Virgin Islands to Panama on Green Flash

I'm home now in Santa Barbara and still pinching myself thinking about the surreal experience I just returned from.  I've had a lot of adventures on Green Flash but this last one is definitely up there with the most unreal and unique.  It was a two week adventure never to be forgotten.  There is just too much to share in one post so this will be part one.  The voyage continues for Hubby and Son and who knows, I may even meet up with the Flash again in Mexico for one of the last legs. 

It all began with Hubby, Son and Nephew from Tortola, BVI.  After many delays, due to a crane breakdown at Nanny Cay, Green Flash was finally put back in the water after hurricane season. What a test of patience for them!

There were no lack of projects to prepare for the journey while they waited for the crane issues to be sorted out.    

Friend flew in from the San Francisco area to join them and the transit could finally begin.  These were some happy boys finally underway! 

It took them six days sailing straight through to get to Panama.  Son kept them well fed with fresh fish caught daily off the back of the boat.

Oldest Daughter, Oldest Brother and I flew into Panama to meet up with them.  The timing couldn't have worked out better.  They arrived at Shelter Bay Marina just a couple of hours before giving them just enough time to have the boat spic and span for us. No telling what She looked like after a six day transit with four guys on board!  Son even made fresh ceviche, with the Mahi he had just caught that day.  I can't even tell you how happy I was to see Hubby and of course Son!

Shelter Bay was the perfect place for us to be while we prepared for our Canal transit.  I had no idea how much goes into the coordinating and planning of just the Canal part of the trip. 

Meeting with our agent, ad measure authority, refueling, laundry and organizing.  We had three days before our transit time to get everything in line.  Hubby, Son and I took a 45 minute shuttle ride from the Marina to Colon to re-provision the boat.  That was an experience! The market was quite large but not much variety.  The prices were pretty similar to US.  Colon isn't exactly safe so I was happy to have my boys with me.  

In between preparing to transit the Canal we had some fun.  The jungle right behind the Marina was beautiful with lots of monkeys, crocodiles, toucans and other birds. Shelter Bay Marina is located on Fort Sherman which was a former US Army base, one of the defensive bases for the Canal.  They also did US jungle warfare training there.

We were scheduled to go through the Gatun Locks between 5:00 and 6:30 pm.  The anticipation of it all was super exciting.  So much had gone into the planning and logistics.  I was once again amazed at Hubby and how he has brought this all together.  So cool to think Hubby and Son transited the Canal the opposite direction from the Pacific to the Atlantic almost exactly six years ago.  Son was 16 years old at the time.  Transiting the Canal on its 100th year celebration was awesome too.  It's just so amazing this was all engineered 100 years ago and nothing has changed since then. 

We had to leave in plenty of time to pick up our advisor outside of the marina.  He was dropped off by boat.  

We were told to have lots of Coca Cola on board for the advisors and to keep them well fed.  With Son and I on board, no problem.  There was a lot of waiting involved.  We were supposed to side tie to a 120 foot motor yacht but somehow they were able to make some phone calls so they could transit alone.  It didn't matter to us, it just meant we would need more line handlers.  It was a local Panamanian who clearly had some connections.

We motored to the first lock.  

On the way we got a good view of the gates for the new set of locks which will be completed in 2016.  You can see just how large they are!

Oldest Daughter, Son, Nephew and San Fran Friend were the line handlers.  Two on the bow, and two on the stern.  Of course, Hubby at the helm, me with a roving bumper and camera in hand and Oldest Brother, clearly the "supervisor", ha ha!  That became the standing joke for the trip. 

It was crucial for the line handlers to keep the boat straight and in the center of the locks.  They worked with the four Canal line handlers above them.   

It was a weird feeling when the gates closed and you waited for the water to rise.  The Gatun Locks is a three stage flight of locks which lifts boats and ships to the Gatun Lake level, about 85 feet above sea level. 

It was such a surreal experience but going through at sunset and then a full moon made it that much more so.  

It took quite a bit of time to transit and then motor to the Gatun Lake.  We tied to a very large mooring ball and said goodbye to our advisor who was picked up by boat.  Son made a fabulous dinner and we celebrated an incredible day.  I was so  impressed with Son's skills in my galley.  He took the lead with all of the meals and I truly was just his assistant.  I am so inspired by him and have some new ideas!

Our new advisor was schedule to board the boat at 6:00 am the following day for our transit through the next set of locks, Pedro Miguel and Mira Flores.  Son and I made a big breakfast spread as we motored through the lake.  Important to keep our advisor happy with a full tummy. 

It took six hours going very slowly to get across the Gatun Lake for our scheduled lock time, but we weren't complaining.  It was a spectacular site and a beautiful morning.  

We went through the Mira Flores Locks by ourselves again with a motor yacht in front of us and a large tug boat behind.  

Once through the locks, we dropped off our advisor and continued on under the Bridge of the Americas... now on the Pacific side!  We moored at the Balboa Yacht Club for the night. 

Of course, celebrating with food was again in order!  We took a boat taxi ashore and then two car taxis to Mi Ranchito near Flamenco Marina.  We were all very sad to say goodbye to San Fran Friend.  

The adventure for the rest of us continued on to Costa Rica.  Stay tuned for the next part of the story, Panama to Costa Rica, coming soon!