Archive for the ‘Panama Canal’ Category

18 years of fun and sun (part 10)

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Day 11: Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Puerto Quetzal is Guatemala’s largest Pacific Ocean port. It is important for both cargo traffic, and as a stop-off point for cruise ships. It is located in Escuintla department, alongside the city of Puerto San Jose, which it superseded as a port in importance to the country’s maritime traffic during the 20th century. The port serves as a gateway to its inland attractions such as Mayan antiquities, colonial cities, rain forests, and volcanoes. As with most Central American countries, the population centers are located in the more temperate central highlands, rather than along the humid, tropical coasts. Guatemala is considered by many to be one of the world’s most beautiful countries. Volcanoes, mountain lakes, and jungles, combined with a population that is mostly of Indian descent, make this a unique land. Geographically, Guatemala is the northernmost country in Central America. It contains over 50,000 square miles of varied landscape, from mountains and rain forests to crystal clear lakes and picturesque rivers. Guatemala is the most populated of all Central American nations, and is the only one that is largely Indian in language and culture.

Because we turned around to head back south we crossed back over the timezone and set our clocks back last night. Yeah! for another hour of sleep. We awoke and got read for our day trip. We choose to do do an 8 hour trip that was titled Past & Present Colonial Antigua. This day trip will take us to the city of Antigua. The only knowledge I had of Guatemala was an obscure reference in a TV show Square Pegs. I was looking forward to learning more about this country.

The shore excursion brochure describes this trip: Journey to the colonial capital of Antigua at 4,500 feet above sea level via a scenic 90-minute, narrated drive through Guatemala’s lowlands. Keep an eye out for magnificent views of volcanoes, cattle and sugar cane plantation. At 5,000 feet above sea level you will discover Antigua, the colonial jewel of the Americas. Once in Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will visit Central Park and enter the Cathedral. Then, visit the famous Capuchinas Convent for a unique insight into convent life of colonial times. Your next stop will be at a local restaurant where you will enjoy a local meal with many options, and some free time to explore on your own. Before returning to the ship, visit the famous Jade Museum & Factory where fine jadeite jade is transformed into works of art (jadeite jade is found mainly in Guatemala and Burma). You will learn about jade and its elaborate history within the Maya civilization.

We disembarked from the ship and boarded our bus. Our bus ride took us from the port to the center of the country in the mountains. We drove through many coffee plantations as we ascended up to the town of Antigua. As we left the lowlands we traveled around and between two active volcanoes.

Volcano Erupting 1

Volcano Erupting 2

The country has over 30 active volcanoes. We drove between two of the tallest ones. The two volcanoes are named Aqua and Fuego. Their names mean Water and Fire. Both of these volcanoes were erupting every 15 or 20 minutes as we drove around them. In these photos you can see the smoke plumes. It was an amazing sight to see as we have never seen active eruptions. We have only seen lava flows in our previous vacations to volcanoes. Our tour guide told us that on her 50th birthday her friends took her to climb Fuego. She said it was the best day of her life. It must be quite the hike to climb up the side of an active volcano. Especially if it was erupting smoke and ash several times an hour while you where ascending.

Coffee Plantation

As we continued traveling, we passed a lot of coffee plantations. One of the countries largest exports for Guatemala is coffee. Apparently, the volcanic ash and the elevation are the perfect conditions for growing coffee.

Trees that help provide cover for the coffee plants

The coffee plants are planted beneath these trees to provide additional shade. As we climbed higher towards the town of Antigua, the plantations started to thin out and eventually disappeared completely. We could see the beginnings of homes and the outside walls of the city of Antigua. Most of the homes are made of stone and the roads are the original cobble stones. The streets are VERY narrow and lined with cars. Several times we had to maneuver very carefully down some roads in our bus. In one case we had to finagle the bus and several cars in and out of crevices so that we could all pass by. I was totally impressed at how they were able to get past, and nobody got upset. It was just a way of life they deal with.


Capuchinas Convent

We stopped the bus on a side street and unloaded. We walked about a block to the Capuchinas Convent. We took a tour of the Convent. We learned that the Convent had survived a major earthquake where the majority of the second story was destroyed. On the second story you could see where the walls had fallen and the floor had risen from the earthquake. The Convent is undergoing a complete refit and refurbishment. The view from the top was incredible. You could see the mountains and the volcanoes. After the tour, we walked around the streets where we went into one of the local shops that had just about everything in the world. All of the items are made in Guatemala.

