Day 5 – April 13, 2023 – Thursday – Panama Canal Transit
At 0530 we got in line for entering the Gatun Locks, a series of three, that will raise the ship almost 100 feet for access to Gatun Lake. It’s a freshwater lake stretching approximately 45 miles across central Panama where we will transit locks to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a very slow process. We began with the first lock at 0700 and exited the third lock at approximately 0930.
The pointy end of the ship was opened to all passengers for the transit so everyone could have a good look at the process. Normally, this part of the ship is inaccessible while underway. I’m sure that has something to do with free flowing alcohol and the penchant of those who imbibe to not be careful. It’s a pretty fair drop from the main deck to the water and should one fall, it would definitely leave a mark. I speak from experience.
The ship ahead of us was a car carrier, bound for Portland, no doubt. Seems like there’s always one parked near the St. Johns Bridge when we go by there. From the looks of the way it fit in the lock, one might think it’s a perfect fit. You can see the masts of two sail boats tagging along behind it as they navigate the locks.
We finally hit the third lock and were turned loose on Lake Gatun. In the above photo you can see the railroad tracks on which the locomotives ride. There are one on each side of the ship, fore and aft. The ship propels itself through the locks and the locomotives job is to maintain the ship in the center of each lock as the water level is changed, up and down. It’s quite a ballet of machines because our ship had 2.5 feet to spare on each side making those little locomotives an important piece of the puzzle. They did a good job.
Diane lounged while I ran all over the place, trying to see it all. Hard to do.
Just had to throw this one in so everyone could see my pale little chicken legs.
Judging from the way the islands are moving past us, we’re going about as fast as a relaxed jogger. A guess, of course, like most of the judgements I make.
This is Tama, one of the cabin boys on our deck. He’s from Java.
About halfway across the lake we passed the Zandam, the ship Diane and I rode on our first cruise to Alaska. Interesting. We thought it was a big ship, and it really is, but just not as big as the Eurodam.
After a leisurely 4 hours cruise we entered the first of two locks known as the Pedro Miguel Locks at 1300. These two locks lowered us about 30.5 feet. The Miraflores Locks has 3 chambers that are separated from Pedro Miguel Locks due to a tectonic fault beneath Miraflores Lake. Miraflores lowers the ship an additional 54 feet allowing the ship to enter the Pacific Ocean on an even keel.
Looking at the above photo you can see the new channel added for larger ships and it appears that they have to go uphill a little to reach their locks. An interesting illusion
Here’s a better look at the locomotives that keep things centered.
A tight fit.
We exited the Miraflores at 1630. Upon leaving the last lock I saw, and photographed, either an alligator or a crocodile whimsically swimming in the lock exit next to us. He appeared to be right at home.
We entered the Gulf of Panama, on our way to Costa Rica, at 1700. Ahead of us were approximately 45 large vessels parked just north of the sea lanes. They seem to be waiting to transit the canal, but that’s a guess. Makes me wonder why they don’t just go get in line and move along.
Glad we’re through. From here we move north to Costa Rica.