June 6, 2009
Ok, so it was an EARLY crew awakening aboard the Ocean Dance today! Today was the day the Admiral and crew members Mike and Dan Ruggiero departed for the Tocuman Airport in Panama City for their flights home
It has been absolutely wonderful having the Admiral aboard for the past two weeks and the addition of crew members Mike and Dan a week ago was also very much appreciated! All served well as crew members and the Ocean Dance looks forward to having them aboard again soon!
The three met their prearranged cab driver at 6:00am for the 2 hour taxi ride across the isthmus to the Pacific side where the airport is located, just north east of Panama City.
Of course the Captain assisted getting their luggage off the boat and into the taxi and then bid them farewell. He is to remain behind on the Ocean Dance, doing chores of course, until Tuesday when he is scheduled to fly home to Kansas City for 3 -4 months. During that time the Ocean Dance will remain in her slip at the Shelter Bay Marina located at the site of the former Fort Sherman. The marina is just inside the breakwaters of Limon Bay and just outside the breakwater the warm clean waters of the Caribbean beckon!
June 5, 2009
Road trip! Road trip!
The crew of the Ocean Dance consisting of the Admiral, MikeR, DanR, DonS and the Captain met their prearranged van at 8:00am for the ride back across the isthmus to Miraflores Locks. The Captain had arranged a private tour of the Miraflores Locks with a friend of his, Paul Reid, who has worked for the Panama Canal Authority for the past 42 years!
Crews of the Ocean Dance and Active Transport on the gates of the Miraflores Locks
Arriving at the locks, the crew was met by John and Shawn, the crew of the Active Transport Jim invited to join the group and Paul and a most exciting tour was begun! First Paul took the group into the canal museum where he explained the complete history of the Panama Canal and then invited them to don hard hats for a walk to the control tower of the locks, across the walkways of the closed locks gates! The group was most impressed with the adventure across the walkways and even stopped for a photo opportunity as seen above.
Once across, the group was invited up into the control tower where the operations of the locks are centered. Here in the control tower is housed the original equipment used to open and close the gates and various valves to flood and then drain the locks. It is amazing to note that each lockage of a ship consumes 52 million gallons of water which is lost to the oceans on both sides of the canal. The view from the top of the control tower was amazing as was the equipment used to operate the canal.
Crews pull the levers formerly used to open and close the lock gates!
From the top of the control tower the crews headed back down the stairs to the main level of the canal and then went below ground level to the mile long tubes running alongside the chambers of the locks! What an amazing adventure!
This tube runs a mile along the underside of the locks
Returning back to ground level, the crews made their way once again across the gates of the locks. Paul then invited the group to "climb aboard" one of the electric mules used to center and partially pull ships through the locks of the canal.
The Admiral and DonS tour the electric mule
DonS had to leave the crew at the locks in order to catch a cab to the Tocumen Airport. His flight the next day back to Missouri was scheduled to depart at 7:30 so he opted to stay at a hotel near the airport to catch the early morning flight! It was great having DonS aboard the Ocean Dance once again. Don was on the leg of the cruise from Everett, WA to San Francisco, CA in September, 2007. The crew bid goodbye to Don and looks forward to having him and his wife, Belinda, aboard in the fall to cruise the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama!
Another friend living in Panama, Robin Bailey, had made arrangement for the crew to visit a Wounaan Indian village located up from Gatun Lake on the Rio Chagres. Robin met the crew at the Miraflores Locks and led them to the meeting place on the Rio Chagres where they were met by the Indians in their panga.
Amellio, chief of the Wounaan tribe on the Rio Chagres, take the crew up the river to his village
Soon all were aboard, with the children of the village who were returning home from school, and the panga started up the Rio Chagres. Oh yes, did I forget to mention it is now the wet season in Panama? And by wet I mean it rains every day! So it was through the rainfall wearing our newly acquired ponchos (the Admiral had made an executive decision at the gift shop of the locks to purchase ponchos for everyone) on the panga we went!
Arriving at the village, we were led by the Wounaan chief into the village where we were met by the members of the tribe. The set out their artwork and of courses various pieces were acquired by the crew and then the women of the tribe performed several traditional dances for us. It was during the last of the traditional dances that Diane was invited to join in and how could she resist!