We boarded the bus and went to the jade museum and factory. This factory was owned and operated by Mary Lou Ridinger who discovered (re-discovered) jade in Guatemala. Nobody in the country believed that she had found jade in the country, because all evidence of the wealth and beauty of the jade was wiped out by the Spanish conquistadors and their conversion to Christianity. They were given the option of continuing to worship idols and be put to death or convert. What would you do with those options? The mines and treasures were buried or destroyed and all of the oral tradition was lost.

Mary Lou appears to have started a blog, but gave up after a few postings. There was a documentary done as well but I was unable to find the article or show. A youtube video was done that talks about the jade there.

Mary Lou

We arrived at the jade factory and received a informational presentation by Mary Lou. She told us about how she got started and how hard it was to convince anyone that there was jade in Guatemala. After several years she was successful in finding the jade in the country. She showed us how to tell the difference between real and fake jade.

After the tour we spent some time browsing through the shop. They had a lot of lovely jade that I wish I had more money to purchase. We ended up just purchasing a pair of ear rings for Angie.

jade mask

They had a lot of things to choose from. They had statues of

jade samples

animals and masks. There were quite a lot of rings and earrings. The rings and earrings ran the gambit of low cost to very expensive. They had a lot of pendants of letters, numbers, astrological signs and just about every animal known. The most expensive items seem to be their statues and masks. Some of these masks costs as much as my last car. I wish I could have purchased a jade mask for my mask collection. Alas, it was not meant to be. Perhaps on a future trip. Angie made her purchase and we went to check out the museum. The museum had some dioramas of early Guatemalan life and some artifacts found in the country.

Lunch at the Hotel

After the jade factory tour, we re-boarded the bus and headed to lunch. Our lunch was at a really nice hotel. The hotel had a lovely pool and gardens to walk around in. They had a buffet lunch setup for us. The food was very delicious and the desert was yummy. The best part of the meal was they had REAL coke, made with cane sugar, not corn syrup.

After lunch we walked around the grounds and checked out the hotel. This is really a nice hotel and I would love to come back here to stay for a vacation.The lobby of the hotel was very cozy and nice. The area was open so that the breeze blew through and kept it cool. The lobby also had a very nice looking candle wall. You an see a picture of it below:

Candle Rack

Hotel Pool

City Center

Information Booth

We left the hotel and went to the city square. Here we sat and relaxed as we waited for our bus to take us back to the ship. The square had some people selling fake jade (which we learned from the jade factory and our guide) and other jewelry. Some people were selling musical instruments as well as blankets and scarfs. All of the items were made in Guatemala by hand. Unfortunately we didn’t see anything that we had to have. The bus arrived and we boarded for our return trip. We had an interesting trek out of the city. Again, the narrow roads made it interesting to leave and turn corners. We had to back the bus up one because one of the roads were closed.

More Coffee

On the way back we saw more volcanic eruptions. I would love to come live here for a few months just to film and photograph all of the volcanic activity in this country. On the way back we saw another coffee plantation that had a lot of beautiful white blooms. I wonder how much of the coffee that is grown here is actually drunk by the Guatemalans? We half expected to see donkey’s carrying bags of coffee down the side of the road, but that would be in Columbia 😉

Once we left the city of Antigua, the ride back was uneventful. I even managed to get 20 minutes of sleep on the bus. We returned to the ship and boarded. We went back to our cabin and put away our stuff that we had with us for the day. We changed cloths and went up on deck for some afternoon tea and attend the sail away party.

Tonight’s entertainment was Brad Cummings, a comedian/ventriloquist. I thought he was pretty good, but Angie (I found out) is not a fan of ventriloquists. I found a youtube video of him here:

Dinner was good as always. After dinner we went up to the crows nest to listen to music and have a drink. It was a nice finish to the end of one of the best shore excursions we have had. I am really happy that we made it to Guatemala and look forward to a return trip at some point in the future.

18 years of fun and sun (part 9)

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Day 11: At Sea

Tuesday April 28th, 2009

Today was a day at sea. It was a good day to rest and relax after yesterday’s hot and humid experience in Costa Rica. We lost an hour because we crossed a time line during the night. We set our clocks ahead an hour. Both Angie and I were really tired and we slept in this morning.

We were given the bad news today, that the Swine Flu outbreak in Mexico has caused the closure of all the Mexican ports we had planned to visit. The home office of Holland America decided that it was in the best interest of the passengers to not continue on the current itinerary.

While we waited to find out what they would be doing to prevent a seven day sea trip, we ate breakfast, shopped at their deck sale, played some games in the casino, had afternoon tea and played bingo.

