Panama Canal, Part 1

Canals and locks fascinate me, so it’s probably no surprise that the Panama Canal was at the top of my bucket list (right after St Petersburg, which we checked off last year).

 Approaching Third Bridge at the eastern entrance to the Canal.

We transited from east to west, passing the still-under-construction Third Bridge at dawn

before entering the Gatun Locks, then into Gatun Lake, Pedro Miguel Locks, Miraflores Locks, the Bay of Panama and finally exiting into the Pacific Ocean at sunset. I’ll let the pictures tell the story . . .

Third Bridge.

On the right is what’s left of the original French attempt to cut a waterway through to the Pacific.

Our escort to the Gatun Locks.

We’re following the Columbus into one of the two original locks; the new, bigger lock is out of sight on our right.

See the tiny rowboat approaching from the pier? They are going to throw us a rope so we can tie onto the “mules” which will pull us forward from here on. Very old-school.

Looking down from Deck 6 as we approach the pier.

Columbus has entered the first lock and the gates are starting to close. We’re next!

We’ve tied onto our mule (electric train engine) and are ready to move forward.

Once Columbus is in the first lock, a bridge is swung into place and backed-up traffic is allowed to drive across. River traffic has the right-of-way and we were told the wait for vehicular traffic can be an hour or longer. 

Note how much higher the Columbus sits in the lock. She’s ready to move forward into the second lock. 

Bye-bye Columbus.

The gates on the second lock close behind our predecessor and we’re ready to move.

Water drains out of the first lock, dropping the water level, as the mule pulls us toward the closed gate.

The gates open . . .

and we are pulled further and 

further into the first lock.

View of our neighbor lock, complete with resting pelican on the closed gates.

Container ship moves into the lock beside us.

Tight fit - Queen Elizabeth has about 2 feet of clearance from the sides of the lock; the container ship has even less.

We’re in the lock, back gate is closing and we’re ready for water to fill our lock. Once we reach the same height as the second lock, the forward gates will open and we’ll move onward. But it’s hot and humid and we’re ready for breakfast. Stay tuned for part 2.