Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Transiting the Panama Canal

 We awaken to find that we have just passed under the Atlantic Bridge, completed in 2019 to span the Atlantic entrance to the canal.  We look forward and find the ship approaching the first set of locks.

Past the Atlantic Bridge

Approaching locks

We get a view of one of the electronic locomotives, called mulas (mules) that will guide the ship through each lock, with lines on both sides of the ship, bow and stern.  The canal authority provides a pilot, line handlers on the ship, and mule guidance through each lock.  The mules do not pull the ship, but guide it to keep it in the middle of the lock.


Mule attaching line, with canal pilot monitoring

Mule takes the lead (on both sides)

In the next lock, a large ship barely fits, but makes it out as we come in.

We enter, the next one exits

The water enters our lock and we rise to the next level in the canal.  The ship in the next lock is going the other direction and the water flows out from that lock to lower its level.

Water leaving the lock

We continue the process through several locks to reach Gatun Lake, where we'll have a brief journey across the lake as we proceed to the next set of locks leading to the Pacific.

Entering the next lock

Mules guiding us along

Because we are a small ship, we share the lock with a tugboat, a catamaran, and two sailboats.  The small vessels are linked together in the middle of the lock behind us.

Lock sharing

Exiting the final lock in the first series

As we cross the 20 or so miles of Gatun Lake between the two sets of locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides, we spot lots of interesting ships transiting the canal.

Gatun Lake

Ships in transit

As an extra bonus, we pass a sister ship, the Wind Surf, in transit through the canal in the opposite direction.  We are on a power vessel; the Wind Surf is a sailing ship (when the winds are cooperative).

Passing the Wind Surf

Soon, we reach the next of locks to take us into the Pacific and we take our place in line.

Entering the next locks, connecting to the mule

Once again, the lock next to us has a really large ship, a Korean car carrier.  This time, we share the lock with a tour boat and a sailboat.

Next lock over, sharing our lock

To the right of us is the new canal built for the really huge ships that are too large to fit in the canal through which we are transiting.  A large tanker is making its way along that canal.

The [really] big canal next door

We pass through the last lock and follow our companion ships out into the Pacific, passing under the Bridge of the Americas.

Leaving the last lock

Continuing on into the Pacific

Looking to our left (port side), we can see Panama City in the distance, our next destination.

Approaching Panama City

As the sun sets on today

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