Thursday, May 8, 2008

Craig's List May 8

Craig's List:  Ship Time
The trans-Pacific crossing is almost completed.  Since leaving Kobe, Japan at 2300 on April 14, we have been sailing across the Pacific.  This rather large body of water certainly seems to be larger than I expected!  We sailed for eight days and then spent one day in Honolulu followed by ten days of sailing, arriving in Costa Rica on Saturday, May 3.  These long stretches of ship time have been punctuated by dances, an auction (which raised over $20K for charities around the world), a couple of family and administrative team special dinners, celebrating our anniversary (21 years)  on the evening of the Ambassador's Ball, an ice cream social, wine tastings, a star gazing night (with ship lights off), and let's not forget classes, study days, and final examinations!  Dolphins have been following the ship as have the sunsets as we travel east- gaining a day (April 15) and losing ten hours to get back in sync with the Eastern time zone. Since Nassau, Bahamas, we have traveled 24,867 nautical miles which is equivalent to 28,597 statute miles.  Upon arriving in Miami, we will have sailed 26,605 NM or 30,596 SM. This does not include overland or air travel from the ports of call. 
Craig's List:  Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Two days in Puntarenas- last port before Miami.  A very sleepy town on the verge of development as a major cruise port, Puntarenas has a variety of small stall shops with vendors who do not have a tendency to bargain- at least as much as other countries we have visited.  The highlight of Costa Rica for me was a canopy trip in which we took multiple zip lines through the forest, over the canyons, and into the canopy.  The longest zip line was almost a half mile and the highest point was 240 feet.  After the first couple runs, our confidence grew and our energies were focused more on the ride than the fear of falling. Eric was a trooper albeit a small one.  He didn't make the minimum weight limit and had to be accompanied by a guide to provide extra ballast for the zip line.  None of us were particularly excited about having Eric traverse alone and end up in the middle of the zip line hanging over a canyon- so the guide was good.  Not too much else happening here.  The beach is not particularly pretty and knowing that only 3% of the sewage gets treated before going into the ocean was not an invitation to play in the surf! 
Craig's List: Panama Canal
Transiting the PC was a very special experience.  From what we could tell by the ships in waiting to transit, most are cargo ships making our passenger ship the exception rather than the rule.  I was able to access the ship's bridge throughout our approximately 12 hour passage and it was quite an education to watch the dynamics of the ship's captain and the pilot captain, who, in fact takes over the ship during the canal transit.  Our captain had been through the canal once as a passenger and this was the first time he had done so as a captain.  All went wll despite a couple of tense moments, all of which are unseen by folk outside of the bridge.  We hope that some of you were able to see us in transit courtesy of live webcams that broadcast the comings and goings of vessels throughout the day.  With finals being over, it was a great day to have a BBQ on the deck and watch the Panama Canal go by. 

Monday, May 5, 2008

Information on the Panama Canal


Craig's List:  Information on the Panama Canal: May 5


The canal consists of artificial lakes, several improved and artificial channels, and three sets of locks. An additional artificial lake, Alajuela Lake (also known as Madden Lake), acts as a reservoir for the canal. The layout of the canal as seen by a ship passing from the Pacific end to the Atlantic is as follows:

  • From the buoyed entrance channel in the Gulf of Panama (Pacific side), ships travel 13.2 km (8.2 mi) up the channel to the Miraflores locks, passing under the Bridge of the Americas
  • The two-stage Miraflores lock system, including the approach wall, is 1.7 kilometres (1.1 mi) long, with a total lift of 16.5 meters (54 ft) at mid-tide
  • The artificial Miraflores Lake is the next stage, 1.7 kilometers (1.0 mi) long, and 16.5 metres (54 ft) above sea level
  • The single-stage Pedro Miguel lock, which is 1.4 kilometres (0.8 mi) long, is the last part of the ascent with a lift of 9.5 meters (31 ft) up to the main level of the canal
  • The Gaillard (Culebra) Cut slices 12.6 kilometres (7.8 mi) through the continental divide at an altitude of 26 metres (85 ft), and passes under the Centennial Bridge
  • The Chagres River (el Río Chagres), a natural waterway enhanced by the damming of Lake Gatún, runs west about 8.5 kilometres (5.3 mi), merging into Lake Gatun
  • Gatun Lake, an artificial lake formed by the building of the Gatun Dam, carries vessels 24.2 kilometers (15.0 mi) across the isthmus
  • The Gatún locks, a three-stage flight of locks 1.9 kilometres (1.2 mi) long, drop ships back down to sea level
  • A 3.2 kilometer (2.0 mi) channel forms the approach to the locks from the Atlantic side
  • Limón Bay (Bahía Limón), a huge natural harbour, provides an anchorage for some ships awaiting passage, and runs 8.7 kilometres (5.4 mi) to the outer breakwater.  
  • Thus, total length of the canal is 47.9 miles (77.1 kilometres).

Canal lock size

Initially the locks at Gatun had been designed as 28.5 metres wide. In 1908, the United States Navy requested that the locks should be increased to have a width of at least 36 metres which would allow for the passage of U.S. naval ships. Eventually a compromise was made and the locks were to be constructed to a width of 33 meters. Each lock is 300 metres long with the walls ranging in thickness from 15 metres at the base to 3 metres at the top. The central wall between the parallel locks at Gatun has a thickness of 18 metres and stands in excess of 24 metres in height. The lock gates are made from steel and measures an average of 2 metres thick, 19.5 metres in length and stand 20 metres in height.The maximum dimensions of a ship that can cross the Canal are: Length: 950 feet (289.6m); Beam: 106 feet (32.31m); height: 190 feet (57.91m); Draught: 36 feet 6 inches (12.04 m).

