The dream of Crusing the Panama Canal… and writing about it!

By Nora Vasconcelos

panama canal photo

As it often happens we save things to do them “someday”, but for Sunny and Al Lockwood a car accident made them decide that “someday was today” and then they agreed that it was time for them to go on that long dreamed cruise that would take them from San Francisco, California to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, traveling for 17 days aboard The Zuiderdam, a cruise ship which also would sail from the Pacific ocean to the Atlantic through the Panama Canal.

But the dream didn’t end there, from their experiences, Al and Sunny wrote a book: Cruising Panama’s Canal, savoring 5,000 nautical miles and 500,000 decadent calories, published by Front Porch Publishing.

panama cover book

“We came up with the idea before we left on the cruise. We were reading books and articles about the history of the Canal in preparation for our cruise, and the history was so dramatic, so fascinating that we thought describing our trip through the canal would be interesting to others,” tells me Sunny, while talking about their book.

“Since I’ve made my living as a writer (for newspapers and magazines), I go through life with a notebook and pen in my hand. And Al almost always has a camera. So the idea of writing about our trip seemed pretty ‘normal’ to us.”

So, after 17 days cruising, and one year working about 5 days a week on their book, “writing and re-writing, cutting and throwing out stories, adding stories, trying to shape and polish”, Sunny and Al completed a book that invites the readers to be part of this literary trip, like good all friends who get together to share their traveling stories, from the moment they booked the trip, to the time they boarded the ship, the amazement that came from finding such an ample art collection aboard, as well as the cooking classes, the fun and relaxing times and the unexpected and surprising experiences.

Page by page, they take the readers along with them through the different areas of the ship, share their advice on how to keep fit and healthy, and their thoughts on how to transform the desserts time into magical and savory moments whenever Al has the chance to indulge his sweet tooth and write about it.

“I know a fair bit about desserts because I just love eating them. I also love cooking—baking especially, but I’m purely self-taught. And every time I find something really unusual—the Sacher Torte, for example, I’ll research its history (that one’s fascinating),” says Al when I ask him about his deep knowledge on the subject.

Al and Sunny also share their experiences on how to make the most of the shore excursions that, in their case, took them (and the readers along) to visit places like Zihuatanejo and Huatulco in Mexico; Costa Rica and its beautiful natural wonders and its unique Doka Estate and Coffee Plantation (a real paradise for coffee lovers); Cartagena, Colombia, and Half Moon Cay, Bahama.

And when the long awaited time comes to cross the Panama Canal, they share in great detail, step by step, all what it takes for a ship as big as The Zuiderdam (operated by Holland American Line), to fit into the different sections of the Canal.

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Funny, entertaining and informative, Cruising Panama’s Canal invites everyone to go along on this journey “of thousands of miles and tens of thousands of calories”. Because this book is much more than a travel guide, this is a book that “has been a labor of love and sharing”, as the authors state on the acknowledgments section.

* All the images and photos courtesy of Al and Sunny Lockwood

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Weekly Photo: Containers

By Nora Vasconcelos

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A literary portrait of Hong Kong city life

By Nora Vasconcelos

HarbourViews (1)

There’s something magical when an author manages to transport our minds to another place in the world, transforming the readers into active spectators. This is the case of Philip Chatting, a well-travelled British author, who in his first novel Harbour Views presents with great detail what it is like to live in Hong Kong when a powerful businessman impacts the behavior of every person around him.

Recently released by Book Guild Publishing, this novel, sprinkled with some touches of dark comedy, presents in all their humane aspects the moods, thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions of the main characters, whose lives spin around Jakob Odergaard, a Norwegian expatriate who built thorughout the years a business empire in Hong Kong.

As powerful as he is, he cares little for anybody else but himself, and this might have turned him into a despicable character, but the precise knowledge with which the author developed his main character, made of Odergaard a unique persona whom people get inevitably drawn to, wandering, from the first to the last page, what is going to happen next?, and in how many ways his volatile reactions will impact, one more time, those living under his shadow.

At the same time, it’s hard not to feel some sort of compassion towards the magnate whose existence, full of money and power, somehow never seems to be a happy one.

On the other hand, most people under his tough hand, have lived painful lives, full of disappointment and dreams of a better life, but in the end, they manage to get some sort of comfort within their own ordinary realities.

And while all this drama untangles, the magnificent essence of the city with its sounds and smells, as well as its always changing harbour views, testifies the ups and downs that constantly accompany all the characters created for this book.

* Photo courtesy of Book Guild Publishing

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Weekly Photo: Relic

By Nora Vasconcelos

I always find something magical and nostalgic in all kind of streetcars, either if they’re still traveling around the city or if they’re part of a historical collection. They’re like a little piece of the past that hasve made it up to these days, giving people the chance to travel back in time, even if only for a few minutes.

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