We arrived at the Caribbean side of the Canal after a short sail from the spectacular San Blas Islands and spent a week waiting for our transit date of February 1st.
A highlight of our stay was a visit to the Embera Indian Village, far up the Chagres River. After a lengthy taxi ride and then dugout canoes to the headwaters, we arrived to where about 150 people live in isolation, continuing the traditional ways of their ancestors. The food, the clothing and the culture was unlike anything we have experienced. With no modern conveniences, everything is grown, hunted and made by hand. The children are educated in the village and go off to the city as young teens to complete their education. I am guessing that many do not return! Most shocking for me was the age of the parents, some looked barely 14 years old and yet all seemed happy to have made the choice to live this way.
And then, THE PANAMA CANAL!
We transited the Gatun Locks on the Atlantic side late afternoon which was perfectly magical, with the sun going down, the lights going on and the history of the greatest engineering feat of the 20th Century all around us. As a total history nerd, I did my homework and read David McCullough’s book, The Panama Canal, so I knew the amazing story of the men and their machines that persisted and made it happen.
It is, by far, a highlight of my many years of sailing and one that I know I share with other sailors. There is nothing like arriving in the Pacific Ocean knowing the only (easy) way home is to continue West. And knowing that all of the South Pacific with so many exotic island nations awaits. This is the stuff of dreams!