Location: Lake Gatún, Panama Canal
“No worries.” That was our problem-free philosophy today as we embarked on the first day of our Panama Canal transit. This was solidified by my wake-up song of Hakuna Matata. Izzy spent the previous evening making us a delicious breakfast of zucchini bread, which we topped with peanut butter, jam, granola, and yogurt. Following breakfast, students had study hall time throughout the morning to work on their literature reviews for Oceanography whilst we were on standby for our Canal pilot. After lunch, we dropped lines and headed off the dock to the anchorage just outside the entrance to the Canal; this is where we picked up the man, the myth, the legend–Alejandro–our pilot. He arrived, hard hat on head, backpack in hand, and ready to jump (literally) onto Argo. While this was happening, a couple of people set up Go Pros in various places on the rigging to make time lapses of this exciting event–Argo hasn’t crossed the Panama Canal in 2 years!! With the Go Pros in place, Tim at the helm (Alejandro over his shoulder), and PFD’s on, we started our transit. Sam, Lewis, Riley, and Niko worked the port bow, while Trevor, Marina, Ezra, and Felipe worked the starboard bow–these two groups were guided by Steph and myself. The port stern team was comprised of Renee, Bella, Giselle, and Mac, and Thea, Una, Louis, and Natalie manned (and womaned) the starboard stern. These two groups were led by Gabe and Amanda. Keeping Argo safe with Lolo was the fender team: Frankie, Elie, Nick, Izzy, and Gillian. The first part of the Canal consisted of 3 different locks, which extended a total of 0.6 nautical miles, so as soon as we were through one lock, we were preparing for the next one. Our approach to the locks was timed perfectly, with us going into the first lock at sunset and the following 2 locks under the floodlights of the canal. In the final lock, after the water had funneled in, the gates opened to reveal Lake Gatun. With stars now covering the sky, we followed the channel lights leading through the middle of the lake for about another hour before we arrived at our mooring for the night and a pilot boat swiftly arrived not long after we did to pick up Alejandro. By the time we had said goodbye to Alejandro, set our fenders for the mooring, and tied up to the mooring, it was about 11:30 pm. Most people headed straight down below to get some well-deserved rest, but some of us stayed up a little later using the spotlight to search for crocodile eyes along the banks at the edge of the lake. All in all, it was a very busy and eventful but exciting day! And we get to do another three locks tomorrow!