Civil service Capt. Ed Nanartowich, master of Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort, communicates with the ship's crew while transiting the Panama Canal July 10. Panama Canal Authority regulations allow ships up to 106 feet in width to use the canal's locks; Comfort is 105 feet 9 inches wide.
"The major concern that I had was getting the ship aligned to enter the canal early on," said Nanartowich. "Early alignment and speed was the key to a safe passage. You have to be going one knot when you enter the canal, and going that speed, we lose steering capability. That's something we had to compensate for by aligning the ship early so that steering wasn't an issue."
Comfort's 50-mile journey through the canal took approximately 10 hours. By the end of July, Comfort had visited Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua and El Salvador. By the end of the ship's fourmonth deployment to Latin American and the Caribbean, it will also have visited Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Haiti, Peru, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.