looking back from Gatun Lake
Night was falling as we reached Gatun Lake and we were exhausted, but we weren’t finished yet. We still had to tie up to the huge buoys on the lake, feed everyone dinner, and figure out sleeping arrangements. To make matters worse, the skies suddenly opened with pouring rain which was actually flying horizontally with more strong winds.
There were two buoys. s/v Supertramp III went to one buoy, and we went to the other. Once we were tied to the buoy, we realized that the buoys spin, and the wind was making us spin on the buoy. s/v Nirvana needed to share the buoy with us, but it was almost impossible to approach a spinning target in strong wind. This maneuver stressed Mark (s/v Nirvana) a bit, but he handled it beautifully and without incident.
As soon as all was secure, Roy hailed for a pilot boat to pick him up. He respectfully declined dinner because he was eager to get home. I was amazed that the only thing he consumed throughout the entire day was one Coca-Cola. Of course, it had been cool and windy all day, so beverages weren’t a top priority.
It wasn’t long before the pilot boat arrived, but they too had trouble pulling up to a moving target in the wind. I was in the galley getting dinner ready, when suddenly there was a loud crash and the entire boat shuttered. The pilot boat had hit us in the starboard transom! Fortunately, the steel chain plate we’d installed for our drogue took the brunt of the hit, and there was no damage. The pilot boat had to make another attempt, and Roy manged to make it safely to the boat.
Due to our cabins overflowing with storage, our original plan was for our line handlers to camp in the cockpit, which is what a lot of line handlers end up doing anyway. However, with rain blowing horizontally, we had them sleep in the main salon. With plenty of blankets and pillows, they spread themselves out on the salon seats and on the floor.
Not too long after we got our line handlers settled, we discovered that one of s/v Nirvana’s line handlers was getting wet in their cockpit. We had him move over to our cockpit. He’d still get dripped on, but at least he wouldn’t get drenched.
While we had hoped to have one of the famous buoy parties, go for a swim in the lake, and look for crocodile eyes in the dark, we were all exhausted and the rain continued to pour. We were all exhausted, and we had an early morning ahead. By the end of the next day, we would be in the Pacific!
Note: Later we learned that winds were clocked at 80 knots in the Colon area that night, and four large freighters broke free and washed up on the rocks at the canal breakwater. We knew it was a windy night!