|The Espiritu crew celebrates as we finally made it under the Bridge of the Americas and through the Panama Canal|
First, the good news: we made it through the canal and are currently at Shelter Bay Marina in the Caribbean Sea. We may be in the the Caribbean, but we're still in Panama. There are countless beautiful islands and miles of gorgeous coastline to explore on the Carribean side of the country.
Back to our canal crossing. With the assistance of Howard and Lynn of Swift Current and Roland of Maleora as line handlers, we managed the crossing without major problems.
It was a two day crossing. We went through the first 3 locks, then spent the night moored in Gatun Lake in the Panamanian rain forest. We were strictly forbidden from swimming in the lake, due to the presence of crocodiles and anacondas in the water around us. YIKES.
|In traversing the canal we passed this prison, which houses the notorious former General Manuel Noriega|
On day 2 of the crossing, we took aboard our Canal Pilot Advisor named Carlos. He guided us through the last three locks and into the Caribbean sea. Once in the open ocean, a Panamanian pilot boat arrived to pick up Carlos and return him to Panama City.
Carlos attempted to disembark, but he couldn't get his balance on the pilot boat, and landed in the ocean with a giant splash.
The crew of the pilot boat looked stunned. They just stood there.
Our line handler Roland reached out his hand to Carlos, who desperately grabbed it. Carlos looked petrified. I honestly don't think he is much of a swimmer. Plus, he had a few extra pounds on him, a ridiculous large brimmed hat and was fully clothed.
The crew of the pilot boat continued simply standing there and watching in their paralysis.
You would think they would have jumped to action -- but they merely backed away in the ocean waves and watched as Carlos clung to Espiritu.
|Note the lack of lifelines on the Canal pilot boat. No wonder Carlos fell in!|
I honestly think they expected US to rescue him.
THEY are the professionals, not us! And anyway, there was no way we would have the strength to pull him up onto Espiritu, and he certainly would not be able to help himself.
Finally, after Carlos hung there for almost 30 seconds, I pointed at the life ring on the Panamanian boat and yelled to the paralyzed Panamanian crew: "Throw down the life ring!"
Almost begrudgingly, they did. But it wasn't even attached to anything, and it had no line to their boat.
He grabbed the ring and finally let go of Espiritu, and began rather haplessly and helplessly swimming towards the Panamanian boat.
Now WE backed away and watched as the crew slowly and awkwardly fiddled with a ladder lifesaving device for which they clearly had little or no training. Carlos continued to bob rather desperately in the ocean.
Inexplicably, another Panamanian crew member pulled a long stick from inside the cabin and begin poking Carlos with it. ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Finally the crew figured out how to use the lifesaving ladder, and they pulled Carlos to safety before he was swept out to sea.
Well. Drama, drama, drama. :-/ I guess you could say that Carlos "christened" the Caribbean Sea on our behalf.
Anyway, now we're on the Caribbean side. This morning I explored the Fort Lorenzo National Park rainforest, out of which the marina is literally carved.
This is the most pristine and vibrant rainforest that I have seen in all of central America.
Some of what I've seen so far:
|A Blue Morpho butterfly|
|A family of Blue Grey Tanagers|
|An agouti, which is what you would end up with if a rabbit and a guiney pig had their way with one another|
|A common blackhawk|
|A Western Tanager|
|And a Southern Lapwing|
And that was in only one HOUR in the rainforest! I'm so excited to go
back early tomorrow morning. Who knows what amazing new things I'll see?