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Old 11-12-2014, 16:31   #1
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San blas cruising from nw florida

My wife/mate are considering cruising to San blas islands and are wondering what pitfalls we might encounter. Any advice as to whether to hug the Florida coast and depart from dry tortugas or to do a seven day across to isla muharidis. Also ports to avoide and which to be sure and see. Are the drug smugglers a real problem and are the Mexican / Honduras/ panama locals frendly and helpful. We have a 43' leopard catamaran and would like to experience the San blas islands but not sure what time of year and prevailing trade winds. On the other hand a much safer trip and closer would be the Bahamas and misc islands within. Any advice would be helpful as we are not full time cruisers but can take the time do do whichever. No worries or strain would be best. Our leopard cat is fully loaded and for sale but no hurry. Thanks for any advice
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Old 11-12-2014, 16:41   #2
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

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Originally Posted by Chrisco View Post
SNIP

On the other hand a much safer trip and closer would be the Bahamas and misc islands within. Any advice would be helpful

SNIP
You seem to have answered your own question. If you pick your weather window you should never have to sail up wind or after dark. If you avoid Nassau there is not really anything to worry about and every one speaks English and accepts American dollars, and lots places credit cards as well.

But the biggest plus I see from doing the Bahamas first is even a couple of months there will give you a lot more confidence in your abilities if you do want to go South later.
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Old 11-12-2014, 18:29   #3
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

Wow, lot going on in that post. Do you really want to cruise the Bahamas or the San Blas?

Both are great places. You could take the E Carib route and do both.

Drug smugglers are no problem anywhere as long as you stay out of their business, but if you take the W Carib route to the San Blas I would avoid the mainland of Honduras and the E coast of Nicaragua.
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Old 11-12-2014, 19:42   #4
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

It's a tough haul from the west end of Cuba to the San Blas in the winter. May or early June would be best.
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Old 12-12-2014, 07:03   #5
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Chrisco.
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Old 12-12-2014, 09:25   #6
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

Couple thoughts on the San Blas: Cruising Guides. You definitely need one because the reefs are plentiful and not where the charts show them to be. The books do - the Zydler book is good; the Eric Bauhaus book is even better. You either want to cross the Caribbean sort of directly or go clockwise, not counter clockwise. As said above, there are no druggie dangers if you don't participate. The San Blas is a closer version of the South Pacific - just beautiful.
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Old 12-12-2014, 13:48   #7
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

Hi. I arranged all of my amazing crew gigs over the years through
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The last boat I was on went from Grenada, to Tobago, Trinidad, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba, Colombia (Santa Marta and Cartagena), the San Blas Islands, then to Shelter Bay and Colon. I'm happy to give any info on any of those places.

In response to your post, I can give you info on Panama, including the San Blas, especially since I was there only a few weeks ago. I was on a 42' monohull.

It might be a bit convoluted, but, hopefully, helpful.

Make sure you have cash (US $) because there isn't a single ATM anywhere in the San Blas Islands. Some places do take credit cards, though.

Being on a Cat should mean that navigating will be less stressfull, when you're navigating between the islands, but you definitely need to stick to the main channels, and have a spotter at all times. Compare paper navigation guides with whatever nav. software you have, as there are discrepancies. There are some islands, for example, that are difficult to get to even with a dinghy. On the way to Banedup Island, we hit bottom with the dingy, and it happened really fast. One of the other yacht owners, anchored nearby, yelled out to us that we couldn't get there that way, that we had to come back and go all the way around, etc., etc...... you get the idea. But that's exactly what it's like in the San Blas. Banedup is one of the islands, however, where they sell 'restaurant-style' food (limited menu- chicken, octopus, lobster, fish), and beer, so it might be one of the islands you want to go to.
Porvenir, not far from Banadup, is where you clear in, and there is a 'restaurant' there, as well. They also have a 'hotel.' It's cheap, but very basic. Graciella is the elderly, Kuna Indian lady, that runs the place.
If you only have Euros, say, there is an island, very close to Porvenir, where you can change it to American. We didn't find the man who does the money-changing, but we lucked out and found a couple of guys on a boat that changed Euros to American for us. I don't remember the specific name of the island, but it was one of the Carti Islands, the one that is overflowing with reed huts. You can see it from Porvenir, only a stone throw away. Graciella will tell you where it is, anyway, if you ask her.
As we dinghied away from that Carti Island, we saw a couple of locals waving to us from their wooden dug-out canoe. I didn't know it at the time, but it was a lobster that one of them was waving at us. When we pulled along side, we saw that the bottom of the canoe was filled with lobster. One of our guys wanted to buy three, and he was told it was $20. I immediately said no, because I happened to know that you buy the lobsters for about $2 US, each. Markus offered $10 for 3 lobsters. I guess the guy in the canoe felt bad because he gave him four, for the $10.
If you want to go Panama City, from the San Blas, there is a way to do it, from Porvenir, but I don't remember the details. I do know that you take a boat from Porvenir, early in the morning, to some other place, and from there you are transported in a jeep. I wasn't paying much attention when Markus made his arrangements.
Markus was the only one that cleared in at Porvenir, and it cost him $100 US, plus and extra $20 for the overtime fee. We arrived with lots of time to clear in, but the language barrier made it difficult. So, by the time Markus made his intentions clear, it was past closing time. This is a problem that I've seen before, so it definitely helps to know some basic Spanish, related to the customs and immigration process.

