Friday, November 11, 2011

Wednesday, Nov 9, 2011 – At sea

Today we got up and walked again for several miles.  We then attended another lecture on the Panama Canal, this time, taking us on a virtual tour of what we will see on Friday.  Here are some interesting notes that we haven’t covered before:

The Gatun locks are the ones on the Caribbean side.  There are three of them, one right after another, which together lift you 85 feet.  Each lock is a concrete box that is 1000 ft long and 110 ft wide.  Our ship is about 780 ft long and 104 ft wide, so it will barely fit.  Since the manmade Lake Gatun is at the top of the 85 feet, they use an extensive set of pipes and gravity to flood each stage of the locks.  There are no pumps involved.  The gates that close on each end each weigh about 700 tons, are hollow, but because they only open and close when the water is equalized, they can be operated by two 25 watt electric motors.  There are a number of electric locomotives that run along each side of the locks (there are two lanes of locks and they are building another lane that will allow wider and longer ships – scheduled to open on the 100 year anniversary of the completion of the canal in 2014).  The trains do not pull the ships along, they merely work to keep the ships from running into the sides.  The ships use their own engines to power through the locks.  Wind is one of the most difficult parts of using the locks since they can blow a ship into the sides.  There are container ships that use up every foot available of the 1000 x 110.  Finally a pilot joins up with the ship and he is in control of the ship during the transit.  This is the only place in the world where the pilot actually takes command of the ship rather than the Captain.  There are about 200 pilots and they get paid big bucks, the most senior receiving upwards of 200K per year.

After the talk, we went to trivia.  We did better (11 out of 15), but got second place behind another team that got 12.  We changed one answer right at the end and should have left it as it was correct.  Oh well, better luck next time.

After that, we went to lunch in the Lido Café where they were having a Latin American Buffet, with all kinds of foods from all over Central and South America.  It was great to sample so many different kinds of foods.  After that, we went to a lecture by one of the editors of Popular Mechanics magazine.  He talked about the future of the automobile.  Bob felt that there was nothing new in there that he didn’t know, but Julie picked up several tidbits that she didn’t know.

In the evening, we attended a pre-dinner concert by Pianist Rustem Hayroudinoff, who was born in Russia, trained at the Moscow Conservatory and then received postgraduate training at the Royal Academy of Music in London where he now lives.  That was followed (naturally since this was a pre-dinner concert) by dinner.  We both had Steak Diane which was marvelous.  It reminded us of the steak that we had at a little restaurant in Paris several years back.  It was interesting because each night, the restaurant had only one entrée, the night we went it was steak frites and wine.  After dinner, we attended a vocal concert by Paul Baker who has starred for years in many musicals in London’s West End.  He had a great, powerful voice.

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