Posted by: Vegard Bleikli | 18/04/2013


1Vessels at anchor as we approach the Panama canal

We left Cuba with the wind in our back and the sun setting to starboard. The 700nm journey would normally take about 5 days, but we were fighting the currents and the wind was slowly dying. When the GPS told us we were going backwards we turned on the engine, and after 8 days at sea the entrance to the canal was in sight.

The marina we arrived in was previously the american Fort Sherman, where the gringos guarded the canal and practised jungle warfare. It was abandoned in 1999 and the jungle around the marina is filled with the ruins of old, overgrown military installations.  The last couple of months or so some american forces have returned to the base, in case the North Koreans decide to nuke it.

4One of the artillery batteries hidden in the jungle

Sloth hanging out

To prepare ourselves for the canal, we volunteered as line-handlers for another boat. Each boat going through needs a captain, an advisor and four line-handlers. Our job would be to keep the boat from hitting the walls in the locks as we were lifted up or down. It can be especially challenging going up, as the locks are quickly filled, and the water looks more like a churning river than that of a lake.

6The crew aboard the english “Shiraz”

2A cruise ship in the Culebra Cut, headed towards the Caribbean

Rafted up with the 105′ superyacht “Gliss”

Work on the canal was first started by the french in 1881. They wanted to make an ocean level canal which would eliminate the need for locks, but would require a lot more dirt to be moved. After 10 years of digging all they had to show for it was a big ditch in the jungle, and the project was abandoned. Some 15 years later the americans picked up the pieces from the french effort. They realized after a while that the ocean level canal would be near impossible, and decided to make an artificial lake with locks on both sides. When the canal was opened in 1914 it had claimed 28 000 lives and taken more than 3 decades to complete. It is now considered one of the 7 wonders of the modern world.

3Workers “painting” seeds on the dirt to stabilize it



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