10th January

I sit at my desk, our lovely ship is anchored off Fuerta Amador, near Panama City, having made our transit of the Panama canal yesterday.  Over 900 of our guests are ashore, enjoying the city and its surrounds and I, having had a long day yesterday, completed my necessary tasks and paperwork and have spent some time preparing this post. 

I have found that a hiatus of 3 months from writing the blog leaves me with a re-learning process; editing the GoPro video took longer than expected for example.  I used to be able to ‘knock them out’ in 10 minutes, this first one since coming back took me an hour  😯 . 

My day yesterday started at 4:30 a.m.  We were scheduled to be at Cristobal breakwaters at 5:30 a.m. however, as is often the case, the schedule changed and a delay of 30 minutes resulted.  These delays are usually to do with northbound vessels being delayed, as a consequence the canal is not open for southbound until they have cleared.  We follow the ‘Azamara Quest’ through the breakwater entrance and undergo our canal inspection; in short, whether we are deemed suitable to make the transit.  Pilots, agents, Immigration officials, a plethora of personnel join and leave, the pilots of course remain with us. 

The Pilot/Master relationship is of extreme importance during a transit, a symbiotic relationship, we both need to be able to work together to ensure the transit is trouble-free and without incident.  I am fortunate that I had some very amicable gentlemen, very capable and fun to work with.  Pilots conn the ship during all stages, except the getting into the locks themselves.  Here it is we who approach and enter the locks, (getting near the “wall’ and into the lock).  It is here, once the ‘mules; are attached, that the pilot takes control of them; for example, once the 2 mules attached to the bow are in control, all I have to do is worry about the stern, the pilot will look after the bow.  Once the stern ‘mules’ are attached, the pilot controls them, all we have to do is adjust the speed into the chambers.  As one can imagine, after a 15½-hour day, anchoring at Fuerta Amador came as a welcome relief. 

I took numerous photos, blessed that my 2nd-in-command, Thomas is a capable ship-handler and this gave the opportunity to take them; we having alternated the locks.

The channel towards the first set of locks, Gatun, takes us under a suspension bridge under construction, I have watched it grow over the years

Approaching Gatun; the Azamara is in the east side, a cargo ship in the upper flight of the west side

Approaching the “wall”. The port side mules (or centre) are on this, the starboard (or ‘side’) mules are waiting on the wall to the right of the lock

Despite more modern alternatives, rowing out to the bow and taking the line ashore for the mule is the one that they found best.

A ‘Mule’. The 2 wires from each mule are sent to the ship and made fast. The mules control the central position of the ship in the lock. 3 each side, they ‘pull’ or slack’, controlled by the pilot, keeping us away from the concrete.

Entering Gatun, lower flight

Not much clearance!

Lock gate opening and about to move into the centre lock

In the centre lock, the top lock visible. The building houses the Lock-Master’ who controls the operation.

Not much clearance from his building either!

Leaving the lock, the mules job done, they wait for the next southbound vessel

and here is one, the “Houston Bridge”, 1,200ft long; she will use the new locks, far too large for the ‘old’ lock. The new locks have no mules, instead they use tugs.

Passing Gamboa, the ‘maintenance’ centre of the Canal.

A strange-looking warship, triple-hull, the USS Omaha follows us.

Ferries ply the waterway too

Dredging is a constant operation

Leading marks are throughout the canal. These are ‘marks’ to steer correct course lines

Not only ships transit, many small yachts do it too

Culebra Cut and the surrounding hillside is cut in ‘steps’ to reduce landslips into the Canal

Approaching the Centennial Bridge

In Pedro Miguel lock with Miraflores lock in the distance

USS Portland following us too

Approaching Miraflores lock, the Visitors centre left.

It is humid; cold face cloths are distributed regularly

Panama City in the distance

Bridge of the Americas

Sunset over Fuerta Amador

Our 2018 logo

We leave soon for the first leg of our Pacific crossing; 3,851 miles, 6,161 kms towards Nuku Hiva, an island in French Polynesia.  8 days at sea and several clock changes.  I may have a lack of material for the posts, however will try to keep you updated.  I leave you with my video of the Canal transit.  🙂 

27 thoughts on “10th January”

  1. Dear Captain.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to do this for us!
    I found it so interesting and felt like I was on board with you.
    Delighted to follow along with you on your World Cruise.

  2. Thanks so much for taking us along with you once again.
    Knowing your “down time” is most limited, the blog is most

  3. We were with you on the 2014 World Cruise (Easter Island, etc!) and just love reading your blogs. We have just forwarded this one on to our grandson who is in college majoring in Ocean Engineering. All our best wishes for a wonderful cruise!

  4. It has been such a thrill to follow my friend JG on her exciting voyage as I sit here in my cozy little den. I almost feel like I am on the ship with you because the captain’s blog is so well constructed and the pictures are so vivid and all encompassing. I wish you all great fun on your voyage across the Pacific. I am jealous!

  5. Excellent, fast voyage so far!! We were with you last year and so miss not being there this year…but will love reading your blog and seeing your video’s and pictures. Thanks so much! Ally & George

  6. Gena is on this cruise and I feel like I’m cruising with her thanks to your blog. I always look forward to reading and seeing where you have just been. Thanks for all your wonderful pictures and stories.

  7. Welcome back, Captain. Thanks for taking us along on your voyage. I look forward to reading your posts.

    We’ll be doing the transit of the canal via the new locks in April.

  8. Hi Jonathan,
    Great photos – while we have done the transit just twice it is a fabulous experience (no mater the heat) I saw just a few photos of Jeff F. with the sisters and there fly-over which was spectacular.
    Many thanks for your photos and your reporting much enjoyed and appreciated.
    Regards, Rosie & Randy Weiss

  9. My Husband and I live outside Seattle and traveled to Alaska with you last Aug. Wonderful trip, weather not so good. But that’s the Pacific NW!
    We have really enjoyed your posts. The world is a grand place, so nice to have your perspective.
    Safe travels across The Pacific.
    Dennis and Pam Dundas

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