Saturday, February 28, 2009

Home Again

We awoke this morning anchored to a colorful pier in Colon, Panama.
We had to leave the ship at 8 AM so they could get it ready for the next group of passengers who will be on board in time for dinner. We stopped at the Panama Canal Museum and at a craft center before arriving at the airport in Panama City. We flew to Miami and then on to Newark.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Panama Canal

We spent the rest of today traversing the part of the canal from Gatun Lake to the Atlantic, this time mostly by daylight. After the pilot joined us, we still had a long wait before it was our turn to go through the locks that would take us from the level of the lake down about 80 feet to ocean level in three steps. We had plenty of time to watch other ships maneuver into place.Finally the ship with which we were to share the locks got into position. Once we got into the approach to the locks, the “high tech” component of the exercise became apparent – the rowboat. They apparently never found a better way to get the cables from the ships to the “mules” (locomotive-type machines that run on tracks along the canal) than good old-fashioned manpower. The row boat approached the ship,the rope handlers, who had come aboard previously, threw a rope from the ship to the rowboat (the on-board videographer is shown here videotaping the whole process).The guys in the rowboat attached a cable to the rope and the rope handlers pulled the cable on board and secured it.The other end of the cable was attached to the muleand pulled tight.There were 4 mules, 2 at the bow and 2 at the stern that kept the ship centered in the lock. Then the lock gates closed behind usand the water started draining out.Once the water was down to the level of the next lock and the gates in front of us were fully opened,we moved into the next lock, the mules following alongside.It was interesting to see that the rope handlers had plenty of leisure time while we transited the locks.

Sea Voyager - Day 6

We awoke this morning anchored off Barro Colorado Island, home of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The island was formed when the Chagres River was dammed to form Gatun Lake, which feeds water into the locks of the Panama Canal.Linblad ships are the only ones allowed to stop here, enabling us to walk some of the trails used by the researchers. We saw a blue and yellow poison dart frog, which didn't stay around long enough for us to get a picture. The air was full of the sounds of cicadas. But they were no match for the howler monkeys. The neatest thing was seeing and hearing the monkeys.After our hike we watched the ships coming to and from the locks while waiting for our canal pilot. Then the canal pilot came aboard and we headed for the locks that would take us out of the lake to the Atlantic side.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sea Voyager - Day 5

One of the neat things the stewards on the ship do when they fix up the rooms is to put the bath towels into a different shape each day. This is one of our favorites.This morning we took a zodiac ride around a small island in the Gulf of Panama where lots of seabirds can be found. We saw lots of brown pelicans and frigate birds,including males with their red pouches inflated.We also saw lots of brown boobies and blue-footed boobies. In the afternoon we visited a small village on the island of Taboga near the Panama Canal where our hotel manager’s family has a home - the tall one in this photo.
There was also a neat church.
Then we sat near the entrance of the canal with Panama City in the background and LOTS of other ships around, waiting for our canal pilot and our chance to start through the canal. It was after dark by the time we got underway.

Stay tuned for lots more canal photos.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sea Voyager - Day 4

Overnight we crossed from Costa Rica into Panama. This morning we snorkeled around the island of Granito de Oro (Little Grain of Gold)in Coiba National Park, a beautiful unspoiled area of tropical islands. We saw several fish we had not seen before and enjoyed the beautiful clear blue water.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sea Voyager - Day 3

This morning we visited a botanical garden on the property of an American couple who has been there for over 30 years. We saw orchids, many different heliconia,and other neat plants. We also saw fox bats resting in the tents they had made from palm leaves. Very cool.In the afternoon we kayaked up the Rio Esquinas, which didn't look much different from other mangrove-enclosed rivers we've kayaked on. Including the bird life, which included white ibis and snowy egrets.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sea Voyager - Day 2

We had a couple of whale sitings today, in each case of a humpback mother and baby fairly close to the ship. We did a lot of hiking today. This morning we walked through the forest in Corcovado National Park to a waterfall and a series of pools for swimming. This small crocodilewas swimming in one of the upper pools, but that didn’t stop us from taking a refreshing dip. In the afternoon, following a barbeque on the beach, we did some more hiking and saw leaf-cutter ants, one of several times we saw them.
We saw scarlet macaws flying overhead, but never got a close look.
The evening was clear and W managed to capture the green flash after sunset.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sea Voyager - Day 1

This morning there were brown boobies flying around the ship.We spent the morning in Manuel Antonio National Parkwith a scenic view of the ship offshore and of the surroundings. We saw 2-toed sloths3-toed slothsand white-faced capuchin monkeys.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Monteverde to Herradura, Costa Rica

Today we visited a butterfly and insect center. Most impressive were the insects, including this tarantulaand a huge elephant beetle. This one was about 4 inches long, with a very interesting "face".We also saw a whip spider, just like the one that the Madeye Moody imposter enchanted in “The Goblet of Fire”. Here is a sampling of the butterflies,including this one that is bright blue on the top of its wings.We later saw a similar one in the wild and its languid flight made it look as though someone was dangling it from a string. Then we drove to Herradura to board the Sea Voyager.