Subject: Fwd: Panama Canal Boat tour
From: Ed Gray W0SD
Date: Thu, 26 Mar 2009 21:45:50 -0400

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thu Mar 5 15:53
Subject:Panama Canal Boat tour

Loiuis thanks for  the great info on Panama and the info on the road blockage to Bocas Del Toro.  We will try and fly are get there from Costa Rica.  We leave for Volcan eary in the morning and will likel leave Volcan

om Monday March 9th.

Our 5 hour boat tour of the canal was fantastic.  We crossed under the Bridge of the Americas and past where the load and unload containers from ships to the roalroad which goes from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

There is a road planned so trucks can also b e used.  All boats entering the canal muct have a Panama Canal Captain on board and they are in control.  We picked up our Captain and entered the canal zone channel

marked by the red and green bouyīs and lights.  It cost the tour boat $3600 for the cannel passage.  We entered the Meriflores locks and by the observation deck we visited on Tuesday..  There is a web camera you could

of seen us pass by.  You can do a search for it.  The average fee is $126,000 and the highest fee has been around $356,000 for a cruise ship.  The big ships also have to have one tug at $3000 an hour and if the Pamama

Captain says so you have to have a second one.  They all pay cash except a small sail boat can use a credit card and it coss $500 plus $100 for two small boats who handle the ropes to get them to the canalworkers on

the side of the tocks.  Big boats use cables and the electric  mules on the side keep the big boats centered.  We were in a lock with several boats of which only one was fairly good sized.


The lock is 1000 feet long and 110 feet wide and at least 39.5 feet deep.  The two Meriflores locks raised us about 54 feet to Meriflores Lake.  We then passed Pedro Miguel which raised us to a total of 85 feet above sea

level.  There are two gates to hold the water from getting out as the whole lake would empty into the oceam.  The Pacific Ocean gate is especially heavy due to the high Pacific tides.   Gamboa lake is arfificual.  We went through

the Culebra Cut where the Continental divide is. This was the hardest part to build and the hardest to navigate.  It has been widened over the years but even today big boats do not meet here.  It is being widened and deepend

getting ready for the 3rd lane of locks but all three lanes will share the cut.  One side is called Gold Hill and the other side contractors hill.


When the French were trying to construct the canal before the US they made up a story that there was gold in this hill to sell stock.  The French went broke and here engineering was faulty.  They were trying to build a sea

level canal which would never work with the higher Pacific Tide.  When the US took over the civilain engineers quite so they used an Army engineer, canīt remember his name but he did a great job.  One of the first things

done was to pave streets and take other measure to control the insects but there was still a huge loss of life.   The Spanish had the idea of the cvanal centuries ago but the equipment just was not yet available.  Then

there was a trail but it was to muddy with the 18 foot of rain a year.  Then they used the river and a trail and eventually a railroad was built.    The canal users are number 1 USA, 2-China, 3-Japan 4 Chile and 5 S.



One can make a reservation one year in advance.  If you donīt show up you lose your cash fee but it is worth the risk as a big vessel costs about $80,000 a day to operate so this way they dfonīt have to wait for first come

first serve.   


Electric motors were used and a lot of new things for before 1914.  It was the biggest concrete project in the world. They did not know a lot about concrete for such a huge structure so they made the walls of the

locks 54 feet thck.  They did a great job as everything is original from 1914 and of course good maintenance has made this possible.


They third  lane will permit Post Panama vessels that can carrhy 12500 containers.  Panamamax vessels which now just fit the 110 foot width carry 4500 containers. 


Ed and Edith