TNS455 25/01/16

Aft Port were gracious after their victory.  25th January Aft Port.  After filling in time with the egg drop, a lazy afternoon was brought to an exciting moment when the pilot arrived on board splendid in his chinos and sunglasses.  The ship leapt to life, engines ready and on hoisting the anchor we were off towards the Gatun Locks in the twilight.  Eventually, the lock gates opened and Tenacious entered the concrete chamber whereupon the mulas machines resembling creatures from a Doctor Who episode with Patrick Troughton belayed their cables and steadied the ship to the end of the chamber where we were eventually joined to the rear by a sleek vessel from the US Coastguard.  In succession, three mighty locks greeted us and filled rapidly to raise us to the level of the mighty man-made Lago de Gatun which is stemmed by the dam which tames the Chagres River.  By this time night had fallen and will of our kind pilots and linesmen, we were permitted to anchor overnight in the lake, a decision which was greeted by everyone with jubilation.  A happy evening was spent and anticipatory sleep curtailed by early risers excited at the prospect of the day time navigation ahead. Prior to the pilot arriving we took advantage of the super fresh water in the lake and nearly everybody had a hose down on deck with cooling torrents of soft rainforest water – the ladies queuing up to wash their hair with shampoo in hand.  Some of us also took the opportunity to hand wash some clothes.  At 3.30pm we will reach the next set of locks and pass through the next 7 locks in daylight.  Tonight is Burns night, and we look forward to haggis and neaps for supper with poetry and music after we have anchored at our final destination in Panama around 7pm.
Brian, Maggie, Pam, Stretch, Bob, Hilary, Liz, Mandy, Chris and Judy

Update 25/01/16 – Captain Barbara

After a quiet night at anchor we took advantage of being in the fresh-water Gatun Lakes with ‘Hands to Bathe’. The crew brought shower gel, shampoo and conditioner on deck together with clothes and soap powder. The fire pump was started, wheelie bins and buckets filled with fresh water. We knew we would not be able to top up with fresh water before 30 January, so ‘Hands to Bathe’ was popular. But not as popular as the two pilots who joined at 1110 as this meant we were on our way. The anchor was aweigh at 1128. We wended our way through Gatun Lake in the well-marked channel. At times the jungle was close. We passed a string of ships, going in the opposite direction. All the crew were mesmerised. We had all seen the BBC Documentary ‘The Channel through the Jungle” which had 4 showings onboard. At 1400 we entered Gaillard Cut where the biggest amount of rock had to be cut through.

It is amazing that most of the canal remains largely unchanged over the years. The lock gates are original; they now have hydraulic arms but the gates are the original riveted gates from the early 1900’s. I was surprised that I had been left to do virtually all the pilotage including Gatun Lake, Gaillard and Culebra Cut and entering and leaving the locks. We had two pilots, one with his feet up whilst the other took the ship. The pilots took charge as the locomotives were being made fast and handed over to me again as we let go the locomotives. We entered Pedro Miguel locks at 1540. There was a big delay as the ship that was astern of us, sharing our chambers, was large and slow. But we were in no rush as we enjoyed going through the locks so much. It was spell-binding to watch the locomotives pulling us through. Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Locks consisted of two chambers each.

Once clear of Miraflores locks it was getting dark as we motored the 10 miles to the anchorage off Flamenco Marina. We had made it from Atlantic to Pacific Oceans. At 2039 we let go anchor. It had been the most amazing day; long, tiring, but utterly wonderful. We felt we had spent two days in the Panama Canal and no-one will forget what a fabulous experience it had been. Once clear of the locks the Voyage Crew had a Burns Supper on deck and crew member Bob ‘addressed the haggis’. In the evening the crew sat around on deck, and no-one had a late night.