Friday, July 29, 2011

Panama Canal crossing on Varuna

Our video of our crossing with Varuna. It was a blast, too bad we don't get to take SOMF through this year :(  At least we got to experience it with good friends. Sorry about the wind noise at the end, it was really windy on the Atlantic side.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Panama Canal Transit on SV Varuna!!

After saying goodbye to Skeeter and Shiraz, Jerry, myself and Sam from SV Windfall rowed over to the dock at Land and Sea to catch our bus to Panama.  We caught the 6:40am bus and arrived at the boarder around 8am.  After checking out of Costa Rica and into Panama we then headed across the boarder and caught the 10am bus to Panama City.  Here in Panama they do not call it Panama City, it is just Panama to the locals, so kind of confussing to us tourist, but we made it.  The bus stopped around 3pm (mountain time) in Santiago for lunch break, which had a eatry and a couple of tiendas.  The prices of the food was great, so much cheaper than Costa Rica has been. 

Now me being the prepard one I am (sometimes), I packed lunch for Jerry, Sam and myself, so we were not hungry.  After a half an hour break and buying a couple more sodas for the road we headed back onto the bus.  After another hour on the bus, we could tell that it was having some problems, they kept pulling over every 30 or 40 minutes, we think that the bus was overheating a little.  Then after about another hour or so they turned off the airconditioning and pulled over to have us all get off and get on another bus for the remainder of the trip.  The second bus was even nicer than the first bus, with airconditioning, bigger seats, and they showed a movie.  We finally arrived at the Grand Bus Terminal around 7pm, once stepping off the bus we saw that this bus station was bigger than some of the airports in the United States. 

We got an eight dollar taxi ride to Las Brisas anchorage where Mitch and Anne on SV Varuna were anchored.  The next morning we started motoring out of the anchorage around 6 am to head toward the canal enterance where we would pick up our advisor to take us through the locks.  They ended up pushing back our time to go through the canal till 8:30 am, so after our advisor came on board we had some breakfast that Anne had prepared ahead of time. 
The pilot boat that has our advisor on it!

The bridge entering the Panama Canal
To give a little history on the Panama Canal it was built in 1914, it stretches for 80 km form Panama City on the Pacific side to Colon on the Atlantic side, the canal cuts right through the Continental Divide.  Nearlly 14,000 vessels pass through the canal each year, which ships carrying up to 4000 containers were built world wide to fit throught the canal.  In 2014 a new canal will be completed to allow the much bigger ships carrying up to 10,000 containers to cross through.  The cost of crossing is according to their weight and length, the highest amount was around $200,000 US in 2001 by the 90,000-ton french cruise ship and the lowest was about $0.36 US in 1928 by Richard Halliburton who swam though.  SV Varuna cost about $650 US with a $900 deposit that they will get back in a couple of months.  The canal has three sets of double locks: Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Lockes on the Pacific side and Gatun Locks on the Atlantic side.  Between the locks we pass through and artificial lake, Lago Gatun, created by the Gatun Dam across the Rio Charges, and the Gaillard Cut, a 14km cut through the rock and shale of the isthmian mountains. For more in depth about the canal go to

We entered the first lock around 8:30 am on Friday and after tying to a tug on our port side we waited for the water to fill up the first lock, then released from the tug and motored into the second lock.  We did this three more times till we were through the first three locks.
Entering the first lock

Evan our advisor helping tie to the tug

"Mule" -the ships have these to help lead them through the locks.  Some ships have up to 8 mules guiding them.

The sight of the new canal locks, that will be able to take much much larger ships!
We got throught the final lock on the Pacific side around 10:45 am, to go through the Gatun Lake took us over 4 hours and the last ship going throught the Gatun Locks to the Carribian left at 1:30pm.  It started to poor down rain as we were motoring throught the lake, but it was still a beautiful site, we ended up having to tie up to a mooring buoy and stay the night and go throught the locks in the morning.  After the pilot boat came and picked up Evan our advisor we had some cocktails and dinner and went to bed after along day. 
Entering Gailard Cut!

