Wingssail Home Wingssail Images LogBookPages Map of our travels Index Email Fred & Judy

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 20, 2014-Back to the Pacific Ocean

Last Lock Door Closes

When Vasco Balboa first ventured across the Isthmus of Panama and sighted a new ocean he named it the Ocean of the South. In 1520, Ferdinand Magellan renamed the sea the Pacific Ocean because of its calm waters.

Having ourselves just arrived back on that ocean I can understand why he chose that word. Compared to the boisterous Caribbean Sea, where a thousand miles of fetch and strong trade winds bring big waves crashing onto the Panama shoreline, this side is calm. It has the protection of the land, and instead of the dark and angry waves, the sea is a weak pale blue; it is “Pacific”. And thus it was given the name it still carries to this day.

However, times have changed somewhat since Balboa first sighted the Pacific.

Now we have 30-40 ocean-going vessels charging past each day, either going into the canal headed to the Atlantic or coming out headed, oh, I don’t know, to China maybe. And there are a hundred vessels anchored offshore, waiting a cargo or waiting their turn in the canal, and the crews aboard these ships need some shore leave, so the shore boats ply back and forth. All these ships and shore boats leave a lot of wakes which destroy the pacific nature of the Pacific Ocean.

So we are bouncing here day and night.

But we don’t mind; it’s good to be back in the Pacific after 10 years.

The Panama Canal. Our transit of it went easy; deceptively easy. The canal has been in the back of our minds for years. It was the unknown; a possibly fearful experience. But you can’t shy away, you have to face it, so you get in line and you move up as the boats ahead of you go through, and some tension builds. Naturally, I guess. Then it is your turn and you march bravely ahead. You do what the canal pilot says, you follow orders. He says go ahead, you go. The stages seem easy, but disaster is just seconds away. A rope can tangle; a swirl of current can grab you and throw you against the wall. The worst disaster of all, for us, other than getting crushed by a big ship of course, which is always in your thoughts, would have been to break our gear shift. It was already dodgy when we started but we didn’t know how much we’d need it. Our pilot, however, seemed to delight in making us change from forward to reverse and back again about twenty times a minute. Over and over the gear shift balked against the heavy usage and I had to finesse it. It got so that I just knew it would break the next time he gave an order. “Just get me out of the last chamber,” I prayed. But you get caught up in the immediate, “Slow the engine now”, “catch this line”, “a bit of reverse”, “now make the lines fast, NOW! Ease it! OK, You’re OK, no, Reverse!” And you are too busy following the orders to think about the disaster which lurks nearby. Finally the doors of the last lock opened into the Pacific and we knew we had escaped the disaster, we’d made it. The gear shift held. The lines didn’t tangle; the swirls never grabbed a hold of us.

That’s the way it is in the Panama Canal, 24 hours of low key stress, then you’re done; you are out. You made it.

And it never seemed like a big deal, but looking back, it was. And we chalked up another one.

So we are happy to have gone through the Panama Canal and we are happy to be back in the Pacific Ocean. We’re not sure what’s next; we haven’t given it a lot of thought, but compared to the Panama Canal, it should be a piece of cake.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Panama

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 16, 2014-Follow WINGS through the Panama Canal.

On Thursday and Friday we are scheduled to transit the Panama Canal and through the miracle of technology you can watch.

On the Marine Traffic web site, if we are underway, we'll be on the system and you can see our progress as the transmissions of our AIS transponder are picked up and plotted on Google earth. We had trouble with Internet Explorer, but with Google Chrome it works just fine. Open Chrome and click on this link and then paste our MMSI number (367362090) into the "Vessel/Port" search box at the top right of the screen. Don’t hit enter, just wait a few seconds until it pops up our name, then click that. If we are moving and we have our AIS transponder on, we'll appear on this screen.

When you see our photo and a red banner which says "Show on Live Map" you can click that and when the Google earth picture comes back we’ll be right in the middle of it. Play around with the check boxes on the left and you can eliminate some of the clutter and even show the names of the boats and ships.

Late on Thursday, if you watch, you will see us move into the Gatun locks and later stop for the night in Gatun Lake.

On Friday morning we will move through the lake the Culebra cut and into Miraflores Locks which will let us down to the Pacific side of Panama.

When we go through Miraflores Locks you might be able to catch us on the web camera there. Click on this link to see the live action at Miraflores. If you are following us on the Marine Traffic you will be able to predict when we’ll come into the camera’s view.

But don’t expect a lot of action, we’ll be trying our best to avoid that.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Panama

URLs used in the links above:

Marine Traffic:

Web Cam:


Labels: ,

March 16, 2014-Jungle Line

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Panamanian Jungle

The city of Colon is east of the Panama Canal but Shelter Bay is on the west and just past the marina the jungle closes in. Walk a few hundred yards along the road leading away from the water and you are in the thick of it; the canopy spreads overhead and the eerie echoing sounds of the howler monkeys reverberate off of the forests of tree trunks and shake the banana leaves.

You can’t see the howlers. They roar and scream and they sound like they are just there, just off the road, but the jungle is impenetrable and even though you stare, you don’t see them.

And if you do stare into the green trying to see the howlers then the sound suddenly comes from behind you, from the other side of the road and you want to run. But wherever you go, you still hear the howler monkeys; a rhythmic, grunting, roaring, chest thumping sound, charging, chanting down the jungle line that makes you wonder what they are saying and if it is about you.

We’re told they are harmless, but those kinds of jungle sounds can still haunt you.

At the bar, a guy named Rousseau nursing dark rum stared into the distance and shook his head when I asked him if it was the howlers he had seen.

“No, I only wish. No, I ran into a big black cat, jaguar maybe, in one of those abandoned concrete buildings out there. He was just standing there when I saw him, and he stared at me with impassive yellow eyes and his tail twitched left and right. I just backed out of there and walked away and never looked back. That scared me. Still does.”

Howler monkeys, jaguars, what else? But hey, a walk in the jungle is supposed to be good exercise.

So one morning we grabbed the Nikon and headed out. Edith has been there before and she showed us the way. It was easy going, lots of birds, a few howlers, nothing much. Then Judy nearly stepped on the snake.

I saw it and yelled and shoved her and her foot missed the coiled serpent by inches. And she screamed.

But the snake was dead.

I was ready to turn back, but Edith said just a little father, ten minutes, no more.

And there was the sloth. We almost missed it as we walked under the branches which reached over our heads across the road but a group of workers cutting brush pointed it out to us.

Right above us about 50 feet was a furry dark mass with long arms gripping two limbs and not moving.

We moved around trying to get a camera angle and hoping for some sunlight.

Suddenly branches started breaking off to the side of the road, up in the trees, there were noises, leaves were shaking. No howling monkeys but this was no sloth either. A group of smaller monkeys appeared, looking to cross the road in the intertwining branches. They stopped when they saw the sloth right in their path and looked at the sloth and they looked at us below them in the road. What to do?

A bigger monkey came up from behind to check out the situation. I guess it decided it was OK because it led the way across in the branches over our heads, with the smaller monkeys following, and circled around the sloth who watched motionless except to swivel its head.

The monkeys moved away in the trees on the other side of the road, throwing down seed pods which thumped into the forest floor, and continued to make tree top noises; the sloth stayed put, and the birds sounds and the howlers came back into our consciousness.

But now, somehow, it didn’t seem so threatening anymore.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Panama

Thank You Joni Mitchell

Labels: ,

NEXT Page (More) , or... GO BACK to Previous Page