The Sunreef 60 Oca is a luxury catamaran extending the sailing season to a full year. In today’s blog post, the Owner of this amazing yacht recalls his recent crossing of the Panama Canal.
We woke up at 4am to get an early start as we had a 75 NM passage to Shelter Bay from Chichimi island, San Blas, with expected 10-knot winds on our beam. As the day progressed, wind dropped to 4knots and we had to motor for most of the passage, but we were rewarded with a beautiful catch and release, a 1m long barracuda. Upon arrival in Shelter Bay Marina, we were swiftly measured up by a canal inspector and scheduled to cross in a couple days, good to unwind and sleep well knowing we wouldn’t wake up with the boat sitting on top of a reef at 2am due to a wind reversal as had happened in a beautiful remote island a few weeks earlier in San Blas.
On the day prior to the canal crossing, family members joined us and we spent the day learning how to become quasi-pro handliners, as this was the most important function in the locks. D-day arrived, everyone woke up apprehensive, but excited for crossing one of the world’s most ingenious constructions. We head out to anchorage and wait for our pilot who arrived spot on at the agreed time: 16:45. It would be during sunset that our boat would rise 29m into lake Gatun through the three locks.
As we leave the anchorage we are told we need to follow a cargo ship as we will be going up with them, a rather small container ship. As we enter the locks with massive 10m high walls, the beautiful riveted original gates begin to close behind us and 1000’s of metric tons of lake water start pouring in. Captain doesn’t do much other than appreciate the marvel of human engineering, while the handliners are working the lines to keep the boat centered.
Up we went, 3 locks and 29m later, we can see the Atlantic ocean disappearing behind us we head out to a mooring buoy in the lake and celebrate the amazing accomplishment of the crew for not having damaged the boat.
Next sunrise, the second pilot boards OCA and we head off to the Gatun channel, some 28 NM of navigation in fresh water with OCA sitting real low, but surprisingly going fast as the current takes us. Crossing 350m long cargo ships with 50m beam at only a rock throw distance is mind boggling, we realize how tiny we are. Upon reaching the Miraflores locks, we can finally see the Pacific at a far distance.
We are first into the locks, which means we get to see the amazing 15th century castle-like gates opening in our bow, wow, what a spectacle. The boat elevators drop us down some 26meters due to the high tide, something we hadn’t had to factor in so long, and at last gates open to literally pour us into the Pacific, our new home for the next couple years.