Location: Colon, Panama
They say that transiting the Panama Canal is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but if you’re me or Smash, it happens to be a twice-in-a-lifetime experience. BUT that just meant that we could get everyone EXTRA excited to go through one of only two canals that moves you from one ocean to another.
The day started with the quiet sounds of Banana Pancakes and me whispering happy canal day, everyone! Many were slow to rise and were not as excited as some of the staff right upon waking up. As it grew closer to breakfast time, the wakeup reminders turned into “WERE LEAVING THE ATLANTIC LETS GO!!” and “WE GOT CANALS TO TRANSIT AND PACIFICS TO SEE.” For context here, the staff has all been in the Atlantic for quite some time now, ranging from at least a year and a half up to three years, so although we love the Atlantic and have found many homes away from homes here (@Antigua @BVI), we are puuumped to be going to the Pacific and seeing some new and exciting places and things! After our (read: my) excited morning breakfast rolled out. Today’s chefs, William Skyler and Lexi, made crepes, which were top-notch. We’ve recently hypothesized that as the head chef’s origin gets closer to France, the better the crepes get. So William’s, who is Swiss, were some of the best ones we’ve had in this program. Following breakfast, Dylan let the students in on a little hidden secret, what in the world is a platyhelminth?? It’s a flatworm, in case you were wondering. After learning anything and everything there is to know about marine worms, it was finally time for CANAL PREP! What does that entail, you might ask? First, the students learned how to throw heaving lines and had a refresher on how to tie a sheet bend knot, but this time around on a bite, which was what we were planning to tie the canal line handlers heaving lines onto our dock lines that go aaalll the way up the walls when we get into the locks. We had a lunch intermission of ratatouille, homemade hummus, and pita bread, which was another delicious meal by our galley team. Then our lines were delivered, and we started practicing how to tie MEGA bowlines and how to work with the lines on board while we moved through the canal and the water was either brought up or down.
The excitement kept growing as we waited for the arrival of our pilot, who would help bring us through the first three locks (The Gatun Locks) this evening. Ricardo (the pilot) arrived around 5 o’clock, and we were off moving. We followed a large ship under the Bridge of the Atlantic and over to where the locks start. We then rafted up with a boat called Sassy Pants, which we would transit the three locks with that night. Around 6:30, we were all secured together and started moving into the first lock. Excitement was through the roof as we danced and jumped around on the bow.
The heaving lines were then thrown down to us. The line handlers walked us like a massive dogs down to the middle of the lock. Once situated, the doors behind us began to close, and we said peace out, see you never to the Atlantic Ocean! Quite soon after, the water started rising very quickly, and we actively took up the lines as we rose more than 20 feet up in the lock! Once at the new water level, the door in front of us opened, and we were dog walked again into the second lock, a process that repeated for the next lock as well. Throughout our time in the locks tonight, we saw heaps of birds, got to sweat and make off lines in the flipping Panama canal, and ended up in Lake Gatun, where we planned to spend the night. We got Vela moored up and got into bed, very sleepy but VERY excited to do it all again tomorrow and finally be in the Pacific Ocean!!