Thursday, March 15, 2018

Galapagos - Marquesas Pacific Crossing

March 15 - April 5, 2018

Day 0/1 - We departed Santa Cruz at 18:30. The seas were lumpy because we had to motor with the wind on our nose. During the night we had 1-6 large white birds using our navigation lights to hunt, it was quite interesting to see. We think that they were boobies but, can't tell for sure. As I was watching the birds I had a thought, "I would love to see some dolphins with these awesome bioluminescence." Poof, there they were shooting through the water like torpedoes. At 04:00, on Shaun's watch, he unfurled the light wind genoa and shut off the engine for some peace and quiet. This morning, we raised the main and were sailing along nicely at 5-6 knots. There are 2 other boats with us, Kindred Spirit and Sissi. The wind died down at 09:30 so, we started the port engine and furled the foresail. During Paige's watch, she saw 2 pods of dolphins and 1 pod of porpoise. The seas are like glass and it looks as though we won't see the trade winds until tomorrow night. Once we left the 40 mile park reserve of the Galápagos Islands we were able to put the rods in the water. The fishing derby is on. For school today, Jordan read her astronomy book to me and this afternoon she is working on her newspaper article. Also, this afternoon, we were able to unfurl the sail again and enjoy the peacefulness of no engine while conserving our diesel. For a first day it has been lovely.

Day 2 - My day 2, also my cooking day has been quiet as I have been in bed most of it with what I think is borderline bronchitis. There was plenty of food pre-made so not much energy needed. Luckily, we have antibiotics aboard. Last night, I was supposed to have a shift from 20:00 - 23:00 but was sent to bed. During the night we hit some rough weather and seas. Apparently, poor Naddia was airborne in her bed. We now have a backup place for her to sleep in case we encounter this in the future. Not much wind today so we are continuing under port engine. We are hopefully going to see the trade winds in another 60 miles. As for the fishing derby..... it is still 0-0. Shaun has offered me his cooking day tomorrow so that I can continue to recover. Both girls have gotten to watch movies today and occupy themselves. Jordan is still a bit under the weather and I am hoping she is better by day 3. Earlier in the day Naddia spotted a young whale shark during her watch so, she quickly woke Paige. During dinner Shaun spotted a pod of whales off of our Starboard. As the sun begins to set we are enjoying our second day at sea. Tomorrow, we shall have bucket showers off the stern as long as the seas remain calm.

Day 3 - 448.8 miles completed - Shaun had a lovely night/early morning shift. The winds were fair and the stars stunning. He was "startled" to say the least when 2 giant manta rays swam next to the starboard side of the boat. They were shrouded in bioluminescence. When he headed over to port there were 2 more. For those of you waiting with fainted breath...... The fishing derby is still, 0-0. School work also a sad nil as the seas today have been very beamy..... I feel like a drunk person stumbling around if the coughing won't hurt me the seasickness might. I haven't got my sea legs yet......On the health front, I am feeling much better and think that I am at the tail end of the bug. Jordan is also feeling much better. Shaun has pretty much recovered from it but, is tired from being the captain. During Paige's morning watch we had 2 boobies hunting for flying fish as we sailed along. From midnight until 10 ish this morning we had full main and light wind foresail when the winds died down. The seas were so lumpy and the winds so light that we ended up dropping the main completely. The winds increased so for now, we are sailing along with a reefed jib alone.

Day 4 - The seas are still beamy..... so far no bucket showering. We had a visitor on the starboard transom. A squid, sadly we found it too late. Perhaps a biology lesson later today. Paige would like to try and use the ink with her calligraphy set.... The fishing hmmmmm..... Element has a drought so far. Rods are out of the water today due to sea conditions. Perhaps later on. Still early in the day. Well, I'm happy to report that the rods are back in and, we even ended the drought. A small Mahi graced Manuel's rod. It was too small to keep but at least we know that the Pacific does in fact have fish. The sad part is that Element is still at 0. We also had bucket showers. I reached my limit of days without showering. Today we have been able to sail all day. We shook our reef out this morning and have been sailing along between 6-7 knots. It was cloudy until 11:30 am and since then the sun has been shining allowing us to top up the batteries. For school today Jordan has done letter writing and art. Our fruit seems to be ripening all at the same time. Of course now we have a ton of ripe bananas..... we sadly lost a whole pineapple. Just now Element's fishing line has a hit. But we lost it.