Our cellphones worked, but there is no wifi anywhere in the San Blas.

This should be a no-brainer, but don't take anything that doesn't belong to you, not even a coconut. Everything belongs to someone, even those coconuts that have fallen behind some brush, that you would think people don't care about. On the island of Yansaladup, for example, just across from Banedup, there are two men there, whose jobs happen to be to harvest the coconuts. It's kind of funny, really, because you can walk from one tip of the island to the other in about two minutes.

There is a boat, larger than the canoes you'll typically see, laden with fruits and vegetables that will come to your boat. Even if you don't need anything, introduce yourselves and find out what their delivery schedule is. I think they come by every day, but I don't remember. One of the Yansaladup caretakers came by and offered to go to one of the islands to get us beer. He, as a local, pays $1 US per beer, but he would charge you $2US per beer. He paddles over in his dug-out. The dug out canoes are called cayucos.

Oh yeah, if you want those 'money-shot' photos, go to Banedup Island, well before the sun sets. Sit at the picnic table closest to the 'bar,' on the side of the table closest to the water, and face the sun. Just do it, and you'll see what I mean. I wish I had the photos to show you. When I got back to Toronto, my laptop crashed (maybee too many photos?), and I lost all of them. I don't know if any of you saw 'Police Academy,' the first one. Remember when one of the two brown-nosers found his car, after Bubba Smith used it to 'practice?' Remember his reaction? That's what I did when I realized I had lost all of the photos from a 4-month trip.
I have some of the San Blas photos on my blog, though, but not much.

From the San Blas, we sailed to Colon. We ended up anchoring just outside of the channel that takes you into Shelter Bay Marina. It was night by then. We were just sitting down with a beer when the police came by and politely told us we weren't supposed to anchor there, and that the designated anchorage was on the other side of the bay. They said we could stay there for the night but we should leave in the morning. We dinghied into Shelter Bay Marina, that night, and had something to eat. They've got a good restaurant. No ATM. In fact, my Canadian debit card wouldn't work anywhere in Panama, not even in Panama City. I had to borrow $100 from Sebastian, the owner of the boat, and then wired it back to him when I got to Toronto.

We headed for the designated anchorage in the morning. This is when the unpleasantness started. The DA is in the middle of nowhere. We dinghied into the only inlet we could find, searching for the old yacht club. We saw one building that looked like it could have been a yacht club building, but it was all fenced off. We had read somewhere that the old yacht club's dinghy dock was still there. In any case, to my knowldedge, based on that search we did, there is no old yacht club anymore. That made us worry, because we could see from the boat, before we even got in the dingy, that the whole area, for a few miles, was where containers were unloaded from ships. That told us that the entire place was a high-security area, and even if we could find a hole in the fence and were able to make it to a street to hail a cab, without getting robbed or killed, we'd probably get shot by the shipyard security.
So, w dinghied for a mile and a half, searching for a place to dock the dinghy but couldn't find anything that looked like a dinghy dock. We doubled back and decided to head toward a spot where a few fishing boats were tied up. It was total luck, but not only were we able to tie up, but that was where the customs and immigration office happened to be. However, it was a concrete pier, about four feet high. We put ourselves between two 18' fishing boats and clambered up onto the pier.

