Panama Canal – Lago Gatùn and all the rest
4 – 8 February 2020
the night proved to be a panacea because the transit of the canal is exhausting, with high emotional intensity, therefore lying down lulled by the calm of a lake, although infested with crocodiles, he did the right thing.
We leave at 9 am to reach the locks of descent towards the Pacific. A leap into the new for all of us, including the crossing of the lake, 28 nautical miles, strictly by motor, at 6 knots. Mangroves and green fjords beaten by the wind but without waves, up to the last stretch, winding and narrow, dug by hand to reach the increasingly coveted waters of the other ocean. At 13 we pass the first closed, contrary to the previous ones; here you go down for 9 meters in 3 turns. The big (huge) ship that accompanies us is now behind, and it’s up to us to dictate the pace of exit. The descent is easier, perhaps because it is daylight, but it really seems less complicated. The last lock is the most challenging due to the strong current (3 knots) created by the mixing of the fresh waters of the lake with the salt of the ocean,for which the united trio of us small boats must be able to run towards the exit without being crossed by the current and the wind, always supported. In a few minutes we are in the Pacific, untie the ropes that grip us to the Domini catamaran and free Ariel towards new waters. Thanks to the channel.
The story: the Panama Canal
The French were the first to think of being able to unite the Atlantic with the Pacific, thinking of exploiting the energy of a large river to create an artificial lake with a dam, exploiting the natural estuary in the Atlantic, and then digging a channel towards the Pacific . Unfortunately, the French private company failed dramatically, not so much for lack of funds or ideas, but for the extermination of its men by mosquito-borne diseases. The failure, however, gave hope to others because the ideas were good, therefore the US government, cleverly playing on the concept of “freedom”, or rather to stimulate the Panamanians who were in the pay of the Colombians to make themselves free and independent from them, founding their own free State. IN return the Americans would intervene by building the Panama Canal,what we just went through. The astute president Roosvelt managed to obtain the indefinite usufruct of the canal, helping the Panamanian people to find their independence. The canal was built, and was inaugurated in 1914, but its inauguration was overshadowed by the imminent First World War. Prosperous decades of peaceful coexistence between Americans and Panamanians followed, so much so that even today some taxi drivers proudly display the two flags side by side.so much so that even today some taxi drivers proudly display the two flags side by side.so much so that even today some taxi drivers proudly display the two flags side by side.
But a sad story, because in the prosperity and boom years of the West everything fell apart. It was the year 1964 and a handful of Panamanian students went to USA, albeit to Panama, then to their home, asking to hoist the two flags side by side, as a sign of peace and sharing, also to put an end to the important differences between the two neighboring peoples. The guide told us that his family lived on the border between the “canal” territory, all made in the USA, and the Panama of the Panamanians; a senior Panamanian official received a salary of $ 1.5 / hour, while a cleaning lady who crossed the border and served in wealthy American homes earned $ 15 / hour! When Panamanian university students called for peace and justice, carrying their flag in the canal territory,by asking their peers at an American school to hoist the flags side by side, they were told that it would never be possible.
From there, the revolution. And the Panamanians won, sacrificing 21 lives of young men, premonitors of the European ’68, for the honor of dignity and justice. . Since 1999, Panamanians have returned to owners of their canal, which employs 20,000 people and is the country’s highest source of income. This year we celebrate the twentieth anniversary. Today there is also a new canal, larger, with different crossing methods, but with the same engineering that decides the opening of the locks, whose huge gates are now built in Italy.
We visited the heart of Panama City, a conflict city, where the financial centers that are the envy of New York are located, and the old helmet, where you can breathe the rhythm of time that no longer exists, which however continues to beat strongly in the walls, in the glimpses towards the ocean, in the people who believe in Panama, and the idea of an Italian mayor of Panama City who avoided the destruction of the old helmet, instead safeguarding its rebirth, by building a curious road on the sea , in a semicircle, to surround the very heart of real Panama, the one that has colonial architecture,the church with the altar in solid gold spared by the English pirate Morgan from plundering around 1620 because he was deceived by the cunning of the Panamanians who painted it black in a maze of alleys and small squares where the mosaic cobbles continue to win over the centuries.
We moor at Playita Marina waiting for Marianna, Margherita’s companion, to sail towards the Pearls Islands (Las Perlas), about thirty miles away, famous both for the collection of pearls, but above all because there the pirates stopped to count the riches plundered in gold. In fact we will head for the Isla Contadora, (where it was counted) seat of the last briefing before the departure for the Galapagos scheduled for 12 February.
See you next time from TEAM ARIEL