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Sailng on Windwanderer.
No Photos 20th Jul 2013
Saturday 20th July 2013

Saturday 20th July

Well today is the day, our big crossing.
Are we nervous? Are we ready for this? Not really but we are doing it anyway.

So the day starts off with a flurry of activity, us both racing around getting things done tied down, just basically organising everything so things can go smoothly.

We went to the little shop here as they sell a lot of fishing gear and Leo had told us that there is a really easy way to catch fish with a cedar plug thingy.

So as we are about to go into the shop we run into an Australian couple touring around on their mini bus/ truck.
We get to talking and then they came onto the boat to have a look around, while they were there our crew arrived.

Maria, or Issa as they call her she is from Columbia, and can not speak English, her 15 year old son, Brian he speaks broken English, and their friend Alessio who is Italian, but has lived here a very long time, he speaks good English, but you still have to listen very hard to understand, and of cause Leo who is French and speaks many languages he also speaks English but sometimes very hard to understand.

So Leo has been through the canal about 20 times, he is kinda in charge, Alessio ( Alex )
Had been through once before, so that was good too.

We get them all settled in and they go off and do some stuff while we carry on with all the rest of the prep work.

After lunch Leo was about to walk us around and explain to each of us what we need to do.

Basically there is four of us, line handlers, ( controlling the ropes ) two at the stern one on each side, and two at the bow again one on each side.
When you enter the first lock, they throw down ropes , these have a weight in them with what they call a monkeys fist, and no they did not howl like the howler monkeys, but the guy that got hit in the head with one sure did. Hahaha, ( get to that story soon )

So they throw the rope down you tie your end of the rope to it they pull it up, and then they just walk up there with it, as we go along, us, well we are responsible for our end, to keep the boat from swinging too much and god forbid hitting the walls.

This is very physical work, as there is a lot of pressure on the ropes, you have to tie them and lock them onto the cleats, then untie, loosen them, or take in the slack, then tie and lock them to the cleats again, this is non stop the whole way through.

The Captains job is at the wheel trying to steer through it in a straight line, not easy, when they fill up or empty out there is a lot of turbulence, from the water and also tankers in front or behind you.

Once you are inside the locks they close the big gates and man these guys are huge, they then let the water in, it fills up at a massive rate.
Once they are full you get going across them to the next lock and it all starts again.

Anyway getting back to the first part, Leo was going to show us all what we need to do, we looked up and could see a huge storm coming our way, we decided to just get going and anchor at the flats where we need to wait for the advisers to join us, these guys are supplied by the port authority and their job is to tell you what and what not to do.

So we are reversing out of the marina berth, when it hits with massive wind, this is when all hell broke loose.

Now we had Million dollar boats all around us, and no control of the boat.
Long story short with Leo jumping off the boat into the water to grab a rope that fell, all the rest of us running around trying to fend off other boats as we were about to hit them from one side to the other, guys on the dock rushing from all directions to help the boat almost doing a 360° they managed to get us into another berth, till the wind settled down some, and it was bucketing down with rain, everything from the outside to the inside was drenched.

We eventually tried take two, and made it just, with the whole lot of us fending off another boat, that was way to close for comfort, but we made it out of the marina, with very wet, and major stressed out crew...hahaha welcome to our world guys.
The major problem is that you can't get them to understand how heavy our boat is, she just takes a long time to respond.

So yeah we were a very sad, wet, pale looking crew when the advisers arrived.

Before they arrived and after we had mopped ourselves and the boat up some, Leo eventually got to do his little talk and teach us what we had to do.

I can honestly say I was so, nervous about the whole thing, I was ready to turn around and just go around Cape Horn instead.

For those of you who do not know Cape Horn is the only other way of getting to the other side and its very very rough, not many make it at all, and a lot of lives have been lost attempting to go around, the reason they built the Canal in the first place.

So we have a boat full, eight in total, the adviser asked us are we ready for this, I'm like not until I have drunl a bottle of tequila and smoked at least a half dozen packs of cigarettes.
But no we just all said yeah with a very nervous smile, and pale faces all round, mine being the worst I'm sure...haha

As we motor down to the entrance they tell us we are going to be tied up to the little speed boat, that had 3 very massive engines and they can control the speed, which was fine by us as it meant less work for us, as they would have two line handlers on there boat and we only needed two on ours...yes it meant I didn't have to stress about handling the line, just to be his helper if needed.

So we get up to this boat and tie up together and find out its just a dingy for there owners boat, man this thing was huge I would of loved to see how big the boat was.
And two of them on board where South African this made The Captain very happy.

They had about six on seven on there boat so there was a lot of people here, one of their line handlers came over to lend us a hand, I actually think there were way too many people which just added to my stress levels, as if I needed anymore.

So we enter the first lock, they throw the lines down to us and you really have to watch as they fall, we even had the solar panels covered up with bean bags and mattress to protect them too.
And Bam, one monkeys fist hits an adviser from the other boat in the head, there was a lot of laughing going on as these guys should no better, but no harm done, so all was ok, until they threw down the 2nd rope and this hit him as well, well I honestly thought the guys up the top were going to die from laughter, man it was so funny to watch, but still he seem fine so off we go.

By this time all our crew are over the stress and actually enjoying themselves, The Captain and I made up for it, man we were stressed.
But all went like clock work and we got through number one.

It sure is an experience just to watch how it all works, it's just hard to explain.

So we get into the 2nd lock still all tied up, the lock starting to fill up when things go bad, apparently the guy that got hit in the head twice...haha it's still funny in a sick sort of way.
Well he is not feeling so good and is starting to feel very dizzy, we all think it was way over reaction but anyway, they decided he needed to go to hospital, so then we had to get to the wall, this is major as you sure don't want to hit the wall hard.
There must of been at least 20 people waiting up there with an ambulance, and after a few tries we got him off the boat.

So back to the job at hand, we get through the rest of the locks with no drama other than me trying to help the guys back home see us as they were watching the live cam.

I can not tell you how much that meant to The Captain and I, it kinda made it just that much more special, to have you guys going through it with us, even if you were on the other side of the world and it was getting dark and very hard to see, you still hung in there.
To My Bek, and Lyn one very big thank you, and to anyone else who was watching or trying to watch, thanks Madd for trying, we love you guys. xxx

We motor into the river find the buoy Leo jumps off the boat onto the buoy ties
us up to it a boat comes and gets the advisers, and we settle down to a few very stiff drinks...haha.

Once we had the crew well feed and still drinking The Captain and I retired to our cabin and left them to it, as the next lot of advisers were joining us at six in the morning, which we all protested to, but no suck luck they were coming that early and that was that....haha

Well tomorrow is another day.

Next: Sunday 21st July 2013
Previous: Friday 19th July 2013

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