Entering the Panama Canal

Added 29 Mar 2012
Having sailed overnight from Coiba we find ourselves in the Gulf of Panama early this morning. The nutrient-rich waters here attract huge numbers of sea birds which nest on the nearby islands of Bona, Otoque and Estiva. We set out by zodiac to explore, and we see Brown Boobies and Blue Boobies, Magnificent Frigate Birds, Pelicans, and more. From here we navigate around 22 nautical miles to the entrance of the Panama Canal. On route we spot three bryde's whales so we follow them for a while before heading onward to the Panama Canal buoy for the pre-transit inspection. Around us there are numerous ships at anchor waiting their turn to enter the canal. Just before 5pm our canal pilot joins us. Each ship must have a pilot onboard throughout the transit. On the open deck our galley staff are serving complimentary rum punches and cerviche. Later, our Panamanian guide Cristian begins his interpretation of the canal. We enter under the Bridge of the Americas and grab a quick buffet dinner before arriving at the Miraflores Locks. It's dark now so the whole process is illuminated by massive lights. The linesmen have come on board, the shiny electric mule cars stand ready and the ship is attached by lines forward and aft, port and starboard. In the course of three locks we're raised 85 feet above sea level and we head along the Culebra Cut to the Gatun Lake to anchor overnight. It is a pretty impressive evening!!