Wednesday, January 18, 2012

FTV 1/18/12 Crossing the Panama Canal

Today, we reached the opening to the Panama Canal; before we can cross the canal we must make radio contact with the Panamanian Officials to get our instructions and clearance for passage. We were given a passage time of about 7AM tomorrow, January 18 and were advised to anchor in the zone marked by yellow buoys. Later in the afternoon the boat was boarded by Panama Officials to verify that we had all of the necessary equipment needed to make the trip through the canal.

Extending across the Isthmus of Panama, it connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is about 51 mi (82 km) long from deep-water to deep-water, with a minimum width of 300 ft. (91 m) and a minimum depth of 41 ft. (12 m). Panama granted the U.S. the Panama Canal Zone and the rights to build and operate a canal. Work began in 1904; the construction continued from 1907 until the canal opened on August 15, 1914. Panama took control of the canal 1999. No large vessel can pass through the canal under its own power. Ships are towed by electric locomotives, and it takes 15-20 hours to complete the passage.

The canal allows ships sailing between the eastern and western coasts of the U.S. to shorten their voyage by about 8,000 nautical miles. Often referred to as the greatest engineering feat of all time, the Canal was constructed by building a dam on the Chagres River. The dam created a massive lake 85 feet above sea level, and three lock chambers at each end of the lake were installed to raise and lower the ships to sea level.

The view from our anchorage shows that many ships are waiting in line to enter the canal; these ships display their country of origin. Flags have been used by navigators for generations as a method of communications before technology introduced electronic communication tools.

Click here to learn more about ships flags

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