I have just transited through the canal and wanted to share my experience with the community. We did all steps of the preparations by ourselves and it appeared easy enough.
We were going from Pacific (La Playita anchorage) to Atlantic (Shelter Bay Marina) and I was told that doing the same in Colon might be a bit more intimidating and/or difficult.
Here are the steps needed to complete the process:
1. check in (get cruising permit
in Capitania de Puerto, get visas, aduana etc.. - not the Canal business)
2. visit the Canal office right across the road from Banco Nacional at Balboa
(fill the form with transit request)
3. Schedule a vessel inspection
(and pass it)
4. deposit $1500 (cash!) at Citi Bank near Niko Cafe in Balboa
(part of it called 'buffer' will be returned to you upon completion of transit. As far as I understand I will receive well over $800.00 back; see form below)
5. call the scheduler to schedule transit.
Scheduling the vessel inspection
and transit time/date is done by phone
. We went to the canal office to fill the initial form and couple of days later to the bank to make a deposit (cash). I don't think I would benefit from any assistance except taxi driver.
We bought tires (4 tires $2.00 each) and rented lines ($25.00 per line x 4) at Balboa Yacht Club.
We had friends passing the canal on their boat with 8 crew and we were able to "borrow" linehandlers (skipper + 4 linehandlers needed)
Here is the form from Canal de Panama
website which pretty much explains everything:
Overall simple process. There is no language problem since English
is the official Canal language. Everything went well with no hiccups.