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Panama Canal Passage

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

On Saturday, Crystal Blue Persuasion passed through the Panama canal with 9 people on board. In addition to the regular crew memebers, there was Lee and Rick, from Viking Heart. There was also another couple, Leah and Les, who had been through before and have been living in Central America for a few years, specifically Portobello. They were very informational. Finally there was Charlie, who will be making the passage on Tuesday with his boat and wanted to do a trial run.

This first image is of Puente de Las Americas, which used to be the only land link connecting North and South America. The bridge is one of Panama’s icons, much like the Golden Gate is to San Francisco.

The next image is of the first set of locks on the Pacific side, Mira Flores. There are three sets of locks, two on the Pacific and on on the Atlantic, totaling in three steps up and down, respectively. The canal above sea leven, hence the need for locks. There is a slight difference in heights between the two sides, but that’s mostly because of the higher tides on the Pacific side.

The next image is leaving the second set of locks, Pedro Miguel. The boat in front of us was supposedly owned by Al Capone at one point. We passed Mira Flores and Pedro Miguel “center chamber,” meaning we had four lines on each corner of the boat, attached to the sides of the canal. As the water came bubbling up, lifting our boat, we had to take up the slack and keep her straight. In order to attach our lines to the side, canal workers would swing a monkey’s fist (a rope with a little lead ball attached to the end) at us, to which we’d attach our lines, with large loops on the end. They would then pull their line back, attaching our lines to the cleats.

This is Centinial Brigdge, the second one attaching the two continents.

Shortly after Centinial Bridge is the Galliard Cut (Corte Culebra), marking the Continental Divide.

Rio Chagres, approaching the artificial Gatun Lake. Since we’re now half way through the canal at this point, the colors of the channel markers have switched sides. The rule for remembering colors is “right red returning,” meaning, when you are entering a channel from the ocean, the red buoys should be on your right side. Since we’re now leaving, they are on our left side.

This is Lago Gatun, with achored tankers. Looking at the lake on a map, it reminds me of Lake of the Ozarks with all of its little fingers and islets.

These are the lock doors opening to the next chamber of the Gatun Locks. Passing through these we were tied up to a tourist ferry which was tied up to the left side of the canal. There was a large tanker in the chamber behind us. We didn’t have much work to do other than tying up to the other boat in each chamber. I’m probably in about 20 home videos of the people on the tourist boat. I have to admit I felt superior to the tourists who probably paid $100 to cross the canal and were only on vacation for a week.

This is the last chamber of the Gatun Locks. We were tied up and waiting for the water to empty. The tanker ahead of us is home free.

Finally, the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Colon is somewhere to the right. We apparently have to stay here on Sunday to wait for the immigration office to open on Monday so that we can get our passports stamped and exit the coutry. All the other crew took leave of us and continued on their journeys.

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