Our latest entry always comes up first...

Click this link if you want to start at the beginning of our trip from
South Carolina (where we bought the boat) to Lake Ontario Click this link:

If you want to see the story of our 2 1/2 year project getting
Blowin' Bubbles ready for our life on board click here:

If you want to start at the beginning of our trip:
START OF TRIP - July 2014
2015, 2016, 2017

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Panama Canal!

Welcome to our Blog. Our latest entry always comes up first... 
Click this link if you want to start at the beginning:
If you want to start at the beginning of our trip:
If you want to see the story of our trip from South Carolina
(where we bought the boat)
 to Lake Ontario Click this link:
The Panama Canal is an American-built waterway across the Isthmus of Panama that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The 50-mile-long passage created an important shortcut for ships; after the canal was constructed, a vessel sailing between New York and California was able to bypass the long journey around the tip of South America and trim nearly 8,000 miles from its voyage. The canal, which uses a system of locks to lift ships 85 feet above sea level, was the largest engineering project of its time. (more info at:

Last weekend Blowin Bubbles made our historic journey across this wonder of the world... Our journey began at the Shelter Bay Marina where we stayed for a few weeks prior to our transit.  We decided not to use an agent so we had some running around to do.  In order for a small vessel like ours to transit the canal, we must first be measured by an official from the Canal.  Our 45' boat was officially measured at 49' 4" which was good because the price would increase by almost $500 if we were even one inch over the 50' threshold...

After our official measurement we took a taxi into Colon to visit the bank where we were to pay our transit fees.  This whole transaction happens with cash, so we first had to visit an ATM to withdraw enough money.   The cost for our boat was:

Transit toll:  $800
Inspection charge:  $54
Security Charge:  $130
Buffer*:   $891
Total:  $1875

*The "Buffer" is like a damage deposit, in case we incurred any penalties or damages along our transit.  At some point we hope that the money will be deposited into our bank account, less a "fee" for handling our money...

Now that they had our money, we were able to make an appointment for the actual transit.  We requested February 20th.  We were granted our requested date and we spent the rest of our time at the dock getting many jobs completed that are difficult when at anchor.  

The biggest job was re-painting our deck.  Our year and a half out has taken its toll on our deck and our brightwork.  We took this opportunity to make our home look beautiful again...  Along with the provisioning (talked about in our previous entry) we made the boat ready for our long upcoming journey to the South Pacific...

The canal requires that each vessel transiting the canal has 4 line handlers, an adviser, and a captain.  Two good friends, Lanny & Ginger from s/v SwiftSure were getting some work done on their boat at Shelter Bay Marina so agreed to be two of our line handlers.  Michelle, our good friend from Oklahoma came all the way to Panama to be our third line handler.  Shelley was the fourth, and I was stuck being the captain.... :)

We left the dock at 1330 (1:30pm) and motored to Anchorage area "F" where we waited for our first transit adviser to arrive by launch.  His job is to make sure we safely make it through the canal.  

When transiting from the Atlantic to the Pacific the trip takes two days.  We departed anchorage "F" around 1630 and arrived at the first lock just before 1700.  Our first advisers name was Jose.  Jose got us and two other smaller sailboats to raft up together and enter the first lock.  Since our boat was the biggest, with the strongest motor, we were the center boat.  The two outside boats sent their rented 120' lines up to canal line handlers who kept the whole "raft" centered in the lock.  In front of us in the lock was a huge cargo ship!

We locked up the three Gatun locks without incident.  By the time we cleared the last lock it was dark and we motored to a mooring in Gatun Lake.  Unfortunately there was a big boat tied up to one of the only two mooring balls, so our three boats and three others were all rafted up and tied to the remaining ball... We were told our next adviser would arrive as early as 0630 in the morning.

The next morning a new adviser (Larry) arrived at 0830.  We broke away from all the other vessels and began to 35 nautical mile journey to the Miraflores locks on the Pacific side of Panama.

Our trip was completely uneventful and lots of fun!  The flora and fauna of Panama is beautiful, and the crew was great!  Larry decided that since we were so far ahead of the other two sailboats we started with, that we would transit the Miraflores Locks with a larger, siteseeing boat, called Panama Queen.  

This boat was filled with tourists who paid to take a trip by boat through the Panama Canal...  We entered each of the three locks on our own and rafted up to Panama Queen in each lock.  On the down bound journey, small vessels go in AHEAD of the larger cargo vessel...  That is even more scary than following one!

The transit down the last three locks went well and around 1530 we journeyed the last 6 nautical miles to the La Playita anchorage where we anchored and celebrated our epic two day journey!

Following are a few pictures from our actual transit.

Entering the Miraflores Locks - Jackie McAlister did these screen shots from one of the live canal cameras.

Michelle learning a few knots....

One of the 57 canal tugs...

The "Captain", Ginger & Michelle


Michelle & Shelley entering the first lock...

No turning back now!

The "foredeck" crew....

Rafted up...

Our first adviser, Jose

A view from the "top"

Exiting the last Gatun lock

Traveling the canal....

The Miraflores mules which pull the large boats in the locks

Our new buddy boat...

Notice the dent... Someone had a bad day...

This boat is too big for the old locks...  

The Bridge of the Americas

Our adviser, Larry is finished for the day...

La Playita anchorage...


Our first Pacific Sunset...

Our friends, on S/V HAVEN

Safely in the anchorage

Following are a few pictures taken of us from the Panama Queen.  A gentleman sent them to Ginger who sent them to us.  As soon as I find out who took them, I will give the proper credit..

 This last photo was taken by Kerry from s/v Haven when they were on a hike...

Thanks for coming with us!


  1. Great to meet you in transit when we were line handling on Star Charger - odd the places you meet new friends!

    Susie & Kevin
    SY temptress of Down

  2. Kyle and Shelley, just checking on you guys. It's Jon flowerday from Rochester ny hope all is well, looks like I have some catching up to do..... Fair winds my friends.

  3. Kyle and Shelley, just checking on you guys. It's Jon flowerday from Rochester ny hope all is well, looks like I have some catching up to do..... Fair winds my friends.