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Old 12-02-2016, 04:20   #1
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No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

We have recently crossed the Atlantic and our plans were to stay in the Northern Hemisphere for a year and sell our boat. We have now decided we like our boat too much to sell her and the past 18 months has been spent making her right. (Don't think we will ever buy a new boat ever again!) So now the only way to get home is the long way round. Currently on route to the Panama Canal and homeward bound for Tasmania. btw our boat is a Catana 42.


As this is a new decision and there seems little time for planning we would appreciate any advice on crossing the Canal, preparation for the trip, timing and things we need to know because at this stage we just don't know.
Here are a few of my questions.

Where is the best place to provision? (Currently we are in Martinique so French shopping available). I am presuming we need to prepare for the bulk of our supplies before we slip into the Pacific. This is based on cost and availability. Is that correct?
Is it worth the effort to do your own paperwork to cross the canal?
We plan to go through canal mid to late March. Thoughts....
Is there things we must consider taking from those who are in the know?
Crossing the Atlantic it was all about sailing downwind. Is this case for the Pacific, not sure what to expect...

Finally it is such a long way it has taken my head a little time to get used to the idea. Am I only the only one who has needed to take a few big breaths before we jump? My mum thinks I am crazy. I almost posted a poll as to whether or not I am actually crazy but my Captain assures me that sailing so far is a great idea


Thanks in advance.

Cheers
the Miss

Miss Catana
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Old 12-02-2016, 04:53   #2
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pirate Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

Hi Miss..
Good on ya for going for it...
Going through the Canal I use an agent called Erick, e-mail info@centenarioconsulting.com
I know many will tell you can do it but.. the rest of the time while waiting Ad-measuring and your turn can be spent either on the hook at Portobello or exploring the islands.. the money saved in marina fee's far exceeds any saving in DIY clearance..
As for provisioning.. I'd suggest you wait till you get to the other side.. some great supermarkets in Panama City.. its where I provisioned before heading to Perth.. one in particular really pleased me.. got a round of delicious Queijo Curado in one vast 5 storey place.. damned if I can remember the name.. something to do with a woman's name...
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Old 12-02-2016, 05:00   #3
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

Maybe these links will help you:
Transiting the Panama Canal without an Agent: Cruisers' Report —
We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Agents | Blue Water Sailing
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Old 12-02-2016, 07:37   #4
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

Panama canal is easy. No worries. It will all be explained at Shelter Bay Marina, Colon.


Provisioning: Panama City is great. Huge supermarket near the bus terminal. Taxis are v cheap.

Colon is good but Panama city better.

Martinique is the LAST provisioning stop for real delicacies: pate, French wine, etc. Load up there, and that means LOAD UP!
The Pacific is hideously expensive for good food and wine, and none outside French Polynesia so cram the larder full before you leave Panama



Once in the Pacific its all downhill sailing. Force 5/6 the whole way. A lot of dead down wind so you will either be gybibg or going a bit slow
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Old 12-02-2016, 08:43   #5
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

Envious! We would recommend an agent as well. Ours did everything including providing extra crew, lines and tires (fenders) for the passage. Panama City for final provisioning (Colon was a hole) and look forward to some great sailing. Passage to Galapagos can be a bit light on wind but great from there on out.

In hindsight we would have spent much more time in the Tuamotus and less in the Society Islands. Guess we'll have to do it again :-)

Enjoy every minute!

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Old 12-02-2016, 08:53   #6
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

We had no trouble provisioning anywhere from Panama to Australia. I want to sail my catamaran back to Australia, and it is simply a fantastic downwind sail which is awesome in a catamaran. We sailed twice to Oz, and catamarans excel on the downwind sail.

From Panama to Galapagos, you may not have much wind and need to motor a lot. But from that point onward, let the good times and trade winds roll.
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Old 12-02-2016, 09:56   #7
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

HI I can only say that provisioning in panama city was a sinch and very reasonable too cost wise.this was 8 years back and I loved the busses down to the supermarket so colorfully decorated with some amazing music to travel to.Just loved it all.Good safe sailing to you but try not to leave after end March when most will have left and it is good to have others out there in fairly close proximity just in case of emergencies .I think sailing with another similarly performing vessel might be a good idea too if you can find one.
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Old 12-02-2016, 10:05   #8
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

Chuffed to hear you are keeping the boat.

Have a great trip home.
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Old 12-02-2016, 10:32   #9
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

Just started reading your blog - had me nodding my head on a lot of points and laughing at others. Congrats on deciding to keep the boat - looking forward to future updates.

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Old 12-02-2016, 11:20   #10
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

What MarkJ said, stock up as much French wine and cheese as you can carry, and a bilge load of tinned duck! That stuff is great. Hire a car from just up the hill behind Le Marin marine for €35/day head for the big Carrefour 30 mins toward fort de France for the best provisioning, or just hit simply and leader price in Marin but choices are more limited there. Saint emillion wine for around €8 a bottle is usually pretty good. Might want some Martinique rum as well. Head to San blas ASAP so you can enjoy the area before the canal..
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Old 12-02-2016, 14:22   #11
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

Relatively inexpensive and good French wines in the Societies. Hang out in the wine dept. and buy what the locals buy. Good NZ frozen lamb and beef. Fresh fish cheaper than Hawaii. Great bread of course. Big Carrefour in Papeete. Champion supermarkets on Bora, Raiatea and Tahiti, and maybe elsewhere in FP. Great little store grocery called Le Au (sp?) in Uturoa (sp?) Raiatea on a back street. It's named after the great open market in Paris which operated for a few hundred years. Champion will usually deliver to your boat. I wouldn't miss any of the major islands or island groups in FP if you've go the time but maybe a little south for the better winds to Australia.
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Old 12-02-2016, 15:25   #12
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

Not much to add to what others have posted already, except we hope you enjoy the trip as much as we did.

Wishing you fair winds and safe, enjoyable sailing!
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Old 12-02-2016, 19:59   #13
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

Don't rush the Pacific. Many have told us it has been their favorite cruising grounds. Sometimes people get "barn fever" and rush the last little bit, but all of the island groups have their individual appeal, so don't cheat yourselves. It is an upwind beat to get back.

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Old 13-02-2016, 10:11   #14
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

We used Roy Bravo as an agent to cross the canal. Not cheap, but efficient, friendly, honest, informed us as to what to do and not to do, where to go, provided ropes and fenders and got us through in 3 days. Met us in Balboa, picked up his ropes and fenders, and delivered the paperwork. He did it all! We resupplied in Colon while waiting to cross. We were very disappointed with the people we hired to do some repairs. Never showed up on time, nor did the work as scheduled and used the excuse that since we were leaving, they had to be paid in full. The crossing was uneventful, the pilots provided were great and very informative. Great experience.
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Old 13-02-2016, 11:32   #15
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Re: No Turning Back Now - Panama to Australia Tasmania

Don't plan on transiting the canal within 2 weeks of Easter week. If you have the budget ($2k for fees, agent, and marina), stay in Shelter Bay and use an agent. I used Erick Galvez in 2011 and was happy with his service--paid him about $300 more than DIY.

Stock up on all the rum you will need to get to Tazzie (plus 40% reserve for emergencies) before you leave the Caribbean. We didn't the first trip and paid 10 times the price for dreadful stuff in Tahiti. Otherwise, Panama City is the place to stock the boat. The Allbrook mall is huge, and there are several well stocked supermarkets.

The South Pacific is the best cruising ground in the world, so don't rush through it.
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