Where a lot of the canal work boats would come speeding by and make a large wake.

"Ted's Island"- Our very large mooring buoy
The next morning we were supposed to get our new advisor around 9 am, but in true form he did not come till 11:30am.  Once on board we were off to go through our final three locks.  Now these locks we enter and wait for the water to drain out of the canal called "down locking".  Once entering the lock we were tied up with a sportfishing boat and then we had our starboard lines up to the line handlers, while the fishing boat had their port lines out.  We cleated them off, and as the water was let our, we let out more line to keep us steady with the lowering water.  When the water was out, we released the lines and the fishing boat motored us to the second and third lock. 
Sam inspecting on how we tied up to the sportfishing boat.

These are our line handlers up on top ot the lock!

As you can see we have a large car carrier and a tug behind us
watching the water lower out of the locks

The lock in front of us with the cargo ship...we are almost to the Carribien!!
The gates from the down locks opening!

We exited the final lock around 1:45pm, released ourselves from the sportfishing boat, dropped off our advisor and motored out of the canal channel to Shelter Bay marina.  This is a great marina, with all the amenities where most boats go after the canal to get ready to go cruising the carribian.  Unfrotuently it was really overcast and windy, so I was not able to get any good pictures out into the Carribian.
That evening we all enjoyed a good meal and cocktails up at the marina along with Gordon and Jayne from SV Comfort Zone 2.  The next morning Jerry, Sam and myself took a taxi back to Panama City to explore the city before getting on our 10:40pm express bus back to David Panama.  We had a great time walking down by the malacon and the flamingo yacht club and of coarse going into some marine stores.  We then took a taxi back to the bus terminal and across the street was Albrook mall, since we had many hours to kill we had some lunch, walked around and even saw a movie ( "Horrible Bosses" a must see). 
The beautiful malecon in Panama City

Jerry and Sam enjoying a beer in Panama City

What a view (yes it was hazy), overlooking Las Brises Anchorage toward downtown Panama (know as the American Zone)!

what a boat!
We got on our long bus ride back to David, arriving around 4:45am.  Again having some time to spare we got some coffee and waited till sunrise to start walking around David.  Jerry was getting a new but used SSB from Arturo around 8:00am Yeah!!  Now all we have to do is to get it working...more on that later.

After doing some grocery shopping and getting the radio we got back on the bus to Golfito.  After all the barking and meowing from Skeeter and Shiraz ( they were letting us know they do not like us leaving them), we were going to get ready to go out to dinner, and in true form it started to poor down rain.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Back to David, Panama!

Well Jerry and I took another bus ride into David Panama to pick up our SSB radio.   Unfortunately Arturo told us the diagnosis was not looking good.  There are at least two circut boards that are defective and one flexiable cable.  They might be able to get fixed, but he would have to fix one, before knowing what was exactly wrong with the second, and that might show more problems, plus would be very costly.  So now we are in the market for a new radio, he had a icom700pro that was practicaly brand new for a really good price, but that price is still a little out of our range.  But he said he would let us know if any came up in our price range. 
This time we took a microbus from the boarder to David, it was a small, airconditioned bus, that cost $2 but true as form in Latin American countries they pack the bus as full as possible.  We got off the bus in the downtown area and walked around, supprisingly the town was very clean, then when we were ready to head back up to the highway and go to Rey (the big grocery store) we realized we were a lot farther than we thought, oh well we all need a little exercise.  We decieded to take a taxi back up to the boarder since we had the radio, and three large bags of grocery's, we thought a micorbus might be a litte to crowded for us.
After checking out of Panama, the big bus back to Golfito got pulled over by customs.  Everyone had to show ID or their passport and they check out the bottom of the bus.  With everything being well we were off on our 1 hour and 20 minute ride back to Golfito.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bus trip to David Panama!

