Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Panama Canal Transit for KaijaSong – Sept 25-26, 2012

We received excellent service from our Canal Agent Roy in preparing for our transit thru the Canal into the Pacific after enjoying 8 terrific years cruising the sunny Caribbean Sea.

By way of background, in 1510 the Spanish began settlement of the isthmus of Panama, the advantages of a route thru Panama were evident and in 1534 King Charles V of Spain ordered the first topographic survey for a proposed canal across a section of the 80 km wide isthmus; but such monumental task was far beyond the possibilities of the time.

A full three centuries later, in 1879, Count Ferdinand de Lesseps created the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique de Panama.  De Lesseps began the construction of a sea-level canal in 1880, but even the considerable skill of the French engineers could not overcome the disease or the geographic and climatic conditions they encountered on the isthmus, nor could they make up for the mismanagement in France that brought the enterprise to financial ruin in 1889.

In 1894, a second French company, the Compagnie Nouvelle du Canal de Panama, prepared to resume work on the Canal.  Their technical committee collected topographical information and recommended the construction of a lock-type canal on account of the sporadic Chagres river floods.  However, the second company was unable to obtain funding from the French Government or even private investors, and soon bankruptcy forced them to sell their canal equipment, rights and ownership to the United States Government.

In 1904 the US purchased the rights of the French company at a cost of $40 million.  But the previous year, in 1903, following Panama’s declaration of Independence from Colombia, Panama and the United States had signed the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty by which the United States understood the construction of an interoceanic canal across the Isthmus of Panama.  It took ten years, the labor of more than 75,000 men and women, and almost $400 million to complete the job.  Like the French, the new builders faced unprecedented problems: tropical diseases; frequent landslides; the complexity of the massive volume of excavation needed; the enormous size of the locks; and the need to establish entirely new communities, import materials, and organize work on an unprecedented scale.

The Panama Canal opened to traffic on Aug 15, 1914, and since then, thousands of vessels have transited the waterway. On Sept 7, 1977, the governments of Panama and the United States subscribed the Torrijos-Carter treaties-the Panama Canal and permanent neutrality of the waterway-which upon its entry into force on October 1st, 1979, began the 20 year process whereby the Republic of Panama would recover absolute control over its territory, always sovereign.

For a complete history of the Canal we recommend reading David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning account in ‘The Path Between the Seas’.

KaijaSong Panama Canal Transit – Crew Gerry & Susan, Kaija, Gary & Trip

The transit of the Panama Canal was a milestone for Sv KaijaSong.  It marks the end of our first 8 yrs of cruising and our commitment to carry on with our adventure and sail across the South Pacific and beyond.

Our dream of cruising around the world began for us during our transatlantic crossing which was a re-enactment of Christopher Columbus maiden voyage to the new world.  It was during that adventure that Kaija and I determined that we shared a common dream and one that has kept us together these past many years.  It was also during this exciting trip that we met our friend Vern Mountcastle III who is affectionately known as Trip.  That friendship has grown and deepened over the years and we were pleased when he agreed to join us for our Canal crossing.  We were also joined by good friends Gerry and Susan Sv Vida Dulce, home port Seattle.

The actual crossing was a two day affair.  We met our adviser in the flats of Colon on the evening of the 25th, arrived in the locks about 6pm and were anchoring on Gaton Lake by about 8pm.  The next morning at 6:30 a new adviser arrived and we motored across the lake and arrived on the Pacific side in Balboa near noon.  By the time we completed the doubles of Balboa and Mira-Flores our adviser departed and we proceeded to our anchorage at Las Breezes in Panama City.  Hook down and all’s well on KaijaSong.

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