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Monday, May 9, 2016

Does Traversing the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific Count as "Westering?"

I ask this question because when I made the traverse in March I discovered that the Pacific end of the canal is actually east of the Atlantic end.  Initially that seemed very strange to me since the Canal was built as a faster route from the east coast to the west coast and here we were farther east than when we started. Of course, it isn't really strange at all. The fastest route between two places is often more a function of elevation change than of distance. By going around the Rocky Mountains, but not all the way around South America, the Panama Canal made the trip between the east and west coasts considerably faster and easier.

Entering the Gatun Locks

Anyway, traversing the Panama Canal is a fascinating way to spend a day. We went through the the Gatun Locks on our very large cruise ship, the Island Princess. Like many ships, it was designed specifically to fit through the canal, with mere inches between the ship and the walls of the locks.

A large container ship was in the lane next to us.

This view of the Culebra Cut at the continental divide gives you an idea of just how much material had to be removed to make the channel.

The Culebra Cut and the Centennial Bridge

The canal first opened over one hundred years ago and the original locks and gates are still in use today, though larger ones currently under construction are due to open within a few months.

Wall of the Miraflores Locks

We traversed the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Locks on a very small boat, which gave quite a different perspective than the deck of a big cruise ship. We were practically at water level, sharing the locks with the container ship Diamantis P.

The question of "westering" is relevant to me at the moment because I am participating in Barbara Brackman's "Westering Women" block of the month project. I have now completed three blocks and am nearly finished with the fourth. I have been tempted to add the sashing and sew the blocks together, but am holding off to see how the other blocks develop. Rather than choose all my fabrics at the outset, I just gathered together all the reproduction fabrics from my stash and decide on specific fabrics block by block. Since I don't know now what colors I will end up choosing, it seems like a good idea to wait until the blocks are completed before choosing the sashing.

Blocks one through three, all hand pieced

I was thinking that this project would make a big dent in my stash, but I'm a third of the way through and there is no noticeable difference. Sigh.