Jerry and I took a bus trip to David Panama to drop off our Single Side Band radio to try to get fixed with Arturo, who Jerry found by some other cruisers help on the Southbound web site.  We first took a $2 taxi to the duty free zone on the other side of Golfito to catch the 7:30 am bus, which was  a little late.  The Bus used to be 650 colones ( about $1.30 US), but the day before they raised it to 1025 colones ($2.05 US), still a great deal for an hour and twenty minute bus to the boarder.  It also seemed to keep the bus not as crowded, since there were two other towns between Golfito and Paso Canoas ( the boarder town), and different buses that when to the other towns that were still cheap, it seemed that unless people were going to the boarder they opted to wait for the next cheaper bus to go by.  The buses were nice, large buses, so the ride over there was not to bad.  Once we got to the boarder and got off the bus, you first have to check out of Costa Rica, which we forgot to do at first so we wasted about 30 minutes waiting in line. 
Then you check into Panama, luckly the line was not to long so even with our mistake it took about 1 hour.  We then found a taxi, who spoke english, to try to explain to him where we were going to drop off the radio.  Luckely he had a phone and we had Arturo's phone number, cause we needed it.  David is the capital of Chiriqui Province, it is actually the second largest city in Panama.

It takes about 45 minute from the boarder and half way there our taxi drivers car started to overheat.  So we pulled into a gas station (where we noticed the fuel prices are much lower here than in Costa Rica), and waited till a friend of his came and picked us up. 

It all worked out fine, he found Arturo's place and we dropped off the radio, now we just hope and wait.  We did not get to see a lot of David this trip, but we know we will be back, so we did some grocery shopping (again the prices are so much cheaper than Costa Rica) and had some lunch at TGIFriday's, yeah it was good to have a good ol buger.  Jerry did get me a new mp3 walkman headset that is water and sweat proof, so now I have no excuses to not go running.  We took a taxi back to the boarder and checked out the duty free zone between the two countries then got back on the bus to Golfito.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Free Water!!

We knew we were coming to Costa Rica in the rainy season and it is sure rainy.  Most days we still get to do our daily duties : go running with Skeeter, do some laundry, go to the market, oh I don't know maybe go have a beer at the local Latitude 8 bar.  But if we are not back to the boat by 3 or so we probably will get drenched.  We have been lucky, even with all the rain the sun still comes out for a while in the morning so the solar panels can charge up the batteries.  But we are deffinetly not getting the amps that we used to get with all the sun in Mexico. 

Jerry got 52 yards of an exterior nylon matterial for $132 at the duty free zone, it is not quite as strong as sunbrella but for the price you could not pass it up.  If it makes it through this rainy seaons its a win for us.  We made the shade the night before we left for our inland trip with Sam and Nancy, Jerry and I are getting really good at sewing.  After sewing around the edges and sewing the three 20 feet peices together we had one large tarp.  Jerry then decieded instead of putting gromlets that we would use plastic buckels, that we got in El Salvador for 5 cents, to strap it down to the life lines.  It works really good, now we can leave the windows open for breeze (which was the main reason for the tarp), plus it helps protect the wood panels on the inside of the boat under the window. 

But there is an upside to having all this rain, we get free water, no haveing to run the genorator to make water through the watermaker. Now with the water maker we get about 6.5 gallons of water an hour and with this rain and how Jerry made the water funnel we think we are probably getting at least 6 gallons of water an hour.  Since we could only find one funnel (and that was hard to find), Jerry made a funnel using a $4 bucket that he cut a hole in the bottom, fitted it with a plastic through hole attached to a hose.  He then needed to bring the side of the trap down at the center where the water tank holes are, so as you can see on one a chain attachted to a clip and on the other, what every we had laying around to make it heavey.  They may not look great, but they work bring on the rain!!
We are having some cruisers over for 4th of July to BBQ some chicken with my homemade spicy potatos salad and Jerry's homemade baked beans.  Hope everyone has a great 4th.