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Sailing with "GRAND PHA" Tiki46 N°2 Part 3: From the San Blas (Panama) to ?

Updated until the 21 April 2014 (Here are the Part 01, Part 02 )

After our sailing to Puerto Bello to shop in Colon we sailed back in our anchorage of Cayos Holandes the 8 March 2014. Enjoying this beautiful and calm cove we used the next days to prepare Grand PHA to cross the Pacific ocean.

In checking the port rig I saw the fifth wishbone  beginning  to be damaged :


Checking the bloks on the top of the mast :

View from the top of the mast :




The Tuesday 18 March 2014  with Dislesenisles and the mono hull Bearaway we met in Linton, we sailed to Banedub in the Eastern Cayos Limon ( 9°33.70N  78°51.74W ) :




The Wednesday 19 March we sailed the 3 boats together to Tupsuit Dummat ( 9°31.23N  79°03.45W ) to visit a Kuna village in the mountain.

Bearaway the boat of Jean and Daniele whowill help us to pass the Panama canal :


 A Kuna village on the Isla Nellie :


The tomorrow Thursday 20 March with the guide Bredio Villalobos ( phone : 507 61 559 360) we visited the village of Gangandi :

We used a pirogue until a little river :




At a moment we had to stop and we continued in walking in the forest :




In the fifties this part of the forest has been cut by a USA company to build a big runway to develop an industrial culture of the coconuts. Happily the Kunas succeeded to stop them :

Approaching the village of Rio Gangandi :






When we arrived in the village, a lot of women came to sell their Molas, here are a few ones Marie-Helene bought :




Bredio organised a meal with the Kunas :


Marie-Helene learning to make a Mola :




Coming back :



Bredio and his familly aboard Grand PHA :




The Friday 20 March 2014 we sailed alone to Porvenir for our departure clearance and to get a Zarpe to Panama city.

The San Blas are very magic and beautiful with the Kunas people who were able to survive to the Spanish who wanted to exterminate them as they didn't want to become slaves and who were able to keep their own traditions and laws until today. Since their revolt of 1925 they get an autonomy inside the Republic of Panama.

This map of the San Blas is extracted from the book "Les Iles San Blas, Molas et Traditions Kunas" from Michel Lecumberry :


If you want to know more about the San Blas and the Kunas, the complete book "Les Iles San Blas, Molas et Traditions Kunas" from Michel Lecumberry can be purchased here  for only 3 Euros in PDF. An English version is coming :

From the San Blas to Colon (Panama)

Take off from the airport of Porvenir :


The Saturday  22 March 2014  at 07h00 we left Porvenir pushed by a N-NE wind of 15-18 kts.As we know already this way we enjoyed to sail along the coast and between the islands.

A Wharram cat sailing in parallel with us who stopped near ths isla Linton :


After a night stop in Puerto Bello, the tomorrow morning we continued to Colon.

Cargo at anchor outside of Colon harbour :


Entering the Colon harbour via the east passage :

Litle Cargos at anchor in the harbour


At 12h40 we dropped our anchor on the "Flat anchorage area' of the puerto Cristobal ( 09°20.63N  79°54.60W)
To pass the canal we choose to use the services of Roy Bravo who is an official who take in charge all the formalities with if necessary, lines, tyre fenders and hand liners (CellPhone: Roy Bravo - General Manager - +507 6678 - 6820). He advised us we'll have an inspection to measure our boat the Tuesday 25 March in the morning.
The inspection has been quick, the total outside length of Grand Pha is 49.54". Above 50" the price to pass the canal is more expensive. The total price we paid to our agent was 1700USD, price which included all the services and fees. We had the Ship Identification Number : 3014237.

position of the 'Flat anchorage area"


Now we had to wait a few days for the schedule of our passage. The only marina in the NW of the harbour is Shelter Bay Marina which is expensive, especially for the catamarans. We can stay on the Flat anchorage but it is very isolated and with a dinghy it's a long way to find a place to land. The last option is to anchor near the Nautico club (09°21.85N  79°58.58W)but the anchorage area is narrow, noisy near the terminal of big cruising boats.
As we knew our wait will be short, instead to sail back to Puero Bello, we anchored at the Nautico club. The custom agent of Porvenir made a mistake on our Zarpe (clearance), he don't indicate we have a stop in Cristobal or Colon, so officially we were not allowed to land before Panama city! As there is a watcher agent in the Nautico club, we waited the end of the afternoon to shop in Supermarket after to have pay a fee for our dinghy.

The Thursday 27 March Roy gave us the lines and tyre fenders we put around Grand PHA :



Protection of the solar panels :


  Ready for the locks :


The Friday 28 March at 14h15 with on board our friends Serges & Martine and Daniele & Jean we motored to the Flat anchorage to wait our Pilot.  They have left their boat on the Linton anchorage and joined us by a bus.
At the sunset at 18h15 our Pilot Edouard jumped on board and at 18h40 with 3 others sailing boats we motored toward the Gatun locks in following a big China cargo.

Route of Grand PHA in blue :

Our friends Serges and Martines :


We were pushed by a strong north wind and all the boats have had to circle before the entrance of the locks in waiting the big cargo will be tied to heavy railway engines on each side of the locks.
Before to enter in the locks  one mono-hull has been coupled on each hull of Grand PHA. To move the three boats I used only the engines of Grand PHA exept when by moment with the gusts I loosed the control, my pilot who coordinated the operation asked to the mono hulls to put some power in reverse or forward.

