Last Christmas Mona’s daughters, granddaughters and great- grandchildren were at our house for opening presents. At one point Neal Phelps was standing on the porch having a smoke and was watching the chickadees at the bird feeder and pecking around on the ground. One chickadee alighted on the steps and was pecking at something tiny. Shiloh, being a bird dog saw the chickadee on the steps, walked over, and while Neal watched, pounced with both front paws on the chickadee! Neal said it wasn’t quite a fair matchup – a 100 pound dog vs. a 2 or 3 oz bird!
Last Saturday morning I was dressed for the cold weather with my long underwear, a hoodie sweatshirt and my heavy barn coat when I went into the woods. Just after my first maple tree crashed to the ground, I stood up, chainsaw in hand, when, “Thump,” something knocked my hard hat to the ground. I looked all around the tree stump, my saw and around where I stood trying to figure out what had hit me on the hard hat. Then I noticed that my hood was snubbed up tight, and the starter rope handle was almost unmovable. Voila! I knew it had happened again. The ends of the hoodie string had caught on the spinning saw starter reel, yanked the hoodie tight, knocking the hard hat off, feeling like it had been struck by a falling tree limb! I know Bob Lowell will be pleased when I bring in the broken starter spindle!
Our cruise ship passage through the Panama Canal locks was quite interesting. First, the ship channels through the locks are actually two parallel channels, separated by a dividing wall perhaps 30 feet wide. There are cog railroad tracks running alongside both ship channels. There are multiple locomotives on each track. The locomotives have two purposes, to pull the ships through the locks and to keep the ships centered in the water channels through the locks, so ships do not hit the sides of the locks. Interestingly, two ships go through the locks side by side, one in each channel. I was told this was to keep the water pressure equalized on both sides of the dividing wall.
When we went through the north set of locks, there was a huge Chinese cargo ship in the channel beside us. Both the cargo ship and our cruise ship were so huge there seemed to be only about two feet clearance between the ship hulls and the channel walls, although it might have been slightly more. There were eight locomotives assigned to each large ship, two on each side bow and two more on each side stern. Each locomotive let out a cable which was attached to the ship, and a winch kept tension on the cables to keep the ship centered in the channel. The locomotive tracks had a steep incline at each end of the three levels of locks that we went through, hence, the need for the cogs in mid tracks.
An experienced narrator kept a running dialog about what was happening at each step in the process. He said that the locks are designed so that no pumps are required because there is gravity flow of water from Gatun Lake. Water flows from the upper level locks to the lower levels as the ships come through. Huge gates at each end of a lock step open and close to regulate water levels as ships go through.
Since ships go through both sides of the locks side by side in the same direction, the Canal offers one-way traffic. The direction of ship travel is in one direction for a few hours, and in the other direction for the next few hours. Ships must arrange to enter the locks at specific times, and there were dozens of ships waiting outside the canal entrances for their time to come. All in all it was an interesting event for us land lubbers.