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Prestons Transit Panama Canal.

One of my long-time dreams has been to transit the Panama Canal.  I had always thought that my first transit would be as crew, line handling for a small boat with a couple of boaters going through.  My daughter knew of my dream and bought us the tickets to do it together on a fifteen day Disney cruise aboard the Disney Magic.  The following is a photographic record of the trip highlights.

During the trip, we would make stops along the Mexican Riviera as well as Columbia, Aruba, and Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.

  Daughter, Yuli, and I about to enter security and embark for our adventure.

San Pedro's living war memorial, the Lane Victory, under the Vincent Thomas Bridge to Terminal Island.  This is our starting point, the cruise ship terminal of Los Angeles.

  A fond farewell from LAFD's new fireboat.  The single blast from the Magic to indicate it was leaving the dock was the seven notes of "When you wish upon a star...."

  We left during the Tall Ship Festival.  This is the Coast Guard's Eagle (formerly the NAZI's Horst Wessel).

  The Bounty replica (of "Mutiny" fame).

  Other tall ships at Ports of Call Village.


  Gala Bon Voyage Party on deck 9.

  We sail through "Angel's Gate."

  This good-looking ketch gets five blasts on the horn!  "Get out of the way, even if you are a sailboat on a starboard tack!"  It was here that I met the first of a bunch of interesting people to talk to.  He was an atmospheric chemist who is now a patent attorney because funding for showing the truth about global warming (Anti-American, Luddite hysteria) has dried up.  No grants-no science, so rather than buck the trend, he changed professions.  He thinks that an icing over of Europe is the next REAL climate catastrophe.  In the distance is Royal Caribbean's ship to Cabo.  We beat her there by about two hours.  The Magic is very fast.

  Sunset over Santa Catalina Island.  We are making good time.

  Partying with "The Three Caballeros," Jose Carioca, Donald Duck, and Panchito.  They symbolize the nature of our trip touching all the Americas.  Their big movie together was a grand tour of the Americas.  It was one of the first to be done in color and combine live action with animation.

  Our first look at the very tip of Baja California.  It was early on Monday August 18.  It is here that the waters of the Pacific meet those of the Sea of Cortez (the Gulf of California).

  "Los Arcos," the arches at Cabo San Lucas with a salty sailor motoring past.

  The inner harbor at Cabo San Lucas.

  The port at Cabo is too small to handle the Disney Magic, so we anchored in the bay and were lightered in by water taxi.

  The highlight of my avocation as a GIA Gemologist.  Two natural octahedral crystals for sale at a pawn shop.  More on this another time.

  All the water taxis bid us farewell as we pull out of Cabo San Lucas.

  Dolphins trying to out-swim the Magic.  Riding the bow wave of a ship must be one of dolphins' greatest highs.

  Pluto may have been demoted as a planet, but he was definitely a star for daughter, Yuli!

Here are some underwater snorkeling photos and other photos from Puerto Vallarta.  After what I saw in Cabo, I decided to shop no pawn shops for the balance of the trip.

  Here's the figurehead of our "pirate" ship across the channel from the Magic.  We would go to a secluded beach for some beach play and snorkeling.  The ship, itself, was a replica of the Santa Maria, and it had been all over the world including Japan as an ambassador from Mexico.

  Here's some striped sergeant majors on a reef.  The water was murky due to recent heavy rains.

  Bait fish in a school.  (Don't complain about my taxonomy, I studied oceanography in much colder waters).

  More sergeant majors.

  A striped eel.

  A tiny blue goby

  Racing stripes on a king angel fish.

  My daughter, the Yulifish!

  A jelly fish medusa, identifiable as a coelenterate.

  Our pirate ship anchored off shore during our beach frolic.

  Part of the after beach pirate show.

  Bidding farewell to Puerto Vallarta.

Formal dining night.  Mike and Suzie, Daughter Yuli, and Myself.

  We say, "Goodbye," to Acapulco, followed by two days at sea to get to Panama City and the Canal.  Acapulco was such a short port call that we decided to not go ashore.  It was also very rainy.

  A highlight of our days at sea was a series of wine tastings led by Michael Jordan, a leading sommelier in America.  We tasted wines from Italy, Germany, France, Sonoma, Napa, and Madeira, including a Madeira from a 1908 vintage.  Michael's discussion brought into focus the variations in flavors and what brings them about as well as insights into the many wineries producing great wine.  Here, our companion, Suzie shows her excitement over one sitting.  The great French wines are a bit too "earthy" for me.  I like fruity New World wines and the wines of Germany and Italy.

  Here we are approaching Panama City and the entry to the estuary that begins the Panama Canal.  There were patches of rain, and that accounts for the double rainbow.  We pick up the first pilot here.

  Two more pilots come out to meet us as we approach the "Bridge of the Americas" where the Pan American Highway crosses the canal.

  An old freighter docked at Panama City's cargo terminal.  Its name was Lucky Diamond.  Is this some kind of omen about gemstones?

  The locks at Mira Flores.  The Magic will enter the right side behind the container ship.  We will follow these two ships all the way through the Canal.

  The Magic enters the first of the two lock chambers as the huge gates swing open into niches in the walls to allow full width "Panamax" ships to enter.  There will be about two feet to spare on each side of the Magic.

  Captain Mickey on the bridge wing waves to observers in the new visitors' center.

  A look back at the "mule" locomotives that pull the ships through the canal and the new visitor and office complex.

  Traffic in the Mira Flores lock.  The Maersk Darmstadt will follow us all the way through the Canal.