A word, first, about the area. Colon is a shithole, plain and simple. Not sure what happened to that place, because a lot of the buildings are beautifully designed, and I could see that a lot of thought went into the architecture. But is seems like one day someone decided that Colon didn't matter anymore and just let it go to pieces. While we were searching for the dinghy dock, for example, we could see that some of the buildings on shore looked like bombed out Beirut. I've done a lot of crew gigs, all over the world, and that was the only time I was afraid. I kept praying that our little two-stroke outboard wouldn't konk out on us. It has never had to take us more than a hundred meters before, and here it was being pushed to take us over a mile. I could see the headlines flashing in my mind, as we dinghied further and further away from the yacht, passing neighborhoods that were clearly the kind of places that I would never venture into, even in daylight- "Canadian and German robbed and killed after drifing ashore when dinghy engine gave out." So, whoever put the designated anchorage where it is, didn't give much thought to it.

Sebastian and I were really freakin' pissed to have been placed in that situation. Ok, maybe we missed the place that we were supposed to go, but, still, they put the anchorage right beside an area that not only is the ghetto of the city, but in a spot where it is really difficult to figure out and to manouvre in. We were forced to dinghy between giant ships and piers, and around speeding pilot boats. The other thing I was constantly thinking about is what if we had to make the dinghy trip back in the dark? We didn't have a light with us.

Anyway, back to customs and immigration. Once we were on the pier, we were met by a woman who was wearing official-looking tags around her neck. She looked like one of the dancers you see in seedy bars- busoms hanging out, skin-tight jeans, three-inch heels, and long, decoratively painted fingernails. We first had to go to a small office and pay the docking fee of $10US. Then the dancer, I mean immigration officer, took us to her office. As I was getting on a plane in less than 72 hours, the time allotted to those coming in to the country by water, I was cleared in right away, no charge. Sebastian, however, was going on to transit the canal, so he had to, at least, pay for a visa. But, when he was asked to pay a $75 overtime fee, he refused. He explained that we arrived well before the cut-off time, and it was their fault that it took so long to process us. For example, I needed to show that I had pre-purchased plane tickets, but they didn't have an internet connection so I couldn't show them my Etickets. Next thing I know, we're in a cab, heading for a place that has wifi, so that I could prove I had the plane tickets. Well, on the way, I had them stop so that I could use my debit card at an ATM. That's when I found out that my Canadian RBC card doesn't work in Panama. In any case, as far as we're concerned, a customs and immigration office should be prepared with an internet service. Surely I wasn't the first person that was required to show proof of airline tickets, and surely I wasn't the first person that had an Eticket. They also needed to photocopy some of Sebastian's documents. Shouldn't they have photocopiers in a customs and immigration office? So, with the immigration officer, and some other guy, in tow, we went from place to place, trying to get things done that they should have been able to back in their government office.
When we got back to the office, Sebastian was told he had to pay $60 for a cruising permit, from a different person in that office. Fine, he paid it. By this time we were both frustrated and fed up. The other problem, of course, is that they didn't have a person there that could speak English. Again, something that you'd figure they'd be prepared for, right? So, after paying the $60 for the cruising permit, all Sebastian wanted was to pay the $100US (same thing Markus paid in Porvenir) and then leave.
But the woman refused to allow him to pay the $100 for the visa, until he paid the $75 overtime fee. Sebastian refused. She refused to give him his passport back. So, Sebastian walked out of the office, leaving his passport with the immigration officer. The woman spoke to me, all in Spanish of course, without thinking that maybe it would be helpful is she slowed her speech down a bit. I again asked for a translator but I was given no answer. I went back out to where Sebastian was, and told him that the woman said he needed to pay or she would call the police. Sebstian walked back into the office and asked to see where his passport was, just to make sure she didn't take it home with her. She showed him that it was in the top drawer of her desk.
Sebastian left again, and I followed. He wanted to get something to eat, and so did I. We hadn't eaten all day. As we passed through the security gate and into the street, we ran into the officer that we paid the $10 dinghy fee to, and he quietly said, "she's a very bad woman." As we walked further along the street, we noticed a bunch of police officers pull up on bicycles. It didn't appear that they were called by the dancer. There are police officers on bicycles all over the place anyway. So, Sebastian took the opportunity to try to explain what was going on. It wasn't so much about the money, with Sebastian, it was the principal. He felt that if he caved in and paid, then the next yacht owner that showed up would be expected to pay, and probably be charged even more, etc, etc. After talking to the police for a couple of hours, with the sun dangerously close to the horizon, the police paddywagon showed up and we were transported to the police station. The immigration officer sat in the front seat. At this point I wasn't afraid. Frankly, I didn't even have to be there, because I was cleared in already and good to go. But there was no way in hell I was going to abandon Sebastian in that situation. Actually, I was thinking that this would be good material for my blog.
So, we get to the station, and were put into a urine-soaked waiting room, that was filled with scantilly-clad women whom I guessed were prostitutes. I tried to get a few photos with my phone, but was immediately verbally attacked by my fellow inmates and told that I couldn't take photos. We were finally called out of the waiting cell and we stood in the hallway, repeating that we needed an interpreter. Oh yeah, by that time, the immigration officer had changed her story and said the $75 wasn't an over time fee, it was for something else. What was it for, we asked? They couldn't tell us. Then one of the prostitutes was called over to act as translator, but she couldn't speak English any better than the other, so our question still went unanswered. At no time were the police officers threatening us. I susptected it was a scam that the police were in on, anyway, so I still wasn't worried. If that was how Sebastian wanted to handle this, I was behind him. He is a man of principal and he shouldn't waver. Frankly, after the immigration officer changed her story about the fee, I felt certain that she was putting herself in a different situation so she could extricate herself, if Sebastian remained adamant, by saying, "sorry, it was all just a misunderstanding." I think she was starting to worry because now Sebastian was asking to talk to the head of immigration.
However, right about that time, I happened to look to my right and I saw one of ther other inmates, who was behind the bars of a cell that we couldn't see from the waiting room we were just in. He gestured with his hands, going through the motions of putting on an imaginary rubber glove. That, along with the maniacal look on his face was enough for me. I turned to Sebastian and whispered, "hey, maybe we should pay the fee." He saw the look on my face and paid the money.

