Thursday, August 23, 2018

Day 12 - Tue August 21, 2018 Panama Canal - Crystal Symphony - San Francisco to New York

Day 12 - Tue August 21, 2018 Panama Canal

Our morning started as usual, with a walk on the Promenade Deck.  As soon as Julie went out she saw a whale fairly close to the ship, then saw the spray from its spout before it disappeared under water.  We ended up cutting our walk short as Panama City was coming into view and the ship was clearly starting to get in position to enter the Canal.  We wanted to be ready for the day and not miss anything.  This is our second transit of the Canal. 

Lots of ships parked waiting.
The French attempted to build a canal in Panama (then part of Columbia), but failed miserably because most of the workers were killed by Yellow Fever, Malaria, and other mosquito born diseases. They had to abandon it because it was so inhospitable. It wasn't until Dr. Walter Reed and others figured out that it was indeed mosquito born diseases and the solution was to eliminate the mosquitos. So, when the USA decided to build the Canal (authorized during Teddy Roosevelt's term as President) that was the first place to start.

Overall, the engineering (by an engineer of the name John Stevens) was to essentially build a dam on the Chagres River to flood most of the inland (creating at that time, the largest man made lake in the world) and locks to raise and lower ships up to the level of the dam (85 feet above sea level). The big problem was the continental divide. It is close to the Pacific side and required that they cut a channel through about 9 miles of mountains. This is known as the Culebra Cut. They had to develop a new train system for loading, hauling, and unloading the excavated dirt and material to different locations. The largest part was transported to the location where the earthen dam was constructed. It took about 10 years and 50,000 workers and was completed in 1914. The water in the lake is fed by rainfall, even though they use 52 million gallons for each ship that goes through the canal. On average 35 ships transit the Canal each 24 hours, 365 days a year.  In 2010, the one millionth ship transited the canal. The toll for our ship is about $200,000.

The canal basically runs north to south. We entered from the Pacific side on the south end. First up were the two Miraflores locks. These raised the ship 54 feet. The water to raise the locks is fed through gravity from the water at the top. There are no pumps.

The New Locks for Larger ships

Our narrator

The lock we are going to go through. 
The green arrow tells each boat which side they are going to use (we used the west side).

A rowboat is used to haul the ropes from the "Mule" to the ship.
The mules are essentially small trains that have a cable system to connect to each ship. The cables are not used to pull the ship through the locks (the ships use their own power or the power of a tug boat) to move forward. Their job is to keep the ships centered in the lock and not hit either side. For our ship, there were 6 mules, 3 on each side, protecting the ship. We entered the lock at around 8am.

As we were preparing to enter the first lock, a crocodile was swimming near the east lock.

Closeup of the Aurora Confidence in the Eastern Lock.
Although it looks like this ship is beached on land, it is actually sailing along the new expansion waterway above our position.
The locks are closing behind us.
The lock is 110 feet wide, our ship is 99 feet wide. So, there is 5.5 feet of space on each side.
We decided to have breakfast in The Waterside while we were in the locks.  We did this the last transit and loved the experience.  While in the second set of locks on the Pacific side we were able to see the cement out the dining room window before they raised the water level.  It took about 8-9 minutes for the water level to raise enough that we could see the ground.

We spent much of our time on Deck 9 forward “porch” – it was in the shade and offered a terrific view forward.  Continental breakfast and a sandwich lunch were set up in the Palm Court, but we never ventured up there.  Deck 8 & 9 forward were uncrowded, as was the Promenade Deck.

After the Miraflores locks, we sailed on the Miraflores lake to the Pedro Miguel Lock. It was "soap, rinse, repeat" with mules, closing the lock doors, filling the chamber and moving on. The Pedro Miguel lock was a single lock that raised us 31 feet from 54 feet to the 85 feet of Gatun Lake.

We sailed through the Cut and Gatun lake.

When we got to the Gatun locks, we realized that the western lock was shut down and under construction and improvement.

Only two ships could be transiting one lane of the canal at a time. So we sat and waited for the other ship to exit and the mules to return for us.

We eventually made it through to the Caribbean Sea at about 4pm.

Pre-dinner cocktails were in the Palm Court, and we enjoyed Patty’s company.  We had decided on a casual dinner and ate in the Churrascaria.  We had a nice salad and a couple pieces of shrimp and meat.  No sides.  We’ve decided the Churrascaria offers a light dinner for us as we enjoy a nice salad and then a small portion of protein.  We don’t even look at the sides or desserts (although I’m sure they are wonderful!)

The main entertainment was a comedian – Ralph Harris, who counts Dreamgirls, Seinfeld, In Living Color, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O’Brian.  He starred in the sitcom On Our Own.  He was funny, but definitely missed on at least one of the subject lines.
Afterwards the Crystal Ensemble of Singers & Dancers and the Crystal Showband presented Rock & Pop-A-Mania in the Starlite Club.  It was a high energy, fun show.
Today we walked 13,239 steps, 6.5 miles.

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