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Thursday, December 21, 2006
Salmon on the Barbie in Cristobal

The Caribbean side of the Panama Canal opens up into a bay where boats anchor and wait ad-measurement by officials from Cristobal. Your transit fee is based on your hull’s volume. After payment and an OK from immigration, you also receive an assigned transit time and a pilot. While waiting for clearance we barbecued some West Coast king salmon and lured in a dingy load of “round-the-worlders.” These folks were provisioning and repairing their sailboat for their next leg, from Panama to the Marquesas and beyond. The sailboaters were incredulous to be eating salmon in Panama!

On our allotted transit day, we greeted our pilot, a young Panamanian educated in Texas, who checked our 100 foot lines, four of them, and enjoyed a mug of fresh coffee while we hauled anchor and idled toward the first of three locks at Gatun. Lucky for us, we tied alongside a tug and had an easy lift, 87 ft. total for all three locks.
The remainder of the morning and early afternoon, we crossed Gatun Lake with several ships and tugs. The tropical haze bathed the jungle and us in sweltering 95 degree heat. In the trees monkees chattered and shrieked over the chugging of our tuna troller. The galley refer was broken down but we had made icecubes in the chest freezer for lemonade. Soon the Pedro Miguel Lock appears and we ready to enter. Can you smell the Pacific yet?


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