Diane, Mike and Dan start their Christmas shopping early
After having a tour of the jungle where the chief explained the various uses of the plants and trees, the crew was returned down the river and were soon in the van and heading back to the Ocean Dance at the Shelter Bay Marina.
Diane, Mike and Dan walk thru the Wounaan Indian village
Arriving back at the boat, the crew member who would be departing the next day set about packing while the Captain was left to prepare dinner a simple farewell feast of grilled hamburgers and chips was on the menu
It was quickly off to bed as the call to reveille would be at 5:00am! The taxi to the airport was scheduled to arrive at 6:00am!
June 4, 2009
Another sad day on the Ocean Dance another crew member had to depart mumbling something about "having to get back to work"! What is this damn four letter word people keep mentioning to me? All I know is work has something to do with cruising which is interpreted as 'boat maintenance in exotic places"!
ClaireS, from Dallas, had to depart the Ocean Dance this morning from the Shelter Bay Marina for Tocumen Airport. Of course the prearranged taxi from the Pacific side failed to show but fortunately we were able to hire one of the workers at the marina to take Claire to the airport. As the marina is located about 30 minutes from any signs of civilization it would have been impossible to get a taxi to the airport from the nearest city, Colon, in order to get Claire to the airport in time. Claire as always remained calm and cool during the process of finding a replacement driver and car to get her to the airport in time to catch her flight and there were even a few moments of clarity where we actually understood what she was saying! Claire by the way is from Dallas and as such, speaks a dialect of English usually understood only by those who reside inside the state borders of Texas! J
The Admiral had made an amazing discovery upon arrival at the marina yesterday and that was the swimming pool located next to the bar and restaurant! The Admiral, DonS, Mike R and DanR were soon in the shallow end of the pool with instructions to the bartender to keep the cold Panama beers coming! Ah, heaven on earth was found as evidenced by the photo below! And yes, each and every one of them was wrinkled as prunes by the time the Captain could convince them to come out of the water to dine inside the air conditioned restaurant!
The rest of the day was spends during a few boat chores, you know those damn pesky chores that seem to always have to be done!
The evening was spent relaxing on the boat with dinner and a movie with all air conditioners running at warp speed!
June 3, 2009
The much anticipated day has finally arrived! This is day the Ocean Dance will make her transit of the Panama Canal and the day the Captain has been looking forward to for so many years!
The crew awoke early in anticipation of getting underway around 6:30am. The Panamanian line handlers hired for the day were scheduled to arrive at 5:30am but of course they did not! They eventually arrived at 6:00am and offered a myriad of excuses as to why they were late. The excuses were really not necessary as crew understood completely the Panamanian's complete disrespect for being on time.
At 7:00am a launch from the Panama Canal Authority arrived and our canal advisor for the day stepped quickly from the launch to the deck of the Ocean Dance. This advisor would provide all the information needed by Captain and crew to safely transit the Canal.
At 7:30am, the tanker High Saturn in the channel of the canal passed the Ocean Dance on her mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club headed to the Bridge of the Americas and the Miraflores Locks beyond. The High Saturn, at 600 feet long and 106 feet wide, would be the "lock buddy" for the Ocean Dance in the Miraflores Locks and the Pedro Miguel Locks. As the High Saturn passed by, the mooring line was released and the Ocean Dance pulled out in the channel of the canal to follow the High Saturn. It was an exciting moment to realize we were on our way, on our way through the Panama Canal leaving the Pacific behind and heading into the Caribbean!
The Captain moves the Ocean Dance into position behind the High Saturn
Arriving at the Miraflores Locks, the Ocean Dance stood by while two tugs pushed the High Saturn into position in the locks. Once the High Saturn was secured, the aft tug (the Chiriqui III) tied off on the starboard wall of the lock and we were requested to pull alongside and tie off to the tug! This was great news as this is considered the safest way to transit the locks rather than tying directly to the walls or using line handlers to remain in the center of the chamber. It is considered the safest method of transit because as the huge ship ahead of the Ocean Dance starts her props to move into the next chamber once lifted in the first chamber, the prop wash contained in the lock chamber can really affect the smaller boats behind her.
