Written October 28, 2023, in the Gulf of Mexico.

This post presents three bits of news that you may find of interest.

Colon, Panama.

Today the Captain made an announcement that current events in Colon, the major port on the Atlantic side of the canal, will limit our shore leave to refueling and provisioning Viking Star.

Protests that began in August have grown in intensity. The streets of Colon, Panama City (the capital), and other population centers, are gridlocked and the United States Embassy has issued a warning to US citizens to avoid the protests.

The unrest focuses upon issues of corruption, the environment, and continued copper mining operations that represent 4% of the country’s gross domestic product.

We could ignore the Captain and US Embassy and venture out, but prudence dictates otherwise.

“Panama Canal 101, continued.”

We attended the second shipboard lecture about the Panama Canal yesterday. Highlights included:

Vessels such as Viking Star are tendered through the locks by 6 “mules”. These are in the nature of electric cog-rail engines, 2 on each side of the bow and 1 on each side of the stern.

From Wikipedia

Their sole task is to keep the vessel centered. In the case of our ship there is only 7 feet of “play” on each side. Larger vessels measure that in inches. All forward motion is provided by the ship.

Three bridges cross the canal. The Atlantic Bridge, completed in 2019, is over 9,000 feet long and has a vertical clearance for ship traffic of 246 feet.

From Wikipedia

The Centennial Bridge was completed in 2004. It is located on the Pacific side, is 3,451 feet long and gives ships 260 feet of vertical clearance.

From Wikipedia

Finally, the Bridge of the Americas was completed in 1962 and is 5,425 feet long. This bridge is problematic as it provides only 201 feet of vertical clearance at high tide.

From Wikipedia

The largest cruise ships will fit the length and breadth of the locks, but with over 20 decks they cannot clear under this bridge.

After the three locks on the Atlantic side and before the three locks on the Pacific side the Panama Canal is 85 feet above sea level. It is fed by freshwater from the impoundment of Lake Gatun. That huge man-made freshwater lake is critical to the operation of the canal. It supplies hydroelectric power to run the locks, pumps, “mules“, and the general electric needs of the entire area. More importantly, without that continuous supply of freshwater the upper level of the canal and the locks would dry up. It takes 52,000,000 gallons of freshwater to facilitate the passage of each ship through the canal from ocean to ocean. Since 2015 Panama has experienced unusual drought conditions, especially so in 2023. Ship traffic has been reduced accordingly.

Our Granddaughter, Paisley.

We received a telephone call today (we have cell service aboard) from our daughter, Alexis. Today, our 14-year-old freshman granddaughter, Paisley Cook, competed in the Missouri State High School cross-country regional tournament.

She is the only female runner in her school, Academie Lafayette, and was pitted against girls up to and including seniors in high school. She placed 13th, medaled, and beat her previous best time by over a minute and a half! She has now qualified to compete at the State Tournament.

My mother passed away in March 2020, age 94. Reflexively, I wanted to reach out and share the news with her. She was intensely proud of all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This is precisely the sort of news she lived to hear in her final years.

Picture taken 6 years ago. Paisley is to the immediate left of Mom.

Mom, if you are reading this over my shoulder you know how proud we are of Paisley and how much I miss you.

Peace Everyone. Pete

14 thoughts on “Vignettes From at Sea

  1. Loving to learn about the Canal!! Too bad the local unrest kept you from going ashore. Your note to you Mom – hit me in the feels this morning. I wish that I had met Pauline. Fare well my friend.

  2. Nice piece Pete! I have some home movies of the Panama canal from the 1920s, and one with sailors from the USS Arizona in Panama. I believe the “mules” were steam engines then. Another from 1936 has passage of a US submarine!

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