Ms. Pilot's Last Transit of the Panama Canal ~ 22 February, 2001

This story is dedicated to, Captain Sarah P. Terry. Panama Canal pilot, tug master, canal port captain, companion and wife. Sarah' years in the "ditch" ended on the 22d of February, 2001 with her retirement from a job that she loved. I had the pleasure of accompanying her on this transit of the Polish ship "DELIA", my first transit of the Panama Canal in a ship, and the joy of photographing her in action.


 Always knowing that Sarah is the best at what she does, transiting with her let me see first hand the skills that she has developed during her years climbing the "hawse pipe" of the Panama Canal. I am impressed with the ease in which she handled the large ship and the way she put all of the officers at ease ...... well done!


Sarah started with the Panama Canal Company in July of 1977 as a machinist apprentice. The next year applied for the master towboat apprenticeship and was accepted. Sarah spent the next 5 years learning the secrets of the trade ...... 3 years in the apprenticeship and 2 years as a towboat mate. Then another 4 years of honing her skills on the towboats, sitting for her US Coast Guard 1000 ton Master, "Freight and Towing" and soon upgrading to Master 1600 ton "Any Ocean" as she made ready to take the next big step.


In 1986 Sarah applied for the Pilot in Training Program; this program takes qualified captains and moves them into a training position for the Panama Canal pilot force. As the years slipped by, Sarah moved up the qualification levels from Pilot in Training, to Limited Pilot in January of 1987, to Unlimited Pilot, to a Canal Port Captain of the Panama Canal. Sarah continued on working for the Panama Canal Commission until its dissolution on December 31, 1999 and then started working for the new Authoridad de Canal de Panama.


All of her career Sarah has been the "first", breaking the way for other determined women to follow at the Panama Canal; first woman machinist apprentice, first woman master towboat, first woman pilot, and first woman canal port captain. A career of "firsts" and accomplishment is her standard of life.


It is from this organization, that Sarah finally makes the big, and well deserved step into retirement. To quote a friend, Jeanie, "From the Ditch to the World" as Sarah leaves her career as master, captain, and pilot to start anew as master and captain of our S/V POGO II and a life of world cruising.


Job Well Done, Captain Terry ..... MsPilot!

1 reflections.jpg (718694 bytes)
Sarah reflects on the "last transit"
2 delia ahead.jpg (683218 bytes)
The "M/S DELIA" off the bow
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Up the boarding ladder
4 Sarah with Capt & Crew of Delia.jpg (763719 bytes)
MsPilot with the Officers of Delia
5 Soft Talk.jpg (568784 bytes)
Breaking the ice with the Captain of Delia .... always charming
6 getting underway.jpg (577127 bytes)
Threading her way out of Gatun anchorage
7 leaving gatun anchorage.jpg (729553 bytes)
Clear of the anchorage and into the Panama Canal
8 ctan helper.jpg (774679 bytes)
CTAN navigation system displays all ships in the canal
9 reviewing.jpg (604972 bytes)
Reviewing the list of ships that she will meet in the canal
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Conning the ship with a steady hand
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Keeping cool on the bridge deck
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Approaching Gamboa
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Taking the stern tug for running the "cut"
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Two Titans; Sarah and the floating crane "TITAN"
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"Gold & Contractor's" Hills in sight in the cut
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The dipper dredge
works on cut widening
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18 captain & pilot.jpg (828482 bytes)
A close watch as "Delia" passes the dredge
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Finally astern and the way is clear to Pedro Miguel Locks
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The drill barge "THOR" ready to drill holes for blasting charges
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Approaching the north end of Pedro Miguel Locks
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"Crossing the arrow" as "Delia" starts the lockage
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Getting the vessel lined up 
25 it fits.jpg (677845 bytes)
I know it will fit, just checking
24 thoughts of the last transit.jpg (829414 bytes)
Every things ready .... let's move 
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The tugs are in, and so are we
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Closing the gates as we prepare to lock down
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Ms Pilot does it right
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Leaving Pedro Miguel Locks as evening falls and Sarah's last transit is coming to an end
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Pedro Miguel Boat Club makes a raucous time of the last transit; members, horns and sirens shout
31 clearing pmbc.jpg (604999 bytes)
(This photo credit to Dave Malseed of Wave Dancer)
Delia_leaving.jpg (732450 bytes)
(This photo credit to Dave Malseed of Wave Dancer)

Ms Pilot on the wing bridge of the "Delia" as the second control pilot takes the command ..... the day is done, the transit finished.
The emotions are mixed .... of elation looking forward to cruising and sadness at leaving a loved job and friends.
At every lock the ships horns sound a farewell, the locomotives blare a good-bye, the radio chatters "see ya" and waves of adios come from all to be seen.