From the buoyed entrance channel in the Gulf of Panama (Pacific side), the Prinsendam traveled 8.2 miles up the channel to the Miraflores locks, passing under the Bridge of the Americas. We did this during the morning darkness. The Prinsendam lifted anchor about 4:45 AM.
During the early morning start toward the locks, the crew set up stations with coffee, hot tea and “Panama Rolls”; delicious pastries filled with sweet cream cheese.
The two-stage Miraflores lock system, including the approach wall is 1.1 miles long, with a total lift of 54 feet at mid-tide.
An early morning view of the Miraflores locks as we approached. Notice the neon arrow directing the ship to the proper lane.
Kay said the arrow looked like an old Bar sign. If it were only flashing!
Inside the Miraflores locks
The artificial Miraflores Lake is the next stage, 1.0 miles along and 54 feet above sea level. Here you can see the lake beyond the gates which are opening. It is just now becoming daylight.
This photo shows some of the work being done on the new lock expansion project which is underway. This is the area where the new locks will enter Miraflores Lake beyond the current Miraflores locks. The new locks are expected to be operational in 2014. They will allow much larger ships to transit the Canal.
The single-stage Pedro Miguel lock, which is 0.8 miles long is the last part of the ascent with a lift of 31 feet up to the main level of the canal.
Here is one of the “mules”, the locomotives which attach to the ships and their purpose is not to pull the ship through the canal but to ensure that the ship stays centered in the canal. The ship actually moves through the canal under its own power. The current “mules” cost $2.2 million each.
The Gaillard *Culebra) Cut slices 7.8 miles through the contented divide at an altitude of 85 feet, and passes under the Centennial Bridge.
The Chagres River, a natural waterway enhanced by the damming of Lake Gatun, runs west about 5.3 miles, merging into Lake Gatun.
Gatun Lake, an artificial lake that was formed by building the Gatun Dam, carries vessels 15.0 miles across the isthmus.
The Gatun locks, a three-stage flight of locks 1.2 miles long, drop ships back down to sea level.
The workers still use a row boat to bring the rope to the ship which then hauls the 1 inch steel cable which is connected to the “mule”.
This view from the stern shows another freighter behind us, just waiting for us to clear this lock so it may descend.
This was an interesting photo. This ship was in the lane beside us, all ships this morning were transiting from the Pacific to the Atlantic ocean. It appears the ship is on the railway and about to take a rollercoaster ride!
This photo illustrates the lock operation. We have just passed through the locks and are now at sea level. They are in the process of closing.
This photo shows an empty lock between the Prinsendam and a freighter which is just entering the canal at sea level to continue on to the Atlantic. A 2.0 mile channel forms the approach to the locks from the Atlantic side.
Limon Bay, a huge natural harbor, provides an anchorage for some ships awaiting passage, and runs 5.4 miles to the outer breakwater. There were dozens of ships waiting to make the transit from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The total length of the canal is about 50 miles.
I don’t know the exact fare for our crossing the canal, but the captain estimated it to be between $150-$200 thousand dollars.
I apologize for not posting sooner. We have been quite busy with the canal crossing and getting ready for our soon to arrive departure on the 12th. We have had a great week. We had the honor of having Firmin Van Walle, the Hotel Manager join our table for lunch during the Mariner Luncheon. Firmin is the number two man onboard the ship, behind the captain. The captain is responsible for the physical well being of the ship and Firmin is responsible for everything relating to the guests. This includes overseeing all food services, entertainment, rooms, and front office. It was very enjoyable and informative to have some one on one time with him.
We had our luggage delivered to the room this afternoon and have begun the arduous process of packing for the return home. It has gone well and we should be ready for departure early Saturday morning. Until then, we arrive in Aruba tomorrow and Kay and I are touring the island with another couple by taxi. Hopefully I will have time to post some photos.
Oh, for those of you in Soleil, I will get the weather station updating as soon as possible. I apologize for it being down for the past two weeks. I honestly was surprised that it lasted almost two months with any intervention. See you all soon.