Day 5 - My watch started at 5:00 am with light winds. We had a full jib and no main. We had another squid land on deck. That brings it to a total of 3. Hmmmm, maybe we should start going after squid. Perhaps then we would have more fresh fish. We decided to face the wind and raise the main to increase speed. Brilliant idea because now we are cooking along between 8-10 knots. The seas are not as lumpy today (thank goodness). It is Nadja's cooking day which means...... yes, that mine is tomorrow. On a cooking day, there are no watches. The "chef" makes breakfast, lunch and dinner and their first watch is in the wee hours of the following morning. The rest of today was spent snoozing, reading and having conversations about which animal people we know would be. Jordan journaled and drew. We also continued learning about constellations. We have completed 770 nautical miles thus far and for you guys waiting to hear the fishing update. Still 0-1 for Manado. Element crew lost our most hopeful lure. Hopefully, tomorrow will bring fresh fish. I almost forgot to share our wonderful news...... our hydro charger is finally functional. We are now generating power while under sail. We will use it during the evenings and at night to compensate our draw and pull it up when we have solar power..... Yay!!!!

Day 6 - The hydro charger is still functioning. That's a good sign. We only lost 5% instead of 15% of our batteries overnight. This is a huge improvement. It means we don't have to run our Honda generator as much or if any. In the middle of the night the forecasted higher winds and seas started. It wouldn't have been so bad but they were on our beam making for a super rolly day. The swell has been 2 meters and is forecast to increase to 3 by midnight. We had a 200+ nautical mile from yesterday to today which means if these conditions continue our crossing will be quicker. On the fishing front....... still none with the exception of the 8 flying fish and 2 squids. You can guess that there was no school today so lots of movie watching. It was my cooking day so no watches until 01:00 am. Jordan helped me make the crepe batter. The recipe is courtesy of our good friends on s/v Maple. We noticed more water than usual in our starboard bilge so, ran the pump. It is localized under the water tank and is salt water. Don't panic there isn't any unplanned holes. We figure that the water is coming in through the overflow pipe. It should subside once the seas calm down. That is the excitement for today.

Day 7 - 1199 miles completed -Today brought us even bigger swells (3 meter). We are sailing along at between 7-11 knots. It is shaping up to be another 200 mile day. The swell is still on our beam to aft quarter making the boat role. We will all be happy when we reach the point when we make our turn and have the wind from behind and the boat doesn't sound like it's breaking every time a wave slaps underneath. No fish again but, I'm happy to report we had a bite. On Naddie's early morning watch she was attached by a flying fish. It got away as well. Our hydro charger is working wonderfully, we haven't needed to use the generator once so far and we have charged devices throughout the days. We are all good, despite needing another shower. The sea conditions have not been allowing as many showers as we would like. Hopefully, we will see fresh fish soon.

Day 8 - 1349 Several of the crew had strange dreams overnight. One had dreams of cracks in the floor,  another dreamed about being marooned in the cabin with only fruit loops, beer, fishing line and a sheet for a sail. Lastly, there was a forewarning of 3 days....... Hallucinations or prophecies? I will keep you posted. The swell is still close to 3 meters and we still all feel off balance. Fish you ask? None yet. We did find another squid. This one was in the dinghy. We haven't freed it yet as the seas are a little too rolly. Jordan's TOMC (The Ocean Massaging Club) was opened up after she created some advertising flyers. Great prices and she does a great job. This club was started in Panama with some friends and Jordan has continued on with it. Sad news for me...... my trackpad on my laptop stopped working today. To make matters worse, none of us has an external mouse so, I am without a computer until we can find an electronic shop...... Does Amazon drone drop into the Pacific yet? We are all doing well. Today, my thoughts are with my family as we celebrate what would have been my Dad's 73 birthday. I was able to call my Mom on the sat phone to let her know we are all thinking of her today. While I am out in the middle of the Pacific I look up at the stars and think about my Dad and how big and vast he lived and am thankful for the memories and love we shared.

