there is a big article about transiting the canal in Lats and
Atts November issue. Great reading. As I recall, they mentioned a couple of weeks wait(at the most). Regarding the trip down to the canal, have you ever watched the tv show "Ocean Hunter". They freedive spearfish in every show. Always near Costa Rica and Mexico. There website has old shows online.
Sounds like a nice boat. My wife and I would like to do something similar from the other coast. Out of curiousity, is she "into" the trip as much as you are? I am still trying to figure out if my wife is going of her own free will, or because I want her to go. Good luck and keep us informed.