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Ocean Planet Report
18th & 19th March 2002


Ocean Planet has arrived in Panama! 

Stay tuned for a full update later this afternoon, gotta clear immigration and run a pile of errands today. 


Now, where was I? 

Last report was a quickie so there are is a lot left out about our last few days. 

The last couple hundred miles were mostly upwind. For the last hundred miles you sail almost due north to get here. An interesting fact is that the pacific side of the Panama canal is further east than when you come out on the Atlantic side! Look at a map and you’ll see what I mean, it’s kinda hard to visualize. 

It sure is nice that Ocean Planet is good upwind for an Open 60 (at least we think so!), that last beat was a piece of cake. The water was relatively smooth (a result of a 1-1.5 knot current running with the wind against us) so it was a good chance to check some tacking angles and speed data. Here is one performance snapshot: In 10-12knots true wind, Ocean Planet sails upwind with the ballast tank full at 8.5-9 knots and tacks thru 75 degrees. I’m still working out details like optimum runner versus jib luff tension (we don’t have a fixed headstay, so can adjust the “headstay” length at will with the 4:1 jib luff halyard), which affects prebend in the mast, etc. It sure would be nice to have two boats, like an Americas cup or Volvo 60 campaign so we could test them side by side. Har! Now I’m really dreaming, eh?

We are tied to a mooring bouy in front of the Balboa “Yacht Club”, which isn’t really a yacht club but a fuel dock pier and a big outdoor bar. This is very busy spot with cruising sailors from all over the world that have just come through the canal from the Atlantic side or are getting ready to go through, like us. The bar has a great crowd at night, we met sailors from Canada, Sweden, Norway, the U.S. and more! 

Panama is a fascinating place. The city here is far busier and modern than most Americans would think, the city skyline looks like it has more skyscrapers than LA or SF. There are banks from all over the world downtown, Panama has a repution for doing a lot of “Laundry” in overseas finances, but I don’t really know. Obviously there is a lot of money here. The last two nights Hank found some incredible restaurants which were world class, dining there was a far cry from our little galley stove…thanks, Hank, for cooking and finding such nice spots! 

We are going through the canal tomorrow, all the paperwork and detailed measurement inspections are finished. I’m glad I took the recommendation of my friend Robert Flowerman to call Agent Peter Stevens of Delphino Maritime to smooth up this process. Peter took care of the running around so that I could concentrate on getting the boat ready. One thing that requires special attention is the mooring lines for the locks. All yachts are required to have four lines at least 125ft long to hold the boat in the huge locks. I brought along a whole spool of new Samson ‘2in1’ 1/2″ nylon rope just for this. This rope by Samson is very well priced for the level of quality and smoothness. It’s going to get a workout tomorrow but should still be great to use for our caribbean style mooring coming up in Antigua… 

I still need to read up on some of the procedures, but we will have Panamanian pilot aboard too. There is a real-time website that shows the Miraflores locks (the first of the huge locks that raises the ships up to the level of the inland Panama water level). Look for the link at www.pancanal.com, you should be able to see us entering the locks starting at about 7:30am Panama time…that’s 4:30am PST! 

The rest of the crew is ashore sightseeing while I’m here writing to you and working on budgets. Yesterday we went shopping for provisions. It is a lot of work to pack food and supplies on to the boat, it never looks like it will fit in here but somehow it does. It takes lot of organizing and packing….I get frustrated with all of the “junk” and start throwing a lot away! Greg stops me before it’s too late. 

Howard had to fly off home this morning, so our crew for tomorrow’s canal adventure is Dave Olson, George Luna, Greg Nelsen, Hank Grandin, Serge Martial, and myself. The last time I went through the canal was going the other way in 1974 with my Dad and brothers…that was a long time ago! 

Btw, Greg Nelsen has become sort of a revelation as a sailor on this trip. He is big, strong, has figured out all the boat systems and rigging, works fast and gets a lot done. If he ever gets his own Open 60 (or 50), look out! My advantage over him is that I am more detail oriented and better at seeing mistakes before they happen. Our skills complement each other well so he takes a bit of the load off me, glad to have his help. 

(“Sir”) Hank Grandin was the senior member of our trip to Panama. At 75(!) and still going strong, he has a ton of great stories and experience. He is certainly set in his ways, initially not trusting such new-fangled gagdetry like our Nobeltec navigation software. But after running out of space for his notes on the paper charts (see attached pic), he finally succumbed and sat down at the Nav station to use “that @#%%%!! computer”. He liked it even more than he admited…. 

More news and pics of the locks tomorrow, I promise! Thanks for following and being patient. I like getting the emails asking “where are you and where’s the update!” 

Also attached is a shot of one of the panga drivers who take us to shore and back. The Balboa YC fuel dock is in the background… 

More later,



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