Day 9 part 1 - We are half way across the Pacific. Today's excitement brings brownies, rainbow loom bracelets and nail painting. Today brought Element and her crew 1/2 way across the Pacific. Thankfully, we slowed the boat so that we all could shower or there would have been a mutiny. We also made the turn so that we finally have following seas making it much more civilized on board. We painted nails, baked brownies and had a rum and coke to celebrate how far we have come. We had a fish try three times to get hooked but alas, still no fish. To spark conversation today we heard about a boat that lost its rudder. They are 600 miles in front of us and if they still need assistance by the time we make close the gap, we'll assist. One of the crazy dreams from yesterday was the future, "in three days"..... it would take us three days to reach this particular boat..... The weather is good, the crew are content and the seas are following. What more could we ask for?

Day 10 - What a day! This morning started with our 2 fishing lines being totally tangled up. It was an ominous start. Paige was then late for her watch and while putting her wind breaker on lost her wrist watch to Poseidon. He now has a lovely teal Casio. An hour later we attempted to hoist our spinnaker...... It turned into a twisted mess and both Shaun and Manuel had to jump onto the sail on the trampoline to prevent it from blowing overboard. Shaun was wrapped underneath the sail and wasn't seen for several minutes, just as his morning coffee was kicking in...... Additional note to Shaun, do not hoist spinnaker wearing last nights cold weather gear. He was overheating. The spinnaker was then brought into the cockpit to sort out the twisted mess and we managed to get it ready for the second attempt. Confident in our ability, we try again and.... manage to wrap the spinnaker multiple times around both foresails in an action that notably looked like tetherball. While Sherrie was helming, Shaun and Manuel managed to get the sail unraveled. Naddia was then wrangled in to help keep the parachute like mess on the trampoline. The spinnaker has been put away until tomorrow, at the earliest. Element 0 - Spinnaker 2. The sadness continues with the loss of Manuel's favourite lure to a monster fish that broke through a 250 kilogram steel leader. So, our fishing toll is still 0. On another topic, we are getting low on eggs because we had several go bad and had to toss them. I had purchased some white ones for the girls to dye for Easter but, we want to eat the eggs. We decided that they can have an early Easter egg dying session today. We are now sailing comfortably wing on wing and hope that all the bad stuff has finished for today.

Day 11 - At 13:00 hours on Day 11 at Sea...       FISH ON!!!   The crew of Element landed a 4 foot long 50 pound Wahoo Tuna...        Manuel later skillfully filleted nice size steaks while Nadia packaged them up for the freezer. Guess what's for dinner tomorrow night? 1881 nautical miles completed- We certainly had an exciting day on Element. Two fishes, one a keeper and the other too small. We celebrated the fish with freshly baked banana bread and coffee. Our sacrifices to Poseidon today you ask? Well, there was a small towel and then a hat. Now he will look stylish with the Casio, hat and towel. Jordan and I were able to complete some school this morning Social Studies and Science. Naddia is continuing her German lessons. The seas are following and we are cruising along nicely between 6.5 and 8 knots depending on the swell. Everyone on board is content knowing we will be arriving in approximately 6 - 7 days.

Day 12 - Today was really cloudy in the morning. It definitely felt like a movie or sleep day. It was Naddia's cooking day (she took over Manuel day). We had our first Wahoo dinner, wasabi coated with veggies and rice. Lovely meal. No more fish on the lines today but, that hasn't stopped us from trying. The winds have calmed but, we are still making way between 6-8 knots depending on gusts and swell. Jordan was extremely excited today as she was allowed to finally have a 1 hour watch. Shaun assisted, quietly giving her instructions on when she needed to change course. We have completed 2070 miles and hope to make landfall in 5-6 days.

