Our 2008 Panama Cruise
Costa Rica and The Panama Canal

Page 7

I've included only two pictures of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We had visited this place many years ago and we didn't need to see it again. Costa Rica is a beautiful country, but Puntarenas is kind of crummy.

Here is an aerial picture of Puntarenas. A brown muddy river on one side and black muddy beaches on the other side.

Here is a look at the beach at Puntarenas. The "sand" is dark and muddy, but people run in and out of the surf as if they were on a white sand Cape Cod bayside beach or on the powdered sugar sand of Siesta Key in Florida.

We'll move on to Panama.

At dawn on the 12th Day of our cruise we were off the coast of Panama City on the Pacific coast of Panama. We were waiting our turn to head into the Canal.

Panama City was covered with high rise condos and resort hotels. We did not stop at a port, but we could imagine what it was like after seeing Puerto Vallata and Acapulco.

About 6AM we passed under the Bridge of the Americas, built in 1962 and we now begin our 50mile transit of the Canal, This is one of only 2 bridges that cross the Canal. The other bridge a little further upstream is the "Centennial Bridge" built in 2004

Here we are at the "Miraflores Locks". These 2 locks here raise us about 54 feet (depending on tides). The next lock, the "Pedro Miguel Lock" raises us an additional 31 feet for a total of 85 feet lifted in 3 locks.

Each lock is 110 feet wide and 1050 feet long. Our ship was 106 feet wide and 880 feet long (at the waterline). It was a tight fit and we went into each lock by ourselves.

The ships are pulled throught the locks by these little electric locomotives (called Mules) on cog railways. Four locomotives pull the ship and 2 locomotived act as brakes to stop the ship if it approaches a lock too fast.

Here is the "Pedro Miguel" lock. It leads to "The Galliard Cut". "The Cut" is an 8 mile trench that is actually the dug Canal. In 1880 the French tried to dig "The Cut", but failed. The US finally compelted digging "The Cut" and building the locks in 1914.

In the distance you can see the "Centennial Bridge" and the start of "The Cut".

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Here is a bit of a look at the current construction on "The Cut". Panama is widening the canal and adding longer and wider locks to accomodate todays shipping.

There is a phenominal amout of material to be removed and a huge muddy runoff that makes the Canal a chocolate browm color. There are 8 miles of this mess bfore entering "Gatun Lake".

Gatun Lake is a man made lake in the middle of Panama. It was created from the damming of the Chargres River and not only creates a navagatable waterwat, but supplys water to all the locks. We were told that this was a wildlife paradise, but we saw very little wildife.

At the eastern (Carribean) end of Gatun Lake is the last set of locks named, amazingly, "The Gatun Locks". It is a series of 3 locks that lowered our ship 85 feet back to sea level. The lenght of the canal is about 50 miles and it took us 12 hours to sail the entire length: 6AM to 6PM.

We made it through The canal without incident and I personally thanked our Captain: Karin Stahre-Janson for a fine job. The Captain is Swedish from a family of many sailors. She has a degree in Nautical Science and has held quite a few different positions on may types of ships.

She made cruise ship history by becoming the first Captain of a major cruise ship. Quite an accomplishment in a profession dominated by men!!

Here is the Captain of our stateroom. She gave a thumbs up on the canal crossing!

One final canal picture: These native senoritas greeted us at the Cristobal Pier in Colon, Panama. We stopped for 2 hours at the Pier and we were allowed o only go ashore into a huge warehouse loaded with locals selling all kinds of local stuff like wooden ware, clothes, trinkets, etc., etc..

Needless to say, we bought nothing but we still got soaked. (It was pouring rain as we reboarded the ship.)

That's it for Panama and The Canal It was an interesting experience! We probably won't have to do it again, though.

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