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The red box is the ship.


The Duesseldorf Express is not here today, as it was scheduled to be.

For a month now, the cargo ship carrying my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL from Los Angeles to a rendezvous with me in Genoa, Italy, has been running on time like a Swiss train – through a dozen ports, across more than 5,000 miles of ocean. Despite wind, waves, high seas and strong currents, the 282-meter-long ship has admirably kept to a tight schedule – until it reached Italian waters yesterday.

Then it plowed into a nearly immovable force we call Italian Standard Time. Instead of numbers, an Italian clock face has “domani” at each hour.

The ship was supposed to arrive in Cagliari, on the island of Sardinia, early Sunday, and leave by late Sunday evening. Instead it was slowed down being allowed into the port, and slowed for its clearance to leave. (Not much happens anywhere in Italy on a Sunday, so maybe that part of the schedule was a little ignorant of local mores.) It was supposed to arrive in Livorno, on the coast of Tuscany, late last night, and leave for Genoa (Genova) by this afternoon.

Instead, it just left Cagliari this morning, and is chugging along the busy shipping lanes off the coast of Sardinia, as I write, at about 14 knots. It is now not due in Livorno until tomorrow morning. Domani.

And that will subsequently delay its arrival in Genoa until sometime the next day (Thursday).

Italian Standard Time is this gotcha in Italy that roughly translates to “whenever.” It’s like trying to play golf underwater, read while looking in a mirror, or climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.

Everything seems to happen in slow motion (if at all).

Here’s an example: We recently had to wait for three weeks for a plumber to come boost the low water pressure at our apartment; he finally came the other day, adjusted it a bit then left. We were actually left with less water pressure, because he adjusted it the wrong way, without telling us what he was doing or why; we called him immediately to come back and really fix it correctly this time. He says he may be able to come back in a week or two – and the guy’s office is a half-mile away from our apartment. It might take him five minutes.

If you try to buck the system, or ask for things to hurry up, you just piss people off. So, the Mercedes arrives Thursday, June 15 now. Or whenever.


Jerry Garrett

June 13, 2017



Posted by: Jerry Garrett | June 12, 2017

Driving My Mercedes From LA To Italy – Day 30 Cagliari

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The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship in the port of Cagliari on June 12 (VesselFinder)

CAGLIARI, Sardinia

The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship docked at the port here this morning, a couple of hours behind schedule. It should have little or no trouble making up the time, and leaving on time this evening around the dinner hour on the next leg of its journey.

That will take it up the gloriously beautiful eastern coast of Sardinia, across the Ligurian Sea along the Tuscan coast, to Livorno, by tomorrow.

The ship is carrying a container, that it picked up in Los Angeles, with my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL in it. And the plan is to bring it to me at the Voltri docks in Genoa by the day after tomorrow (Wednesday). The trip, as the headline of this article notes, has taken 30 days so far, out of an expected 32. The journey for my Mercedes will have covered over 5,600 miles, with stops in Manzanillo, Mexico; Panama; Cartagena, Colombia; Caucedo, Dominica; Lisbon, Portugal; Tangier, Morocco; Valencia, Spain; and now Cagliari.

I haven’t been to Cagliari before, but I have been to Sardinia a couple of times. In 1984, I was invited to the Costa Smeralda Rally. The rally was supposed to last almost a week, and I was assigned to videotape highlights for the old “MotorWeek Illustrated” racing show on WTBS. (Search YouTube; the video is still up!)Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 3.14.33 PM

To reconnoiter the island, I rented a car; I was given a Fiat that was so old and crappy the driver’s seat supports had rotted out of the floor boards. When I’d pop the clutch the seat would tumble over into the back seat. There were no seatbelts. The rear hatch would come unlatched over bumps. It could have been a last-generation Fiat 127 (or first-generation Panda 30); either way, it had an appalling 652-cc engine that produced 23 horsepower.

The night before the rally’s start, I nearly got stranded with it on the isle of La Maddelena, after an ill-advised ferry ride there to look around. I was the last car back on the ferry that Friday evening, beating out a number of irate drivers; I didn’t realize until later their extreme anger was because it was the last ferry until Monday.

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A still from our video, before the crash

The driver whose exploits I meant to follow in the race, Audi’s John Buffum (#9), crashed out the first night of the four-day event.

