Transmitting the Panama Canal, this is such an exciting thing for us. We have read, picked peoples brains and researched the organisation and the actual crossing details. Stu volunteered as a line handler on S/V Carumba to experience the canal before our crossing, so finally it is our turn to do the crossing.
By the afternoon we were ready with tyres to act as fenders on the concrete locks and we had everything sorted and organised, time to say the yucky goodbyes to the great friends we had made, old and new on S/V Bonaire, Moody Finn, Kia Ora and more.
Next was to cross the channel by radioing the port captain to gain permission. Then anchor in the flats, after a short wait the three local line handlers that we had organised arrived via a dinghy with lines and started setting them up. Shortly afterwards the pilot arrived whom we liked straight away and throughly went through the plan. We were crossing with a cargo ship in front of us and no others rafted up next to us, which we were happy with opting to be in the middle of the lock away from the walls. Off we went to the first lock.
There were four line handlers on the edge of the lock on land, that each threw a line to each line handler on Neverland (as seen in the above picture). The rope has to travel a long way so it is weighted with a monkey fist, which is a ball of rope you don’t want to be hit by as some have been known to break windows or solar panels. Then the boats line handler ties a bowline connecting the thrown rope to our rope and the rope is fed back to the lock line handlers on land. They walk along while we motor along, holding the rope for quite a while, we held the ropes on Neverland. When we arrived in the correct position, and the lock gates had closed behind us, then the action started.
The water only took around 15 minutes to fill the lock, then there were another 2 locks to go. The first set of 3 locks were called the Gatun locks. It was dark by the time we exited the locks, our pilot was awesome during this whole process, he was super calm, supportive and eager to help. We had heard many stories of grumpy non helpful pilots, we were lucky to get a great one especially since we were a little nervous.
Next was to tie up to the large yellow buoy around 15 minutes away, I was unsure how we would tie up but the guys had it all done and dusted in a jiffy. I had cooked up a massive dinner with dessert, and the line handlers were very very very happy with their Balboa beer and a tonne of grub. They seemed to appreciate their cabins, I had spent many an hour sorting, cleaning and de moulding to sort out the kids cabins (which were in a trashed state). We really enjoyed having these guys aboard, they were chatty, friendly and very helpful. The next morning there were dead and alive bugs absolutely everywhere in the cockpit! The guys must have noticed this and the next minute at 0600 they were all out there with bucket after bucket of water washing down the decks!!!!! We were absolutely stoked, what a great bunch of guys.
We saw so many massive cargo ships fully loaded with sea containers. We were now on Gutun lake which is 26m above sea level. The construction of the Panama Canal was an amazing engineering feat for its day, taking 56,000 men to construct with 5,600 reportedly killed and the most costly construction by the US to date at $350 million. The canal was completed in 1914 by America who bought the rights of construction from the French in the 1880’s. Yellow fever and Malaria killed thousands of men until the chief sanitary officer (Dr. William Gorgas) who believed mosquitos carried these diseases, embarked on a mission to painstakingly fumigate and cover pools of still water in oil to stop the mosquito reproducing. The last reported case of Yellow Fever was in 1905 in Panama, and Malaria cases dropped dramatically – what an amazing feat!
The 9 mile Culebra cut was another challenge, where many men died (most workers were shipped from the West Indies) from notorious land slides and the explosions needed to make the canal. The second commander of this massive project (the first resigned after a year), convinced President Roosevelt that the canal needed to be a lock canal system due to the terrain and landslides, not a sea level canal. The Panama Canal has expanded global trade routes in the 20th century. In 1999 the treaty was recognised and control of the Panama Canal was fully turned over to Panama.
Enter the Pacific, Happy Neverland!!!!
Pics above – some pages of Jakes booklet on Panama Canal.
Above pic – Alexs booklet on Panama Canal.
Above pic – Siennas booklet on Panama Canal.
Thanks for reading folks, drop a line if you like.