Leg #14 Antigua, Guatemala to Panama City, Tocumen Airport

December 4, 2014

A hughe bill we received from Air Station FBO for both Santa Helena and Antigua together. Not as big as in Toluca, Mexico, but nevertheless BIG. It looks like that the FBO charges are inversely proportional with the GDP in each country. We had this experience already in places/countries like Fiji Islands, Naun/Botswana, Belem/Brasil, Isphahan and Shiraz/Iran, Ulan Batar/Mongolia and now in Toluca/Mexico and Panama City, with Toluca being the top scorer. Well that is to say, after all we have not yet paid the invoice from Toluca. Perhaps you, Eelco Smit, can do something for us with you excellent Mexican connections.

Guatemala City MGGT – bad weather: rainy and windy

The T/O was in bad weather with low visibility, but once we reached an altitude of 1.500′ over the RWY, in this case 7.000′ over MSL [Mean Sea Level] we had nothing to complain anymore.

after DEP at MGGT

over Guatemala

Closer to our destination we were surrounded by ugly looking CB’s [Cumulus Nimbus clouds), amongst then the most dangerous of them all, the Towering CB’s. Thanks to a combination of luck (instructions to fly an a Heading, different from our FLP) and skill/experience (who else could have put that on the table than Senior Pilot Frischknecht) we avoided all CB’s and we landed smoothly at Panama City Airport Tocumen after our route provided us already with a first look at the Panama Canal, on the Balbao side.

approaching Panama: active weather around MPTO

Panama-Tocumen International Airport: General Aviation Parking

I know already for more than 40 years that Balbao is on the Pacific entrance/exit of the canal but I never realized that also Panama City is situated on the Pacific side of the country. I had no idea either that the sky line of Panama City looked very young much like Dubai or if you wish like New York City. Fully packed with modern sky scrapers of enormous heights.

It took a long time before we could leave the airport and before we found the driver John Bamber had sent to the airport to pick us up (the fact that his car was dark grey and not white as per our information did not speed up the process either) and we became afraid that at the end of day it would appear that our getting up at 05:30 that very same morning would have been for nothing if we would be too late to have a look at the Mira Flores locks.

After all it turned out to be a success. The driver went straight to the locks through tropical rains, of which he said they occur every day, but not always at the same part of the day. Though we were hungry after a 03:40 hrs flight we did not complain and had a look of a complete passage of a Chinese Hanjin Panamax full Container vessel.

Panama Canal 1

Panama Canal 2

Panama Canal 3

I never had visited the canal but I was aware of the train-lock-system which looks to work very well. After the Chinese Hanjin vessel was in the lock, there must have been left virtually no more water except under the keel so I started wondering about the three Tradax vessels built 40 years ago in Japan to match exactly the size of the locks in IJmuiden. They never got permission from the Harbour Master of IJmuiden to enter the locks. Perhaps they would have had not even water under the keel (..). This Panamax had no more than 0,5 meter space on either side. The lock-trains (6-8 in total) fixed with cables to the vessel did a good job and I was surprised about the relatively small size of the lock-trains. So a nice experience not only for me as a shipowner, but also for Sophie and Urs though they might have purely shown respect for my silly request to go and visit a lock on the other side of the Atlantic. After all France and Switzerland have enough locks themselves. I will probably never know what they really thought.

Panama Canal 4

Panama Canal 5


In the evening we had dinner with John Bamber of Wilford & McKay and that was a really pleasant one. If you read this John: thanks for our hotel reservation. I am terribly sorry that the hotel did not want to let me pay since you rendered them already your credit card, so now you will a fight for your money with Spliethoff Amsterdam. If you promise not to tell anyone you got it from me: I suggest you wait for the next Spliethoff vessel to enter the canal and when half way you send an urgent message asking for the money. You know what to do I guess when the reaction would be negative. One thing more, do it within office hours UTC so there in no excuse the book keeping was closed or so.

Then we had a good sleep and are now on our way to Grenada where we are expected by Chris Jago.

Since we have changed our schedule slightly, mainly because of hotel problems in Jamaica, you will find here below the latest version B.6 of the Excel Sheet.


Will be continued tomorrow.

Post by Harry Heijst | December 4, 2014 |

1 Comment

  1. Harry Hubert enjoyed watching your photos of the canals he found them very interesting,he understood why you wanted to see them ,he would have done the same he said.best regards.Hubert.

    by Mar if | 04 Dec 2014 | 17:55