The Holland America staff was able to figure out what to do so we are not stuck on the ship for seven days. They had been working to setup access two new ports for the next year. They were able to coordinate port access and tours for the passengers. Instead of heading to Mexico, we turned the ship around and headed back south to Guatemala. They announced that they would be arriving in the morning and that they would have shore excursion information available shortly. We headed to the excursion desk and picked up a brochure.

We signed up for a trip in and then went to relax in the crows nest bar. We read and relaxed. Tonight was a formal night for dinner. We returned back to the cabin and got ready for pictures and dinner. We met with our table mates and discussed the days events and what we thought we might expect to see tomorrow. Our table mates have decided to enter in a talent contest. They are writing lyrics to a song and plan to perform it on the last night of the cruise. Pretty gutsy to get up there and sing in front of all the guests.

I found it interesting how some guests choose to deal with the reschedule. Many choose to go with it and realize things out of their control are not worth worrying about. Some people felt they should receive a complete refund on their trip. This was the silliest attitude I have seen in a long time. For Angie and I, we are disappointed that we will not be able to go to Acapulco, but we will get to see two countries that we would never have planned to visit otherwise.

We headed back to the room for the night.

18 years of fun and sun (part 8)

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Day 10: Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Monday April 27th 2009 (wow, it’s been a while since the last post…trying to do better)

“Puntarenas which means “Sandy Point” in Spanish, is the capital and largest city in the province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica, on the Pacific coast. First known as “Villa Bruselas” in colonial times, Puntarenas was discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1519. Despite the use of the Gulf of Nicoya as an entryway to Costa Rica’s inland territory, the port of Puntarenas was not developed until 1840 when coffee production in the highlands reached exportable volumes. In 1845 the Congress of the Republic declared Puntarenas a duty free port (with the exception of Cognac and hard liquor). Originally, the coffee was brought to the port in oxcarts via a trail through the mountains. In 1879, a stretch of railroad track was completed which connected Puntarenas with the town of Esparza (one of the country’s earliest Spanish settlements, founded in 1554, a decade before the Central Valley began to be colonized) where the oxcart trail came out of the mountains. Eventually, the railroad was built all the way through to San Jose and service was inaugurated in 1910. With the railroad connection to the Central Valley, the Pacific port’s activities continued to be a major part of the region’s economy through the 20th century and into today.

The Port

The Dock

The Rain Forest

Our Captain informed us that we would not be able to dock at Puerto Caldera and would have to berth at Puntarenas, 7 miles into the gulf of Nicoya. This was actually a better port as we would not have to tender and could just walk off the ship. We are thankful for the extra hour sleep today as we cross into the next time zone. We got up and dressed for the day. We could tell it would be hot and humid today. we disembarked and boarded the bus for our shore excursion. Today we took the Aerial Tram with Canopy Zipline tour. I was not sure that Angie was going to follow through. I was afraid she would chicken out at the last minute.

The tour brochure describes the trip as follows:

Enjoy one of Costa Rica’s leading attractions—the Aerial Tram. Depending upon your arrival time, you may first attend view a video presentation introducing you to the Atlantic Rain Forest, or join an expert naturalist guide for the exhilarating aerial tram ride which takes approximately 80 minutes in comfortable gondolas designed for six passengers each and a bilingual naturalist guide. You will safely glide from the rain forest floor up to the treetops to observe majestic towering trees, lianas, giant ferns, hanging gardens and occasional wildlife. After the canopy ride enjoy a traditional Costa Rican lunch before you explore the rain forest from the ground up to the canopy and down again. The Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy has awarded the Ecological Flag to this eco-tour, declaring it of national public interest. Start your adventure at the canopy experience receiving top-quality gear and secure harnesses to effortlessly traverse the canopy from platform to platform. You will soar through the treetops of giant native trees just like a monkey as you fly across the magnificent Molinete River. Stupendous rewards of breathtaking views and occasional wildlife sightings add to your exhilarating adventure during this unique bird’s-eye view experience.

all geared up

The ride to the rain forest was pretty comfortable. Once we arrived, we were outfitted with our gear. The gear included a helmet, gloves and our rigging. Our guides helped us into our rigging. As you can see it’s a pretty basic harness. The zip lines are a set of two wires that are you attached to both of them. We were given a demo of how to use them. The nice thing about these zip lines is that you do not have to use your hand behind the pulleys to control your speed. They have safety brakes at the end of the zip line to slow you down. After the safety briefing and demonstration,we headed to the aerial trams. Each tram holds six people and our guide. the trip up the mountain was very quiet and peaceful. We could hear streams and waterfalls. As we neared the top of the tram, we could hear the first groups that went up zipping along their lines. It was a high buzzing sound like an insect. We didn’t know what it was until our guide pointed it out to us. At the top, we exited the tram and followed the dirt path through the rain forest. As we reached the 1st platform we caught up with the group of people in the tram ahead of us. We waited in line for our turn at the first zip line. I kept looking at Angie expecting her to say she would not do it.

