2008 Eastbound Panama Canal Cruise

Panama Canal on Dec 18

Back to Dec 17 Golfo Dulce

From Sally's trip log:

18 Dec 08  Today we went through the Panama Canal. We were up early as we arrived at the locks at 6:00 AM. It was completely interesting and fun to experience the locks and the canal. Here I am now sailing on the Caribbean Sea.

If you look closely at this map, you can see that even though we were going from west (the Pacific Ocean) to east (the Caribbean Sea),
for most of the trip through the canal, the ship's compass was pointing west (actually north- northwest).

From http://www.czbrats.com/CuPA/bfall/ProfilePC.htm
On this profile, we were traveling from left to right. From one end to the other, the Canal is 48 miles long.

At the Pacific entrance of the canal, we went past Panama City.

That's the Pacific Ocean that can be seen after we passed under the Bridge of the Americas.

Headed toward the Miraflores Locks from the Pacific Ocean.

A large car carrier was going the same direction as we were. There are two parallel sets of locks.

These are the electric locomotives used to guide the ships. They don't actually pull the ships. The ships move under their own power. These locomotives are used to center the ships in the locks.

This is a rotating bridge. Its not used any more (or its used very infrequently).

These big rubber rollers help guide the ship into the first lock chamber (and out of the last).

Huge car carrier.

Into the first lock.

We are in the lock. The water in the lock ahead of  us is moved into the lock we are in, thus raising our ship. The water is not pumped but flows by gravity.

Once the water levels are equal, the lock gates open and we move into the second lock.

Once in the second lock, the lock gates are closed, and the water from the lake ahead of us is allowed to flow into our lock, thus raising us a second time.
Here is a web cam were you can watch ships transiting the canal:  http://www.pancanal.com/eng/multimedia/index.html.

We are about half way up.

Now we are at the same level as Miraflores Lake - 54 feet above sea level.

The lock gates open and we sail into Miraflores Lake.

We just exited the Miraflores Locks and are sailing across Miraflores Lake toward the Pedro Miguel Locks.
The Miraflores Lock lifted the ship through a pair of locks, the Pedro Miguel locks will lift the ship one more lock level for a total of three.

We are in the Pedro Miguel lock.

The ship's doctor, Bruce Staeheli. Photo taken by Sally. We met Bruce early in the cruise and saw him often during the cruise. He was a Navy pilot before becoming an emergency room doctor. He wintered over at the South Pole a few years ago.

Lock gates closing behind us. For these photos, I went down and aft. I'm on Deck 2 fully aft watching were we have been.

Locks closing.

Once the lock gate closed, hand railings automatically extended at the top, then the next shift of workers walked across.
Many, but not all, of the lock gates had these railings.
Here is a web cam were you can watch ships transiting the canal:  http://www.pancanal.com/eng/multimedia/index.html.

Here's Sally Photo taken by Dr. Bruce.
At this point, we have exited the Pedro Miguel locks are are sailing on Gatun Lake at 85 feet above sea level.

This is work being done to make another wider and longer set of locks for the more modern large ships.

Centennial Bridge

Photo by John
When the canal was built, they had to dig a cut through the continental divide.
The highest point that they had to cut through was 312 feet above sea level (they cut the divide down to the 85 foot level of Gatun Lake).

Of course, we didn't take this photo either - I copied it out of the Holland-America brochure.
This is the Gaillard Cut.

Wading in the Panama Canal

Others went swimming in the Panama Canal
Actually - the crew got a cupful of water from the canal and dumped it into the pool. and, of course, the ship was IN the Panama Canal.


The Gatun Dam, across the Chagres River near the town of Gatun, which produced Gatun Lake. The lake is about 35 miles long.


Approaching Gatun Locks which will lower us 85 feet to the Caribbean Sea.

Its hard to tell from this photo but there are 3 levels of locks.

Web Cam at the Gatun Locks
Here is a web cam were you can watch ships transiting the canal:  http://www.pancanal.com/eng/multimedia/index.html.

We were passed by another cruise ship.

Here you can see the three locks at Gatun. They lower the ship to the Caribbean.

We are in the first lock.

We finally realized why the other ships were passing us. We were in one of the locks and lowered just enough so the A Deck door was level with the ground. A passenger and her husband were let off the ship for an ambulance trip to a hospital in Panama City. We never heard what happened. We had also heard that a passenger got off in Costa Rica to be taken to a San Jose hospital.

Here is Sally on our balcony.

Everyone on the two cruise ships were yelling and hollering at each other.

Sally and Mark - Tourists

The other cruise ship passed us in the adjacent lock and disappeared over the horizon.

Gatun Locks Control Building

Main building.

Now a car carrier was about to pass us in the adjacent lock.

We were underway again after off loading the sick passenger so the car carrier never did pass us.

Photo by John

We had just left the last of the three locks at Gatun.

A container ship probably with empty containers heading to China to be filled.

These are ships waiting to enter the eastern end of the Canal. I suppose they are waiting for an open slot for passage. The cruise ships pay a big premium to be able to sail right up to the locks are go through. We were told that the ship paid $200,000 for the one-way passage. That's about $167 per passenger.

That evening, the ship's crew put on a giant dessert table. All kinds of things, mostly chocolate. It started at 10:30 PM! I went and had a few pieces but Sally stayed away.

Photo by John

Photo by John

 Go to Dec 19 Sea Day and 20 Dec Aruba
This site prepared and maintained by Mark DiVecchio

email :  markd@silogic.com

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