(As We Know and Love It)
by Louis Husted


1.  Day One: The race begins on Friday , March 26 at 3:00 p.m.  It starts at the Cristobal Yacht Club and ends at the North End of Gatun Locks.  The first boat will take around 47-48 minutes depending on the conditions.

2.  Day Two:  The boats leave the South End of Gatun Locks at about 7:30 a.m. The first boat will reach Gamboa around three hours after the start. This segment is about 21 miles long. 

3. Day Three:  This is broken up into three legs.  The first leg begins at the old Gamboa Airstrip at around 7:30 a.m. and goes about a mile to the Gamboa Dredging Division.  This leg replaces the Miraflores Lake stretch which was eliminated last year as a result of the low level of the lake.  We were not able to use the locks because of it.  The second leg takes the boats through the Gaillard (or Culebra) Cut.   This is the part of the construction of the Canal which caused the greatest difficulty due to the huge slides such as the Cucaracha Slide.  This segment leaves the Gamboa Dredging Division at around 9:00 a.m. or thereabouts and the first boat will arrive at the Pedro Miguel Landing about one hour and fourteen minutes later.  From there the boats are trailered to the South End of Miraflores Locks where they are started to end the race.  They arrive at the Diablo Landing about 15 minutes later.   That puts us at around 2:00 p.m. or thereabouts. 

Now the timers have the demanding task before them to verify the times and ascertain the accuracy of three days and five legs of compiled times.  If things go without a hitch, we are ready to present the overall results at the Curundu Middle School Cafetorium Awards Assembly that evening at 7:00 p.m.

This is the overall view of the race.


Paddlers and friends make arrangements through the Commission for transient quarters for the first day at Cristobal.  Saturday night will be spent at whatever hotel one chooses upon first arriving in Panama on the Pacific Side.  Transportation from Panama to Gamboa on Sunday morning for the start of the race is no problem since Gamboa is a short 20 minutes from the city.  On Friday night the Gatun Yacht Club holds a huge spaghetti dinner for all the paddlers and race observers.

Here the trophy for the winners of the first leg is awarded. 


An interesting aspect of the race is that the winner of each leg receives a wooden bead.   Each leg is represented by a different colored bead.  Leg one is a yellow bead representing the Gold (Atlantic) Coast; leg two is a blue bead representing the blue waters of Gatun Lake; leg three is a white bead representing the Miraflores Lake; leg four is the red bead representing the blood shed by the workers who died in the construction of the Cut; and leg five is the green bead representing the deep waters of the Pacific.   When a paddler has won all the five different colors, he is honored with the title of MASTER PADDLER.  A paddler does not have to obtain all of the beads in the same year.  He can accumulate them over several years of racing.  The Master Paddler is then inducted through a private ceremony in which he is given a secret Choco Indian word which is only known to the fraternity of Master Paddlers.

The race is replete with boats which have a rich and varied history, and indeed each boat has its own unique origin.  Some of the more interesting:

NIC - First raced in 1968, this boat virtually rewrote the race.  It was the first boat of 28 feet in length while the rest were between 19 - 23 feet.  As a result, it blew the others out of the water.  From ten on boats became longer.   "NIC" is Latin for "NON ILEGITIMUS CARBORUNDUM, EST" or "DON'T LET THE BASTARDS GET YOU DOWN".  It is the all-time winner with 10 victories, the most of any other boat in race history.

EL BEJUCO - Prior to the debut of the "NIC", "EL BEJUCO" was the winningest boat with 4 wins in the Male category and 4 wins in the Female category, the latter record being held along with the "BRUISED REED".

THE MOST, THE ALMOST, THE UTMOST, THE MISTER MOST, THE DADDY MOST, THE  MOMMY MOST, THE ULTIMATE MOST - Although all these boats were originally built by the Egger family from Margarita, they have been modified and rebuilt for the most part by those who have bought or paddled them  throughout their history.

THE DEAR DICK - Named in honor of Mr. Dick Williams, past post advisor of Post 21 who spent much of his time and effort in working with this race. His son, Rick Williams is now the advisor for Post 21 in his second year. This is one of the oldest boats in the race.

THE BRUISED REED - Built in 1985 by Jay Gibson, Post 10 advisor from Gamboa, the name is from the 42nd chapter of the book of Isaiah found in the Old Testament of the Bible.  It is a prophesy of the coming of Christ which indicates that EVERYONE is a "bruised reed", but there is One who does not break them but rather makes them whole.  "THE BRUISED", along with the BEJUCO, has the most wins in the female category with four.

THE RAPID TRANSIT - Built by Mr. Norm Watkins, this boat is six years old, has the overall record in the history of this race, and is the only boat to ever cross Gatun Lake in an official time of 2:47.  It has won 15 straight legs in three consecutive years.

THE DUE PROCESS - Built by Mr. Mark Broussard, it has the second most wins
of any boat in the history of the race.  This boat, when it raced in the PATCH category once, became the only patch boat to win the overall time of  the race.   It is now in the States where it will be placed in the Canal Zone Museum in Florida.

As you can well imagine, there are numerous other boats which also have a unique origin or story behind them.  In addition to the unique history of the boats, this race also provides ample occasions which illustrate the human spirit at its best in the face of adversity and  insurmountable odds.

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March 23, 1999
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