Our ship, the Island Princess, has been given clearance to enter the canal and the harbor pilot has come aboard. Our ship is traveling at around 7 knots "Dead Speed Ahead". If you look closely at the photo below, you can just make out the Holland America ship which is headed into the canal on the right. Our ship will go into the locks on the left side.
The new canal construction is just below the red 1, (oh oh, another red dot).
Before we can continue through the first lock it is necessary to attach steel cables from the "mules" which will help guide the ship through the locks. The two men in the rowboat will toss ropes which are attached to the steel cables to the harbor men (I think about 30 come aboard).
This is a mule. Each mule has two cables attached to the ship. There are eight mules to take the Island Princess through the canal. The mules do not move the ship as it is traveling under it's own power. The mules have been updated with newer models twice since 1913.
|There is a road in front of this lock.|
|Water pours into the lock.|
|The ships are raised or lowered approximately 20 feet.|
|Note the clearance between the ship and the canal.|
|From balcony cabin on deck 8|
Each ship that passes through the canal uses 53,400,000 gallons of water that goes to the sea. The water comes from Gatun Lake which has an area of 425 km2 (164 sq mi) at its normal level of 26 m (85 ft) above sea level; it stores 5.2 cubic kilometres (183,000,000,000 ft³) of water, which is about as much as the Chagres River brings down in an average year. We are headed for Gatun Lake.
|Water going from a lock to the sea.|
When the ship anchored in Gatun Lake, we took a tender ashore to go on a tour of the locks from land. In the photo below we are watching the Island Princess going back through the locks to the Caribbean.
Note: It took a really long long time for the ship to go back through the locks. We were there waiting for about an hour and a half.
Then we got back on our bus and went to look at the new construction. It's an unbelievable project.
You can see the Island Princess in the distance. She is almost back to the Caribbean. Yay! More ice cream. (It's still hot. There's no air conditioning. Yes, I am a very spoiled, old American) I wouldn't have missed a minute of this day though. I still can't believe I was actually there.
Plus, you get a certificate that says you have made transit through the Panama Canal. Retired Mountain Man and I have traveled 6515 miles (air and nautical) to get here.
The new locks are much larger and use more water, but they will conserve some of the fresh water. The water flows back to the basins, but only 40% of the water required for one lock comes from Gatun Lake.
|Bosch photo of new lock design|
The Island Princess docks at the terminal in Colon where we get back on the ship.We have a day at sea and then the next stop: Limon, Costa Rica.