Entering Gatun Lake
Leaving Culebra Cut at Gamboa, an eastbound ship enters Gatun Lake, formed from damming the Rio Chagres. (Gatun Lake also provides the water to flood the canal locks.) After a 23 mile (37 km) passage through the lake, Gatun Locks bring a vessel back down to sea level on the Atlantic (Caribbean) side of the canal in three stages. Again, a close-up view of lock operation could be observed at Gatun.
Leaving Gatun Locks, Oriana docked at port of Cristobal rather than heading directly out to sea to enable passengers time to visit Colon. Cristobal was in the Canal Zone, Colon in Panama.
(I liked the way the twin communities together were "Cristobal Colon" [i.e. "Christopher Columbus" in Spanish]. Someone had been clever!) Family friends met us at the dock to show us around the Atlantic side of Panama and "the Zone". I can't now remember exactly who the couple was. I believe they were descendants of people my grandparents had known during the time they lived in Panama. In any case, they were very nice and drove us around in their car. We saw Colon, the principal city on the Caribbean side of Panama. Then, we drove out to see the ruins at Fort San Lorenzo
. Fort San Lorenzo had been constructed by Spain in the 16th century to defend against incursions by its enemies. It defended the Atlantic entrance to the Rio Chagres, the principal means to begin a journey to Panama City and the Pacific side before the advent of the railway. The fort had indeed come under attack during its colorful history by such personages as Sir Francis Drake and the pirate Henry Morgan. In its later years it was used as a prison until 1821. The couple took us to dinner at the yacht club in Cristobal, overlooking the port. One could see Oriana all lit up in the evening. After dinner, we said our goodbyes, reboarded, and later that evening Oriana sailed for Nassau.