Day 13 - I got up for the god awful 1-4 am watch and Shaun sent me back to bed for an hour. I will not say no to more sleep.... Apparently, this was a good omen for a couple of reasons..... We were able to deploy the spinnaker without a hitch today and, we caught two medium sized yellow fin tuna (we gave two shots of rum to Poseidon to thank him for the gifts). My meal plan has changed from beef stroganoff to sushi for dinner tomorrow evening. Before we caught the fish we Had a small celebration for our spinnaker success with a rum and coke. Our fishing success has increased since Manuel tore down our fishing derby sheet. We are cruising along nicely between 6-8 knots. The seas are following with light winds. We have completed 2204 nautical miles, less than 800 to go.
Jordan and I completed her novel study as well as some math. We are running low on fresh produce, not quite at the can stage yet but, that will happen soon. Not much else to report.

Day 14 - It's officially been 2 weeks at sea. These last 680 mikes are ticking by slowly since the winds have died down. We had a fish hit this morning but, sadly the line broke at the hook connection. Manuel was in morning for the next hour or so. We almost had to pull out a black veil. At least we have tuna sushi to look forward to for dinner. We had to start the port engine due to light winds. This broke Elements longest sailing stretch ever, 10 days straight. Our sushi dinner was excellent and to top the day off, Manuel caught his 13th fish since joining Element. It was a Mahi, and we look forward to having burgers or bites.

Day 15 - Today we caught the mother of all fishes..... an 11 meter, 6 ton CS 36. Kidding aside, we started towing the Canadian flagged vessel (from Sudbury, ON) as they had lost their rudder 7 days ago. It took us a few tries and one failed metal eye loop on the towing line before we got it sorted. The vessel name is VATA with Tim and Karen aboard. We will tow them for as long as the sea conditions are safe for both vessels. Sadly, this has put an end to our fishing so Manuel is in mourning once again.
The day has been smooth and without issue. Towing a boat behind us will slow us down but, we could not in good continence pass by without trying to help. We have 594 + miles to go. It will take us approximately 6 more days. Tomorrow, the winds are forecast to increase. We will attempt to sail with one of our foresails. Jordan has started to learn cursive writing, which she has wanted to do for awhile. We also started working on landforms for science.
Everyone aboard is doing well.

Day 16 - All in all, the last 24 hours have been good. This morning after both boats performed chafe checks on the tow line and bridle, Element unfurled the genneker and turned off the port engine and we slowly sailed at 3.5 to 4.5 knots..

Keep in mind that, not only are we towing a 36 ft mono, Shaun has them keeping their drogue in the water to keep their stern to the following seas, so that they do not swing more wildly than they already's not the most comfortable ride back there, but hey...they don't have to worry about staying on course or sail handling....they can watch movies for the next few days... After an hour or so, Shaun unfurled the jib as well, running wing on wing we managed to get an extra knot to 1.5 at times, so a bit better...

Shutting down the engine gave Shaun a chance to do fluid checks and have a look at the steering system and check the autopilot, all of which are coping well...the steering is surprisingly light with Vata behind us and the extra drag is helping keep us ddw (dead down wind) for lower course adjustment to keep both sails filled...

Day 17 - Happy Easter everyone! The Easter Bunny made an appearance on Element. Instead of an egg hunt, there were chocolate coins and discs. Starbursts, Gobstoppers and Sweetarts were also part of the bounty. We have just over 400 miles to go. This is the longest bit, especially since we are slow. The crew is finding these last miles long.  The weather was overcast and grey for part of the day but, ended up being sunny in the afternoon. The seas and winds are light and from behind. We are almost completely out of fresh produce, lucky we will be arriving soon. We haven't had to open the canned fruit but I think that trend will be starting tomorrow.....