We cabbed it back to the immigration building, with the immigration officer. Then Sebastian and I went to the open-terraced bar, just outside the immigration office security gate, and order four beers, two for each of us. Then the imm. officer came over and asked if we could buy her a bottled water. Huh?! So we did. Who wants more trouble right? Then I found out that she wanted to 'get to know me,' if you know what I mean. That's when we decided to buy a few more beers and take them back to the boat. In the meantime, some guy had come up and helped himself to one of my cigarettes, and another guy came up a picked up my duffel bag and placed it on the bar, telling me it isn't safe to leave my bag beside me on a chair. Oh yeah, remember the other guy, the one that was with us when were roaming all over, trying to show proof of my plane tickets? He asked Seb for $40US, a fee, he said, for the time he spent with us. We didn't even know who the hell he was or who he worked for. We really wanted to get the hell out of there, asap.

Next morning, the immigration officer was waiting for us at the office, and we all climbed into another taxi and paid another $3 and went to the main immigration office, downtown. Seb and I looked at each other, thinking, why the hell didn't we just go straight there in the first place?! We waited for an hour and then Sebastian finally had his visa and was given his passport back. Our mistake was that we didn't research enough. We should have checked in at noonsite to see if anyone posted any info about clearing into Panama, in Colon.

Next day, I bought a bus ticket to Panama City.

So, no problem in the San Blas Islands. Watch your depths carefully and move slowly. Colon, however, is another story- "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here....."

I'll leave my story there, but if you have any other specific quesions, don't hesitate to ask. My intention was to give a synopsis, anyway, so I know I've let out a bunch of other possibly useful stuff.
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Old 12-12-2014, 14:42   #8
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

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Old 12-12-2014, 18:32   #9
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

i have lived in panama 12 years what he described is every day you deal with any government official here ,, cost me 650 bucks to get my cruising buddy out of jail was 3days over on his visa ,, he was in a cel ment to hold 40 with 130 illegal Colombians standing room only i paid 20 bucks to let him sleep on the floor in the hall of the cell ,,
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Old 13-12-2014, 06:09   #10
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

..Panama it's an incredible, nice country.. but Colon it's kind of far west... It's a twilight zone... and for a non-Spanish speaker could be a bitter experience deal with immigration or police... on my experience.. keep away colon unless you really need to go there...
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Old 13-12-2014, 07:21   #11
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

