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Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

22 January 2010; Fuerte Amador, Panama.

Fuerte Amador is just around the corner at the end of the Panama Canal and is located on Flamengo Island. The latter is very well-known to sailors going through the canal as it is also the call sign “Flamengo Signal Station” for all traffic on the Pacific side of the Canal. On the Atlantic side it is called “Cristobal Signal Station. Fuerte Amador is not really a town as such; it is a Marina with some shops but as the island is connected with the main land by a causeway it is a perfect stop to make a landfall for exploring Panama City and surroundings. None of the problems that go with calling directly at a big city and all of the conveniences to get to where you want to go. Panama has more of these hidden places. On the other side of the Canal entrance is Isla Taboga and Isla Taboguilla. These two islands have very nice but small resorts. But they have no connection to the main land and are thus a bit limited for a cruise ship call. However Fuerte Amador has the causeway and that makes it work very well. We were not the only one who thought the same way, the Seabourn Legend showed up as well for a similar call.

So all during the night and today we had a tender service running for guests to enjoy the area. Most guests preferred to stay onboard during the night, not in the least as we had a folkloristic show onboard but also, after a long and warm Panama Canal day, you need time to recharge the batteries. I did the same; yesterday had been an 18 hour day and knowing that the ship was safely at anchor made me sleep very well.

There were about 30 ships at anchor around us, some waiting for the canal transit, some laid up and some were tuna fishers stacking up provisions before going out to sea again. The water in the whole anchorage area is about 20 meters deep and the bottom is made up of heavy clay which really sucks in the anchor and the chain. So you can afford to anchor with less chain paid out than what normally would be the case. As a result some ships anchor very near to each other as their swinging radius, due to the short anchor chain length, is much less than normal. Whatever length of chain I put out does not defer me from setting my safety margins as large as possible, so when we arrived I anchored in a spot normally reserved for two ships. I was now a little bit further away from all the other ships but still close enough to all the others so that there was no room for another ship to anchor nearby. Only the Seabourn Legend anchored next to us but with their lesser draft, they could anchor very close to the island. So everybody was happy with the situation including the pilot, who promptly stayed for dinner. (He had promised to take his wife out for dinner as well but as the evening normally starts late in Panama he might have built up an appetite again by that time, I suppose)

We left right on time by heaving the anchor and then keeping it trailing through the water to get all the heavy mud off, while the officer forward with the sailors tried to clean the anchor chain with fire hoses. In the mean time I zigzagged through the ships on the anchorage which is always an interesting exercise as there are nowadays so many different shapes and specialized applications out there. Once we were clear, we were joined by the Balmoral of Fred Olsen Lines who had just exited the canal and was also going the same way. They went faster than us, as they are scheduled a day ahead of us in Manta and Callao. Due to the port size the ships have to call a day apart.

Tomorrow we will be at sea and the weather looks good, mainly overcast and very little wind.

1 Comment

  1. Dear Captain, My name is John Coile and my Wife and Mother-in-Law our your water Color art class instrutors for your guess. I am just commenting on how difficult your job is at a port. It’s kind of intresting when I do Talk to my wife, Amy Coile, and she tell’s me how wonderful the cruise is that I fined it very amazing what you and your crew is going though to make every-one happy and safe. I talk to her via phone, about every other day or so and comper what she tell me whats going on and your comments on how each situation you incounter in each desination. All I can say Captain that your doing an amazing job keeping my love one’s safe and all of your Pasengers, Thank you, John Coile, Retired FF

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