Photo of the Week
November 11, 2001

 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. 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.

Here is the article that came with the photo of the brand new "Las Cruces" above.

Panama Canal Review – July 7, 1961 - For Canal Tours - The "Las Cruces" 

     THE CANAL's new sightseeing 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 Canal.

Another chapter in our Canal Zone history.  Long live the memory of our home.

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