Transiting the Panama Canal with S/Y Plan B

At the end of 2019, Jens Oomes, Owner and Director of Invisible Crew Management took on the adventure of transitting the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean with the team from S/Y Plan B, a Lagoon 620. 

Far from his base in the Netherlands, Jens was invited to be a part of the journey on board as the yacht took the journey through the 6 locks of the Panama Canal. Jens was particularly interested in this journey, as he specialises in Pocket Superyacht Management, so it was great to get first-hand experience of the yacht's crew in action. 

Jens explained, ‘At the start of the journey, the Lagoon 620, ‘Plan B’, was moored in Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, Panama. It’s a nicely manicured bay, but the adjacent jungle produces an eerie deep growling from large cats, whilst vultures hover overhead throughout the day.

 

Just before sunset on the 25th of November, we left with 3 local line handlers on board. They brought large clean fenders and long mooring lines. In front of the Atlantic Bridge, we waited for our Advisor to come on board. His role was to communicate with the lock tenders and offer instructions to Martin, Plan B’s Captain. 

Apart from our Advisor’s late arrival, our transit through the first hurdle, Gatun lock, went smoothly. Comprised of 3 separate locks, all vessels are raised up by 26 meters from sea level to the Gatun Lake. The speed at which the locks are filled is impressive! The mix of salt and freshwater in the first lock makes it feel like you’re floating in a big pot of boiling soup! 

Once we transited into the Gatun Lake, the Advisor directed the Captain towards the best location to raft up, alongside 6 other cruising yachts on a large mooring buoy, which is where we spent the night.


 
Early in the morning, we started making our way through the lake and the canal. The surrounding jungle was intensely lush and green, as an obvious result of the regular intense rainfall, combined with the tropical sun and heat. Just like the beauty of the jungle’s canopy, the humidity would, at times, take your breath away!
 
 

At certain narrow stretches of the lake, we waited for the passing of an oncoming large cargo ship. I expected there to be a lot more traffic, however, I guess this depends on the time of the year you make the crossing. 

In the afternoon, we reached the Miraflores locks. On either side of ‘Plan B’, smaller cruising boats rafted up with us to form a nest. While our Captain was focused on manoeuvring all three yachts safely in the locks, the other boats were admiring the polished Pocket Superyacht, asking how much it costs and whether or not we could chill their beers!

With the help of the somewhat bossy Advisor and Line Handlers, the Miraflores locks didn’t cause any problems. By 5pm, the last doors opened up to the Pacific Ocean. A large frigate bird had seemingly been following us for our entire transit, whilst a pelican and a quartet of crocodiles welcomed us into the tidal waters.

Before sunset, we were safely moored up in La Playita Marina where dozens of big game fishing boats were moored up next to each other, making a Sunseeker and a Pershing the odd ones out! 

The skyline of Panama City formed an impressive backdrop, but large gangs of raccoons just outside the marina gates and the heat and humidity were reminders that the jungle was never far away.’