Panama Canal Popcorn

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Mooring Buoy in Gatun Lake

We have seen some strange moorings, but tying up to a big floating mooring buoy with other boats rafted up to us may have been the oddest.  Imagine a floating steel barrel as a mooring.  Now imagine a boat on either side.  Then two other yachts rafted up to them.  It was not the ideal situation, but it was our only option.  We couldn’t make it across Gatun Lake at 8 knots so we had to go through the last two locks the next day.

Gatun Lake was extremely deep and we just didn’t have a long enough chain to anchor like the massive ocean liners did.  None of the yachts did.  So despite vehement protests from Toshi  San,  that it just wasn’t safe,  we had to moor on the dubious steel mooring.  At least our friends on Spirit of Alcides were on the opposite side of the buoy which was nice.

We bid farewell to our adviser and settled in.





Gatun Lake 300x225 Panama Canal PopcornApparently we had a slightly better time through the Gatun locks than Spirit of Alcides, or at least a better rafting up partner.  Where we had been rafted up to a lovely Canadian couple and their friends, Alcides had a much more colorful experience.  They had gone through the Gatun locks rafted up with a Jamaican fishing boat.  And all that that entails.

More rust than metal, Johni John sailed in its own personal cloud of smoke.  A sailing stereotype, the fishing vessel had such an overpoweringly Jamaican “smell” our friends on Alcides were practically getting high just rafted up to the vessel.  I didn’t believe them until I saw the boat the next day.



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Johni John and Island Girl in front of Miraflores crowds

A new adviser came to our boat the next morning and we were off motoring our way across Gatun Lake to Pedro Miguel lock.



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Ship behind us

We rafted up with Spirit of Alcides just before entering the lock.  Ahead of us was a monohull called Island Girl who had the dubious honor of rafting up with the Rastafarian Johni John, and behind us was massive ship.  Having a ship that large so close may have been a bit intimidating, but in the daylight, with an adviser whose English was fluent, our transit went as smooth as silk.  I even popped some of my favorite popcorn for all of us to enjoy.   We smiled, waved at the crowd, and handled the lines like pros.


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Just a short motor-sail away were the Miraflores locks. Nearest to Panama City, this lock is home to one of Panama’s biggest tourist attractions, the Panama Canal museum where tourists can watch ships transiting the canal pulled through by the mechanical mules.  We would be on a live feed broadcasting worldwide.  We had to look our best.

Alcides and Umineko motored together between locks like a pair of Siamese twins.     Whether it was Johni John or Island Girl, the two boats decided to break apart between locks and raft back up inside the lock.  Our adviser cringed when he saw this happening.

They made it through Pedro Miguel without any problems, but it got out of control at the second Miraflores lock.  We watched aghast as the pristine white Island Girl, caught in the strong current, swung far over to one side of the lock.  The beautiful yacht tried to compensate and get back over to their canal partner when an eddy caught it.  Suddenly the engines were clearly doing everything they could to keep it away from the fishing vessel they needed to be rafted up to.  The strong currents were too strong, too fast for the boat’s engine.



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ambulance at the lock

No one could look away.  It was like watching a car accident in slow motion.   Island Girl was sucked into Johni John’s rusty steel hull.  There was a sickening crunch that we all felt.   We waited, and waited.  Our adviser informed us that we were waiting for an ambulance.  Island Girl’s captain had been injured*.  This was the first time he had seen this happen in his 23 years as a Panama Canal adviser.  Whoever made the call to ignore their adviser paid dearly for not paying attention to the professionals.

Though the second Miraflores chamber didn’t go quite so well for everyone, involved,* the first with the crowd was lovely.  To celebrate I popped some popcorn and we shared a bottle of celebratory wine with our canal buddies Spirt of Alcides.





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Sally at Miraflores Locks

Popcorn is one of my favorite boat snacks.  You can find unpopped kernels in almost any country for next to nothing, it’s easy to prepare, and

great to snack on.  Besides, who doesn’t love popcorn?  My recipe for popcorn is a bit different though.  I grew up with popcorn seasoned with Spike salt substitute and nutritional yeast.  Just this makes tasty popcorn, but I took it one step further and added a third ingredient, Vegeta. You can find all of these ingredients in most health food stores and some grocery stores as well.





Panama Canal Popcorn


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    Panama Canal Popcorn

    ¾ c popcorn

  • ⅓ c vegetable oil
  • 2 T nutritional/brewers yeast
  • 2 t Vegeta
  • 2 t Spike



  • Put popcorn into the bottom of a large pot
  • Pour vegetable over kernels making sure they are covered (just barely)
  • Cover with lid and cook over medium heat shaking occasionally
  • When popping slows, after around 4 minutes, remove from heat
  • Pour half into a bowl and season with half of seasoning
  • Pour remaining popcorn into bowl and shake other half of seasoning on top
  • Enjoy!

*Island Girl´s captain was not badly injured.  He hurt his wrist trying to keep the boats apart and was out for a week but there were no breaks on person or yacht.

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Bridge of the Americas

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