I made sure she was in front of me, so she had to go first. 😀

angie waiting in line

I kept checking with Angie to make sure she wanted to do it. She was sure and as we reached the head of the line, she hooked up and got ready to go. She climbed up and launched herself! She soared down the line and reached the opposite platform. Now it was my turn. I was a bit apprehensive to go, but since Angie went first, I couldn’t back out now. I would never live it down. 😉 I hooked up and launched. The feeling was incredible!!! There was very little pressure from the harness as it supported me and I just felt myself propelling forward. I kept my feet and knees up as we were taught. I wanted to make sure I didn’t stop and get caught short of the end of the line. I reached the end of the line and stood up on the platform. I was unhooked and moved onto the path. It felt fantastic and I asked Angie what she thought. She said it was great and I could tell she enjoyed it as well. The first zip line was now behind us and we had 9 more. The total distance of all 10 zip lines was about a mile.

Steve Waiting in Line

Steve riding another zip line

The line lengths were as follows:

Steve on LONG zip line

Steve making it to the platform

Line 1: 257 feet
Line 2: 219 feet
Line 3: 115 feet
Line 4: 112 feet (The shortest line)
Line 5: 1048 feet (The longest line)
Line 6: 704 feet
Line 7: 710 feet
Line 8: 580 feet
Line 9: 730 feet
Line 10: 739 feet

With each zip line, we had more confidence and about the 4th one we both really started to enjoy the experience and look at the scenery around us rather than at the lines. I was getting good at controlling my rotation with my hands so I could look left/right and end up back in line at the end. On the 5th line Angie got stuck at the end and had to do a hand over hand pull to get her to the very end. I didn’t know this until much later, as this was the longest line and I could not see her at the end.

angie on the zip line

The longest zip line

The view from the rain forest

The 5th zip line was fantastic. The view was incredible and the line went on for what seemed like forever and ever. We had a fantastic view and could see all the way to the ocean. Our guide made a point of telling us we had to look right as we went down so that we could see the view. I was able to take a photo as I was sailing through. At the end of this line, it was quite a rush and I was looking forward to the remaining 5 lines. Angie had a huge smile on her face and I could tell she was enjoying the experience. The grade on most of the zip lines is only 5%. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it does the job and prevents you from going too fast. As we approached the last zip line there was a long line. Apparently there was a back up of people so we had to wait a few minutes for everyone to take their turn. They were supposed to have a camera on this line, but it was not working for some reason. A lot of people decided to let go of the zip line and lay back spread eagle as they sailed over the canopy. After the last zip line, we walked down the last hill and removed all of our gear. We gave back our gear to the guides and walked through the rain forest back to the hut where they were setting up lunch.

Iguana sitting on a tree

While we walked through the garden/forest we came across an Iguana just sitting on the tree. They also had a snake hiding in the rocks with a telescope setup so you could see it. Angie decided to pass on looking at this one. We got in line for lunch. I started to feel really faint and I had to go sit down. I sat for a few minutes and started to feel nauseous. I quickly headed over to the bathroom, but before I got there, I started to get dizzy. Fortunately, I was able to catch myself before I lost my balance. I sat on the ground for a few minutes. Once I sat down,

Angie unpacking from the long hot day.

I started to feel a little better and realized I was suffering from heat exhaustion. I was able to get up and walk to the bathroom and pour water over my face and neck to cool down. I immediately felt better. It’s amazing how fast it came on. I wasn’t dehydrated as I drank three bottles of water along the trail. I think the extremely high humidity and heat is what caused it. I came back from the bathroom and sat down with Angie. We rested and waited for the bus to get ready to take us back to the ship. There was a brief garden tour, but I decided to skip it and just sit and relax. Angie looked around in the gift shop. We boarded our bus and headed back to the port. The country side was beautiful, although you can see the poverty everywhere. We arrived back at the ship and unpacked. We headed up to the Lido deck and grabbed a snack, then we headed to afternoon tea. After tea we relaxed and read for a few hours. There was no pre-dinner entertainment tonight because they were doing a special Filipino Crew Show. This was a special show made up of Filipino crew members. We headed to dinner and chatted with our table mates about their days. Everyone had a fun-filled day and enjoyed themselves. Even though I was exhausted from the days adventures, this was one of the most fun adventures we have had. I would definitely do this again.