Day 18 - The fact that I'm posting about Day 18 at sea, just about says it all...several of the crew are suffering from PTSD... (Post Tramatic Speed Disorder) and WSBTA  Syndrome (We Should Be There Already) and a slight case of fishing withdrawal... In the early morning hours today the winds increased to 14 knots true (thank heavens) and we started picking up some speed, when daylight appeared and Shaun could see no further squall clouds approaching, he unfurled the jib again to run both headsails downwind for the 3rd day in a row...we were seeing 5-6 knots and one 7 knot slide down a wave (we had to look back and see if sv Vata was still there), but winds have eased a bit and we are currently cruising in the high 4s low 5s...not too bad considering Vata estimates their displacement at 8 to 9 thousand kilos fully loaded... Swell has increased to about 1.2m so we see Vata's hull duck down beneath the swell behind us regularly and they are waggling back and forth a bit more now...they think they may have lost the anchor part of their drogue...the tow line is holding up well, which is surprising as it gets taught enough at times to skip double dutch...I need to complement Catana on the size and robustness of the cleat installations on this mooring, an Albanian storm and the Panama Canal have been more taxing on them than this tow...

Element is currently at 9d 42' S, 133d 31' W with 395 Nm to go to Nuku Hiva...

Fish : 0 - lines are out of the water.

Fish Tally:
Mahi = 2 ( 1 x 4kg, 1 x small - released)
Wahoo = 1 x 23 kg
Eel Mackerel = 1 (released)
Yellowfin Tuna = 2 x 5 kg = sushi

Math class in boat school today explained how circles contained 360 degrees of angles and that each angle of degree includes 60 minutes and 60 seconds within each minute (like time, but  not related) and that each minute of angle (arc) conveniently equals 1 NM for navigation at sea..followed by a review of the globe and its degrees of lat/Lon and the international time line...Based on some simple calculations Jordan will be checking the chart plotter around 6pm to see if we have eclipsed 134d W...I certainly hope so... Winds are predicted to ease on Weds and be calm by Friday into Saturday based on the European model...We hope we can get to Nuku Hiva by Friday, drop hook check in, get produce and leave overnight for Fatu Hiva while it's calm and sit there and enjoy the view for a while...

Day 19 - another post from Shaun.....
An interesting day today.... This morning started out with a radio call from Vata saying that there was severe chafe on their bridle and they would like to change their lines, so we slowed to a light drift and Vata after a few minutes had a new improved bridle...but dropped the tow line...we swung around collected the tow line added a small fender with a long messenger line and threw it across their foredeck as we passed by...success!...we are starting to look like pros now...and back on our way we went... I have a water maker rebuild kit on its way to Hiva Oa, so I  dropped a line to Tahiti Crew with our tracking ID and a request for their rep to see if we could be prioritized for diesel as we have now burned quite a bit towing in light conditions, as we are right now - this is my final warning stay well south of 10 deg until the last couple of that left the same day as us are still 500 Nm behind us..... Just after I sent the email, I receive an email from Vata? WTH?

Day 19 - pondering thoughts from Sherrie (3:00 am). As the girls and I approach April 5, my mind skims over the last 3 years. Crazy, how far we have come and what we have completed. Very proud. I was chatting with Naddia the other day (3 days ago I think), and she was looking at our coordinates and at the blow up globe and noticed that Element was almost exactly on the opposite side of the world of where we started almost 3 years ago..... Turkey to the South Pacific...... wow! Reflecting back on all of the places, experiences and people we have met makes me happy and grateful that we have been able to share this with our girls. It is hard sometimes on the girls... classic "grass being greener on the other side" but, in the end I think that they will be better people. At least well travelled lol......

Day 20 - We are so close to being finished this portion of the crossing. Less than 80 miles to go. We are all very excited. We surpassed 3000 miles today, our longest passage yet. We celebrated with a rum and coke on the trampoline while watching the sun go down. Banana grams (a game) has been the latest highlight. Naddia and Manuel like playing to help with their English, Jordan likes it because it's a game others will play with her and I like it because Jordan's spelling gets better. We had the spinnaker up today while towing VATA. They took a great photo that I will have to post another time. Not much else to report.

Day 21 - We have arrived!!!!!!! 20 days, 17 hours, and 40 minutes

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Panama - Shelter Bay and Panama Canal Transit

January 18 - February 5 - 6, 2018

Shelter Bay, Panama

We arrived into the flats anchorage to be measured for our upcoming Panama Canal transit. This is not the nicest anchorage due to the role from all the passing ships entering and exiting the canal. The following day our measuring fellow arrived on a pilot boat (disconcerting to have a large power vessel aiming directly at you going full tilt). The exchange went perfectly, and a couple of hours later we were measured up for our canal transit on February 5.