We were staying at a fabulous alabaster white Moroccan style villa, so I went back and retired early. When I went down to the hotel breakfast room the next morning, nobody was there; I was told the American contingent had checked out and gone home.

I figured I’d better go too, since the people I was covering had left, and I didn’t want my host to get stuck for what I figured would be a big hotel bill.

But getting off Sardinia at a moment’s notice is not easy. There are more flights in than out – or at least back to the airport I had come from – Milan (this is not a math problem; the flights in, often go on to other places). I paid top dollar and got on a last minute flight to Rome, rented a car there, and drove to Milan. Gas was expensive and the tolls took the last of my lira. The drop fee for the one-way rental was a steep $200 (for 1984).

After I arrived at Linate airport, and returned my rental car, I was told I could not get an earlier flight out of Milan; my ticket was not changeable. I couldn’t re-rent my rental car either. So I had to sit around for three days in Milan doing nothing. I got a seedy hotel near the train station, and figured my host would appreciate that it was much cheaper than the luxurious villa in Porto Cervo.

My host did not appreciate my efforts, as it turned out.

“Why didn’t you just stay?” she said. “The room was pre-paid for the entire week.”


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Yeah, I shoulda stayed. (Visit

Ironically, I returned to Costa Smeralda in 2011 on an Audi test drive program. We stayed at the same white alabaster villa.

(We even ate in the same expensive restaurant where, as I mentioned in my Day 29 report, we had spent a million lira on a dinner for five.)

Although it took 27 years, I feel like the universe finally gave me my lost three nights back.

Jerry Garrett

June 12, 2017



Posted by: Jerry Garrett | June 11, 2017

Driving My Mercedes From LA To Italy – Day 29, Sardinia

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Position of the Duesseldorf Express cargo ship June 11 (

CAGLIARI, Sardinia

My 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL is making good progress today, crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Valencia, Spain, to Cagliari on the southern tip of the Italian island of Sardinia. The sea is as smooth as glass today.

This is quite a trip, as the cargo ship in which my Mercedes is traveling weaves its way through the Balearic Islands of Ibiza and Majorca toward Sardinia. You could have a good argument over which of those islands has the most beautiful waters. A large section of Sardinia’s seafront is called Costa Smeralda (“Emerald Coast”) for good reason. The waters are the colors of precious stones such as emeralds, sapphires and turquoise.

I’ve written previously about Sardinia (My 36 Hours in Costa Smeralda) if you would like to know more.

Although Sardinia is a part of Italy, it is an autonomous region, that pretty much does its own thing. It has a long history of control over its own affairs, and in fact centuries ago controlled vast areas of Italy itself. Today, Russian oligarchs have infiltrated the whole island – especially the prettiest parts.

For instance, if you go out to dinner in tony Porto Cervo, the menus are printed in Italian, English and Russian. The joke is the Russians are the only ones who can afford to eat in the best restaurants anymore. (Years ago, at a dinner for five in Porto Cervo, we spent one million…lira – I think it was only about $700. But I always wanted to spend a million on something; the torta cioccolata for dessert put us over the top.)

The palatial waterfront homes are now owned by oligarchs; the yacht harbor is jammed with Russian-owned yachts.

Island life in Sardinia is very much dominated by travel on the seas. Yachts, ferries and cargo ships connect it to the Italian mainland, and the huge French island of Corsica, which nearly touches its northern tip.  At one time, I thought about picking up my Mercedes in Cagliari, driving around the coast to the short ferry crossing to Corsica, touring Corsica and then taking the daily car ferry from Bastia at the north end of that island to Nice (about 100 miles). But the price of gas probably would have bankrupted me! That whole trip would have been several hundred miles in total.

Anyway, the cargo ship, the Duesseldorf Express, carrying my Mercedes to its rapidly approaching rendezvous with me, will only be a short time in Sardinia; then it will wind around the southern tip of the island, before heading up its glorious eastern coast, toward its next stop in the Tuscan port of Livorno.

And then its on to Genoa, where I plan to pick the car up, as soon as port authorities tell me it has cleared customs and is ready to go (hopefully that process does not take as long as it seems to for customs to clear my lost luggage at Italian airports). This two-month odyssey from my house in the western United States to my temporary home near Nice – a month of it on the high seas – is starting to get real…

Jerry Garrett

June 11, 2017





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The position of the Duesseldorf Express, outside Valencia, on June 9


The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship was waiting outside of the port of Valencia this morning, after a two-day trip from Tangier, Morocco.

