Sailing the Panama Canal
Working overseas isn’t always waiting tables or teaching a classroom full of English students. Sometimes, it can be on the deck of a ship.
That’s what British Columbia native Kyle Mateo did for 17 days on two boats in Central America. His goal was to go through the Panama Canal.
“It was just an incredible experience,” Kyle said. “We didn’t see land for three to four days … Probably the coolest thing was the wildlife. Dolphins would swim with the ship. At nighttime, there would be phosphorescence in the water.”
Kyle started his sailing trip in Utilia, Honduras. He had to pay $400 to get to Panama, and he put himself to work for the boater scrubbing the hull of the ship under water. His other duties included sanding and staining wood and being the night watch while the boat sailed to Colon.
Once he arrived in the city, Kyle had to start searching for work again to get through the canal.
“I really had to put myself out there,” he said. “I went looking for opportunities every day because I knew I was coming home soon and running out of time.”
Kyle spent his mornings at Captain Jack’s Hostel. Every morning, he would listen to radio briefings and reach out to boaters who needed help getting through the canal. He also made sure that he got his name on the radio to let others to know he was looking for work.
Finally, found what he was looking for. He took a volunteer job on the sailboat of an 80-year-old Frenchman named Andre. Kyle worked as a lineman for a couple of hours for two days while the boat traversed the route to the Pacific.
“Basically, the sailboats are rafted together,” Kyle said. “You go through like a convoy through shipping locks. It helps them be more stable.”
The process is called line handing, and involves a crew member catching a rope from a person on land, tying the rope to a rope on the boat, then holding it or releasing it when necessary.
“Anybody can figure that out,” Kyle said.
When Kyle wasn’t working, he said he was watching the activity on the canal or sleeping on the deck under the full moon.
Kyle spent a couple of days in Panama City before heading back home, but not without a valuable lesson.
“I learned that if you put yourself out there, you’ll get what you’re looking for,” he said.