Tips for a smooth canal Transit
Keep decks clear. Move or stow items
to keep the area around bow and stern cleats as clear as possible.
Ensure all fairleads are fair to start. Re-leading takes time you may not have if currents start spinning the raft.
Stern lines took the most load. Consider running them to a cockpit winch with the stern cleat as a guide to provide better control and mechanical advantage.
Prep line handlers well. Hold a crew meeting. Make sure they understand how critical it is to be alert: they should not expect to use a Gopro or post on social media during transit.
Repeat instructions from the adviser. It confirms you have heard and are responding to the action called for. It may serve to clarify the adviser’s intentions when issuing rapid instructions.
Engage your adviser. Talk through manoeuvres in advance, asking for clarification on next steps and understanding actions they will want you to take before they need to happen.
PAY ATTENTION! The lead adviser (who is not necessarily on your boat) may call for rapid engine and/or steering changes. the Pacific side locks. This was the longest part of the transit, a time for us to relax and enjoy a meal. March is dry season; we could relax in the cockpit for this part of the journey, learning from our adviser about his experiences and appreciating the sights: our history buffs anticipated seeing the crane named Titan that was taken as a Second World War prize, and the animal lovers aboard worked at spotting birds, monkeys, and crocodiles (a 3m croc swam alongside us in the Culebra Cut).
The adviser isn’t the captain – you’re still responsible for boat and crew –but our number one takeaway to transit safely is that it’s essential to work tightly with the adviser. They understand the lock conditions: some instructions may seem odd, like directions to turn the boat to point towards a lock wall, but it’s for a reason. There could be a four-knot current deflected by the wall, and their goal is to prevent the raft from spinning out.
Leaving the Miraflores locks behind, Totem motored towards the Bridge of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean. This marked our return to the body of water where our journey began, the last leg of our circumnavigation, and the final weeks aboard as a family of five before our eldest heads for college. A momentous event, suitably witnessed by a monumental creation.