Canal Ho!

Thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three. My finger tapped the horizon. Thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six. What had started as a few hulking forms on the horizon became a dozen, and the dozen multiplied until we counted 37 freighters. That’s right - 37 looming obstacles to dodge aboard Namani, our 35-foot Dufour sloop, in its approach to the Panama Canal.

And that number included only freighters waiting outside the bay. How many more were about to emerge from behind the breakwater?

Terrifying? Exhilarating? I’m still not sure which. There were ships weighing anchor, ships dropping anchor, and ships holding position for imminent action, smoke drifting from their exhaust stacks. I couldn’t help but imagine a video game in which a tiny sailboat attempts to dodge oncoming ships.

For us, the Panama Canal wasn’t just a gateway to a wide new ocean, but an adventure in itself. And though at times we felt like hapless fans plonked straight into the melee of an NBA court (time out - please?), we also reveled in the knowledge that along-held dream was coming true. We would not only witness the awesome spectacle of the Canal, but actually become part of it too.

Happily, all went well when our compact sloop finally transited the isthmus alongside the titans of the shipping world. And once the locks opened on the Pacific side, well, our next adventure could begin.