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Old 18-03-2012, 14:40   #1
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Panama info?

Hi,
I'm currently cruising the Caribbean (currently in Antigua), and am considering going to Panama in May. I haven't been able to find many people who have cruised Panama, and looking for advice from people who have. I know San Blas Islands and Bocas Del Toro area are popular on the Caribbean side. We plan to transit the canal to the Pacific, how is the pacific coast of Panama for cruising? I know Panama is hurricane free, but what is the weather like during the summer months (are squalls and lightening storms common?). We do a lot of surfing and kiteboarding, if anyone has recommended spots that would be very helpful.
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Old 18-03-2012, 15:16   #2
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Re: Panama info?

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Hi,
I'm currently cruising the Caribbean (currently in Antigua), and am considering going to Panama in May. I haven't been able to find many people who have cruised Panama, and looking for advice from people who have. I know San Blas Islands and Bocas Del Toro area are popular on the Caribbean side. We plan to transit the canal to the Pacific, how is the pacific coast of Panama for cruising? I know Panama is hurricane free, but what is the weather like during the summer months (are squalls and lightening storms common?). We do a lot of surfing and kiteboarding, if anyone has recommended spots that would be very helpful.
In the summer?! Not so much wind in the summer like everywhere in the Caribbean except with the thunder squalls. Don't skip Sapzurro on the border with Colombia (it's in Colombia actually) as that can be interesting for surfing.

Kite boarding can be done anywhere here... in the winter when the tradewinds are up.

The Pacific side is very nice, with the Islas Perlas as the main attraction off Panama City. But there is lots to do along the coastline, incl. the Darien if you dare...
Costa Rica is close and great too on the Pacific side. On the Caribbean side you also have nice sails to Isla San Andres and Isla Providencia off the coast of Nicaragua. These islands are Colombian again.

It is a very nice area... coming from the east Caribe, you will feel like an explorer sailing through areas where nobody sailed before. Lots of untouched, pristine nature here

ciao!
Nick.
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Old 19-03-2012, 17:22   #3
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Re: Panama info?

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But there is lots to do along the coastline, incl. the Darien if you dare...

ciao!
Nick.

Is Darien the Wild West or something?
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Old 19-03-2012, 17:41   #4
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Re: Panama info?

San Blas and Bocas are very well-travelled, the south coast less-so. After transiting the canal, you'll have to get used to mega-tides, but in summer there's boundless surfing on the south coast, if you're willing to put up with rolly anchorages to access the surf. Lots of rain, not as much lightning as further west, lots of really remote areas with little or no civilization and very limited supplies. Check out Ensenada Benao, the south coast of Cebaco Island, and Punta Burica for reputedly good surf spots. My favorite Panama cruising guide is Tom Zydler's--his hand-drawn charts are always spot-on, and though it's older, the coral hasn't moved and the soundings remain the same.
Be very careful if you enter Boca Chica, on the way to Pedregal on the south coast (where you will probably check out for Costa Rica if you cruise there)--the tides rush crazy fast through there, and some of the rocks that submerge at high tide are deadly. You can radio for a local pilot, and if nothing else one of the cruisers who plan to never leave again will guide or talk you in.
Have fun, and by all means get a copy of Zydler's guide.
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Old 19-03-2012, 17:49   #5
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Re: Panama info?

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Is Darien the Wild West or something?
The Darien is the stretch of jungle between the Canal and Panama City and Colombia.

Roads do not go through. The ones there are are seasonal. The Darien Gap is a 100 mile stretch between the Panamanian and Colombian borders. It is the only segment of the Trans Continental Highway that has not been completed.

The Kuna Yala tribes maintain sovereignty over the northern coast and the Embara tribes occupy the southern areas.

Air strips and helicopter pads are used by legitimate traffic as well as drug traders and other questionable characters.

There are also coastal villages of Maroons, decendants of Spanish colonial slaves and the local tribal communities.

It's not someplace to visit with out research.

That said, it's also a pretty cool place. The jungle is amazing. The mangrove swamps along the coast are an incredible experience at sunrise as the birds and animals are stirring.

The tribes can be welcoming and gracious. They live very traditionally, in raised roofed un-walled platforms that serve to house multi-generational families.

There is a sizable albino population in all of the communities.

It's been a while since I was there, but in the late '90s my mom and I were very popular with the yardage of cotton fabric, the sewing supplies and the crayons we brought along with us.

I traded for some beautiful baskets.

Worth visiting? Oh my yes. But do it smartly, with guidance from those who are current on the situation there.

