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Old 06-18-2007, 07:13 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2007
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We had heard a bunch of horror stories about crossing the canal, but we just went across last week and had no problems. If you are doing the transit from North to South (Caribbean to Pacific), here are some tips.

1- Don't hire an agent. We did and after doing so we found out from some friends that we met that the paperwork is no problem. The agent promises that he can get you through faster, but unless there is a huge number of boats waiting when you arrive, or if you are in a huge hurry, it doesn't seem to be worth the money. That, and now that we are on the Pacific side, we can't find him.

2- Find volunteers for line handlers. The Transit Advisors are provided by the Panama Canal Authority as part of your transit payment. They are friendly and very experienced and tell everyone on board exactly what to do and when to do it. Instead of paying $55 a day for locals, just ask around the yacht club for people that have line-handled before. There are a bunch of bored cruisers that are just hanging out and are happy to do it for a few rounds of beers. Of course, you may not want to trust your boat to someone that hangs out in the bar from 10am to midnight. . .i understand.

3- Test out your lines. Unless you carry 4 125 foot lines of 1 inch Nylon, you are going to have to borrow or rent lines. We tied on our lines and fed them from cleats, up through the bow chocks. We failed to notice that there was a splice about half way down the line we attached to the bow on the port side. This splice increased the diameter of the line by about 1/2 inch, which subsequently jammed going through the chock. We had to do some serious inter-lock maneuvering to prevent ourselves from getting slammed into the walls because the 125 foot line quickly became 75. We were able to adapt to this, but while trying to tie up in your first lock ever is a bad time to learn it. No splices. Splices are bad.

4- Borrow your tires. Lots of guys offer you tires to tie to your boat, and I'd recommend doing so. It's just that you get charged $2-$3 per tire to 'rent' them for a day or two and then when you get to the other side, you get charged $1 to get rid of them. Find people that have just transited and ask for their tires. You won't have to pay the rental, and they won't have to pay the return fee. And don't suggest that you will just "throw them in the ocean" when you get to the other side. They don't take kindly to that.

5- Don't stress too much. It turned out to be one of the coolest parts of our circumnavigation. It was exciting and scary all wrapped up together. We had a good friend watching the webcam in the Miraflores locks and were able to yell at the guy in the control tower so he would point the camera at us. We have a video on our website of our transit and a bunch of pictures.

If you have any questions about our experience, you can find contact info on the site at www.svsohcahtoa.com

good luck,


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Old 06-18-2007, 07:27 PM   #2
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Welcome aboard Jeff. Well done on "going round".

Thank you for posting the information on the Panama Canal.



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Old 06-18-2007, 11:48 PM   #3
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additional Canal info....

If you can't find tires or lines from other yachties there was (is?) a taxi driver that goes by "Dracula' that is really helpful. We found him on the Colon side at the yacht club. Can't recall how much it was for the tires and line, but wasn't much. He delivered on time and picked the stuff up on the other side on time. He got the name Dracula 'cause he bit someone when in a fight as a kid. Nice guy, low key. Might of had a dodgey eye to add to the mystique.

We also found the same thing to be true for all the paperwork. Handled it by ourself...clearing in, the canal stuff and clearing out...no worries. I think we made it through within a week after arriving, give or take. Our pilot was a great guy named Alex and very professional. I suggest asking for him if he's still around.

We did opt to side-tie to a tug and that was very easy. We were there either right before or right after those yachts got crunched from a tug, but I'd side-tie again.

Btw, the refund check from the Canal authority did make it in about a month to Puerto Vallerta (if they still do it that way).

best - J
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Old 06-19-2007, 06:09 PM   #4
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What were the fees for the entire passage going for? I may be going through this Winter.


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Old 06-20-2007, 08:14 PM   #5
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So how well did 3 guys on a 44ft boat get along for a multi-year circumnavigation?

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Old 07-02-2007, 12:13 AM   #6
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I transited the Canal one year ago. Here is my take:

1. Hire yachties or other folks for line handlers if you want, but I had some $50 Panamanians who were very familiar with the routine and the one yachtie I had on board got us sideways in the canal by failing to notice we were getting sideways when the water went down and he did not release the line. I would always have a few folks who have done it before. A couple hundred one way or another is not worth the cost of your boat. You will probably be in the locks with a very large boat of some kind and it will be coming down on you when you go down from Gatun. Lots of the people hanging out in the bars have no experience. I suggest you not take them.

2. My agent cost about $100 extra and no posting of bond, got through about a week faster, and did not have to spend about $30 in cab fares and he saw to it I got all the cruising permits etc. Well worth it. Sure you can do it yourself. Do you want to spend a day or two doing this?

3. Total costs for my 37 foot sail boat was about $800.

4. Tires are plentiful and generally free from Pacific to Atlantic and you can sell them to Atlantic to Pacific folks. The other way around you will pay for the tires and pay to have them taken off your boat. Law of supply and demand. Not that many people are as dumb as me to go from Pacific to Atlantic.


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Old 07-03-2007, 11:56 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Trim50 View Post

So how well did 3 guys on a 44ft boat get along for a multi-year circumnavigation?

ask me that again once we get the boat from Mexico all the way back to Seattle. We still talk to each other, and I don't think that anyone has grabbed a gaff with intent to kill. . .but sometimes it is tempting.

we all lived together in a small house prior to the trip and all learned how to sail (only 5 years ago) at the same time, so we are much more like brothers now.


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Old 07-04-2007, 06:59 AM   #8
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I will be taking a 43 foot cat through the canal towards the end of August or beginning of September on a delivery from Cape Town to Raiatea. I will give you folks an update on costs after the transit. I took a 40 foot cat through this time last year, using an agent who I felt was tooooooo expensive but will be using another agent, who I met last year, for this transit.


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Old 07-04-2007, 07:35 AM   #9
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Thanks John. Our members will look forward to your Panama news. A few photos and a couple of the more pertinent comments from your log would be great if you have the time. Enjoy the trip!



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canal, panama

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