We decided to weigh anchor and head to another anchorage closer to the city for easy access to provisions (until we saw the “anchorage”). It was terrible, zero space between derelict vessels and rock…… Off we went earlier than expected to Shelter Bay Marina (we had a haul out date of Jan. 23, my birthday) to be more comfortable. The early arrival to the marina allowed us to get a jump start on the provisioning as well as laundry. We decided that we would provision some items for up to 6 months due to costs (feminine hygiene for instance is expensive) in the South Pacific. We spent a fortune up front to save us money, while in crazy expensive places. We also stocked up with a little bit of alcohol:
  • 80 litres of rum $5.60/litre (zone libra or free zone)
  • 24 litres of Bombay gin $11.00/litre (zone libra)
  • 320 cans of beer on top of our 9 flats on board
  • loads of Coke

cleaning the cans, so we don't have any visitors on Element
the boys tasting the wines: from left to right: Shaun, Brian (sv Counting Stars), Nick and Conner (sv Windancer IV), Manuel 
more cleaning of canned products
the delivery truck with drinks
When we arrived into Shelter Bay Marina, there were so many familiar faces including Windancer IV, Counting Stars, and Blue Zulu. Luckily, there were tons of kid boats, a pool and activities. Shelter Bay has a great cruising community with tons of activities (morning net (channel 77), yoga, nature walks, karaoke, open mic night, boat jumbles, Sunday evening BBQ etc.). It reminded me of Finike, Turkey where we wintered for 8 months in 2015/2016. The only downfall was that it is hell and gone from Colon, and a bus ride is required. The bus is infested with cockroaches that crawl everywhere, including in my hair. I resorted to bringing spray with me, much to the chagrin of fellow passengers. There was no way I was having them crawl all over me.

There are two routes into Colon, one very close to the canal where you can see the lock doors up close (my favourite), and the other is a small ferry boat across the shipping channel (boring, LOL).

chilling with Price from sv Panache
before open mic night with Natalie sv Beachlands and Stella sv Blue Zulu
open mic night
During our time at the marina, Shaun was able to contact an agent in the Galapagos to arrange for our autographo. An autographo allows vessels to visit 3 islands during a 60 day period. There is a minimum 3 week waiting period needed if you are wanting a 3 island stop.

During our time in Shelter Bay we also had a haul out. Our haul-out day arrived, and we got out of the water without any instances. Being lifted out is always stressful as it is unnatural to have a boat on land. It was hard work, and took the full 7 days we had forecasted. We sanded, anti fouled, polished stainless, and reorganized to make space for provisions. It was exhausting, but needed. After we splashed back in the water we took a trip by train (Panama Canal Railway) to Panama City for a well deserved break….. this was a highlight for me. We stayed at the Occidental Hotel. Panama City is a lovely city with an excellent metro and bus system. They also have incredible malls (Albrook is humongous and sucks you in like a casino). There are no windows and you can get lost. The only difference from a casino is that there is no oxygen being pumped in. Panama City has a huge American influence, the city is very modern, clean, and the people are super friendly. Sadly, on the outskirts of the city the Panamanian government have not kept up with maintenance of roads or American army bases, leaving them potholed and the buildings in ruins and rotting waiting for the jungle to claim them. During our visit to the city we also made a trip out to the rainforest for a walk and in the evening we caught up with Kendall and Brian in the old town for some beverages.

