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Date: 18 Feb 2013 14:38:18
Title: Moving over the mountain

It still seems beyond logic that you can lift a ship over a mountain, using
just water. Who first designed a lock to take a boat uphill nobody knows,
but it seems it should have been the Romans or maybe Leonardo De Vinci, with
a design mixed in with his sketches of helicopters, parachutes and other far
sighted ideas. To see an oil tanker or container ship, hundreds of meters
long, up in the air, is still a slightly unsettling sight. We left the
marina at 1200 with an instruction to meet at the 'small anchorage 'area by
1:30 and at 2:00 a pilot boat came alongside and a pilot jumped aboard.
Every boat, whether a tiny yacht, or ocean liner takes its own pilot, who is
responsible for directing the transit, and in addition, each yacht must have
a skipper....in this case Andrew, and 4 'line handlers'. Their job is to
pass lines to the shoremen, and then tie off, tighten and ease the lines as
the boats move up and down as the locks fill and empty. The line handlers
can be other crew members and so we help each other by 'borrowing' crew from
one boat and then helping them transit a day or two later.
Small yachts go through the various locks tied together in sets of three and
so two other yachts came alongside and were tied to us and we moved on and
entered the first of a series of three locks which would eventually lift us
up to the Gatun Lake. The top of the lock wall towered above us and seemed
almost intimidating. Lines were thrown and tied to each corner of the boat,
the massive lock doors closed and then imperceptively at first, we began to
move upwards as water surged in. The walls began to shrink and within 20
minutes we were at the top of the wall. Two more locks and we entered the
Gatun Lake where we anchored for the night. The lake had been created when
the canal was built by building, what at the time , was the largest dam in
the world. The water is used to feed the locks and is replenished by the
intense rainfall for many months a year. If Panama had been in an arid zone
, like the Suez, the Canal could not have been built. The lake is in a rain
forest, surrounded by jungle and at night we could hear howler monkeys and
other wildlife..........Sussanne will continued day 2.....with photos

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