The far side
Having spent the day enjoying the Panama Canal transit, we’re now sailing in the Gulf of Panama, according to the map on our TV. For those of us who enjoy watching the process of managing a huge ship like this one, the whole canal thing was a dream. One process after another, all very watchable and involving a great number of people doing a wide variety of jobs which came together so well.
So, where were we?
Well, I think we were floating along in the Gatun Lake, making our way towards the central point of the canal and from there, to begin our descent to the Pacific Ocean.
We came indoors – me to write my blog for yesterday, my hero to enjoy a few more chapters of his unputdownable book, but both to cool down a little. But as we sat there, looking out of the patio doors, we simply couldn’t resist leaping up every time a ship sailed past.
And believe me, that was pretty frequently!
Some were prettier than others, of course.
Some were noisier than others. “Welcome to Panama!” shouted the man standing at the front of this little cruiser. Well, thank you – we were loving being here!
But the whole way along, we enjoyed looking out over the rainforest and hoping to see what the Captain had pointed out on the other side: an alligator! (We didn’t)
A little further along, beyond the lake and into the Gaillard cut, the canal is being widened and we watched as a dredger was working. We couldn’t believe how deep this digger was working
nor the size of the rocks it was hauling up from the bottom! This is big stuff – and presumably, expensive work, too.
Around the corner, we could see a bridge appearing; the first bridge over the canal that we’d noticed so far.
The Centennial Bridge was the second permanent crossing and as we sat enjoying lunch with friends on the pool deck, we all agreed that it’s a very elegant design indeed.
We soon hot-footed it down to our suite again, though, because we spotted the next set of locks coming up. The Pedro Miguel pier was right there and we’d already missed the old line-throwing business. I smiled to myself when I saw this chap standing in the middle of a loop of rope though, being reminded of all kinds of cartoon mishaps when someone pulls on the other end When I saw the expression of his hands in the photograph later, I was amused (I know, it doesn’t take much!)
Back to more serious business, alerted by the whistle of a train and the rumble on the tracks opposite. I’d read that some shipping lines, including Maersk, had taken the decision to stop sailing through the canal and sure enough, this railway engine was hauling a number of Maersk branded containers from the Pacific Ocean terminal to the Atlantic. My hero could offer all kinds of information about the railway operation but I was simply happy to have yet another thing to watch!
Oh, and the usual friendly waves were exchanged, too.
Whilst we transited these locks, we got a look at what Terry had been talking about earlier, too. See the target and what looks like a rugby goalpost there on the lawn? That’s where the line throwers get their practice in!
Soon, we were out the other side of the locks and another couple of ships were following close behind. Oh yes, one of them is the Hanjin Elizabeth!
Just a little further on, the Captain sounded the horn which appeared to alert two small tugs to hurry to our side. We were approaching the Miraflores locks – the last ones before the ocean. We glanced at our watches and hoped we’d make it through before the 4.30 Trivia time!
Now, these line throwers were a bit of a rum lot!
There was a bit of a commotion, a great deal of shouting and carrying on before they were in action.
At last, the ropes were secure and they looked back to check all was well.
But something didn’t seem quite right and one of the mules had to reattach something…and we were getting restless because it was now well past 4.10 and we were going to have to leave.
We heard a cheer go up from what appeared to be a visitors centre as the Astir Lady tooted her horn and went on her way. Were we going to have the same reception?
We admired a pelican which flew and settled in the empty lock next to us and wondered if we could expect action soon? Noting the time, we decided we’d just have to go down to the lounge, meet our Trivia team and watch the last bits from a different level.
Actually, it was quite interesting to see the mule at close quarters, to wave to the driver and to watch as we made our way out of the final lock sometime around 4.45pm.
Our friend the Hanjin Elizabeth was right on our tail as we sailed out into the Bay of Panama.
We stood, watched and counted as sixteen linesmen, pilots and assorted local crew disembarked the ship via the rope ladder and then, just when we thought all was done…
Another small boat came alongside and the last one left – minus a lifejacket we noted, which seemed a little foolhardy!
In the distance we could see the skyscrapers of Panama City.
And just as we were about to step inside, feeling we’d seen the last feature, the Bridge of the Americas came into view. Our transit was complete.
Oh and yes, we were pleased we’d gone indoors to play Trivia, too
We spent the evening with friends in Signatures, one of the speciality restaurants and enjoyed the best combination of interesting conversation and excellent food. I was going to add that at the end of the evening, all that was left were the three petits fours that none of us could manage (yes, really, even I managed to resist a raspberry macaron). But actually, all that was left was a little trail of chocolate, leading to the one who snaffled the truly irresistible chocolate truffle almost as soon as it arrived.
He knows who he is
(Thank you for your comments, Wes and Lesley, I’m pleased you’ve enjoyed the journey!)