29-May-2006 -- In typical tropical "Panama-Weather", i.e. warm and showery with a little bit sun and dark and heavy rain clouds we are approaching now a very interesting confluence, 7N 82W. What is thrilling with this point?
I can SEE it visually, when I am at the Confluence – which is rarely the case. To understand better what I mean, first have a look at the map. You see, I have drawn a bearing line from the Confluence to the closest land, the islands of Jicarón and Jicarita. So you have just to bring the ship exactly on the 7° N parallel, and then sail towards East until both islands – the southern tip of Jicarón and the northern one of Jicarita, do "touch" each other. Then you are exactly at the Confluence.
Coming from West, you first see both islands "open", well separated by the "Canal de Jicarón", which is about 7 km wide. And now comes the crucial moment! The two islands now touch each other, have a look on the GPS the same moment... et voilà!
The view towards NE shows Isla de Jicarón and Isla de Jicarita. Behind these two islands there is a larger one, Isla Coiba. But due to the heavy rain in the area it could not be seen during my visit. Looking to NNE we see roughly the same scenery.
Tomorrow shortly prior noon we shall arrive at Balboa, the Pacific terminal of the Panama Canal and await our transit. The Panama Canal is horribly congested and overbooked, and the message I received from my brokers in Panama this afternoon says it all:
To Master UBC Singapore / Capt. Peter
Fm Fenton Cristobal
May 29, 2006
Buenas tardes Capitán Peter,
View present traffic conditions we tried again this morning to prebook transit May 30th
but request was not accepted as the six available spaces were assigned to vessels operated by MAERSK (1), WILINA (1), CSAV (1), SEAGRO (1), LAURITZEN (1), BALTIC SHIPPING (1), and COPENHAGEN (1), based on customer ranking.
Present indications consider you have a very slim possibility to transit 31st
, or more likely June 1st
Shall review situation tomorrow and update.
Thanks & Best Regards
C. B. Fenton & Co., S.A.
ISO Registered Company, Established 1916
Tel: (507) 441-4177
WEB PAGE www.cbfenton.com
As you can see, I obviously do not have the best "customers' ranking" in the Panama Canal :-(
(By the way, toll for one transit through the Panama Canal for my ship is about US$ 70,000).
However, one day later we arrived at Balboa Anchorage, famous for good fish around, and after having caught some, we had a barbecue party in front of the skyline of Panama City.
Finally on 1st of June our transit commenced. The first locks to be entered when coming from the Pacific side are the Miraflores Locks. The locomotives are already standing by. Many people do believe that these locomotives do "pull or tow the ship through the Canal". This is of course absolutely incorrect. First of all the locomotives are assisting only in the locks, and second: they are not towing or pulling the ship, for this purpose they would be far to weak and would even lift themselves off the rails by trying so. The ship is at any time using her own power. The purpose of the locomotives is only to keep the ship steadily and in proper position during locking, in order to avoid touching the walls of the chambers. If the ship has too much speed and has to be stopped in front of the chamber doors, they may help to brake a little bit, but never and under no circumstances they are pulling!
Another spectacle I always do enjoy just at the Pacific entrance of the outer chamber of Miraflores Locks, is worth to mention:
The famous Panama Canal crocodiles! Here we have a nice representant of this species. The reason why crocodiles do gather here is simple: With each locking huge quantities of water from the Panama Canal are discharged into the Pacific Ocean. As half of the canal in fact consists of an artificial lake (Lake Gatún), which is fed by the Chagres River, the water in the Panama Canal between the locks is clean freshwater. With these waters a lot of freshwater fish is poured into the sea with every locking. And these crocodiles, sly and insidious as they use to be, do know that (well, one should not use such terms for animals, but in their behaviour they do resemble much to human beings). As soon as the chamber opens, they are on "stand by". The freshwater fish, suddenly confronted with saltwater, do suffer a shock up to the extreme. The crocodiles now do have nothing else to do than to open their mouths. Once sufficient quantities of fish are devoured, the meal is over until the next locking occurs.
The story, however, is not as cruel as it seems to be. The freshwater fish could never return into the Canal, and so the crocodiles accelerate only the process and mercifully shorten up the agony.