Transiting the Panal Canal is a huge milestone for any cruiser. But hundreds—if not thousands—of small boats do it every year without problems, and we figured we could too.

We hired an agent (Enrique Plummer), who hired line handlers for us and rented us the required four 125-foot long, 7/8-inch lines. The handlers were on board at 0600 and our Canal Authority (ACP) advisor at 0825. The pilot boat picked up our advisor on the other side around 9 o'clock, and we dropped the line handlers off around 9:30. It was a long day for everyone.

When going up in the locks, we followed the freighter we were locking with; going down we led. Row boats take the cables from the freighter to the locomotives on shore. And you thought we looked little in that big lock!

As the only sailboat northbound that day, we got to tie up to an ACP tug. Southbound boats nested in twos and threes, and they had to tend their lines constantly to avoid being pushed sideways by the currents. The tug managed that for us.

We took the beautiful Banana Channel shortcut across the end of Gatun Lake. On our charts, this narrow channel was shown without channel markers. As helmsperson, Shirlee was relieved to see that there actually were channel markers. They didn't log before they flooded the lake, and it's full of snags.

By the time we arrived at the Gatun Locks, the sun was going down, so we only got a couple of pictures at the beginning.

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