Location: Panama City, Panama
Day 36 began with a red sunrise over the jungles of Panama. We were told that the river was home to Cayman and Crocodiles. After a breakfast of PB & J sandwiches and cereal, we prepared for our second day in the Panama Canal. While waiting for our skipper to arrive, we had an early-morning marine biology session, in which we learned about the different jellyfish that could kill you, amongst other things.
As soon as our pilot climbed aboard Argo, we set off on our final day crossing this astonishing monument. Looking at the massive cliffs on either side, I think of the sheer engineering and manpower that went into building this colossus when it was first being built in the late 1800s and the mind reels when it tries to contemplate the five-hundred deaths for every mile of this canal. When we go into our first lock, we scramble to catch and tie off the lines that the line-handlers throw to us with the skill of one who does this thing every day they go to work. The doors close behind us, and on all sides, the grey walls of this massive structure loom ever upward. We reach the bottom and the black gates of Mordor open in front of us, and we repeat the process three more times. We handled our lines so well that our pilot told Captain Ben that he should give our budding future captains extra credit on their PSCT exam. During this time, our resident Bond villain Christian Prince prepared a delicious breakfast casserole, even though he was short on eggs.
The doors open for the last time, and the powerful current shoots us into the Pacific Ocean. Argo anchored a short distance from Panama City, whose skyscrapers soar high above the surrounding jungle. We spent the afternoon learning about navigation from Ian, and afterward, we had a much-desired shower in the cold Pacific. It feels good to be on this side of the canal, for this ocean brings back memories from my home in Oregon. After the PSCT students finished their exam, we enjoyed delicious pasta, and we watched the sun paint the clouds like cotton candy as it sank to the Pacific and toward our next adventure!