When they began this project they were a good half mile from the dock that some of them had built earlier and from the beach. They made camp in the swamp along the canal's edge burning termite hives to keep the bugs away. As work progressed and they got closer to the beach than to the lagoon, they moved their camp onto the pier which at that time was a useless appendage to the also useless dock. There they built plastic-tent city that got them off the wet ground, immediately making use of both pier and dock.
These chunks were then winched out of the sucking mud with a block and tackle and set out of the way of the work being done.
The chunks were dug out with something that looks like a long metal chisel at the end of a long handle. These are actually fairly common tools locally; but the typical wooden handle wasn't up to the demands of the work being done on the canal. The crew chief carried broken tools to Bluefields and had the chisel ends welded to metal handles. Even these broke, but not as quickly. After the roots were cut out and removed, the canal was deepened by digging out bottom muck with shovels.
Wooden shovel handles were also eventually replaced with metal.
After a couple of months the families of the crew members began to join them at the job site, especially now that the men were no longer camping in the swamp. The crew had dug themselves a well. Only a hole in the ground, the water was clear and sweet. Wives did laundry and cooked meals; and children and household pets swarmed everywhere. The work was exhausting but after the families had joined the mix each work day ended with an almost festive air.
...and the men were even careful not to disturb orchids that had attached themselves to trees along the way, some at eye level.
Finally the crew could see the dock while they worked: the job was nearly done. In the final calculation, this crew of fourteen men had opened more than a half mile of canal by hand. For those who, like I, have heard stories about how difficult it is to make things happen in Nicaragua, I say that is not only not true but insulting as well.
Opening the canal has been of benefit to more people than just me. Those who routinely traveled to their farms with great discomfort do so now with ease. The man who years ago slogged through the swamp with a breadfruit sapling now brings his children and stops at False Bluff for a visit and to catch up on the news.
I have been told that many people who own property along this stretch of the Caribbean coast had almost abandoned their properties because of the difficulty of traveling to them. The trip isn't difficult any more. Here is one of my employees in the canal with a new 'errand' boat.
Now people who've not been out to the beach for a long time are returning...to visit, to work, to clear land. One of my neighbors stopped by after tying up the boat to introduced me to her grown son: he was making his first visit to the family's property.