The Gatun is a triple locks of about 300m x 30m each one allowind to climg the boats at about 30m higher until the Gatun  lake. During the rise of the lock water only the hand liners on the mono hulls have to maintain the 3 boats in the centre.
In parallel there are so a triple locks, and one big monohull who was with us  took this way coupled at a tug.

On our port side is the boat of young Norwegians Arcona2  :

On our starboard side is a young French family on board a Feeling 42 :


Entering the first Gatun lock :

Arriving behind the cargo CMB JULLIETTE - Hong Kong :

The doors are almost closed :

 Climbing in the lock :

To the next lock :

Arrived at the lake level when the cargo began to turn its propeller,the water turbulences was not good for us and immediately Edouard our pilot contact the cargo to reduce its power. Thanks to Edouard which has been very efficient and nice for us and our boats.

For the night we moored around big buoys at 23h00 near the entrance of the new bigger locks who were not yet finished.



The tomorrow morning Saturday 29 March 2014, at 06h40 our new pilot Gabriel jumped on the deck to guide us on the 30NM of motoring on the Gatun lake.

Our pilot Gabriel seated behind Jean :








With a downwind of 20kts and more we didn't used a lot of fuell and during the last leg as we were too early, I switched off the diesel engines with the electric engines ready to run and we sailed without sails at 3-4 kts.

Approaching the new bridge

Latter we'll couple to this old wooden passenger boat at each lock :


To pass the locks we were alone and in each lock during the descent of the water level we were coupled to the old wooden passenger
 boat.

Entering the Pedro Miguel Lock to descent of about 10 m to the Miraflores lake :

33 Behind us were the big mono hull with the two other mono hulls coupled on each side :

After a short motoring to cross the Miraflores lake, we entered in the double Miraflores locks to descent of about 20m  in the Gulf of Panama where the tides are higher, about 3m.

View from the Panama canal webcam with Grand PHA entering the Miraflores locks :



Leaving the Miraflores locks in sight of the bridge of the Americas :



We had a short stop here at the Balboa YC moorings to put our lines and tyre fenders on the land and to leave our hand liners friends who drove back to their boats in Linton by taxi.

We asked for a mooring here but there was no place for us. So we continued until the anchorage on the east of the Isla Flamenco near the isla Culebra near the entrance of the Playita marina.

The high island is the isla Flamenco :


At 16h20 after two tries we had a good holding along the road (08°54.67N  79°31.46W) :

The big problem was where to put our dinghy when visiting and shopping? Until today it was possible to leave the dinghies on a pontoon of the Playita marina, but due to the abuse of some crews who didn't pay the fee requested, the marina decided to refuse now tall he dinghies!

Playita anchorage :




Above theanchorage were flying a lot of pelicans :


Inside the Playita Marina

The Monday  01 April we needed to go to Panama city at the DHL and the TNT agencies to collect new belts for the electric engines and an Iridium satellite phone to replace our old Inmarsat Mini M who died in arriving in the San Blas. So with our big Caribe dinghy pushed by its little Honda 2.3HP we motored the 2NM around the isla Flamenco until the luxury Flamenco marina where we left it for 25USD for the day!

Happily, the next week it was again possible to leave our dinghies in the Playita marina with a fee of 26USD per week and with the obligation to wear a colour bracelet.

In Panama city it's very difficult to find an address with a map. The easiest way is to take a cheap yellow taxi in indicating to the driver the complete address and the phone number of your destination. Before to start he phone to know how to reach it. And after the driver wait for you to go to an other place.

Panama city :


TheTuesday 02 Avril in the evening on the anchorage we've had a tsunami warning for 23h30. Happily the center was far away in the south and we felt nothing during the night.

But this same evening we were very sad to learn a bad news about our friends Martine and Serges who sailed back to the San Blas with Jean and Daniele and they had a stop in the Green Turtle marina.

In the marina a crew invited all the other boats to a barbecue  and at a moment during the meal someone saw their catamaran begun to burn. Unhappily they were unable to stop the fire. The boat burned completely and it was a miracle the icebox at a moment appeared at the surface and Martine has been able to recover her jewels hidden in it.
The boat was not insured and they loosed their passports and cash money............
( After their return in France they were able to buy an old mono-hull Manaru  to join again the sea people).

 Marie-Helene put some Molas on her handbag.

One another anchorage in the north of the isla Perico with the view of Panama city :




Balboa YC pier :

Art museum :


As the mother of Marie-Helene was bad, she flew back in France during 3 weeks. During this time I continued to prepare Grand PHA to cross the Pacific.

To put new spare belts around the shaft I need to secure the PSS joint with little ropes, if not the water go threw the PSS joint when sliding the shaft :


Changing a bearing on the pot electric engine :


For more informations, you can follow the wake of Grand PHA via this tracking blog 

The Part 1 : from Brest (France) to St Martin (Carribean) is here

The Part 2 : from St Martin (Carribean) to the San Blas (Panama) is here

This blog will be updated as soon as possible.

Bertrand and Marie-Helene Fercot

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