Paddling through the Panama Canal? Yes, a passion born from an annual race called the Regata de Cayucos: Ocean to Ocean, founded in 1954. Witnessing the three day race (or even a few practices leading up to it, as I did) is such a phenomenal way to see the canal.
Check out the website for the Balboa Paddle Club below, for practice and event information. They are a nonprofit club that is dedicated to promoting the sport of rowing and the conservation of the basin of the Canal.
The teamwork, timing, balance, communication and strength involved is beyond impressive. My best friend from college was a part of a local team and I had a chance to follow along in a smaller motor boat while her team was on the water.
If you're headed to Panama City any time soon, be sure to check out the Balboa Paddle Club's schedule to see if you can see some of the action and tip your hat to the Panamanian sport of cayuco.
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Miraflores is the name of one of the three locks that form part of the Panama Canal. In the Miraflores locks, vessels are lifted (or lowered) in three stages totalling 8 m, allowing them to transit to or from the Pacific Ocean port of Balboa (near Panama City)
By AFAR Traveler
Panama Canal, An Engineer's Dream
The Panama Canal is a must-see when visiting Panama. Watching a boat pass through is fascinating. The larger boats come later in the evening, which is a better time to see it. You can also take a train along the canal, but this is only available at certain times and difficult to logistically plan as the return trains are limited.
During a stay in Panama, it crossed my mind that seeing the Canal was an obligation, something to cross off a clichéd list of must-see (but tired) monuments. Pity the soul who thinks thus and lets the chance go: the Canal is magnificent, and a marvel that stands time's weighty test.
It's astonishing to watch the passage of mountainous vessels, some with containers stacked 14 stories high, dipping and lifting in stately propulsion through the time-worn locks, attendants ushering them through, made tiny by the towering ship sides.
The Miraflores Locks visitors' center houses an engaging museum that captures the marvelous engineering (and marvelous politicking) behind the construction. Go there and marvel, but don't miss the eye-filling immediacy of moving into the side bar just off the upper-floor restaurant, with its open-air lookout. (Do have a gin and tonic or two to cool that thick air.)
That puts you in shouting view (and "wow!" is the shout that comes to mind) of the parade of ships through the narrow waters.
"Narrow" says it too—they are building a bigger canal adjacent to this one to accommodate the leviathan vessels of today, but in the meantime, you can thrill to the sight of ships that make you draw back and think "Will that thing even fit?" as they make their almost side-scraping passage.
Yes, Panamanian towns are charming, yes, the Caribbean side is lovely, yes, the jungles fascinating. But the Canal, the Canal is living history. It's unforgettable.