Panama Canal Transit

 Panama Canal Transit:  See us on Web Cam!

On Tuesday we will be sailing through the Panama Canal.  Should you be interested you can follow the link to the webcams at the designated locations and times (times listed are Central Standard Time).

Based on ETA Balboa May 6th at 0500hrs, the Panama Canal Authority has scheduled our transit trough the Canal to commence at 0540hrs. Panama Canal transit will continue as follows:

Mira Flores locks

Arriving                                             0740hrs

Departing                                          0850hrs

Pedro Miguel                                    

Arriving                                             1000hrs

Departing                                          1040hrs

Gatun locks

Arriving                                             1450hrs

Departing                                          1710hrs

ETD Cristobal                                    1840


Sunday, May 4, 2008

From Stacey: May 3, 2008


From Stacey:  May 3, 2008


As we are nearing the end of our voyage, I am trying to get caught up with journal writing and picture organizing (5,000 now), inventorying purchases and sharing the precious time we have left with some very special people who have traveled the world with my family and me on this incredible journey.  When my friend, Evelyn, read me her entry for Vietnam, I loved how she captured the experience of crossing the street so very well.  Her descriptive writing is comical and paints such a vivid picture.  She has graciously agreed to let me post it on our blog.  Thank you, Evelyn.  Evelyn's story is as follows:


March 26, 2008

Crossing Streets in Ho Chi Minh City


Today was another lovely day spent exploring the city and shopping. However in Vietnam an explicit shopping report would make no sense without an equally explicit traffic report. So let me explain about the crazy Vietnamese traffic and emphasize what affect that traffic had on my nervous system and therefore my shopping skills. Like any other major city there are plenty of cars, trucks, bikes and buses on the road in Ho Chi Minh City. Now add to that a gazillion motorscooters with one, two or three passengers (some carrying parcels or babies) zipping in and out of the normal car, truck, bike and bus traffic. I know that there is a code about crossing streets safely but unless you grow up in Vietnam you will never decipher that code. Rules seem to be random, stoplights seem to be random and whether you will get splattered on the pavement is random as well. What we were told is that ... 'when it feels right you step out into the traffic and you keep walking'. Then they added, 'Try not to step out in front of a bus that can't stop easily but don't worry the scooter drivers will try at all costs not to hit you. The most important thing to remember is that once you get on to the road you can't stop half way; you must keep moving because that's what the drivers expect and they guide themselves accordingly'.


When I heard this advice my first impulse was to skip going into the city completely. Maybe I could just stay in my cabin and read? I wasn't interested in being Vietnamese roadkill except I couldn't bear to miss their spectacular shopping opportunities. This city probably has the best bargains ever, better than India and better than China. Normally Vietnamese water buffalos could not drag me across those streets but the t-shirts, DVDs, lacquer bowls, shoes, jewelry, scarves, purses, backpacks, and 'fake-everything' beckoned. I was almost ready to suffer in order to get to the other side.


Since I hate intense pain I took the least dangerous path. I looked for a local man that seemed conservative, a person that wouldn't put his life in danger and stepped out into the melee in tandem with him. I made sure that he was on the side closest to the oncoming traffic and prayed as I walked beside him. Lo and behold my first attempt was successful. I got to the other side without direct contact with a scooter. Now I could shop a complete block without anxiety. I scoured every inch of commercial space putting off the need to cross the next street. Finally, it was inevitable. This time I chose a female vendor carrying a lot of sweet potatoes in her baskets. I thought she would make a great shield. No one wants to purposely hit a local woman sending her veggies flying here, there, and everywhere. I chose well again and I was on block two. For block three I met up with SAS students who agreed to walk me across the street. Except this time when I saw cars coming straight for me I stopped and held my arm up (like a traffic police) demanding that the traffic halt. I was frozen in place, a deer caught in their Vietnamese headlights.' The only thing that saved me from being flattened was the student who yelled, 'Evelyn, don't stop, keep walking.' For days afterwards on the ship they teased me relentlessly, imitating my traffic cop stance.


With time comes experience; it was on the next corner that I struck 'beat the traffic' gold. I found out that there are lovely policemen in bright green uniforms who are completely at your service. It is their job to walk scaredy-cat tourists across streets in order that these foreigners feel relaxed enough to keep spending their U.S. dollars. All you need to do is smile and wave to them. Faster than you can say, 'I'm a shopper' they are at your side and getting you wherever you want to be'. Then I discovered Vietnamese cabs. For one or two dollars they will drop you off anywhere you want to go within the city center. By day three I had a stash of $1.00 bills in my pocket, spent them gladly and moved with ease from one shopping area to the other.


I visited the local covered market with its warren of mini stalls and absolutely no moving air to speak of. I bargained and learned to offer 30% of what I actually was willing to spend on any one item. I thought I was so clever when I bought three t-shirts for $10.00. Back on the ship the students told me that $2.00 per shirt was the going price. I sharpened my skills and went to another shopping area: blouses were $8.00, scarves were $2.00 and I had two linen shirts tailored from scratch for $16.00. I was on a roll now. Into my shopping bag went smocked dresses for little girls, dragon t-shirts for little boys, pajamas, Christmas decorations, dvds, pens, and a partridge in a pear tree. Oh my goodness it was fun... and best part of all ... I never had to cross one scary street all by myself.


Evelyn Hannon, Editor connecting women travelers worldwide


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