To Gatun Lake
To the Gatun Lake via the Gatun Locks
No sooner than Fransisco our Advisor was on board than Gary at the helm, anchor up and off we went toward the Gatun Locks
We were to fall in behind a chum
The Team watched as the lady passed by
We round the bend, get our first look at the locks and catch up to the African Queen
We watch the Pilot being delivered to the Prince of Tides by Macabi.
Just before we entered the first of the three locks we rafted or ‘nested’ against the African Queen, another New Zealand yacht on her starboard side. All secure we moved forward under the control of the powerful centre boat. They were to be the control boat and also take the four main ropes that would keep them and us tethered.
Prince of Tides safely settled, Mules being busy and our nests first rope man appears.
With well practiced accuracy our chap heaves the leader line complete with monkey fist, over to the African Queen. They then attach the one hundred and twenty five foot long heavy rope to the leader line, which is pulled in and a total of four lines now hold the nest in place. Their line handlers will slowly take up the slack as we rise on the water filling the chamber at three million gallons a minute. All three boats in the nest have their engines idling – just in case – and the African Queen keeps us in the centre with an odd tweak from her powerful bow thrusters front and back.
Water surges in
The Gatun (officially pronounced Ga-toon) lift ships up to the Gatun Lake eighty five feet above sea-level. The Gatun Lake was used to reduce the amount of work required for a sea-level connection. The current locks are one hundred and ten feet wide. A third, wider lane of locks is currently being built.
The enlargement scheme similar to the 1939 Third Lock Scheme, to allow for a greater number of transits and the ability to handle larger ships, has been under consideration for some time, has been approved by the government of Panama, and is in progress, with completion expected in 2015 (original completion date was 2014). The cost was estimated at US$5.25 billion (before the delay), and the project will double the canal's capacity, allowing more traffic and the passage of longer and wider ships. This proposal to expand the canal was approved in a national referendum by approximately 80% on the 22nd of October 2006.
Up we go
I saw a little strain on Kate and Gary’s faces. One down – two to go
The earliest mention of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama dates to 1534, when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, ordered a survey for a route through the Americas that would ease the voyage for ships traveling between Spain and Peru. Such a route would have given the Spanish a military advantage over the Portuguese. During an expedition from 1788 to 1793, Alessandro Malaspina outlined plans for its construction.
Given the strategic location of Panama and the potential offered by its narrow isthmus separating two great oceans, other trade links in the area were attempted over the years. An ill-fated Darien scheme was launched by the Kingdom of Scotland in 1698 to set up an overland trade route, but generally inhospitable conditions thwarted the effort, and it was abandoned in July 1699.
In 1849, the discovery of gold in California created great interest in a crossing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Eventually, the Panama Railway was built to cross the isthmus, opening in 1855. This overland link became a vital piece of Western Hemisphere infrastructure, greatly facilitating trade and largely determining the later canal route.
An all-water route between the oceans was still seen as the ideal solution, and in 1855 William Kennish, a Manx-born engineer working for the United States government, surveyed the isthmus and issued a report on a route for a proposed Panama Canal. His report was published in a book entitled The Practicality and Importance of a Ship Canal to Connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Encouragement for the idea of a canal was provided by the French success in building the Suez Canal.
Second lock, it’s time to get Gary and Kate to step forward and wave to the webcam after getting their mums and dads on the sat phone
Final lock complete, the relieved nest moved out and we peeled away from the African Queen. Fransico pointed to just around the corner where we were to anchor for the night, he radioed for his pick-up and soon we said our farewells. All settled Kate fed us well on lasagna and salad, washed down with a few celebratory libations. The tired team retired early as although tomorrow is seen as the easier ‘downhill’ bit, the long day begins at 06:00 by having to cross the Gatun Lake.
ALL IN ALL AN INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE
GREAT TO HAVE DONE IT