Third Time Through

MeiLing in the Miriflores lock. On January 22, 2020 she was 18 years old, since we were short on crew.

1/22/20:  Dad woke me up, it was still dark outside and everyone was asleep.  I got ready  being as quiet as possible.  Dad and I went to lift the dinghy waking our hired line handler Rey.  I closed one or two of the portals and waited with anticipation.  One by one everyone started to wake as the sun slowly rose.  As it got closer to 6:00am we started to worry because our pilot wasn’t there yet.  Finally at 6:40am the pilot arrived with another person and off we went.  Linzi was the helmsman while Rey, Dad, Mom and I were the line handlers.  Just for the day I was eighteen.

The Panama Canal wasn’t as bad and stressful as I thought it would be.  I got myself all worked up waiting for something to go wrong.  Nothing did and I found myself stupid for having so much stress and anxiety.  My imagination went wild thinking of how the Panama Canal would be.  I thought of tall eighty feet concrete walls five feet from touching the boat on each side.  Monkey fists the size of soccer balls being throw at us from above.  I thought we would be going in at nightfall surrounded by pitch black while it was raining.  Some parts I got right but most wrong.  The walls were concrete but not eighty feet high and we had more room from the walls than five feet.  It did rain but on and off.  The sun was behind clouds making it warm and not hot.  What I imagined to be the size of soccer balls were only the size of golf balls, Mom made them sound bigger.

Marty was our pilot and Rick was there evaluating Marty.  Both of them were very friendly and helpful.  Bryan was beaming with joy because more men were on the boat and the girls were finally outnumbered.  As we sailed to the locks Marty and Rick talked about the history of the Panama Canal.  Bryan was supposed to be the photographer and he did a wonderful job, after I taught him how to hold the camera without his fingers being in the way.  Bryan took pictures on my camera and some videos too.  He didn’t take as many pictures as we would have liked but I filled in for him.  During our first three locks we tied up to a tourist boat, so only two people were needed.

On the way to the locks we were passed by a huge cargo ship up close and personal.  Dad said he never wanted to be that close to a cargo ship again.  Marty pointed out a crane used to lift the locks and a small island highly populated by deer.  I learned a new knot from Marty I don’t know what it’s called but you could use it when the people throw you the lines.  There were two  tourist boats going through the locks with us.  The first one was a gigantic three mast boat that looked liked it was made in the 17th century while the other was a normal tourist boat.  The 17th century boat was first in line then the other and we were last.

As the locks were opened a current passed through making the water swirl.  Linzi drove the boat forward next to the normal tourist boat.  Dad and Rey threw the lines while Bryan and I recorded everything.  People waved to us and we waved back.  Dad and Mom got talking to some of the tourists.  We all watched as the first lock began to close saying good bye to the Pacific Ocean.  We heard it before we saw it, the gurgle of water being pushed up.  The water started to bubble like in a hot tub but only when the jets are on.  It was awesome, so cool, you really had to be there.  On the wall there are numbers telling you how high the water level is.  Slowly the water engulfed each number.  It was almost enchanting to watch the water being pushed up and swirling.

Miriflores locks

The same thing happened in the other locks and each time it was amazing.  It is absolutely incredible at what humans can make.  Once we entered Gatun Lake Marty told us that alligators live in it, so don’t go swimming.  Gatun Lake was man made its source was a river that had been dammed.  For our late breakfast we had french toast.  Sadly Marty couldn’t eat it because of a strict diet due to health reasons.  Everyone else ate and said they loved it.  Since we bent our propeller shaft we could only go so fast.  We were told that we may need to stay the night since we weren’t fast enough.  As we motored along the rest of the day we talked and got to know each other.  Marty and Rick were very sociable while Rey kept to himself.  We ate a big tasty lunch prepared the day before, everyone loved it.  Mom offered Rick a third plate but Rick said no because his wife was cooking and if he didn’t eat she’ll be mad.

Late in the afternoon we saw the 17th century boat that had long since passed us.  It was at a corner and wasn’t moving, this is our chance we all thought.  If we passed the boat then we wouldn’t have to stay the night in Gatun Lake, not that we minded but we had a feeling Rey wanted to get home.  As we passed the boat we saw the reason why it stopped there was a cargo ship coming and both wanted to be on the outside.  Soon the locks came into view and we held are breaths seeing if the boat would pass us.  I thought it would but once again it stopped and we got to the locks first.  We tied up and waited for the 17th century boat.  Surprisingly it took a long time but once it tied up we immediately started to go.

I stood at the bow getting ready to catch the line, Dad next to me.  Rick was standing in the middle of the boat just in case.  The line was thrown and I tied a bowline to the line that Dad held for me.  It turned out that only one person was on the starboard side to walk us through, so Rick took the lines and tied a knot holding two lines to one.  The people walked us forward and the locks began to lower.  More numbers started to show themselves on the wall as the water dropped about twenty-eight feet.  I let out my line which I had trouble with due to the way it was on the cleat.  Dad fixed it for me which made it much easier.  The boat was a bit crooked, my side had too much slack and Dad’s was too tight.  We fixed it later in the other lock.  Once we reached bottom the lines were dropped and we had to pull them in really fast.  Sometime before that Rick helped pull the line because he had more strength than I did, maybe it was for the cleat.  By now the sun was starting to set.

Gatun Lock to the Atlantic

Doing the last two locks were easier but I still had Dad help me with the cleat because the line kept falling off.  I was awestruck by the view of everything it was spectacular, I sucked it all in.  On the last lock Dad pointed out where the barnacles stop growing due to the fresh water.  As the locks opened up to the Atlantic Ocean if felt like something out of a movie.  We motored out a bit and a boat came to pick up Marty and Rick.  With them gone we set off to Shelter Bay Marina.  We got there right before the sun disappeared and docked on the first dock we saw.  Rey left, then we had dinner and went to bed.

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