Sure enough, after being lifted 26 feet in the first chamber, the forward gates were open and the High Saturn started her props and the Ocean Dance was immediately buffeted by the prop wash. But no worries, she was still secured to the tug Chiriqui III and soon the prop was dissipated, the High Saturn was secured in the second lock and we were advised by our canal advisor to release our lines from the tug and more ahead and to port of the tug providing enough separation for the tug to then move forward and secure to the wall of the second lock.
This is where it all went to hell in a hurry
The Ocean Dance moved slowly forward as instructed and began to move to port in the chamber to provide clearance for the tug to go by as instructed. However, after putting only 3-4 feet of separation between the beam of the Ocean Dance and the tug, the captain of the tug accelerated his engines and literally leapt forward in the lock. At the point the stern of the tug was amidships of the Ocean Dance, the tug boat captain lost control of his vessel and the tug made an immediate and sharp turn to port! Keep in mind we are contained in a lock chamber that is only 110 feet wide! The Captain of the Ocean Dance seeing what was occurring put both gears in reverses and opened the throttle to the full position. But, it was not enough as the tug was now in contact with the Ocean Dance on her starboard bow as was pushing the Ocean Dance to port and closer and closer to the concrete wall of the lock. In just a matter of seconds, the port anchor of the Ocean Dance came in contact with the concrete wall of the lock at the same time the tug struck the wall at a 90 degree angle! The speed of the tug was enough to cause the tug to bounce off the solid concrete wall 6 7 feet back towards the center of the chamber. Unfortunately, the Ocean Dance suffered a crack in the fiberglass in front of the anchor plate and the stainless steel anchor plate was bent from the impact as well. The Captain moved away from the tug as soon as he was able and kept the Ocean Dance in the middle of the lock.
The tug then regained control and moved into the second chamber, was secured to the wall and once again the Ocean Dance was instructed to move alongside and secure to the tug. The Captain was hesitant to do so but had no choice as the adviser instructed him to do so. The Ocean Dance was once again secured to the tug, Chiriqui III, and the adviser for the Ocean Dance went aboard the tug to ask the captain what had gone wrong with the tug.
Returning to the Ocean Dance from the tug, the adviser asked the Captain if he wanted to file an incident report with the Panama Canal Authority as the captain of the tug did not wish to do so! Imagine that, the captain of the tug did not want an investigation as to what he did wrong! The Captain informed the adviser that he would like to file a request for an investigation and also informed the adviser that once the Ocean Dance was raised in the second lock at Miraflores he would detach from the tug and proceed ahead of the tug out of the Miraflores Locks and would not tie up to the tug again in the next lock at Pedro Miguel. After being raised in the second lock, the High Saturn cleared the lock, the Ocean Dance untied her lines from the Chiriqui III and proceeded ahead of the tug out of the lock into Miraflores Lake towards the Pedro Miguel Lock.
We were informed by our adviser that once again we would be side tied to a tug to transit the Pedro Miguel Lock but the good news was it would not be the Chiriqui III. The Chiriqui III had been taken out of service due to a problem with her starboard generator! How very strange..
We again followed the High Saturn across Miraflores Lake, a distance of about 1 mile, and once she was secure in the lock and another tug was secured to the wall as well the Ocean Dance proceeded into the lock and was tied securely to the tug. Gates were closed and water flowed into the chamber raising water level another 26 feet to make the total lift of the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks 85 feet above sea levels.
To view all the photos of our transit, please click on the link below:Ocean Dance Transits the Panama Canal
As soon as the water in the lock was at the same level as Lake Gatun, the forward gate opened and the High Saturn moved out into the lake followed by the Ocean Dance and then the tug. Once clear of the lock a Panama Canal launch came alongside the Ocean Dance and a port captain boarded and instructed us to dock at one of the docks along the side of the lake just past the Pedro Miguel lock.
Once docked, the port captain took photos of the damage to the Ocean Dance and asked if the Captain wanted to request an investigation. Of course the Captain wanted an investigation! How else would the Panama Canal Authority be held responsible for the damage caused by the actions of one of their tug boat captains? After photos were taken, the Ocean Dance departed the dock and began her 5 hour cruise across Lake Gatun to the Gatun Locks where she would be lowered 85 feet in three chambers to the level of the Caribbean Sea!