The ship is carrying a container with my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL in it, en route from Los Angeles to Genoa, Italy. It’s scheduled to be a trip that takes about 31 days. The ship is due to arrive in Genoa by June 14.

I’ve been to Valencia once. It’s a lovely city, with classical architecture, sited along turquoise shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Traveling by road from Barcelona to Valencia was memorable for its scenery, as well as for the number of whores that line the main road. In rural sections, they set battered plastic lawn chairs along the roadway, to let travelers know they are at the ready. They service their clients, right along the roadway. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Shocking.

I suppose it has something to do with Spain’s “austerity” program, which has wrecked the country’s economy (sort of like how austerity has trashed every other European economy that has tried it) and thrown so many young people out of work. But Spain seems to have more whores than the other austere nations. That’s just a subjective judgment; I have no data (or personal experience) to back it up. It’s tragic to see, in an otherwise impressive country.

Sorry for the digression.

From Valencia, it’s on to Cagliari on the southern end of the island of Sardinia. Be forewarned: I have digressions to relate about that glorious island as well.

Jerry Garrett

June 9, 2017



Posted by: Jerry Garrett | June 7, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 26 Tangier, Morocco

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The Duesseldorf Express (red box) approaches Tangier

TANGIER, Morocco

The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship, carrying my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL to a rendezvous with me in Genoa, Italy next week, headed into the Moroccan port of Tangier today at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea.

The ship just spent the previous evening in Lisbon, Portugal refueling after a 3,500-mile crossing of the Atlantic Ocean that took 10 days (from the Dominican Republic). My Mercedes was picked up in Los Angeles on May 13, and has been enjoying (as much enjoyment as can be had inside a shipping container) a trip down the coast of Mexico, a Panama Canal crossing, a Caribbean cruise and trans-Atlantic crossing. Soon it will be transitioning into a four-stop tour of the western Caribbean, before it gets to Genoa on late on June 13. The whole trip is in excess of 5,600 miles.

It seems to have been an uneventful cruise for the most part, with the ship arriving slightly ahead of schedule for most ports since it left Manzanillo, Mexico.

The ship won’t be in Tangier long; it is scheduled to leave tomorrow.


The port in Tangier

The port there isn’t very exciting; I got stranded there for several hours (a couple of years back) when I missed the ferry back to Tarifa, Spain. That ferry ride to Morocco was one of those bucket list things (that probably didn’t need to be on the list, frankly, as it turned out).

A slight digression: We stayed one night in the ancient Hotel Continental overlooking the harbor from the edge of the medina. It was supposedly the oldest tourist hotel in town, dating back to the 1880s or so. Terribly run-down and seedy. But also ornate and fascinating, with curious relics littered everywhere. No one seemed to know its history.

Over the reception desk hung an original oil portrait of someone that I thought I recognized.

“Is that Colonel Lawrence?” I asked the clerk.

“Yes, it is, sir,” he answered.

“Why it is here?”

“It was my understanding he was a frequent guest here, sir.”


img_3746Col. T.E. Lawrence – perhaps you know him better as “Lawrence of Arabia” – officially died in 1935 at age 46 in a motorcycle accident in England, after a long, colorful military career as a British operative in the Middle East. Yet, stories persist of sightings of Lawrence for many years after that in places such as north Africa – particularly in Tangier. The stories had Lawrence living a rather decadent lifestyle for the time in Tangier, which was known then as a destination for like-minded individuals, before disappearing during World War II.

Nothing has ever been proven about these allegations (unusually detailed, I might add) but the stories have been widely published.

Oh if that portrait could have talked. I took a photo of it, or I wouldn’t have believed I actually saw it, after these many years; I posted it above. No, he doesn’t look much like Peter O’Toole.

Anyway, so much for exotic Tangier, and my unsolved mystery encountered there.

Tomorrow, it’s on to Valencia, Spain.

Jerry Garrett

June 7, 2017




Posted by: Jerry Garrett | June 4, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Land Ho!

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Red box indicates location of the Duesseldorf Express on June 4 (Vesselfinder)


Exciting news!

The container ship carrying my Mercedes 450 SL to Italy has just entered European waters.

The ship, the Duesseldorf Express, has been off the standard tracking devices for nearly two weeks, since it left Cartagena, Colombia, to cross the Atlantic Ocean en route to Lisbon, Portugal. (I’m certain its owner, Hapag-Lloyd, knew where it was at all times.)

