Here is a great photo that I am sure everyone remembers....the U.S.
Las Cruces. This little party boat has been around since the
early '60s and has served all concerned very well. I remember taking
moon-light cruises up the Cut when one of the local Canal Zone Teen Clubs
contracted it's use. We used to dance to a CZ Rock and Roll band up
the cut to Gatun Lake and back to Pedro Miguel. PCC made a special
dock on the East Bank of the Canal just North of the Pedro Miguel Locks to
dock the Las Cruces. They even put up one of those
"Point of Interest" signs with the title Las Cruces Landing
at the entrance off Gaillard Highway. The landing shared it's
parking with the Met and Hyde folks, where Frank Robinson worked and the
Pedro Miguel line handlers building. Oh...by the way, the line
handlers building had the last "Nickel Coke" machine in the
world. We used to always stop and get a pop from that old pop
machine....for a nickel. This was up until the early '70s when a pop
cost you 10 or 15 cents anywhere else...Anyway, the U.S. Las Cruces
served PCC and the PCC community for many years. As time passed, it
was docked at Gamboa Dredging Division dock for a while (sleeping)
and then given to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to transport
workers to Barro Colorado. In my last years living in Gamboa before
going into exile here in Florida, we used to get up early in the morning
to launch our boat so we could beat the "Las Cruces's" departure
from Dredging Division to Barro Colorado. The "Las Cruces"
wasn't the fastest boat, and sure put out a healthy wake. I hated
that wake and the PCC Tug's wakes. I don't know if the Las Cruces
is still in use, but it will be forever in my memory.
is the article that came with the photo of the brand new "Las
Canal Review – July 7, 1961 - For
Canal Tours - The "Las Cruces"
launch Las Cruces tasted the waters of the Chagres for the
first time late last month and, like many vessels and individuals before
her, liked the sample and will be staying indefinitely.
Built for the Panama Canal
Company by the Blount Marine Corp., of Warren, R.I., the Las Cruces made
the trip to the Canal under her own power, utilizing specially installed
fuel tanks to make the nonstop run from Fort Lauderdale.
The Blount Marine crew, which brought her to the
Isthmus, said the 63-foot launch handled extremely well on the trip from
Rhode Island, responding quickly and smoothly to her controls and her
engines functioning well throughout the voyage.
The effort to acquire the new vessel was among
the early official acts of Governor Carter after his arrival last year.
Availability of the Las Cruces for tours of the Canal is expected
to help the Republic of Panama in its efforts to build a greater tourist
trade. Several groups already are planning tours.
The 200-passenger vessel,
constructed with double decks, has a 23-foot beam and her diesel engines
are designed to carry her at a normal speed of 11 knots. The lower deck of
the all-steel vessel is encircled by windows, while the top deck is
festively outfitted with a convertible awning.
The tourist vessel is based
at Gamboa, having been placed under the operation of the Dredging Division
and is to be available on a rental basis for the use of employees;
religious, civic, fraternal, and similar employee organizations; tourist
agencies and other organized and responsible groups.
Forms which can be used to apply for use of the
launch are available at the Engineering and Construction Bureau office in
Room 318 of the Administration Building at Balboa Heights, or may be
obtained by telephoning the Dredging Division office in Gamboa.
To enable those taking a
trip on the vessel to obtain the greatest benefit from their cruise,
arrangements have been made for tour guides to be supplied by the Panama
Canal Company. Guides will be able to give a complete and accurate account
of the history of the area traversed by the launch, an explanation of
the work now being done to improve the efficiency of the Canal, and to
answer questions. They will use a public address system installed aboard
the craft for that purpose.
A brochure on the vessel and
on the rules and regulations governing its use now is being prepared,
along with advance schedules for the vessel similar to those issued for
the Ferryboat Presidente Porras, which frequently was used in a
similar role before it was removed from operation.
With the start of operations in the Canal by the
new launch, a name with a long history on the Isthmus has been restored to
the modern Isthmian crossing. A village carrying the name of Las Cruces
served as a construction town while the Canal was being built, but long
before that the name had been used to designate the famous trail which led
across the Isthmus and which was the main route from ocean-to-ocean before
the construction of the Panama Railroad.
Selection of the name Las Cruces for the new
launch conforms with a policy which the Canal organization has used for
the past 35 years to designate motorboats of more than 50 feet in length
by using the names of rivers or towns associated with the history of the
chapter in our Canal Zone history. Long live the memory of our home.