The Perlas are nice too.
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Old 19-03-2012, 18:00   #6
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Re: Panama info?

Don't skip visiting Cartagena on the way to the San Blas. Plus, you will be able to hook up there with cruisers who have very recently been in Panama and can give you all the latest dope. It is entirely possible to spend months in the San Blas, and some do. It is hot, sticky and there are plenty of very strong thunderstorms and lightning in the summer. Have your bug screens ready for that occasional evening when it is windless and they get out into the anchorages. Between the San Blas and Colon are a few interesting places too. The "monkey island" Isla Linton area has a couple of anchorages, and Portobello has the ruins of an old Spanish fort. It claims to be the wettest place in the hemisphere so expect rain. We had one storm that came down in buckets for more than 24 hours straight. I had to bail the dinghy every couple of hours and the deck drains couldn't keep up so we had inches of water on deck. I just opened my deck fills and topped off the water tanks. The Panama Cruising Guide by Eric Bauhaus is more up to date and accurate than Zydler, and it has the best charts of the area--don't trust electronic charts of the region. I'll second going up to Providencia island.
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Old 19-03-2012, 18:29   #7
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Re: Panama info?

We have enjoyed both sides of the Canal!! Criribe side and pacific side ! we love Coloumbia, and have spent many wonderful weeks in thier waters!! Cheap everything! food drink fun all there by the ton !! nice folks if ya get out of the citys, don't get me wrong there are nice folks in citys also ya just have to be a little more aware of you suroundings! as you should in any other country!!(of course when ya live in New Orleans your used to that !!) Have fun we always have !!Some of the best cruisein areas in the world !!
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Old 19-03-2012, 18:36   #8
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Re: Panama info?

The Caribbean coast of Panama is quite amazing. Not sure that you'll get much surfing but there's plenty of windsurfing when the winds up!!

We entered the country via Obaldia on the Colombian/Panamanian border. Real frontier stuff with armed soldiers, arcane bureaucracy, access only by sea or air.
A few intrepid backpackers....

The Kuna village of Annachakuna was wonderful, like settling in the pages of a National Geographic spread. We bartered with villagers. I strongly disagree with just handing out 'stuff', everywhere has something to exchange be it a fish, seashell or piece of fruit. Cruisers who blithely pass through these relatively untouched communities handing out largess do neither themselves or the communities any favours.
We were advised by the villagers not to stray from the compound as the FARC guerillas were active in the neighbourhood when we were there.

You will find far fewer cruisers in these parts.No potlucks or sundowner visits.The water is less clear than further west as many rivers enter the sea here but the communities are much less 'westernized' than the more easterly ones.

You will need to be pretty self sufficient here, very little in the way of foodstuffs to purchase, water is scarce and fuel almost non-existent.

Eye ball navigation is the only way to stay safe, sailing only in good conditions with high visibility to spot the many reefs. Charts are outdated and often inaccurate. Further West more people rely on their chartplotters, and there are a few nasty accidents every season....

The Pacific side has some fascinating rivers that you could explore, you can get about 60miles upstream and right into the Darien jungle in places. This is NOT to be undertaken lightly. It's a wild place, no Disneyland adventure here.
Wild life, indigenous tribes, challenging navigation. IMHO not for the novice explorer:-)

The summer storms can be very wild, a lot of electrical activity and a number of boats are hit every year. Drug running is rife, keep your head down and look the other way is my advice! We were asked to leave one island by the chief as he was concerned for our safety when some Columbian drug barons were coming seeking their goods that had washed ashore on his island. The ever enterprising locals had sold them on and were now living in fear or retribution....we left the following morning.
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Old 05-08-2012, 02:53   #9
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Re: Panama info?

Hi all
recently while on the hard here in South Africa, someone told me that you require a transponding AIS to go throught the canal, can anyone confirm?
And what are costs at the moment?
Regards
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Old 05-08-2012, 06:07   #10
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Re: Panama info?

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Hi all
recently while on the hard here in South Africa, someone told me that you require a transponding AIS to go throught the canal, can anyone confirm?
And what are costs at the moment?
Regards
False if you are under 65ft.
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Old 06-08-2012, 20:42   #11
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Re: Panama info?

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Originally Posted by Branderplank View Post
Hi all
recently while on the hard here in South Africa, someone told me that you require a transponding AIS to go throught the canal, can anyone confirm?
And what are costs at the moment?
Regards
My boat is 40' and we did not have AIS. I don't remember the exact costs but the canal fees plus the fees from using an agent (optional)....I think it was around $1100.
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