The journey started May 13 in the Port of Los Angeles, where the container with my Mercedes in it was loaded onto the ship. So far, there have been stops in Manzanillo, Mexico; the Panama Canal; Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

The ship is due in Lisbon at 09:00 on Tuesday, but it looks like the 3,500-mile crossing was a speedier one than expected. As I kept track of the weather in Atlantic the past week, conditions seemed absolutely ideal the whole way. (Note: The Atlantic Hurricane season officially started June 1!)

That allays many fears I had about the Mercedes being jostled about too much inside the container during what can often be a tempestuous crossing.

We’ll see tomorrow whether the ship will arrive earlier than expected in Lisbon.

Its schedule calls for stops Wednesday in Tangiers, Friday in Valencia, Spain; Sunday in Cagliari on the island of Sardinia; Monday in Livorno, on Italy’s Tuscan coast, before arriving in Genoa the next day.

That’s where I hope to a) locate it, b) clear it to leave the port with me, and c) start it. (It was last started in April.)

It’s a 1973 model, and its a little temperamental after so many years on the road. Like its owner.

Jerry Garrett

June 4, 2017


Posted by: Jerry Garrett | June 2, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Hurricane Season

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The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship is now more than halfway across the Atlantic Ocean, on a 3,500-mile route from Caucedo, Dominica, to Lisbon, Portugal.

This is the ship with my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL in a container on board, en route from Los Angeles to me in Italy.Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.41.08 AM

And yes, dear readers, thanks for pointing out that the 2017 Hurricane Season officially began June 1.

Fortunately, there are no storms firing up in the tropical convergence zone. So it looks like a smooth crossing for the Duesseldorf Express.

How lucky is that? I don’t know, but I’ve done three trans-Atlantic cruises in recent years, and on all three, the ships I was on encountered Category 7 storms.

On one trip, on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth II, we veered north to miss a hurricane – only to have the hurricane veer unexpectedly north too – right into our path; that was a rugged 24-hours. Dishes shattered, displays fell, the outside areas were closed off.

On a Royal Caribbean ship (can’t remember if it was Monarch of the Seas, or Majesty of the Seas – I’ve been on both) took a wave over Deck 11.

On the third, the Norwegian Epic, we were battered for 36 hours, with waves often up to the lifeboats. We saw scores of passengers with bruises, bandages and casts the morning after the worst night of it.

“Even I was worried,” our captain said.

Barring any unforeseen weather or other delays, the Duesseldorf Express is due in Lisbon early Tuesday, June 6. From there, it makes stops in Tangiers, Valencia, Cagliari and Livorno before finally arriving in Genoa, late June 13.

It will have been more than two months since I waved goodbye to the Mercedes, as it left my driveway. I wonder if it will still start?

Jerry Garrett

June 2, 2017



Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.41.08 AMCAUCEDO, Dominican Republic

The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship left here Sunday at 7:30 a.m., bound for its next stop, in Lisbon, Portugal.

It is scheduled to arrive there Tuesday morning, June 6, after a voyage of about 3,500 miles.

That’s an average of about 325 miles a day.

To put that in perspective, imagine driving from, say, San Diego to Bangor, Maine – by way of Miami – at an average speed of 14 m.p.h.

I’ve been tracking the Duesseldorf Express, one of about 200 ships operated by the Hapag-Lloyd line, since it left the port of Los Angeles on May 13. That’s where it had loaded a container, with my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL inside, for a month-long voyage to Genoa, Italy.

I like to think of my Mercedes as being on a trans-Atlantic cruise right now.

Consider this, though: The Mercedes is just returning to from whence it came – almost 45 years ago. And by the same manner of transport: A cargo ship. It was manufactured at the Mercedes plant in Sindelfingen, Germany (“West Germany” back then). And then shipped to the United States. (I don’t know what port it left from, or arrived at – but if readers know, please leave a comment!)

Somehow, mine has still the European headlights (not the American-market quads).

This may be an unexpected stroke of good luck, because I might have had to convert the car back to European specifications, to get it through customs. (A friend of mine said she imported a Thunderbird to France a few years back, and she was forced to outfit it with “European-spec taillights”, for whatever reason. That was costly, she said, as well as “stupid-looking.”)

