Sunday, April 13, 2014

Panama Canal

Hello friends. I think it appropriate to begin this narrative with a photo that was taken from our balcony during the early morning hours of April 10th. Together with the Queen Victoria, in the distance you can see several freighters and container ships waiting to take their positions in the queue in order to begin our transit through the Panama Canal.
As I see it, the Panama Canal is the result of a saga of human ingenuity and courage. It boggles my mind that the mere idea of building a route that would join the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was ever conceived let alone achieved. It’s pretty much a maritime shortcut spanning 80 kilometers across the Continental Divide, and you pretty much have to see it to believe it.
Here in the early morning haze you see Panama City in the distance as Queen Victoria entered Panama Bay leaving what has been our home since March 5th, the mighty Pacific. It is here that we entered the first 3 of 6 locks, known as the miraflores locks.

The bridge of The Americas
The container ship ahead of us was loaded with vehicles, and I’m not sure if you can see it in the photo but she is listing to the right. Apparently, as it entered the extremely tight surrounds of the first lock, she hit the wall or massive steel door and actually started to take on water.
We were supposed to enter the same side after it moved out, but were told to take the empty one on the left instead.  I do have some good news though, the crew were actually able to repair it and she was allowed to continue through therefore leaving us in our original position in the queue.
This photo shows you how the tugs provide much need protection for all ships transiting the canal in order to prevent them from drifting into the banks or other ships.
This ship just so happens to be the Maersk Claire, Maersk being the Panama Canal’s biggest customer!

Here she is seen entering the lock beside where Queen Victoria will eventually be.

For all you bird enthusiasts such as myself, the canal is a bird watchers paradise. Many species, of land and sea birds can been seen, both native and migratory. We did our best to photograph the ones we don’t see every day, such as frigates, tropicbirds, egrets to pelicans.

Here are a few photos to give you a view of the canal as we saw it…
I know that most understand how the lock system works, but this operation is the big league for sure!
We basically locked up 26 metres from the Pacific and down at the Gatun Locks to the Atlantic/Caribbean Sea.
I still find myself in awe of how two huge ships can pass each other in this relatively narrow canal, especially on some of the bends without colliding with each other.


This fellow just so happens to be the best bar waiter on the ship hands down! Dayand (pronounced die-and) who hails from  Mauritius so I can remember is smiling face and bubbly disposition.

Two friendly train operators

Some of the scenery along the canal

Gatun Lake
26 metres above sea level and fed by Chagres River
Notice that it is much clearer than the canal.

This is a picture taken from the bow of the ship looking toward Gatun Locks, our last fleet lock that will lead us to the Caribbean Sea. Here you can see some of the crew enjoying the view from their deck.

Miraflores Locks lifted us the 26 metres using one double fleet and a separate single lock whereas Gatun Lock had us down the 26 metres in one single fleet lock.
We had some company on the other side

Yikes, can you imagine what it must have felt like to the people in the little sailboat that is rafted off to the bigger charter yacht when this big fella came in behind them?

At the end of the day it took us about 10 hours to transit the canal from coast to coast or start to finish. Normally it takes about 8, but because of the listing car carrier we were delayed.
The sun was shining, and we were blessed with a breezy passage. The thermometer registered 94 degrees Fahrenheit and a cold beverage was always within reach. So I will leave you with this one last photo of the sunset we enjoyed as we exited the canal and began the last week of our adventure in the Caribbean Sea.
Whilst in the Caribbean we will be visiting two more ports, Aruba and Grand Cayman along with enjoy two more sea days before we end our adventure in Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale on April 16th.

Rick, wee Shaemus and I all hope you have enjoyed our adventure and lived vicariously through both photography and narrative.
We take home many wonderful memories, and have made some new friends. We are looking forward to returning home to see those of you we left behind many days ago also.
Thanks for joining us, we’ll see you soon.
Love Rick, Sandra and wee Shaemus xo