Gatun Locks 2

With the odd problem sorted we continued into the Gatun Locks. On the Caribbean side the locks are all together and you go through the three chambers one after the other, a rise of about 90 feet.

The canal is a brilliant design, it is all done by rain water stored in the Gatun lakes. The control tower open valves that let water drain out or in and then top off from the lakes. The lake drops a tiny bit and you go up 30 ft. Going down they can drain the lock to the next level until the last which is drained to sea.

As we went in the Catalyst rafted up alongside and we then provided the propulsion through the three locks.

The Pilot had explained the various currents we would encounter as we moved in, mostly caused by the interaction of salt and fresh water in the bottom lock.  With Catalyst alongside we entered down the centre line without a problem and the Pilot seemed to relax a lot. Honestly, the wing engine could have happened to anyone!

The Polar Stream already locked in:


Entering the first chamber, the Mules that provide mooring assistance for the big ships parked ready for the next ship. Neat machines, they can travel up and down the inclines and have two winch wires that can pull 25 Tonne as well. They have a special locking track that enables this and stops them pulling themselves into the lock.


4 of the 6 we had on deck to handle lines, every finger a marlin spike. (L-R)  Sol, Toni, Sarah and Toni.


Once we got in our line handlers came to help, he has passed us the heaving line and will carry that until we get to position and will then pull the mooring line to the dockside and put it on a bollard.


Passing the lower gates


and then the high gates


The line handlers have walked up the incline, the headsail of the Catalyst visible



The gates close, we’re trapped.


Sarah & Toni getting ready to run the starboard quarter line. We hired the lines as ours were not long enough. The line handlers throw a heaving line which is then used to pull our line to the dock side. It is put on a bollard while the water levels change and the deck crew heave in going up or pay out going down. They also have to watch the line on the other side, in our case, being managed by the Catalyst. If the boats don’t work together they will get pulled to one side and may land on the dock wall.

During movement between locks the line is pulled back until the heaving line is back on Kapowai. The line handlers then walk along carrying it until we get in position and then they pull the mooring line back to the dock side.


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