18 years of fun and sun (part 7)

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Day 9: Scenic Cruising Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

The calm sheltered waters of Golfo Dlce provide a panoramic view of the rugged coastline of southwestern Costa Rica.Golfo Dulce translates from the Spanish as “Sweet Gulf.” an apt name due to the abundance of rainwater and rivers flowing into the narrow inlet. Sparsely populated with small ports and villages, the area boasts only a few large towns. The largest, Golfito (population 35,000), is one of the most picturesque cities in the country. Heavy rainfall sustaining tropical rain-forest vegetation made Golfito from the 1930s until the 1980s primarily a banana port, belonging to the Banana Company of Costa Rica. Palm oil is now the major crop with the Golfito port, handling about one fifth of the Costa Rican sea borne trade. A roadway through the mountains connects this town to the great Pan American Highway. Costa Rica is one of the leading areas of conservation in Central America with more than 27% of the country protected in national parks and preserves. As we sail around the Golfo Dulce, we can view off teh east coast the Golfito National Wildlife Refuge, where a chain of mountains climb to 1,600ft (500m), then plunge abruptly into the sea, forming a jagged coastline of cliffs, tidal plains and estuaries.

Yesterday we traveled 45 nautical miles to get from the Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific Ocean. This saved us a voyage of 100,000 miles around Cape Horn. After we exited the Canal, we set sail for a day of scenic cruising in the Golfo Dulce. Today was a day of relaxation. We slept in, FINALLY! When we got up, we headed to an early lunch and relaxed around the pool. I finished another book on the Kindle. I really like this device and think paper books are no longer in my future.

Later in the day, they had an Indonesian BBQ on the Lido deck. The food was pretty good. We attended the team trivia as well as the afternoon tea. The evenings entertainment was a Farewell show with both Joel Mason and Rick Starr. It was a great show. Tonight’s dinner was another Formal night.

Today was basically, a low key relaxing day. Tomorrow

18 years of fun and sun (part 6)

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Day 8: Panama Canal

After departing from San Blas we headed towards the part of the voyage I have been looking forward to; The Panama Canal!  The alarm clock went off way too early 😉 I pulled myself out of bed and got dressed so I could see the approach to the first locks. Navigating through the Canal and the locks is a challenge because the Westerdam has the maximum allowable width and close to the maximum allowable length to transit the locks and the Canal. We expect to arrive at the entrance of the Canal at Puerto Cristobal in the early morning where we will board the Panama pilots and the line handlers before we head towards the first set of locks.

The Panama Canal was opened to commercial traffic August 15th 1914. Since that time, more than 900,000 vessels carrying more than 7 billion tons of cargo have passed through the waterway. Savings to shipping and ultimately to consumers are enormous, and entire trade areas and industries have been developed as a result of its opening. Though the basic design of the Canal remains the same as when it opened in 1914, there have been many physical improvements and new procedures instituted to keep pace with the growing demands of the world’s maritime traffic. The ongoing multi-million dollar project to widen Gaillard Cut will increase capacity by allowing the largest ships to pass in the area where the Canal was cut through the Continental Divide. The Canal was transferred to the Republic of Panama, on December 31st, 1999, and is being administered by a Panamanian government agency, the Panama Canal Authority.

I stepped out onto the cabin balcony and was greeted with the beautiful sight of the entrance to the northern entrance to the Panama Canal. Even though it was slightly humid, I could tell it was going to be a fantastically lovely day.

Arriving Panama Canal from the Atlantic Ocean

Arriving Panama Canal from the Atlantic Ocean

Many ships waiting to enter the locks

Many ships waiting to enter the locks

As we sailed into the locks we noticed a lot of ships anchored off shore. I read an article about how these ships are anchored waiting on their company to send the payments to the Panama Canal Authority before they are allowed to enter the locks. I figured it might be one or two ships, but we saw dozens just sitting waiting. I guess it is still cheaper to arrive and wait than to sail the extra month around South America.

View from the bow of the ship.

View from the bow of the ship.

