Good-bye Panama Canal, Hello Pacific

Mark & Sue Owen
Sun 8 Mar 2015 17:30

08:54.47N 79:31.57W


The Panama Canal opened in 1914 and was the realisation of a 400 year old dream, ever since 1513 when Spanish conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa ventured inland from Panama’s Caribbean coast and discovered a previously unknown ocean separated from the Atlantic by only a narrow bridge of land 40 miles wide.  His discovery immediately engendered a belief that a waterway could be built linking the two oceans; and thereafter the isthmus became of crucial strategic importance.


Having read Matthew Park’s Panama Fever, we both marvelled at the engineering achievement of the Canal, and were very mindful of the shocking loss of life involved:  The most conservative estimate of the death toll is 25,000.  500 lives for every mile of the canal.  Many, many more were maimed or permanently disabled by disease.  Apart from wars, it’s the costliest project ever attempted in history.  Although much shorter than the Suez Canal, it cost 4 times as much and required 3 times the amount of excavation.  Mountains literally had to be moved.  One observer said it was “The greatest liberty ever taken with nature”.


By mid-day, having had an early lunch, we were ready to enter the Pedro Miguel Locks, which lowers vessels 9 metres from the level of the Gatun Lake to that of the Miraflores Lake an artificial stretch of water separating the two sets of Pacific locks.  Once again we were in a three vessel raft with a catamaran in the centre.  After motoring across the Miraflores Lake we had the final two adjoining locks called Miraflores Locks to negotiate which, in two steps, would lower us to sea level.


Our canal transit went very smoothly indeed and we were very impressed with the professionalism of our two advisers, Fernando Brown and José Cespedes.  We were also very glad we’d employed Ricky Ibanez (Mobile No: 6427-3044) whose calm confidence and expertise was very reassuring.  And finally, we  couldn’t have managed without the fantastic help of Jeff and Katie. We’re so pleased to be travelling in the same direction as them and look forward to sharing many an anchorage.





Hello Pacific Ocean! And good-bye to our adviser José:




Shortly after we’d anchored at La Playita we were delighted to welcome on board Pim & Hanneke (sv Nelly Rose) and Clare & Andrew (sv Eye Candy).  We were able to  mark the occasion in style thanks to the kind generosity of Nelly Rose who supplied a couple of bottles of fine bubbly: