09 December 2012

Lock time

After 6 days of fun & sun, we finally sailed into Limon Bay.  The day started early as we eased past the breakwaters and began our journey into the Panama Canal.   My brother noted that, after a few days on board of one of these cruise ships, you can tell when something is different - the ship is slowing down, turning, stopping.  Seemed like everyone was up at 0600 as we slowed to enter the bay a few miles north of the Gatun Locks - the official entry point for the Panama Canal.  To help celebrate the event, the the opened up bow section on Deck 4 for everyone to get a first hand look as we passed through the locks (ala Kate and Leo style).  They even hauled out coffee and pastries and mimosas for the adventurers who braved the deck and the rain squalls to witness the passage of this massive vessel through some very small looking locks.   

Before we begin our 48 mile journey from one ocean to another, I thought I would go over a few details for you technophiles  (tip of the hat to my brother for noting this intel): 

  • The MS Zuiderdam is 955' long, 105' wide, 26' deep.  
  • Each chamber in the three Gatun Locks is 1000' (305 m) long, 110' (33 m) wide, 70' (21 m) deep. 
  • The locks on each end of the canal will raise ships 85' (25.9 m) to the level of Gatun Lake.  The Gatun locks (Atlantic side) accomplish this with a series of 3 locks each raising a ship by roughly 27' (8 m).  The Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks (Pacific side) do this in combination of two lock systems.  Pedro Miguel is made up of two lock chambers and Miraflores is one single lock chamber.  
  • Each transiting vessel uses 52 million gallons of fresh water and takes anywhere from 8-12 hours to go from the Caribbean to the Pacific. 
  • Total cost for our little boat to transit the canal?  $408,000. (that's some kind of surprise to find on your credit card bill).  And that includes a $30,000 "lock time" fee to have a specific time to enter the locks (sort of like paying for a reservation to get a reservation at some swanky restaurant).  If you don't pay the lock time fee, you have to park your ship in Limon Bay and wait your turn in the queue.  


Took us under an hour to navigate the locks and parked in Gatun Lake.  For those who wanted to explore the rest of the canal or take a ride on the Panama Canal rail road or kayak a portion of the canal, we could get off here.  The rest would stay on board and cruise the lake before heading back out through the Gatun Locks to dock in Colon.  Us adventurous souls we were herded into 'tender' boats and shuttled to a waiting bus that whisked us to Gamboa and a ferry that took us across Gatun Lake, through the infamous Culebra Cut (the site of many slides and deaths) and then down the three locks on the Pacific side to Panama City.  Took about 3 hours to navigate to the Pacific and was fascinating to see the locks from an up close perspective.  As an Engineer, I was totally mesmerized (drooling, some say) at the pure engineering skill and effort that wend into the entire effort.  My little hamster wheel was trying to grok the sheer magnitude of the Engineering, the construction, the logistics, the costs of the entire operation.   Impressive especially considering it was completed almost 100 years ago.  

Brother & Dad

3 stooges


terri said...

Wowza! That passage sounds like one of the more exciting events of the trip. Truly amazing what a vehicle of that magnitude can really do. It boggles my mind to think of all the considerations and calculations that have to be made to accomplish it. Great photos too!

ShadowRun300 said...

I'm just a grade school teacher turned front desk agent, and even I am amazed at the engineering marvel of this canal. And to think they were able to do this so many years ago!
Great photos - especially of the Three Stooges. Always fun seeing the faces behind the stories! :)

meleah rebeccah said...

What an AWESOME adventure, Agg! And of course I love the photos as well. But seriously, this must have been the most exciting part of the trip for you!

Abby said...

Migosh, I seriously would probably have been speechless and teary eyed the whole time! How amazing! And thanks for including the specs.

"The MS Zuiderdam is 955' long, 105' wide, 26' deep.
Each chamber in the three Gatun Locks is 1000' (305 m) long, 110' (33 m) wide, 70' (21 m) deep." Not a whole lotta room for error, and the pics are great!

As far as cruises go, you sure can pick 'em!