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Old 29-07-2016, 17:30   #1
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Panama Canal Transit

Thinking about using the Panama Canal to get from the Atlantic to Pacific. Wondering about costs. Not just for the actual transit but the additional things like line handlers and some of the other extras that may or may not be needed.

Also wondering about the 8knot minimum speed. I have seen some posts about this being a soft rule and you can really get away with 5knots. My boat has a top speed of about 7.5 knots (GPS measured) in calm water with minimal wind.

I have seen claims that cruisers often get together and act as line handlers to lower the costs. Also something about using an agent and you need at least one formal line handler.

I have seen some older threads but some of the information seems dated.

Any help welcome, including mods moving this post.
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Old 29-07-2016, 17:43   #2
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

Things don't change too quickly. If you are in Colon you will be staying at Shelter Bay marina. Very nice and US prices. it's easier to hire line handlers if it's your first time. If you sign on with another boat you will find that you could do it your self and save a couple of hundred bucks. Remember, treat your friends well on their trip back. A taxi is best, a bus is just OK.
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Old 29-07-2016, 17:51   #3
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

Ditto on shelter bay. Also explore volunteering on another cruiser before your own passage, learn the ropes on another person's experience.

The transit fees are determined by length of your boat. You'll find conflicting advice re whether social lubrication such as cash or cigarettes are necessary.
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Old 29-07-2016, 17:57   #4
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

You do not need an agent. It is straightforward to handle all the paperwork yourself. You are responsible for your line handlers. Just pick ones that can competently follow your directions. You usually offer up good food and bus or taxi fair back tothe other side.
Here's a couple of articles on going through without using an agent from water sailing">Blue water Sailing magazine
We Donít Need No Stinkiní Agents | Blue Water Sailing
We Donít Need No Stinkiní Agents, part 2 | Blue Water Sailing
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Old 29-07-2016, 18:00   #5
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

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Originally Posted by SV DestinyAscen View Post
......
The transit fees are determined by length of your boat. You'll find conflicting advice re whether social lubrication such as cash or cigarettes are necessary.
The fees are fixed. There is no need or call for bribes or gifts. The Canal Authority is a very professional organization.
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Old 29-07-2016, 18:04   #6
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

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The fees are fixed. There is no need or call for bribes or gifts. The Canal Authority is a very professional organization.
Pretty sure the tolls are structured to go up after certain ft - was different for 39ft vs over 50
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Old 29-07-2016, 18:10   #7
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

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Pretty sure the tolls are structured to go up after certain ft - was different for 39ft vs over 50
Yes, the fee goes up at 50 ft, but there is no "social lubrication" involved. As I said the Canal Authority is a professional organization and they aren't looking for anything more from a cruiser when they are dealing with quarter million dollar container ship transits.
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Old 30-07-2016, 07:55   #8
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

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SN IP

Also wondering about the 8knot minimum speed. I have seen some posts about this being a soft rule and you can really get away with 5knots. My boat has a top speed of about 7.5 knots (GPS measured) in calm water with minimal wind.


SNIP
Still no answer about this. Frankly when I motor in and out of the harbor lots of the monohulls seem slower than I am. 8knots seems like a fairly high sustained speed; yet the official canal site says boats need to be capable of this speed or hire a tow boat that is. Anyone have experience with this.
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Old 30-07-2016, 09:08   #9
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

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Still no answer about this. Frankly when I motor in and out of the harbor lots of the monohulls seem slower than I am. 8knots seems like a fairly high sustained speed; yet the official canal site says boats need to be capable of this speed or hire a tow boat that is. Anyone have experience with this.
6kts is fine. It is noted in the first article referenced.
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Old 30-07-2016, 09:29   #10
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

8 kts for a 40' boat is achievable, but tough, as in wide open tough.
I doubt many sailboats under 40' can make 8 kts even wide open.



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Old 30-07-2016, 09:49   #11
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

I have a by-question, related, that maybe someone can address:

Q: Has the new canal route changed anything in the sailing boat transit procedures? Do we wait less now that the big guys have their private fast lane?

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Old 30-07-2016, 10:17   #12
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

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I have a by-question, related, that maybe someone can address:

Q: Has the new canal route changed anything in the sailing boat transit procedures? Do we wait less now that the big guys have their private fast lane?

b.
I haven't been through since the new locks opened. I doubt that wait times for cruisers are affected at all as the pacing item was always Advisor availability.
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Old 30-07-2016, 11:01   #13
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

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. I doubt that wait times for cruisers are affected at all as the pacing item was always Advisor availability.
Not when we were there, it was big ship availability. There were none going through when we got there so we spent the night on the big ball. Going the other way, they were moving small boats onto the lake the evening before so they had all day to cross. There seemed to be a bunch of advisors just sitting around in Colon.
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Old 30-07-2016, 11:21   #14
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

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Not when we were there, it was big ship availability. There were none going through when we got there so we spent the night on the big ball. Going the other way, they were moving small boats onto the lake the evening before so they had all day to cross. There seemed to be a bunch of advisors just sitting around in Colon.
I assume you mean the night in Lake Gatun. That is typical. They route the Canal north bound for an extended period, then south bound. This is primarily so the large boats don't have to pass each other along thechannel. Handline vessels are fit into this timing. You already had Advisors assigned to you if you were in the Lake.
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Old 30-07-2016, 12:13   #15
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Re: Panama Canal Transit

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Originally Posted by tomfl View Post
Still no answer about this. Frankly when I motor in and out of the harbor lots of the monohulls seem slower than I am. 8knots seems like a fairly high sustained speed; yet the official canal site says boats need to be capable of this speed or hire a tow boat that is. Anyone have experience with this.

When they are filling out your transit application you will state 8 knots max speed for your boat. The reality is that although some sailboats can do 8 knots and even more, they time your transit in a way that you only need to maintain 6 or less. Agree that an agent is not necessary but they can be useful for obtaining fumigation certificates and can be quite reasonable.



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