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Old 03-30-2006, 08:45 PM   #1
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Default Panama Canal Transit

Good day: I wonder if anyone has experience of a recent canal transit East to West (yeah, ok, I know the canal actually runs dam nearly North-South - but you now what I mean!)

I know that you require 4 line handlers for example but understand that you can hire people locally just for that job. Is there a long wait for a "slot"? Do you book ahead, perhaps on-line, to reduce this wait time?

If it happens - it would be a 46ft catamaran.....anyone have an idea of current transit cost for that size?

Finally - Are there any good books or Official Instructions from the Cnal authorities that I can get hold of?

Many thanks, Tony
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Old 03-30-2006, 10:00 PM   #2
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check the canal web site: http://www.pancanal.com/

I believe that transit for private yachts is on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can find line handlers there - many are yachties waiting to transit themselves and want the experience of locking through on someone else's boat. We picked up two backpackers who got transit to the other side of the peninsula and had an interesting experience as well. Used to be US military personnel on their days off would also work as line handlers, but I'm not sure if there are many of them around anymore.

Before you can transit the canal your boat needs to be measured by the canal authority. This measurement has nothing to do with measurements or dimensions of your boat, so nothing you can provide if it's not Canal Authority admeasurement, will be accepted. But once it's done, they assign and official number to your boat, and this admeasurement will be accepted the next time your boat transits the canal.

Since you need to be measured at the canal zone, you cannot schedule your transit in advance of arriving in the CZ. I have no idea what the costs are nowadays. You do not need to pay ridiculous prices to an "agent", you can do all the running around yourself - it doesn't take long, and everything is nearby. Agents are for freighters and cruise ships, and price their time accordingly.

It's a beautiful trip. I was surprised at how lovely the area is! (except for Colon - horrible place). Read some accounts of people who have gone through. it is usually fairly easy, but sometimes things get away from people. You need lots of line - 4 lengths X 200' (I believe). Our friends bought cheap polypropylene line right there in the Canal zone. And you need lots of fenders or borrow old tires (but make sure they're covered to protect your freeboard.
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Old 03-30-2006, 11:12 PM   #3
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Thanks, Jeanne - that's great info. I sent you an email through this system but not sure if it works...!!!! Tony
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Old 03-31-2006, 10:16 AM   #4
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We went through a year ago, and had a great experience and partly relaxed trip. Waiting time in Colon is normally about two weeks, but it is possible to shorten it if you use an agent and book passage in time. However the boat has to be measured anyway. We were lucky and had very good help from our agent. Do it youself, but quite some running around and checking every day about passage time as the canal autority makes changes without notifying. Boats less than 50ft only need an 'adviser' not a pilot and the advisers are normally tug boat captains. If they are busy, longer waiting time. You may hire a pilot, but that is rather expencive however it brings you trough in a couple of days.

Lines and tyres you get at the Yacht club in Colon, and I would even recomend to hire at least 2 of the 'professional' linehandlers'. They know the canal, they know the pilots, they speek the languages and may prevent incidents before it happends! Look upon it as a cheap insurance! We used Chino who worked at the dingy dock in Colon Yacht club.

You will go through either center= single boat with lines to each dock side ornested. As Cat you will in that caseprobably be in the center with mono hulls outside you! Another option is to be tied to a tug. In your case and size I thin I would preferr center. You never know what your neighbor boats may be doing!

Have a safe trip and enjoy!

You find our photos and reports at:

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Old 03-31-2006, 09:46 PM   #5
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Hi

We went through last June. Costs are USD 650 plus a buffer fee of USD 800. We paid by credit card which is the best way as the buffer fee will only be debited if for example you cannot maintain speed, have a breakdown or collision etc. If you pay cash you will have to wait for a number of weeks for the buffer fee to be refunded.

We did not use an agent and found the experience fine - long winded and bureaucratic but certainly easily done in a few hours.

we were given tyres by a boat that had just transited from west to east, rented the 4 lines and used 3 backpackers as linehandlers.

The important thing is to ensure that you put down 8.2 knots as your cruising speed - anything less and you will be charged about USD 1k more for all sorts of nonsense. The reality is that you will not be required to do more than 6 knots.

It is a great experience and far less hassle than one expects.

Good luck!
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Old 04-01-2006, 12:03 AM   #6
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tony, got the email, but don't have time today to answer. my time on the internet is sporadic, and today is a short and hurried day.

glad to see all the answers to your question. Good resource, eh?
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In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

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Old 04-01-2006, 08:27 AM   #7
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Hey Guys - That's some really relevant, helpful stuff!! Many thanks to all of you. If you are passing through the BVI's - give me a heads-up and we might meet up for a beer - or whatever.....

Thanks again, and safe sailing, Tony
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