On the cusp of the Pacific

Sitting here on evening of our departure from the Atlantic to cross the Panama Canal to the Pacific, you start to realise what a big deal this is. The excitement level, anticipation and feeling has definitely stepped up a couple of gears. At 430pm today, we had our briefing for the Canal transit.

We depart Shelter Bay tomorrow at 3pm and cross over the waterway to the Flats. There we raft up with 2 other yachts – Makena a 62 foot catamaran and Luna Quest a 38 foot monohull. Makena will be in the middle of our nest (that’s the cluster of 3 boats) – we’ll be on her port side and Luna Quest on starboard. Around 430pm, we’ll have an advisor from the Panama Canal company join us on board for the first part of the transit.

Then around 6pm, provided all is on time, we proceed into the first of the 3 lock chambers at Gatun Lock. We have 4 line handlers (us) on Makena who will secure the lines attaching us to the canal as we get moved through the locks. We should be through these first locks by around 9pm. It’s then anchoring in Gatun Lake for the night (whilst remaining in our nest) and then on Wednesday morning another advisor will join us at 6am.

From there we proceed through the lake under engine in single file and then raft up again to go through the 3 locks the other side where we drop down in height to the Pacific. If the timings stay the same, we should be going through the Miraflores Lock around 7-8pm UK time (we’re 5 hours behind the UK). You can watch the live web cams for both the Gatun Lock tomorrow (c11pm UK time) and the Miraflores on Wednesday.

There is another lock where you can see us but I think that webcam is down.


The landmark moment is crossing under the Bridge of the America’s on the other side as we head out into the Pacific – the largest ocean in the world. It will be quite amaing to be there. The seam temperature is c10 degrees colder there and there is tide (the Caribbean has virtually none) – in fact some 4m of rise and fall so a different thing to be mindful of.

Our crew on board for the crossing are Nichola, Bluebell, Columbus, Willow and myself as usual. We’re joined by Caroline who has been with us since Grenada and will sail to Tahiti with us. Last and by no means least, my sister Pippa who arrived yesterday to join us for the Panama Canal and who has come bearing gifts of boat parts and goodies from England. We are well rested and well prepared – we had our onboard briefing over supper – a childrens one and a grown ups one and I think we are in good shape for the next couple of days ahead.

The past 4 days since we arrived have been a relatively relaxed combination of boat prep, provisioning for the Pacific (getting 3 + months worth of food onboard), getting an SSB radio (which we have now procured), getting the SSB fitted (which we’ll do on the Pacific side), and enjoying the local sights as well as getting to meet the other crews.

So, we have signed up now for the World ARC and sail in company to Australia. It’s great to have other like minded souls around and to have someone (the World ARC) to do all the admin – permits, licences and so on. This means we have a fairly well defined programme to follow now of destinations – here’s their itinerary:


We are definitely entering a new phase now and it feels very different to the start we had 5 months ago. I guess some 8,000 ocean miles on, we’ve learnt a lot both individually and as a team. It truly is an amazing experience – complete with highs and lows just like any part of life. We have much to be grateful for we’re looking forward to sharing the ups and downs as we enter the Pacific. As always, we love hearing from everyone and reading out the messages from home is one of the rare few times the children are all quiet!

From Team Aretha in the final night in the Atlantic for now, Out.

PS> we have been recording and saving to our YouTube Channel (Family Sailing) a whole stack of videos we captured along our way. There are too many to post to the website, so check out the channel here and feel free to share any comments or feedback. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD9fqOADOLjPfHJ9Df3AXaQ/videos

PPS – we now have Yellow Brick Tracker permanently so you can track us around the world on Yellow Brick/ YB (the same tracking that we had across the Atlantic.

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