After 7 months of “normal” life in Rome, On October 30th we were back in Shelter Bay, Panama. We were extremely pleased at our arrival to find Zoe in excellent conditions, particularly the inside was dry and without any sign of mold: the dehumidifier had worked greatly!
The day of our arrival the boat was moved from the dry storage into the working area, ready for scraping and painting it with the new antifouling. In fact, we were anxious to get into the water, condition to set an appointment with the Canal authorities to prepare for the Canal passage.
We probably need to step back for a minute. When we left Panama in March we were considering three options for the continuation of of our trip: go East and then South to circumnavigate South America clockwise; make the Canal passage and then head South to circumnavigate South America counterclockwise; or, and this was our final choice, make the Canal passage and head North West to reach the Sea of Cortez (Baja California, Mexico). This trip will take us a minimum of two years, as in the next six months we will probably be able to only get to the South of Mexico. We plan to return to Rome toward the end of April.
The organization of the Canal passage was extremely fast and efficient, thanks to the services of a Panamanian agent who dealt for us with all the bureaucracy and sourced all what was required to make the passage. The first requirement is to get the boat measured by a Canal officer, who came on board and explained all steps and requirements to get through the Canal. In fact, the day of the passage a pilot comes on board to instruct the skipper on the maneuvers to make throughout the Canal. Also, you must have on board four people (on top of the skipper) to handle the ropes that keep the boat secure while in the closes. And, you need four 40+m lines and large fenders to protect the boat in case you are paired with one or more boats on the side. The typical configuration is to go through with 2 other sailboats or a tug on the side. We specifically requested not to have a tug on the side as we were told it can damage your sailboat. We ended up being without any other vessel on our side – but for sure with a big big cargo either in front or behind us – this cannot be avoided!