Safe arrival outside the Panama Canal!

Hooray for us. We are at the entrance to the Panama Canal! We
arrived here today, Monday, at about 12:30 p.m., having sailed
from the nearby island of Isla Grande this morning. We were in
Isla Grande just overnight – having sailed there from the San
Blas Islands on Sunday. It was a beautiful, very windy sail
both days along the coast of Panama. Coming into the harbour
at Isla Grande was a bit hair raising as we entered a fairly
narrow channel between the small island of Isla Grande and the
mainland of Panama. There were big green crashing waves on the
shore and huge swells that rocked the boat a lot – then suddenly
it was calm and clear and we were in a nice protected anchorage.
Apparently Isla Grande is a huge week-end place for
Panamanians and the small beach there was packed with locals –
swimming and picnicking on the beach. Little water taxis
ferried people back and forth constantly and we enjoyed seeing
so many people after the solitude of San Blas. We had a nice
quiet evening on our boat – dying to go to a restaurant – but
not having the energy to set up our dinghy and engine and go to
shore. We were very excited to arrive at the Panama Canal today
– passing dozens of huge container ships outside the harbour
entrance. We are at a very pleasant and clean marina here –
called Shelter Bay Marina. It was quite a thrill to have the
chance to go for a little walk, and have both lunch and dinner
at the marina restaurant. As much as we enjoyed San Blas we
were starting to miss some of the amenities of modern
civilization. We found a Panama Canal agent right away –
someone who is quite well known among “yachties” – and he has
already got us set up in the official Panama Canal registration
system. Tomorrow he is sending over the official “admeasurer”
to get the exact dimensions of the boat – a requirement for the
Panama Canal transit. He is also getting us a transit date (
probably about March 13th), with all the required equipment and
crew that we need. We will fill you in more about all that as
the time progresses. In the meantime just wanted to let you all
know that we are safely here, and very thrilled about being here
on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal in our own boat.
P.S. We just heard from someone that there were crocodiles in
the water near some of the San Blas Islands. Oh, my – sometimes
it is better not to know such things.