Actually, I’m led to believe the Mercedes is old enough now, so as to be exempt from most modern regulations, on lighting, emissions, fuel economy and (ominously) safety.

In all, the Mercedes’ voyage from LA to Italy will comprise at least 5,600 miles – probably more, since the ship will be traveling a rather circuitous route through the Mediterranean Sea, around various islands.

Genoa’s Voltri port is where I hope to claim it, so I can start driving it around southern Europe for the next few months. This is a developing story that still has a lot of loose ends, to say the least. I don’t know if the thing will start – it will have been two months since I parted ways with it – or if I can get it to my rental apartment (which is about 100 miles away from the port where it will be unloaded). Or if I will be able to afford $6+ a gallon Italian gas, in a car that gets 11 m.p.g., if I am lucky.

I will need to stop once for gas, before I can even get it home!

Jerry Garrett

May 30, 2017




Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 28, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Days 15, 16 Dominica

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Screen shot of live webcam at port of Caucedo, early May 28; ship is parked at docks, back by those sets of bright lights.


CAUCEDO, Dominican Republic

The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship, carrying a container with my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL en route to Italy, arrived in port here just before midnight last night.

It had just completed a two-day leg of its journey from Cartagena, Colombia, along the Colombian coast, out into the Caribbean Sea to Dominica. The part of the journey my Mercedes has been on started May 13 at the port of Los Angeles, continued down the Mexican and Central American coast to the Panama Canal, and on to Cartagena after transiting the canal.

After unloading some cargo, and loading new cargo here – not to mention all the fuel it can hold – the ship will be prepped for its departure at 13:00 Sunday – for a long, long journey to Lisbon, Portugal, its next port of call. It should take about 10 sea days to get there.

These are the dog days of a journey like this, as I can attest from a couple of trans-Atlantic crossings. The days pass slowly. No land is in sight. Seldom are other ships seen. You often don’t even see jet trails in the skies. Crossing straight across the Atlantic is something jetliners don’t often do; they generally stick to more northerly (or southerly) routes that cross closer to possible landing sites.

I’ll post tomorrow, with confirmation that the ship left Caucedo, and to reconfirm the latest schedule. Then I may take a few days off (plus, I’m traveling*), to wait until there is something new to report, closer to Portugal.

Jerry Garrett

May 28, 2017

*Covering the Indy 500

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 26, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 14 Caribbean Cruisin’

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As my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL, loaded inside a container bound for Italy, left here early today onboard the Duesseldorf Express cargo ship, I was struck by what a big adventure this car is on. Too bad it is locked inside a windowless container.

I mean, it sort of reminds me of the story many years ago of the Midwest couple whose pink plastic lawn flamingoes were “kidnapped” and went on a worldwide odyssey. The “kidnappers” would mail the couple postcards of the flamingoes in assorted exotic locations, with no explanation (and no ransom notes). After a couple of years, the flamingoes turned back up in the couple’s yard again. Again, with no explanation.

My Mercedes is on the same kind of journey, as I track it from the port of Los Angeles where it was picked up and loaded on the Duesseldorf Express; to Manzanillo, Mexico; to the Panama Canal; to Cartagena, and now cruising the Caribbean Sea to Caucedo in the Dominican Republic. After that it’s across the Atlantic to Lisbon, then Morocco, Spain, Sardinia, etc. The itinerary is pretty interesting, and educational for me to follow vicariously, because I’ve only been a handful of those places myself. – although I have done two trans-Atlantic crossings.

And the cargo ship experience itself is a whole new world. I was looking on the Hapag-Lloyd website, to see if I could get any new information on the Duesseldorf Express (I couldn’t), but at one point I was asked, “Are you interested in a career onboard?”

Actually, no. It seems like a hard life. On the move 24/7; seldom in sight of land, long days of seemingly endless seas. Interesting to think about, but not for me.

I hope my Mercedes is enjoying it, though.

Jerry Garrett

May 26, 2017


Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 25, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 13 Caribbean Cruisin’

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The port in Cartagena handles the largest container ships in the Caribbean.


The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship, which is carrying a container with my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL, pulled into the breathtakingly beautiful port of Cartagena this morning, after short hop from Colon, Panama, where it spent the day before.

The Duesseldorf Express, which picked up the Mercedes at the port in Los Angeles on May 13, is due in Genoa, Italy by June 14; that’s where I am planning to retrieve my Mercedes from the container, so I can drive it around Italy and France for the next few months.

