Transiting the Panama Canal

We are currently at 6°40’51.77″N 81°10’45.33″W, about 150 nautical miles west of Panama, en route to Auckland, New Zealand.

After getting through the Gatun Locks very early on Friday morning, and then anchoring just beyond them, we resumed the transit again after noon, making our way through Gatun Lake. We chilled in our cabin for a while when it started raining, but later went up to the bridge to see the Gaillard Cut and the Centennial Bridge. We stayed there until we made it through the Pedro Miguel Locks around 5:30—a very slow process that took well over an hour. We got through the second of the Miraflores Locks by 7:30, our last hurdle on the way to the Port of Balboa. All told, it took about 16 hours to get through the Panama Canal.

At 9pm we got a call that our shore leave passes were approved—until midnight. So we got off the ship (for the first time since Savannah). It was just the two of us, walking through the middle of this giant port in the dark, trying to find our way to the gate. Stephanie said it made her feel like an ant that could be squished at any moment. A shuttle happened by, and we asked them to take us to the gate for a taxi. With some instructions from the crew on how much to pay, we agreed on $20 to take us to a restaurant on the “causeway” (essentially Flamingo Island) and then bring us back to the ship at 11.

He took us to a restaurant called Bucanero’s. We weren’t that hungry (we’ve been well-fed on the ship), so we ordered margaritas and some appetizers: ceviche, baked cheese with almonds, and little plantain pizza bites. The cheese was our favorite. It was a little strange to be back on land, and stranger yet to be in a country where neither of us speak the language (though Stephanie knows a little Spanish), but we did just fine. We made it back to the ship by 11:30 and immediately fell asleep.

Panama Canal navigational chart (showing Gatun Lake)
Panama Canal navigational chart (showing Gatun Lake)

Panorama from our anchorage in Gatun Lake, looking toward the excavation to create a larger lock (aka the third lane lock project)

Panorama from our anchorage in Gatun Lake, looking toward the excavation to create a larger lock

Justin and Stephanie with Gatun Lake in the background
Justin and Stephanie with Gatun Lake in the background

Dark clouds ahead on Gatun Lake
Dark clouds and rain ahead

Passing through the Gaillard Cut of the Panama Canal
Passing through the narrow Gaillard Cut

Update: Eric Rewitzer used my photo above as the basis for a painting entitled Panama.

Centennial Bridge over the Panama Canal
Centennial Bridge

Approaching the Pedro Miguel Locks of the Panama Canal in the rain
Approaching the Pedro Miguel Locks in the rain

Waiting for the Pedro Miguel Locks of the Panama Canal to open
The rain passed while waiting for the lock to open

Overhead view of the Pedro Miguel Locks of the Panama Canal
Overhead view of the lock’s double gates

In the Pedro Miguel Locks of the Panama Canal
In the lock

Looking back at the Pedro Miguel Locks of the Panama Canal
Looking back at the Pedro Miguel Locks

In the first Miraflores Lock of the Panama Canal
In the first Miraflores Lock

Docked in Balboa (outside of Panama City) for the night, view from the Cap Cleveland Owner's Cabin
The Port of Balboa from our window

· Travel