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Originally Posted by jasonk View Post
........
From the San Blas, we sailed to Colon. We ended up anchoring just outside of the channel that takes you into Shelter Bay Marina. It was night by then. We were just sitting down with a beer when the police came by and politely told us we weren't supposed to anchor there, and that the designated anchorage was on the other side of the bay. They said we could stay there for the night but we should leave in the morning. We dinghied into Shelter Bay Marina, that night, and had something to eat. They've got a good restaurant. No ATM. In fact, my Canadian debit card wouldn't work anywhere in Panama, not even in Panama City. I had to borrow $100 from Sebastian, the owner of the boat, and then wired it back to him when I got to Toronto.

We headed for the designated anchorage in the morning. This is when the unpleasantness started. The DA is in the middle of nowhere. We dinghied into the only inlet we could find, searching for the old yacht club. We saw one building that looked like it could have been a yacht club building, but it was all fenced off. We had read somewhere that the old yacht club's dinghy dock was still there. In any case, to my knowldedge, based on that search we did, there is no old yacht club anymore. That made us worry, because we could see from the boat, before we even got in the dingy, that the whole area, for a few miles, was where containers were unloaded from ships. That told us that the entire place was a high-security area, and even if we could find a hole in the fence and were able to make it to a street to hail a cab, without getting robbed or killed, we'd probably get shot by the shipyard security.
So, w dinghied for a mile and a half, searching for a place to dock the dinghy but couldn't find anything that looked like a dinghy dock. We doubled back and decided to head toward a spot where a few fishing boats were tied up. It was total luck, but not only were we able to tie up, but that was where the customs and immigration office happened to be. However, it was a concrete pier, about four feet high. We put ourselves between two 18' fishing boats and clambered up onto the pier.

A word, first, about the area. Colon is a shithole, plain and simple........
Did you guys do any research before you tried to check into Panama? One thing I don't like about CF is the blaming the victim posts that follow a post where someone had trouble. Like it couldn't happen to me. Well here is a blame the victim response post, as the big slam on Panama doesn't seem justified to me. Firstly, you were legally required to check-in in Porvenir. A simple process that requires paying $192 for a one-year cruising permit, $100 for a 1 year tripulante visa and $30 for a Kuna Yala 30-day fee. It also requires an additional $40 for weekend overtime. Putting things off till you get to the big city of Colon can just cause hassles - oh, yea, you already know that.
The anchorage you were sent to is The Flats. It is the waiting area for entering or leaving the Canal when on transit. Did you happen to notice that there were no other cruising boats in the anchorage? That wasn't because you found a beautiful empty tropical anchorage to have all to yourselves. The yacht club has been gone for a lot of years and was replaced by secure container storage.
Not sure why you think the Immigration office should have an Internet terminal available for your use. Last time I cleared into the US, I don't remember them offering me a quick look at my GMAIL. Sounds like 1st world girl problem to me. How you guys figured out that the overtime charge was incorrect is beyond me -- other than you didn't want to pay it. You could have easily avoided it by going to Immigration at 9am M-F -- and not waited to clear-in till you had been in the country for many days.

You are both lucky that you got out of Colon without any real damage -- it is a tough town. I bet the story sounds pretty good after the fact in a Blog.
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Old 13-12-2014, 12:19   #12
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

Hey, Paul. I guess I could have chosen different words, in certain places, to describe the experience, but I really didnít mean to slam Panama. Actually, we had a great time in the San Blas Islands, and Panama City happens to be one of my favorite cities. I was merely telling Chrisco about my Colon experience, with the hope that some of the info might be helpful to them, even though they very well may not even go there.


We didnít do much research about Colon, specifically, thatís true, and I consider that to be a mistake on my part. Iím crew, so I follow the owner of the boat. The owner of the boat happens to be a really smart, and careful guy. That is particularly poignant here, because if this could happen to him, Iím sure it could happen to anyone. One manís opinion, of course. However, we were both thinking, ďthis is Panama, right? Lots of yachts come through here all the time, so if any city in the world is accustomed to processing vessels I would think it would be Colon. Naturally, they would have things set up, like any other place, that would be relatively convenient for the yachts.Ē I donít think thatís an unusual or unreasonable expectation.

