Panama Canal Transit
Carol was up before sunrise and opening our drapes as we approached the entrance to the Gatun Locks, the first of the three sets of locks we would travel thru during our 11-hour transit of the Panama Canal. The 80-kilometer interoceanic waterway was completed in 1914 and in 2010, the historic millionth mark was reached when the bulk carrier, Fortune Plum, transited the canal.
Our cabin on the Starboard side of the ship provided the best view since we were going thru the lock on the right. It also afforded an excellent view of the New Canal built to accommodate large container ships. I was able to get some photos of the red-roofed buildings across the way that my friend, Chuck, who had been the Special Forces Commander in Panama, had told me about. I also got some good photos of the new bridge currently under construction as well as the failed French attempt at building the Canal. As we neared the first locks, we saw the locomotives known as “mules” that would power our ship thru the locks. Our ship had only 16 inches clearance with the side of the lock we were in.
The ship’s photographers had gone ashore to take photos of the passengers from our balconies and to record the transit for a DVD that would be sold to those wanting a documentary of their transit. The bridge provided commentary throughout our transit to let us know what we were seeing on shore and update our progress.
We finally exited the last of the three Gatun Locks into Lake Gatun, a large man-made lake. We spent the next few hours in the lake and navigating the Culebra Cut, the narrowest part of the canal, before reaching the next set of two locks, the Pedro Miguel Locks. This time, we were on the left lock and had an excellent view of a large Chinese ship from Hong Kong, the Melati 5, as it transited the canal entering Miraflores Lake with 3 sailboats rafted together. We also had an excellent view of a huge container ship as it transited the New Canal. Our final set of locks, the Miraflores Locks, took us into the Pacific Ocean.
What an entertaining and educational day!