I learned that the Mercedes is loaded inside a ZIM container, which has fairly distinctive markings.

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Somebody on YouTube uploaded this photo-shopped image of a ZIM container living the high life in the Caribbean. I have no idea why. But this shot seemed apropos here.

As I watched on the Gatun Locks webcam Wednesday, as the Duesseldorf Express did its transit, I actually noticed a ZIM container loaded mid-ship (I guess mariners say “amidship”) on the starboard side of the main deck. I know the Duesseldorf Express has a capacity of 4,600+ TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units of containers), and spotting the container carrying my Mercedes is a long-shot, at best. But that was the only container that said ZIM on the side. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch a screen shot of if in the best location. But it can been seen in a stack of four rusty red 40-foot containers, right above the “d” in “Hapag-Lloyd”. It is one up from the bottom, third down from the top (right under the “5” in the 11:54:44 time stamp, you can see the white ZIM logo – I know it’s just a dot, really, in this shot).

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But I will believe this is the container in which my Mercedes is loaded – until someone can prove to me that it is not!

The Duesseldorf Express was scheduled to spend just a few hours in Cartagena, before setting out on a course to the port in Caucedo, in the Dominican Republic, before beginning its long, long journey across the Atlantic Ocean. The Caucedo port boasts a “working” webcam. So maybe I’ll get another glimpse of the ship, and my car, when it arrives in a couple of days.

Jerry Garrett

May 25, 2017



Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 24, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 12 Transiting Panama!

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The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship in the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal

COLON, Panama

The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship spent the night in port here, after a 12-hour transit of the Panama Canal. The ship is stopping over en route from Los Angeles to Genoa, Italy, with my old Mercedes in a container onboard.

The ship arrived a bit ahead of schedule early Tuesday, waited for its turn in line, and then made the 77-kilometer (48-mile) canal journey without a hitch.

The canal authority operates webcams at the Centennial Bridge and Miraflores and Gatun locks. So I knew it might be possible to actually see this ship, that for 11 days has been nothing but a blip on the tracking screens until now. The bridge and Miraflores cameras wouldn’t load, so I didn’t catch it until the final locks – at Gatun.

It was fascinating to watch the 930-foot-long ship be guided by tugs, and pulled by teams of locomotives on tracks alongside the locks. Once inside the first lock, the gates closed behind it, the water level was lowered and then the front gates opened, and the Duesseldorf Express was pulled into the next set of locks. They closed off, that lock was drained, the forward gates opened, and the ship pulled out and into the lake that empties into the Atlantic. The locks lowered the ship a good 30 feet from the level of the man-made Gatun Lake in the center of Panama. The Miraflores locks on the Pacific side of Panama had raised the ship up to the level of Gatun Lake.

(There are differences of a few feet in sea levels of the Pacific and Atlantic, on either side of Panama; but the real differences that the locks and Gatun Lake mitigate, are the variances in the tides – 20+ feet in the Pacific, just three feet in the Atlantic.)

When the ship was passing the town of Gamboa, along the shores of Gatun Lake, I remembered about 10 years ago when my daughter April and I happened to be kayaking in that area. Some insignificant piece of camera equipment fell overboard. I could see it in the clear waters, but couldn’t reach it. So I jumped in, to try and retrieve it. I couldn’t reach it either, so April splashed in too. We never did get it, but it seemed fun to be swimming in the Panama Canal – a body of water that never occurred to me to have any recreational use. I wondered why.

Our guide paddled over and said, “You ought to get out of there.”

“Yeah?” I said. “The water’s actually cool and refreshing.”

“This lake,” he said, gesturing with his free hand, “is infested with caimans.”

Caimans, if you don’t know, are an “alligatorid crocodilian” species. Their proliferation in this man-made lake is an unintended consequence of its artificial creation; the fresh water lake provides a perfect breeding habitat for them.


What “Infested with caimans” means

No wonder nobody swims in it. We were back in our kayak quickly.

Also leaving quickly, after overnighting at the docks in Colon, is the Duesseldorf Express. It was due to leave port in the early hours of Wednesday, to begin a day-long journey to its next stop, which is in Cartegena, Colombia.

Tomorrow, I will divulge some possibility interesting observations as to the exact whereabouts of my 450 SL on the Duesseldorf Express.

Jerry Garrett

May 24, 2017




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