propeller polishing and bottom sanding
anti fouling

Paige's new hiding spot
Element starting to look better
Paige all prepped to clean out the bow locker, who knew she was part rapper?
Naddia and I with our awesome taxi driver
drilling holes in the egg containers to make them breathable
our Element logo by Paige on the sail loft wall

an old painting on the loft wall
heading back into the water
the bus ride to the train station

these were handed out to everyone

our server on the train
one of the plethora of animal status in the mall
a shot of the city
very cool wall art at one of the "clubs"
a building in the old part of town

leaf cutter ants
humming bird 

canopy viewing spot (sadly we missed seeing the toucans)
the climb up

Upon our return to the marina, Shaun organized our lines and tires for the transit (Tito was our contact). We were also short one line handler so, our friends Benny and Price of s/v Panache agreed to join us. The night before our transit date Shaun called to find out our pilot agent's time of arrival for the next day and was advised that someone would be arriving at 3:00 PM. The following day we were preparing the last minute items and at 1:00 PM or so departed Shelter Bay Marina. During the radio transmission requesting permission to cross a shipping lane we were informed from Saint Cristobal station that we had been bumped to 6:30 PM. The pilot arrived on time but, we were bumped again until 7:30 pm and had to transit the Gatun Locks at night. We were rafted with 2 other mono hulls with Element being the centre therefore, the engines for them all. Shaun did a fantastic job managing and safely negotiated us into the Gatun Locks. Thankfully, the locks are lit up like a Christmas tree. As Element was the centre boat and essentially having two boats as fenders, we did not have to line handle during the up locks. We did however, have to deal with sloth like reflexes from the fellows on the boat to our port side due to the fact they were stoned. Other than that our first three locks went smooth. We were paired with a large ship that was in front of us. It was quite the experience seeing the train cars (mules) help the ship into the locks. We enjoyed watching the giant doors shutting and seeing the water level creep up lifting the huge ship along with our convoy.

We made it safely to the Gatun Lake, released the boats and made our way to tie up to one of the floating buoys. Shaun manoeuvred us close enough to have Manuel hop onto the buoy. We tied up without a hitch, waited for the agent to be picked up and spent a lovely night in Gatun Lake. The next morning we received our new agent on time and we started the long passage through Gatun Lake. It took us 8 hours as the lake is huge. Our agent pushed us to go 8 knots to make sure we would complete the passage in a reasonable amount of time. It was quite a site to see the Pacific Ocean, for me it felt like coming home because our family used to live in the Pacific Northwest near the Pacific Ocean. Upon our arrival at the first down flowing locks, the Pedro Miguel lock we were paired up with one of the two monohulls from the previous night (the non sloth like boat thankfully). This time we had to line handle so Benny was our port bow line, Naddia our starboard bow, Manuel our port stern and Price our starboard stern. We went in first and were followed by a large freighter. On the down locks the smaller vessel is in front due to the turbulence created by the outflow of water and also making certain to be far away from the propellers of the ships that create a lot of water disturbance. On either side of the walls are line handlers that walk along with the small boats. They are the people that toss a small diameter line over with a monkey fist (we directed these to the trampoline to avoid anything being broken). We then had to bowline our lines on and these guys haul them up and secure them to the canal cleats. The line handlers on Element then had to slowly let line out as we descended one step closer to the Pacific. 
We left one ocean rose 26.5 KM above sea level to be lowered into another ocean. An 80 KM trip that used to be 7,800 miles, saving us countless weeks at sea. Once we were through the last lock we motored the final leg passing under the Bridge of the Americas to the anchorage where we would finalize our provisions/site-see before departing for the Galapagos.

lines and tires
Shaun and our first pilot
lines and tires
passing under the Atlantic Bridge on the Atlantic side
all geared up for the evening
hanging on the trampoline
the ship we were paired with in the lock
the fellows that toss the lines
using the lines as a pillow
getting closer to the first lock
a view to the stern
our moorage in the Gatun Lake, with our fabulous crew

passing under the Centennial Bridge nearing the Pacific ocean
(it is named such, to mark Panama's centennial which took place on November 3, 2003)
Naddia and Benny
the train mules helping the ship through
Shaun taking a breather
train mule
some of the crew on the ship behind us 
the captain in full concentration mode
Paige, our budding photographer
Miraflores down lock 
a view of the Pacific ocean in the background
We made the 80 km distance, saving us weeks at sea and thousands of miles. Seeing the Pacific ocean was an emotional experience for me. It felt like we were coming home in a way because when we were living on land, we lived in the Pacific North West very close to the Pacific ocean.

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