This is the end of the Mira Flores locks with the floodgates of Mira Flores Lake in the background.  Two locks here, then the small lake, and then a single lock at Pedro Miguel raise shipping to the level of Gatun Lake, which was the worlds largest man made lake until Lake Mead.

  The single pair of locks at Pedro Miguel.

  Looking back through the Culebra Cut at the new bridge that follows the continental divide.  Enough earth was moved from the canal right of way to fill a train that would circle Earth six times.

  A tow boat follows us through the riverine rainforest of Panama.

  We come out of Gatun Lake and approach the three pairs of locks that lower and raise shipping between the levels of Gatun Lake and the Caribbean Sea of the Atlantic.

  Here's the APL Eqypt entering the first Gatun lock just ahead of us in the right lane. We are neck and neck with the APL, but because the left side has bigger drains, we will beat her out of the canal.

  Following APL Egypt is the Maersk Darmstadt.  It is now getting dark, and the canal only operates during daylight.  We will come out well after dark.  The new high lighting allows the Canal to operate longer into the night and increase capacity.

  Up close and personal with the "mules."

  The bow of the APL Egypt noses us out as it enters the lock chamber.

  We enter the second chamber.  It was quite dark by this time.

  Goodbye to the Panama Canal and the mules gathered at the end of the jetty.  Another few miles to the open sea.  It was thirteen hours after we picked up the first pilot.  Our night of smooth sailing would take us to Cartagena, Columbia.

  A hippopotamus making the tide rise in Lake Victoria.  I swam my seven by fifty-two individual medley each morning to try to burn off some of the calories of the sumptuous feasting we were doing (Mike Phelps and Mark Spitz, eat your hearts out).  And, yes, I made a point of taking a dip while we were actually traversing the Canal.  I swam in the Panama Canal (albeit 80 feet or so above its water level).

Avast ye scurvy scum!  Thar be pirates aboard! Dining ala Pirate in the Caribbean.  This pirate night including a deck party under the stars.

  The speed boat for our harbor tour of Cartagena.

  Here we are in Cartagena, Columbia with a sailor's eye view of the old city.

  A pirate's eye view of one of the forts and gun emplacements protecting the city.  Pirates and enemy nations were a serious threat and such emplacements were found on both sides up and down the harbor estuary.

  Magic docked near the modern cargo terminal.

  Our stateroom is the center one of the five just aft of the boat deck.

  A turret of the old fort that was built over the water by Spain after the original was destroyed by the French in 1697.

  Daughter Yuli atop the rampart near a turret.

  The chapel of the fort with a left handed Virgin.

  A native fisherman in the harbor protected by the Virgin.


  The Virgin of Cartagena, a protector of all the sailors.  Interestingly, she is left handed as is the Virgin in the Fort's chapel.  One of the fort's tower stairways is also set up for lefties.  This would be a great thesis for somebody's PhD in history.  Why so many lefties?

  Sunset over the condominiums of Cartagena before our night and day cruise to Aruba..

  Oranjestad, Aruba.  Old country Dutch architecture.

  A salty schooner tied up and awaiting sale for unpaid mooring fees.

  Our dive boat Paso Bon which means "Good Journey" in Papiamento

Following are wreck dive underwater SCUBA photos.

  I must improve my aim.

  The chaos of a wreck.  This is a scuttled German freighter from the NAZI era.

  I'm "OK."  What about you?

  A look into the hold

  Divers ahead.

  The wreck, itself.

  Another "pirate" snorkeling ship.  The wreck we dove is a very popular dive spot at Aruba.  This is the traffic jam on the surface.

   Relaxing on the veranda of our stateroom.  Most of the time there was always something going on, so this kind of respite was rare.  There were shows, movies, lectures, game shows, and opportunities to just relax and talk with fellow passengers in all sorts of venues.

  Here we are at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.  We stopped here for a day-long beach party and barbecue.

   Anchored in the lagoon is the Flying Dutchman, the flagship of Davy Jones in the Disney "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.

  Another shot of the Flying Dutchman, showing the open hull for the movie shooting.

  Here's daughter Yuli and her first time on a jet-ski.

  Here's me on a jet-ski for the first time.  The heat and humidity fogged up the camera lens.  This is the "before" shot.

  This is the "after" shot.  I was beaten and bruised, pummeled, soaked, and generally frazzled.  The swell outside the breakwater was running at four feet.  Yuli's group was stopped and refunded due to the weather.  My group went out.  I had a pretty good feel on how to judge the waves, being a sailor and body surfer, but at least six of our party swamped their craft.  Heading back I was going like a bat out of hell at full speed.  The others thought I was an expert.  I just wanted to get back to shore and end the ordeal as fast as possible.  Jet-ski piloting in the open ocean is not my cup of tea.

  Farewell to Castaway Cay.

  The transit is complete.  We land at Port Canaveral.

  Another Disney cruise ship, one of the water taxis that serve Disney World.  We would take some time to unwind.

  The Seven Dwarfs Mining Company.  Don't ask me how their mine produced faceted stones.  However, I have seen that natural crystals can be every bit as pretty as faceted ones.

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Copyright 2000 - 2011, Jay W. Preston.  Distribution permission granted when this notice is printed in full.  For questions or comments: contact  The J-P, Plus Design and SAFETYBIZ. are registered service marks of Jay William Preston. Permission for use of specific Safety Subject Information is only granted when this notice is printed in full and Preston has been contacted by phone, fax, or email prior to use.