Sunday, 15 September 2013

Up the Rio Chagres

Up the river without a paddle... Actually, we have two oars if necessary, but they are much better with the dingy than with Diva. Yesterday we left Portobelo and motored for 5 hours, crossing the staging ground for tankers and cargo ships entering the Panama canal from the Caribbean. On our AIS system, we could pick up 81 different boats' signals! I imagine it is like sailing with icebergs - the ships are sooo BIG. The AIS info on one gas ship said it was 200 metres long and it did look twice as long as the 100m cargo ship next to it. Took lots of pictures, but it is hard to do justice to the sense of scale with camera photos.

It is odd to be on Diva in fresh water. We went for a quick swim yesterday and the water is clean and relatively clear, but you have to work a lot harder to stay afloat. The Chagres River is around 100 metres wide and 7-14 metres deep so it is easily navigated. It ends with a dam that is connected to the canal system and it is also used as overflow in the rainy season. We've been told the Canal Authority warns boats on the river before they open the flood gates, but then again, we've heard lots of "urban legend" equivalents about boats that weren't warned or didn't take any notice. But if you listen to everything people say you'd never get to go anywhere. It hasn't rained much here lately either, so we should be fine.

Recent wildlife experiences have been multi-sensory. Yesterday we saw dolphins while underway. We went exploring by dingy in the river and saw three long black monkeys (including a little one, awwww) in the trees. We've heard the howler monkeys roar often, including a dawn cacophony that was probably a morning greeting song in howler speak, but just sounded really noisy to me. See if you can find a howler monkey video on Youtube so you can get a sense of how they sound. It is a cross between a blizzard wind and a car motor.

This morning I also saw a toucan in the trees; I think he was looking for his fruitloops.

We coordinated this trip up the river with two other cruising boats: Moonshadow and Palvo Real. So in spite of our rather remote location, yesterday's evening included a robust game of Mexican Train dominos on Moonshadow (this is a good group game, by the way, remenicient of Uno and regular dominos) and tonight is chicken curry for all aboard Diva. Tomorrow we will probably head back out to sea and make our way towards Bocas del Toro on the west coast of Panama.

Cruising along the Panamanian coast - photo credit: John Rogers, Captain of Moonshadow

At anchor, (we hope!) waiting to go through the canal.

The AIS targets - we are the red boat with the red line behind us (our track) and all of the yellow and green triangles are ships, most of them tankers.

Heading up the river.

Behind us, the catamaran Palvo Real, and Fort San Lorenzo on the hill.

Coming round the bend of the river. Photo credit: John Rogers

If you zoom in, you can see that I'm on the helm.  Photo credit: John Rogers

So much Mexican Train fun! l-r, John Rogers, Anne Peacock, Deb Rogers, Tony Peacock, the Captain and myself. Photo credit: John Rogers and the self timer function on his camera.

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