Boats taking part in the 27-month Oyster World Rally have begun their transit of the Panama Canal, after two months of cruising the Caribbean Sea.
The 31 yachts on the Oyster World Rally were first rafted up three abreast in Colon on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal, then ushered through the triple locks at Gatun. This raised them 26m above sea level to the height of Gatun Lake, on which they crossed the spine of Panama. There are a further two locks at Miraflores and one more at Pedro Miguel to bring the boats back down to sea level on the Pacific side.
Up to 101,000m3 of water is required to fill each lock chamber, for a maximum lift or drop of 31ft (9.4m). The canal is 48 miles long and takes a day to traverse.
The Oyster World Rally mustered in Colon before the transit and celebrated the first part of the adventure with a party at the San Lorenzo fort above the town. Fourteen-year old Lily Eames-Jevons of escribed the event: “Soon after the plates were cleared, we heard the twiit, twiit of a whistle, the boom, boom of ngomas (traditional congo drums), and looked around to see a curious sight: there was a man waving a huge black-and-white flag and blowing into a metallic whistle.
“He was leading a band of three devil-drummers, five congo-dancers , two devils (these devils have sort of the faces of a Chinese dragon, and their costumes are from another traditional Panamanian dance known as the “devil dance”), a guy dressed up like a traffic warden and carrying a Gandalf-like stick, and another guy wearing two Pooh-Bear soft toys around his waist.”
Rain in paradise
Many of the Oyster World Rally boats spent time in the remote San Blas islands on their way to Panama. In its blog, Oyster 655 Meteorite wrote: ‘We headed straight for the iconic Coco Banderas – a small group of islands that feature as the cover shot on the famous guide written by Eric Bauhaus. Because of their rare beauty however there can be 10 or more other yachts, however we spent the first night completely on our own, with the anchor dropped exactly on the spot Eric reckons is the best in the world.
‘And oh my is he right.’