Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Day 11 – We Passed Through The Canal And Heading For Cartagena Columbia!

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Today will be full of surprises; we cross between continents in a matter of hours!

Did You Know?  The Panama Canal has 12 locks, with six sets in the new and six in the old sections.  Each set of locks has a series of steps that allow ships to move up or down in elevation.  The locks are built in double, with two independent transit lanes, and each lock has horizontal sliding gates that can overcome the difference in level between the oceans and Gatun Lake.  The new locks allow transit of more extensive New Panamax ships, which have a greater cargo capacity than the previous locks were capable of handling.

There are two independent transit lanes since each lock is double-built.  The size of the original locks limits the maximum size of ships that can transit the canal; this size is known as Panamax.  Construction on the Panama Canal expansion project, which included a third set of locks, began in September 2007, finished by May 2016, and began commercial operation on June 26, 2016.  The new locks allow transit of more extensive New Panamax ships, which have a greater cargo capacity than the previous locks were capable of handling.

We were up at 6:00 am sharp to prepare for the transit, my fourth and Mary’s first!  The sun was coming up over the bay surrounding Panama City.  We saw many ships awaiting their turn to make the transit, but we got priority because we were a passenger ship.

Panama City’s skyline was pretty in the early morning.  However, the city does not attract many cruise ship visitors because its docks are too small to handle the influx of people easily.

When is it time to paint another coat on a pirate ship?  When its timbers be shivering!

Good morning, Panama City

The first sight was the Bridget of the Americas.  The Bridge of the Americas (Spanish: Puente de las Américas; originally known as the Thatcher Ferry Bridge) is a road bridge in Panama that spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal.

Designed by Sverdrup & Parcel, it was completed in 1962 for US$20 million, connecting the North and South American land masses (hence its name), connecting the American Continent.

Two other bridges cross the canal: the Atlantic Bridge at the Gatun Locks and the Centennial Bridge.

Bridge of the Americas ahead.

The announcer told us not to be worried; we would clear it by a few feet!

Why do pirates have such a hard time remembering the alphabet?  They get lost at “C”.

We made it with six feet to spare!

The new gates came out from the side of the canal instead of swinging open and closed.  The new gates were made in Italy and weighed about 3100 tons per gate.

The new locks are built parallel to the existing ones, and side basins are used to minimize water consumption.  The gates are a dual system, implying that two independent gates are servicing the entrance/exit of each lock.  This improves the reliability and maintenance of the lock system since it is possible to maintain operations while one gate is serviced.

The new locks are 55 meters wide, 427 meters long, and 23 to 33 meters deep.  The Gatun locks have a total lift of 85 feet, while the Pedro Miguel locks have a total lift of 54 feet.  The new gates for the Panama Canal weigh  an average of 3,100 tons each. The final gate, which weighs 4,232 tons, is one of the heaviest.

The Panama Canal is about 50 miles long and crosses a ridge on the Isthmus of Panama.  The canal’s water system supplies an average of 165,000,000 US gal (625,000 m3; 137,000,000 imp gal) of additional water annually, enough to provide an annual average of approximately 1,100 additional lockages.

The gatehouses are quite modern and are controlled from a central control room.  They use hydraulics to move the gates open and close.  Read here for more information.

The gates are ten feet wide and can be maintained from inside the gate itself.

How does sit work?  We asked YouTube!

Entering the first lock was exciting.  Once in, they let water in and raised the ship over thirty feet in minutes!  Then we did it two more times, and all of a sudden, 125,000 tons of ship were raised 85 feet into the canal, and off we went!

Only a crew of ten people is assisting the ship; people are everywhere in the older locks.

Once past the locks, we have 50 miles of steaming toward Lake Gatun and then into the Atlantic Locks.

The rainforest comes right down to the shore of the river/lake!

Bridge #2 is Panama’s Centennial Bridge (Spanish: Puente Centenario).  It is a central bridge crossing the Panama Canal.  It was built to supplement the overcrowded bridge of the Americas and replace it as the carrier of the Pan-American Highway.  Upon its opening in 2004, it became the second permanent canal crossing.

The “steps” along the canal are the original diggings, which were made by the American effort to prevent the sides from crumbling and entering the canal.

Newly built in the 1960s.

We had no issues crossing the 3,451-foot-long bridge that opened on August 15, 2004.

Duck!!   e are on the 19th floor of the ship at this point.

After the second bridge, we crossed the east and west continental divide.  This was the highest point in the effort to make the canal, and they used 63,000,000 pounds of dynamite to loosen the rock so the 68 steam shovels could load the residuals into freight cars for disposal.

The ship was moving, and the wind blew, so we had new hairdos for this evening!

We are up on deck 19th aft, where the jogging track and miniature golf are located.

It is better to be below; there are more windscreens available.   In some places, the vegetation came right down to the water.

We might need a saloon visit to fix our hair!   aloon or Salon?   Only time will tell!

The Panama Canal Dredging Division’s headquarters has been in Gamboa, on Gatun Lake, since 1936.  The division is near Gatun Lake and Culebra Cut, which require continuous dredging.  Due to the area’s seismically active nature, the dredges operate constantly.

They have many dredges available to keep the canal open.

After a four-hour transit, we are at the Atlantic gates and will soon be in the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic).  The Atlantic Locks are directly ahead of us.  Three more locks, and we will have crossed into the Atlantic Ocean.

The captain had a challenge; the wind was really blowing!

Bridge #3 is the Atlantic Bridge, a road bridge in Colón, Panama, spanning the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal.  It was completed in 2019 and is the third bridge over the canal after the Bridge of the Americas and the Centennial Bridge, both on the Pacific side of the canal.

The bridge is a double-pylon, double-plane, concrete girder, cable-stayed bridge with a main span of 530 meters (1,740 ft) and two side spans of 230 meters (750 ft).  The east and west approaches are 1,074 meters (3,524 ft) and 756 meters (2,480 ft) long, respectively.  China Communication Construction Company designed the bridge.

The Atlantic Bridge was beautiful and took a lot of traffic between the Americas.

By 4:00 pm, we crossed the canal and were picking up speed toward Columbia, our destination for tomorrow morning.

We went to dinner at Crown Grille, and I introduced David to two new drinks: a Mudslide and a Nutty Irishman.   e downed them and continued with dinner.

Mary did a taste test and decided the Nutty Irishman was the winner.

Their steaks were outstanding.   Mary’s selection could feed a small army!

Wow, it looked like a dinosaur!

After dinner, we went to the photo shop and the customer service desk; my medallion somehow died when I dropped it into the vodka drink last night.

We crashed at about 8:30 pm but watched Cheers for a few minutes.  Tomorrow, we are going to dance Salsa in Cartagena.

Good night, all; it’s been a fantastic day!

About Paul

Just an old retired guy trying to finish out my last years on this planet. I lost my best friend and wife in early 2020. I was blessed again by reconnecting with Dr. Mary Côté, a long-time friend. Mary and I got married July 28th, 2021, and are enjoying life together and plan to spend the rest of our lives being a blessing to our friends and family.
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