The cruise across Gatun Lake was beautiful and it was hard to imagine that this is one of the largest man made lakes in the world. It was created by damming the Rio Chagres and flooding tens of thousands of acres of land! The crew of the Ocean Dance relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful scenery as they proceed to the Gatun Locks and the Caribbean Sea.
Arriving at the Gatun Locks at 3:40pm, the Captain was informed the Ocean Dance would be transiting the Gatun Locks with a huge, huge car carrier! The carrier was 665 feet long and 106 feet wide! It must be noted again that the locks are only 110 feet wide which makes for a very tight fit for these large ships! But the good news on this side of the canal is that the small yachts go in first followed by the big boys.
The Ocean Dance proceeded slowly into the first chamber at the Gatun Locks but unlike the last two locks where there were tugs to tie up to she had to tie up to the side wall of the chamber. Yikes! This is not fun. The Captain slowly, ever so slowly moved the Ocean Dance into position next to the wall and the line handlers threw the lines to the canal workers on the wall. The Ocean Dance was secured to the bollards on the wall while the car carrier followed into the locks.
It is amazing how much BIGGER a ship gets as she is getting closer and closer to the stern of the Ocean Dance. At one point the Captain could be heard saying to the car carrier "that is close enough, you can stop there now, please"! No worries, the car carrier stopped well clear of the stern of the Ocean Dance and the back gate of the lock was closed.
Down we went! The lock wall getter bigger and bigger with each foot of drop! Soon we were at the level of the water in the second chamber and the gates in front of the Ocean Dance opened to allow access into the second chamber. Lines were released from the bollards and dropped to the deck of the Ocean Dance and made ready to be attached to the bollards in the second chamber.
The Ocean Dance moved slowly away from the lock wall into the center of the chamber as she moved forward into the next chamber. Once again the Ocean Dance moved into position next to the wall, the lines secured to the bollard and the car carrier began to move into the lock behind her. Once the car carrier was secure, the aft gates were closed and once again we started down to the third and final chamber.
Once the water in the second chamber had dropped to the level of the third the forward gate was open and the process was repeated to move the Ocean Dance into the last lock of the Panama Canal. Only one more lock and we would be entering Limon Bay and then the Caribbean Sea beyond!
The crew was excited as the transit of the Panama Canal would soon be accomplished! The Ocean Dance moved forward into the third chamber, secured her lines to the bollards, and as soon as the gates closed behind the car carrier they both started down to sea level!
It was amazing to watch the gates of the locks open in front of the Ocean Dance and to realize the incredible journey she had just completed. From sea level on the Pacific Ocean to be raised 85 feet to Gatun Lake and then lowered 85 feet to the level of the Caribbean Sea!
The gates opened, lines were released and the Ocean Dance moved out of the lock and into Limon Bay. Wow, what an adventure this day had been
Once clear of the locks, the Ocean Dance had to move as far to starboard in the channel as possible as the huge car carrier, her "lock buddy", had also cleared the lock and was moving ahead at approximately 20 knots, much faster than the Ocean Dance was doing! The crew of the car carrier looked down from their upper deck and smiled and waved as they went by, and went by they did!
A Panama Canal launch came alongside for the advisor to board and he quickly stepped from the deck of the Ocean Dance to the deck of the launch. Then we noticed a small panga approaching and were told by the line handlers that the panga was their ride to shore! There ride to shore! Hell, there were already 4 persons on the panga and there were 4 line handlers plus 4 lines of 125 feet each! They seemed to know what they were doing as the panga moved up to the swim step of the Ocean Dance and the line handlers deftly stepped from the Ocean Dance to the panga without incident taking the 4 lines with them.
It was getting dark quickly but the Captain made the decision to increase speed and head across Limon Bay and across the shipping channel of the Panama Canal to the Shelter Bay Marina. The crossing of the bay was uneventful and it wasn't long before the Ocean Dance was safely tied to the dock in a marina, something she had not done for quite awhile! Shore power was connected, the fresh water tank filled and the crew celebrated a very exciting day with wine and diet cokes!