I wandered out of the cabin and followed the signs to the bow of the ship. They opened it up so that everyone could wander out and see the progress. The view from the bow is amazing. Your so close to everything as we passed, it felt we could reach out and touch it. As we sailed towards the first set of locks we passed a ship leaving.

A ship leaving the locks

A ship leaving the locks

Our sailing speed seems to be really slow. But I believe we are in a no wake zone and need to traverse at a slow enough speed. It made for a great sightseeing speed as nothing passed you by too quickly.  I think the speed also helps them to sequence the ships for continuous usage of the locks. The first set of locks, is the first of three sets. The GatĂșn Locks are a set of three locks that raises the ship up to the level of the lake.

Frenchman's cut.

Frenchman's cut.

As we neared the GatĂșn locks we passed the last remaining evidence of the French attempt at building the Canal. This is a stretch called the Frenchman’s Cut. It is significantly narrow than the working Canal. The cut is left as a reminder of what the French tried to do but failed. It really shows how this project was not thought of on a large enough scale and would never have been able to handle the amount of traffic that passes through the locks today.

The Gatun Locks in the distance

The GatĂșn Locks in the distance

The mules at Gatun Locks

The mules at GatĂșn Locks

The beginning of the Gatun Locks

The beginning of the GatĂșn Locks

Once we got close to the GatĂșn Locks you could see the mules lines up on the side of the locks awaiting our arrival. Once we got close enough two dock workers boarded a row boat and ferried over two cables from the mules to the ship.

Bring the cables

Bring the cables

Once the first set of cables were attached, the ship was ready to start entering the locks. As we passed each mule it would start up and pace the ship. Ahead of the ships the doors to the first locks had finished opening and we started to enter.

Entering the Locks

Entering the Locks

In the photo above, you can see the lock on the right filled with water after the ship has just departed it. This is a good reference photo that shows the different levels from the entrance to departing.

Entering the Locks

Entering the Locks

The cables were being attached on both sides of the ship now. While watching the mules I realized that they are used to keep the ships stabalized so they do not shift from side to side. Contrary to what a lot of people think, they are not there to pull the ship through the canals. The ships are under their own power. You can see below how tight the ship is, when it’s inside the lock. The ship is the widest ship that can pass through the locks. It is not quite the longest, but it comes pretty darn close. Once inside the lock, the doors are closed behind us and the lock starts to fill up with water.

The mule supervisor

The mule supervisor

we are snug as a bug in a rug

We are snug as a bug in a rug

I thought you would be able to feel the ship rise or hear and see the water, but it happened slowly and quitely. If you stand and watch a fixed point on the dock/shore, you could tell the ship was slowly rising. It was actually more noticeable when there was a ship in the other lock and you could watch it rising. Once the ship rose to the level of the second lock, the front doors opened and the ship moved forward into the second set of locks. The entire process was repeated for this lock and then we proceeded to the the third one.

The Canal

The Canal

Once we exited the third lock we headed into the Canal on our way to GatĂșn lake. The canal doesn’t look wide enough for two ships to pass. In fact, as we sailed we never saw a ship pass us. I wonder if this is by design and why they are trying to widen the Canal?

Widening of the Canal

Widening of the Canal

We sailed for most of the morning and afternoon. We passed several construction areas where they were widening the Canal. We passed the city of Gamboa and through the narrow passageway between the lake and the next set of locks. As we sailed through the lake I noticed that the shore is covered with dense forest. You can tell that this is a country that gets a lot of rain. The countryside is gorgeous and lush and full of life with birds.

Centenial Bridge

Centennial Bridge

Approaching Pedro Miguel Locks

Approaching Pedro Miguel Locks

As we continued to sail through the Canal we passed under the Centennial Bridge, the view was amazing. We sailed down the Culebra Cut towards the next set of locks. The Pedro Miguel locks are a single set of locks that separates GatĂșn lake from Miraflores Lake.

Reaching Pedro Miguel Locks Locks

Reaching Pedro Miguel Locks Locks

Another ship entering the lock next to ours

Another ship entering the lock next to ours

Leaving Pedro Miguel Locks on our way to the Pacific Ocean

Leaving Pedro Miguel Locks on our way to the Pacific Ocean

Once we left the Miguel Locks we sailed through the Miraflores Lake on our way to the final two set of locks. When we reached the Miraflores Locks, there was an observation deck were a lot of tourists were watching the ships sail by. We got quite a loud cheering send off when we departed the Canal on to the Gulf of Panama on the way to the Pacific Ocean. Our day of sailing took us through some of the most lushness parts of Central America. Below is a map of our route.