The Panama Canal:
Connecting ship to mule

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How tow lines are established between ship and mule at Pedro Miguel
The initial link-up is done in the traditional way: a small skiff with two men is rowed out to the ship, bringing a light line.
This is fixed to the ship's tow-ropes, which are then brought ashore and joined to the mule's own steel towing line.

Shore lines are dropped to a rowing boat
Oarsman rows across to the ship
Ship tosses out its lines, and men in boat join these to their own lines.
Three mules are moving into position to take up the lines: a fourth mule will follow
Shore hands carry the lines along the quay to the mule. Note the older, simpler turntable, and its control cabinet.
The latest mules have the winding mechanism low down, which reduces the tendency for the mule to be tipped over by the pull on the tow-rope (the mule is also hooked onto the central rack rail). The rod over the bollard allows tow-ropes to slide smoothly over the bollard and not get caught.
Tow-ropes are fixed to one of the leading mules, as this is the bow of the ship.
Second tow-rope attached.
On the side of the mule (the side closest to the water), there are steel rods which seem to be as guards to prevent anything getting caught on the wheel bearing cover. The whole pulley assembly can rotate very quickly to the correct angle to take the load of the tow-rope.
A mule with the bodywork removed. On the left you can just see one of the winding drums: the steel wire towing line gets coiled on the drum.

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This page last updated on 16/05/2009 10:17:43.