June 1, 2009
One of our best crew members departed today for Chicgo, claiming that "state association meetings are my life"! Terry Penza, who has only served as crew for a short, shot time departed from the Ocean Dance at 5:00am by panga for the dock and then on to Tocumen Airport by taxi. It was a pleasure having Terry aboard and we look forward to her joining the crew again in the near future.
Early in the afternoon, a new crew member, DonS, from Columbia, Missouri arrived at the Balboa Yacht Club! Don was on the very first leg of the voyage of the Ocean Dance as he served as crew from Everett, WA to San Francisco, CA in September, 2007. It is great to have Don back as a member of the crew.
The Admiral, Captain, MikeR, DanR, ClaireS, and DonS spent the afternoon relaxing aboard the Ocean Dance
May 31, 2009
As the Admiral is a member of the City Club in Washington, DC ( and who wouldn't be living in Kansas City, MO!) a reservation for brunch was made at the City Club in Panama City. The City Club in Panama City is located on the 29th and 30th floors of the Citicorp Building in the financial district of Panama City.
Dan, Terry and Claire at the City Club, Panama City
The crew piled into two taxis at the Balboa Yacht Club, neither with air conditioning, and departed for the City Club. The heat and humidity were incredible and all were lamenting the fact the taxis were sans air conditioning! Arriving at the City Club however, all thoughts of the heat and humidity were forgotten as the cool crisp air of the City Club embraced the crew.
The crew was introduced to David and Sandra Wilson, friends of the Admiral and Captain, who were also having brunch at the City Club and without wasting any time the crew quickly found themselves enjoying the delicious brunch served with a spectacular view of Panama City.
After brunch, the crew enjoyed a quick tour of downtown Panama City by taxi before returning "home" to the Ocean Dance for the evening.
May 30, 2009
New crew members for the Ocean Dance arrived today!
Mike Ruggiero, brother of the Admiral, from New Hampshire and his son Dan, nephew of the Admiral, from Ocala, Florida arrived early this evening at Tocumen Airport.
Shortly after their flight arrived, Claire Shahzad, Dallas, Texas, arrived and was met by Mike and Dan at the terminal. The Admiral had made arrangements with Mike and Dan to hold a sign with "Ocean Dance" on it in the terminal as the passengers were arriving from Claire's flight. The three soon became good taxi buddies on their journey to the Balboa Yacht Club from the Tocumen Airport.
Arriving at the Balboa Yacht Club, the various bags of luggage were hauled down the long dock and dumped into a waiting launch for the short ride out to the Ocean Dance on her mooring.
Hauling the luggage and new crew members aboard, all settled in with a few cold beers and wine. The Captain is beginning to wonder if ALL crew members drink on all boats! Hm, he will have to look into this
May 28, 2009
The Admiral and Diane enjoyed having dinner with David and Sandra Wilson, residents of Panama City at the Casa de Mariscos in Panama City. They had met Sandra and David when they were in Panama in 2008 and spent a wonderful evening listening to the many adventures of David and Sandra as they had cruised from San Francisco, CA to Maine and then back to the Caribbean and eventually back to Panama for a period of 11 years. What tales of wonder and adventure they shared.
While the Admiral and the Captain were enjoying dinner, a new crew member was flying in from Chicago to join the Ocean Dance. Terry Penza arrived at the Tocumen Airport in Panama and took a taxi from the airport to the Balboa Yacht Club where she was met by the Admiral and the Captain.
Hauling what seemed to be 150 pounds of luggage (ok, so it wasn't 150 pounds but all of her electronic devices were heavy) down the dock and into the launch was an adventure! Arriving at the Ocean Dance on her mooring was even more of an adventure as the luggage had to be hauled up the ladder on the stern and then down into a stateroom!
Once that task was accomplished, it was time, of courses, for beers and diet cokes!
May 23, 2009
A great day on the Ocean Dance!
The Admiral arrived from the States to spend the next two weeks aboard with the Captain and various crew members. Of course, the Captain was elated and the Ocean Dance was ship shape as she could be! All decks were scrubbed, all stainless polished, the boat washed and the interior was completely cleaned as well!
There are lots of plans for the Admiral while she is aboard for the next two weeks and none of them involve working on the boat! Yeah, right