The Panama Canal is really 3 separate sections, with the middle being the transit through the man-made Gatun Lake and Culebra Cut. Navigating through Gatun Lake is a scenic 15 mile passage through a fresh water lake with numerous islands, which were the hills before the land was flooded. This is followed by the 8 mile Culebra Cut, which is the section of canal that was excavated through the Continental Divide.
On clearing the Gatun Locks, on most transits, we have anchored for a couple of hours awaiting the opposing convoy to pass. However, this morning we immediately commenced navigating through the lakes, albeit at a reduced speed.
Having cleared Gatun Locks, we are sailing along the first leg of the buoyed channel, passing numerous ships at anchor that have a lesser priority than Sea Princess. The lake consists of hundreds of square miles of fresh water dotted with small islands.
Some of the small islands on the port side as we navigated along the first leg. The following 3 photographs are just some of the sights along the first 3 legs of the voyage through the lake.
Each of the islands consists of dense tropical rainforest, as rain is almost a daily occurrence in Panama. In fact, it is the abundant 300+ inches of rain that provides the necessary raw material to raise and lower the ships.
Dense tropical rain forest.
A set of range markers used on each leg of the voyage through the lake to assist pilots maintaining the centre of the channel.
Another view of the many islands.
Judi enjoying the view from the balcony.
Passing another ship in the lake. Passing other vessels in the lake is common, but no passing is permitted in the narrower Culebra Cut.
At the end of the lake we entered the Chagres River, which also has a buoyed navigable channel. Notice the difference in the colour of the water, which now is a very muddy brown. Passing other vessels in the river is still acceptable.
One of the longer legs of the Chagres River
Balboa is the location of the Canal’s maintenance yard and is the start of the Culebra Cut. Above is the maintenance yard with bridge over the Chagres River in the background.
Mega crane in the maintenance yard.
Looking down the Chagres River. On one of our previous transits we did a tour, visiting a luxury resort about 1 mile down river.
Navigating along the first leg of the Culebra Cut
From the end of the first leg looking at the Culebra Cut meandering down to the Centenary Bridge.
Wide angle shot of Sea Princess navigating down the Culebra Cut
Approaching the section of Culebra Cut through the Continental Divide
The highest part of the cut through the Continental Divide on the port side. The shoreline is tiered back to prevent erosion and slides.
Sea Princess approaching and passing under the Centenary Bridge
Approaching Pedro Miguel Locks, with the existing locks to the left and the excavation project constructing the new channel and locks off to the right.