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100 years of the Panama Canal Pilots Association, the passing on of a legacy

100 years of the PCPA (a family concept), and the passing on of a legacy.
I never thought that by 2020 we would still have Captains Welch, Robbins, ( Robbins admitted the same too) or any other of the U.S. pilots with us. Neither did I think that Captain Jeremías De León, the first Panamanian Canal Pilot would be "sitting" next to them, patiently listening and ready to answer whatever we wanted to ask him. 
I said "sitting" (in quotation marks) since the Pandemic prevents us from gathering at the Union hall, or anywhere else for that matter. It was a "Zoom" meeting, a virtual version of a real meeting.
Thanks to technology I was able to enjoy the meeting from the comfort of the driver's seat of my vehicle, while parked in front of one of Felipe Motta's wine stores. The place could not have been more appropriate for the occasion given the current circumstances; this wasn't a regular meeting, it was the first event towards celebrating the Panama C…
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Seafarers' wives, unsung heroes on land.

Let's blow the whistles for the sailors' wives !
Aren't they unsung heroes too? 


We know about the struggles of seafarers and also about their frustrations for not being able to be home during an emergency, or during special moments. But, how about those loved ones on land who await for the seafarer to return? How about their struggles and frustrations?


Captain Ricardo E CaballeroMaritime Pilot


The Coronavirus crisis unveiled the faces normally hidden behind the loud noise of normality. The world became aware of the fact that 90 percent of trade is done by sea, and that seafarers are essential to ensure that the supply chain is not severely disrupted. 
Before the Pandemic, for many, seafarers were just regular people whose work had very little value. Oblivious of the importance of the shipping industry, people living ashore have long remained ignorant of the role of seafarers in keeping the wheel of trade turning. 
Most are under the impression that seafarers are just tough work…

Piloting and the unstoppable wheel of technological innovation

Piloting and the unstoppable  wheel of technology.






The dehumanizing process:  "There used to be people …" 

When the wheel was invented, (over 3500 years BC according to archeological records) , it undoubtedly changed the  way humans used to move big, heavy stuff. 
Surely, the new invention also reduced the amount of time and hands (manpower) previously required to perform such a task. Now those idling "extra hands"  could dedicate the "extra time" that was made available,  to take care of other issues important for the community.  
 The wheel was such an incredible invention, a masterpiece of human wit,  that has survived up until the present, almost unchanged.  We normally take from granted the fact that the tires of our vehicles are just the evolved version of those prehistoric wheels.
Technological advance has always been the motor behind the modernization of civilization. We don't need to time travel back in order to recall the turning points in histor…

Pilots: burden or necessity? Reality vs Ideal

Pilots: a burden or a necessity?
Reality vs Ideal.
Captain Ricardo Caballero Vega
Panama Canal Pilot
We all know, for being part of the shipping industry, what is the role of pilots. They act as advisors to the Captains when ships navigate in restricted waters. Their knowledge on currents, tides, depths, and resources, plus their ship handling skills are paramount to the safety of the ship, its cargo, the environment, the integrity of port facilities, and more. Having a pilot aboard is a relief for the Captain, is having the most valuable resource while in confined waters, it is having the expert. 
But this isn't always the case according to a some deep sea ships' Captains. 
I can understand that our presence in the bridge could be unsettling for some of the crewmembers, but not for the "Big Man". Most of the time we are treated with so much deference that we feel at home ( at times even better, something I never tell my wife).

Normally, once I step aboard a ship the crew g…

FOR WHOM DID THE WHISTLES BLOW?

FOR WHOM DID THE HORNS BLOW? 


Captain Ricardo E Caballero Vega      Panama Canal Pilot 
A ship's whistle is one of the oldest devices used by mariners to alert of a specific situation. To be exact, for communicating passing intentions (one short blast means "let's meet port to port", two "starboard to starboard", and so on).
But before ships were equipped with modern whistles or horns, these were  already an integral part of some lighthouses and sea buoys to aid mariners navigate. It is a fact that sound travels more efficiently across fog and heavy rain. Sound is more effective than light when navigating in reduced visibility. With all the technological advances, such as the AIS, the whistle of a ship is rarely used these days. 
Rule 35 of the International Regulations for preventing collisions at sea (COLREGs) prescribes the sound signals given by ships in or near an area of restricted visibility.  
However, the ship's whistle is sometimes used unofficially…