Worlds greatest Canals

January 3, 2014

During my time at sea in the merchant navy and also working as a ship surveyor for the last 18 months, I have been fortunate enough to travel through 3 of the worlds greatest man-made canals. Panama, Suez and the Welland canal.

I have been through Panama about 35 times and never get bored with that trip which usually takes about 12 hours.
Starting from the Atlantic side, the ship goes through the Gatun locks, three massive locks to the Gatun Lake 26.5 meters above sea level. Then a trip through the Gatun lake down to the Galliard cut. This was quite an engineering achievement to blast down through the continental divide to a depth of 40′. All the rubble was transported away in a specially made railway and used to make a dam which is seen at the Gatun locks. This dam stopped the flow of the Chagres’s river and flooded the area which is now Gatun lake. When the ship arrives at the Pacific side it enters the Pedro Miguel Lock. This is just one chamber and this leads to Miraflores lake which like Gatun lake is man made. At the end of this small lake is the Miraflores locks. Two locks which lead to the Pacific ocean. Panama is very lush and green what ever time of year you go through it is 47.9 miles long.

I have been through the Suez Canal three times. This canal which starts at Suez at the top of the Red sea and goes to Port Said on the Mediterranean is all at sea level so no need for locks.
There is not so much to see traveling through this canal except a lot of sand on either side of the canal. Though there has been more greenification of the land near the canal over the last 20 years of so. The canal is 100.8 miles long and the trip takes about 12 hours.


1 Welland Sum R

Welland canal in summer.

The Welland Canal which joins Lake Ontario and Lake Erie is quite an amazing place to visit and not so many passenger ships go here if any. This starts at Port Weller on the edge of Lake Ontario and goes to Port Colbourne on the edge of Lake Erie. The Welland Canal has eight locks to raise the ships up to the level of Lake Erie which is 100 meters higher than Lake Ontario. The canal is 27 miles long and the trip takes about 11 hours. In summer time there is much lush greenery here but in winter it is rather desolate.

Of the three canals. I would have to say my favourite and the greatest engineering achievement of them all, is the Panama canal. If you are going for a cruise try and get one that goes though Panama. Its amazing.


Travel to the USA.

January 2, 2014

I travelled to the USA for the first time in many years recently. It was quite a job !

Firstly you must have either a Visa in your passport (which I had) or an ESTA temporary visa which can be obtained on the internet.

I was flying into Philadelphia then traveling on to Jacksonville. All travellers to the US when changing planes before a final destination have to claim their baggage before proceeding to the next plane.

No one told me this when I checked in! Also I can’t remember any announcement on the plane about this.

Once you leave the plane you will have a big wait to pass through US border control. At Philadelphia there were a dozen desks but it takes five minutes to process each person as they have to check your finger prints and do a retina scan. It took me about 25 mins to pass through immigration and I was near the front of the queue.

You then pick up your bag and go through US customs. Just round the corner from customs is a big shute where the cases are slid down to be taken to your next flight. That part was well organised and my case made the connecting flight OK.

Next it was quite a long walk to the inevitable security which was a slow process. Then a long walk to the flight to Jacksonville.

Boarding was finished by the time I arrived at the gate and everyone was sat down on their seats ready for the plane to leave. Really….. Too close for comfort for me !

So when you book flights to the USA make sure you have an absolute minimum of two hours to make your connection.