Well today is the day … I was going to say the whole point of the cruise, but I realized that wasn’t really right as the whole point was to have fun with all our friends and each other … and we have sure done that! But since the name of the cruise is Panama Canal Cruise, and today is the day we traverse the canal, I’m going to go ahead and go with “today is the day” 🙂
Mrs. M and I were out for our walk at 5:00 a.m. and ran into hubby on deck ten around 5:30. He, and a few other people, were up watching for our arrival at the Panama Canal. It was a beautiful morning with a full moon so we were able to see even though the sun hadn’t come up yet.
We spent the next six hours on deck nine and ten watching the sunrise and the shoreline of Panama City as we approached.
Just as I thought the sun was done rising it put on another show.
We then passed under the 5,007 foot long arched Bridge of the Americas, which spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. The bridge was completed in 1962 at a cost of $20 million USD and connects North and South America.
There wasn’t a lot of room!
Once we crossed under the bridge we could see the ship in front of us bearing left for the entrance to the new locks. The new locks, known as The Third Set of Locks was built to allow for a larger number of ships and increased width and depth. The new ships, called New Panamax, are about one and a half time the size of the ship we are on and can carry over twice as much cargo. The new locks were opened on 26 June 2016.
Our ship is a Panamax ship, which is built to just fit into the old locks, and it did look like a pretty tight fit as we watch the ship in front of go through the first lock.
And then it was our turn, I swear I could hear our ship squeaking along the edges as it entered the lock.
Because of the delicate nature of the original lock mechanisms, only small craft are allowed to pass through the locks unassisted. Larger craft are guided by electric towing locomotives, which operate on cog tracks on the lock walls and serve to keep the ships centered in the lock.
The locomotives go up the hill as the lock fills with water. The large building on the right is a viewing station for people to watch ships go through the locks.
Six hours later we finally arrived back at our deck and continued to enjoy the sights.
The Canal Authority has tried many methods to pass the mooring lines from the ship to the locomotives but finally came to the realization that a rowboat was the best method.
I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night so I figured once we passed the first three locks it would be a good time for a nap. Hubby took these pictures while I was sleeping.
The Atlantic Bridge
I woke in time to see the prison on the side of the canal. It was laundry day and there were lots of inmates outside watching our ship go by.
And then we entered Gatun Lake. Gatun Lake is a large artificial lake and carries ships for 33 km of their transit between the two sets of locks.
Ships require a pilot to guide them through the canals and because it’s such a long passage the pilots switch off half way through the trip.
I think it was around 2:30 p.m. when we arrived at the second set of locks, which lowered us down to the Caribbean Sea.
While we were in the second lock we watched this freighter, heading to the Pacific Ocean, enter their second lock.
This freighter wasn’t that long so two tugboats also joined it in the lock.
But wait there is still some room … enter this sailboat!
Hurry up little boat!
Phew it made it. It really wasn’t that small of a sailboat but it sure looks small with the other boats in the lock.
Around 5:00 p.m. we cleared our last lock and it was time for the pilot, and all the staff selling Panama souvenirs, to disembark the ship. We counted twenty-four people leaving our ship and getting onto a small boat.
As we approached the Centennial Bridge the Third Set of Locks joined back up, but this time on the right! I guess the passage switched from the left of the old locks to the right of the old locks in Gatun Lake.
And then we were entering the Caribbean Sea and it was time to head off to dinner.
Today’s towel animal is a swan just in case you can’t tell from the picture.
Until next time …