As far as checking in to Porvenir is concerned, we already knew that that was the place to clear in, if a person decides to stop in the islands, of course. But we goofed, and didnít have enough cash. I had read a few conflicting reports about whether or not there were ATMs there. Anyway, that was no big deal. The authorities in Porvenir told us it wasnít a problem, that we could simply leave in the morning, for Colon, and clear in there. They did, however, allow the other crew member to pay his fee and clear in, so that the boat owner could clear him off the crew list. The other crew member wanted to stay in the San Blas for a few weeks, so he didnít want to continue on with us to the mainland. All pretty straight forward and I donít think we did any out of the ordinary. Your point is well taken, though, and, not that Chrisco would make the same mistake, we should have made it a point to have the cash before we left Cartagena. However, I did try to find a place to change money before we left, but my timing was off. Hey, Iím human. Sometimes things donít work out as planned.

Iím sorry, but I canít really make any sense of what you mean about the anchorage, but I'll try to respond. Whether the anchorage, or Ďthe flats,í as you called it, is for yachts waiting to transit the canal or not, itís still just an anchorage, and it happens to be the only one there. As far as I know, there isnít anywhere else to anchor, is there? We could have taken a berth at Shelter Bay Marina, but the owner of the boat never stays in marinas. So, any yacht coming in to Colon, whether they are transiting the canal or not, and if not taking a berth in Shelter Bay, has to anchor where we anchored. So, they will experience that same thing we did. That was the point I was trying to make for Chrisco. If people anchor in the flats, and they havenít cleared in yet, they too will have to get into their dinghies and motor for a mile or two, trying to figure out where the customs and immigration offices are. Thatís a fact. However, we already went through that extremely uncomfortable hassle, and lucked out by finding the office. So now, anyone reading this, I hope, should have an easier time. That was the purpose of my post.

Paul, weíre not complete idiots. We knew that the old yacht club was gone, burned down, whatever, but we both remembered reading, or hearing something about the old yacht clubís dingy dock still being there, and that we could tie up there. Thatís why we went looking for it. Maybe we missed it. Maybe there is no dingy dock. Again, I was simply describing my experience, with as much detail as possible, for Chrisco, and for anyone reading the thread, for that matter.

As a crew member, Iím often in that situation, where I show up at customs and immigration with no paper plane tickets. At some point, I have to get off the boat and fly home, or fly to another boat. I always make flight arrangements over the internet. Mostly because I usually do it well in advance to get the cheapest price. Iíve been all over world, as crew, and every office Iíve ever been in, that requires proof of ticket purchase, simply clicked the browser icon on their computer, had me type in my password, and verified it themselves, on the spot. Of course, I donít expect any government office to have a separate internet cafe for us. I wasnít trying to email my sweetheart, for peteís sake, I simply needed to give them the info that they needed for their paperwork, so they could do their job. And, God forbid I have my own opinion, but in my opinion I donít think it would be totally outrageous to expect them to have the gear that would allow them to do their job. And I certainly wouldnít expect to have to get into a cab and drive all the city in search of a place that has internet. I don't know, call me crazy.


The Ďgirl problemí comment.... Not sure what you meant by that.

The overtime charge was ridiculous. We arrived early, as we always do. The owner of the boat hates paying money when he doesnít need to. $75US dollars overtime fee? Weíre not talking about a package of peanuts, here. Itís a scam. The gentleman that we paid the $10 dinghy fee to even said that she was Ďa bad woman,í indicating that sheís scamming people. So, it wasnít that the owner of the boat didnít want to pay simply because he didnít feel like it. Besides, as I mentioned in my initial response, she changed her story at the police station and said that it wasnít an overtime fee. As of right now, Iím convinced that she felt she could try to get some free money from a couple of Ďgringosí and she took a stab at it. Again, just one manís opinion.

Yes, we had been in the country for a few days, but I already explained why we couldnít clear in at Porvenir. Besides, I donít think that point is relevant anyway. **** happens sometimes. As a cruiser yourself, you would know that. At no time was Porvenir, or the fact that weíd been in the country for a few days, ever mentioned. The owner of the boat maintains careful records and he would have been cleared in instantly, had she not asked for the $75. In fact, she told us a couple of times that the shipís papers were in order, and that everything was cool in that regard.

