Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Canal

Well, November 23rd was a special day. It was canal day, and our pretend anniversary day. We awoke at 5 in the morning. We looked out side and the ship was still. It was dark out and misty. We're here, we're at the entrance breakwater to the Panama Canal. We couldn't see much but we could see the breakwater and the lighthouse marking the edge of the breakwater. There were other ships dimly light waiting too. We're waiting for the authorities to permit our pilot escort to start guiding us through. Half an hour passes and we see the pilot boats approach to board the pilots... and within minutes, the ship starts to move. We see lights.. could this be it? A big bunch of lights... very industrial looking.... we sail by.... nope... this must have been a power plant or something. We're slowing sailing towards a narrow opening that we can't see because we're portside.... but now we can see forward by looking on the TV in our stateroom. It's still dark and everyone is leaning out of their balconies in their jammies to see what's going on. We inch ahead...

A knock, knock on the cabin door.... Oh, it's 7:30, our morning coffee delivery.... - in the excitement I forgot about this coming.

It's now about 8:30am when the ship is positioned at the mouth of the canal. Wow I can't believe we're going through. I think of when I was in Grade 4 or 5, learning about the canal and thinking some day I'll so see this marvel. Well, I'm here..... The canal is so familiar because I've watched this on PBS a few times, but it's so nice to be here and it's so green and lush and so .... real. I didn't realize that this is rain forest country. There are 2 seasons, a long rainy season and the dry season. The long rainy season is important for the replenishing of the fresh water in the lake and locks. No pumping here, it's all gravity fed and every time the entry locks open, they lose a lock full of fresh water to the ocean - on each of the Pacific end and the Caribbean end.

We're inching along. If you didn't know it, you would think you were standing still. There is a sharp angle at the mouth of the canal and the tugboats help position the boat as they tie lines onto 8 locomotives that they call mules (2 at the front and back on each side) that will help keep the ship centered through the locks. There is only a few feet on either side. This is quite exciting.
This third picture really shows how little space there is on each side of the ship. The locks have closed behind the ship and the canal is filling with water to go to the next level up. See the locomotives on each side.

This shot shows the staggering of the ships as they come through the locks in the morning. I'm at the back of our ship taking this picture. I am so thrilled... To me, this is amazing. There is a narrator on the ship telling us many things about the Canal. The calculation of the fees that the ships pay, the schedules, the future plans of the canal, the history of the equipment, the loss of the fresh water... many many facts.

We proceed through the 3 levels and then move into the lake where we sail through misty rain forest for the rest of the morning. Mert and I lay on teak chaise lounges for hours on Deck 7, just watching the rain forest, the birds, some canal excavators and other ships going in the other direction. Then about 1pm there are 2 more sets of locks that step us down to the pacific ocean and brings us to the Port of Panama.

About 6pm, we board the tender to take us into the dock where a bus is waiting to take us to the Mirafores Locks Operations center. It's now dark again and the info sheet says, there's no guarantee that we'll see a ship go through on our tour..... I think to myself, oh well, at least I saw us go through.

We got to the locks, and it's a 24 hour operations. The night lights reinforces the very industrial nature and look of this operation. It's so interesting. Ha.... there are more boats lined up to go through than you can shake a stick at. It was a very interesting prospective to see the operations from dockside.

What a great day... an early start and back on board the ship at 10pm. We're pooped!

To late for a fancy 25th Anniversary supper, so we grab a quick something to eat from the ships buffet and we plan our special supper for the next night. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

1 comment:

cpm said...

OMG! I'm so thrilled for you! How cool that you dreamed of this for so long and now it's become a reality! It's something I'd love to do as well. Thanks for walking us through the excitement of it all. Quite amazing for sure!