sunny and Warm
Water Temperature: 76 degrees F
Latitude: 08 degrees 56 minutes
Longitude: 79 degrees 33 minutes
Location: Balboa Yacht Club, Balboa, Panama

We have not just come through the Panama Canal; we have arrived in a place very different from where we have been for the past couple of months. The water temperature has dropped about 6 degrees from the Caribbean side of Panama, and as the port captain said to us today, we have just “come from Africa and arrived in Miami.” I would not characterize Cristobal and Colon on the other side of the Canal as Africa. It was simply an area that has self-destructed. There were no nice parts of town. The entire area was like the worst slum that you can imagine. On this side of the Canal, it is a very different story. There is a T.G.I. Friday’s not far from the dock and there is a party boat blaring music as it travels through the waterway. I hear the shopping in Panama City is fantastic (good things cheap), and the people here are very friendly. Plus, you can actually walk around without the fear of being robbed. There was no wireless internet at the Panama Canal Yacht Club, but here there is wireless in the mooring field as well as at the bar at the end of the dock here. We are finding this a very comfortable place to be and will probably stay here for another ten days. The Carnival finale is February 24th through the 27th, so we will probably stay to experience that before traveling on. We have been moving so fast that there has been no time for boat maintenance. We are really hoping to slow ourselves down, get a lot of boat work done, and still have time to enjoy the area.

We are still in awe of how smoothly our Canal transit went. It went like clockwork. We were up and going by 0300, picked up our advisor by 0400, rafting up with our partner boats by 0430, and headed into the first Gatun Lock by 0500. There are three adjacent locks, and we stayed rafted to our two buddy boats until 0730 when we had cleared the third lock. We then untied from our “buddies” and started the motor race across the 25 miles of the Gatun Lake, under the Centennial Bridge, and rafted with our buddy boats again around 1130. We cleared the Pedro Miguel Lock and entered the Miraflores Locks around noon. By 1330, we were in the Pacific. Quick and easy. We were very lucky to be able to transit with only sailboats-no super tankers. The Canal is back to its regular schedule today, so our timing was just right.

Tomorrow we will head into Panama City to check things out.