Perhaps the whole mess happened, really, because we didnít research, that might be true. But that doesnít dilute the value of the info I posted. Heck, maybe weíre total morons, but that still doesnít make the info I posted less valuable. However, weíre actually pretty smart, and conscientious guys, and what threw us for a loop was that we couldnít make sense of the anchorage. I guess itís one of those things where Ďyou had to have been there.í In my opinion, if youíve got a Ďdesignated anchorage,í then it would make sense to have some way for people to figure out where they need to go to tie up their dingy, so they can catch a bus or taxi. Maybe Iím wrong. But the fact is, anyone who anchors there, that hasnít read this thread, of course, no matter how much research they do, will still have to dinghy a mile or so, trying to figure out where the immigration office is. Theyíll still have to dinghy all the way around the container yards, between the ships being pushed around by tugboats, and the speeding pilot boats. Then, once they get past the container yards, and they see the devastated, ghetto neighborhoods on shore, they too will probably be praying that their outboards donít suddenly conk out on them. You had to have been there. I'm not a panicky guy, and I don't recall the last time I was ever really scared, but in that situation, I'm not afraid to admit that I was praying that our little, overworked, 15hp outboard didn't suddenly die on us. We had all of our elctronic devices with us in our dry bags, our passports and the ship's papers, and our wallets, all of the things we normally have with us when going ashore to clear in. If the engine conked out, we would have drifted ashore, with all of that 'booty,' and we would have been fubared. If that had happened, would it have been our fault? Maybe, but there's lots of ways to look at it. Of course, if we got fubared, then it really wouldn't matter whose fault it was anyway, I suppose. We wouldn't have been very happy, I'm pretty sure about that.


Thatís exactly what it was like for us, and that is all I wanted to convey. Would I do it differently if I had to do it again? Yes. Iíd go to Shelter Bay Marina. If it was my boat, that is

Youíre right, it sounds like we were lucky to get out there without any real damage. Calling it a Ďtough towní is a gentle euphemism, in my opinion. The place (Colon) is the stuff of nightmares, in my opinion. Colon definitely caught us off guard, no doubt about it. I was really shocked to see that it has been allowed to get to that state of mayhem. Here is a response from another Captain that Iíve crewed for, after I told him the story:

Hi Jason. Quick reply as I am busy. More later. Colon is not just a shithole, you are lucky to be alive. Why do you think everyone goes into shelter bay marina and uses an agent? Also there are large parts of Panama City that are just as dangerous. Roosevelt is a taxi driver who is totally trustworthy and you should use him .His number is +507 6513-6949. He is a character and very interesting plus he knows where the best places are .
Keep safe and for god's sake do a bit more research.
N


I hope my response satisfies you, Paul. Iím assuming that your spirited response to my post means that youíre Panamanian? Again, no offence intended.


Jason
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Old 13-12-2014, 12:45   #13
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

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Originally Posted by jasonk View Post
......I hope my response satisfies you, Paul. Iím assuming that your spirited response to my post means that youíre Panamanian? Again, no offence intended.


Jason
Jason
Letting everyone know of your adventure is cool. Not doing a little research before you showed up to the country seems a little naive. The costs to clear into Panama and the fact you need US cash are really well published and the issues with Colon are also well known. The Flats is not a cruiser anchorage, so you aren't going to find the amenities you'd like. Check the anchorage in Panama City (Las Brisas) if you want to see what answers for a dinghy dock down here. I suspect you haven't done a lot of check-ins/out in Central American countries, as they sure don't have the copy machines and Internet that you think they should. I always advise people to clear-in before Colon. There is another anchorage in Colon, but I wouldn't recommend it either. That leaves paying the bill at Shelter Bay. Oh well.

And no, I'm not Panamanian -- got me a yank passport. I just don't like to hear cruisers slamming the place for what was their own issues. FYI I've heard a lot stories about major hassles with foreign cruisers clearing into the US with whimsically enforced rules and significant costs. So it isn't just 2nd or 3rd world countries that have issues.
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Old 13-12-2014, 19:02   #14
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

Hey, thanks Paul. Maybe it was naivete. I probably would have been more careful if I was the skipper. Probably more like complacency, on my part

Take care,
Jason
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Old 13-12-2014, 19:14   #15
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Re: San blas cruising from nw florida

ok.. time to cool down the turbos.... everybody learn from everybody...
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