The trip isn't over yet but yesterday will probably be my favorite day of the trip. I transited the Panama Canal.
Actually it was a partial transit from Gamboa through the locks on the Pacific side. I am not going to go into how the canal works right now. Google is your friend. We took a bus from the Flamenco Marina to Gamboa which was about 35 minutes. Then we boarded the Pacific Queen.
We started on Lake Gatun, the artificial lake created for the canal and at the highest point of the canal. Because it was man made it is also the narrowest and shallowest part that the boats have to negotiate. At certain times of day ships can only travel either northbound or southbound. We came across two ships that didn't make it through the shallow part in time. They had to drop anchor and were going to have to wait about 8 hours before traffic started going the right way again.
On the way towards the locks we saw the lovely green hills that I associate with Panama. We also saw construction crews working in the canal expansion (Google). At one point we passed the only gap that exists in the Continental Divide, a gap made by blowing a mountain apart.
There were 300 people on the ship, mostly tourists. The trip costs $115 for foreigners and $75 for Panamanian citizens. I estimate the company made between $20,000 and $30,000 just on that one trip. They also have a full transist that costs more. Of course they have to pay the transit fees to go through the canal like everyone else so that is where part of their money goes. They had free water and soft drinks, snacks and alcohol for purchase and a gift shop. The tour guide explained the sights in English and Spanish.
We transited through three sets of locks to the Pacific side. The first was Pedro San Miguel. Since it was the first lock the people on the boat were crowding the rails. When we went through the second and third locks everyone was downstairs eating. I shoveled my food in about five minutes so I could get back up to take pictures. It felt like I had the whole ship to myself during the second and third locks.
It alternated between dry and rain. It inconveniently rained the two times we went under a bridge i.e. the two times I needed to point my camera up. After we cleared the locks and the last rain shower it was about a 45 minute ride back to the marina. I went and stood in the very front of the ship and stayed there all the way back. The deck swayed back and forth on the Pacific waves and the wind whipped my hair and was blowing so hard I had to squint my eyes and tighten my grip on my camera and I loved every minute of it. When I say I love boats and I love being at sea I REALLY love it.
Then we were in port and my grand adventure was over. I watched tourists get taken by the lure of the duty free shop and then went back to the hotel. You know how the rest of the night went (previous post). I honestly could do the transit every visit. It was fantastic and well worth the money.