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Old 09-10-2017, 18:34   #1
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Panama Canal

So do you think if I just show up at one end or the other of the Panama Canal I could catch a ride as a line handler? If so which end Atlantic or Pacific? I know one end is safer but not sure which side. I always wanted to do it on my own boat but that may not happen.

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Old 09-10-2017, 18:42   #2
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Re: Panama Canal

Go to shelter bay marina, always boats looking for line handlers. They also got rooms for rent there.
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Old 09-10-2017, 18:47   #3
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Re: Panama Canal

Best month to catch a ride? Best Month weather?
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Old 09-10-2017, 19:08   #4
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Re: Panama Canal

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Best month to catch a ride? Best Month weather?
South bound, aka Carib to Pacific, mid-Feb to Apr.
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Old 09-10-2017, 19:09   #5
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Re: Panama Canal

I guess that more vessels go through Atlantic->Pacific as that's the way the wind blows, however, have been through both ways and know a number of others that have gone the "wrong" way, particularly boats headed for Central America.

To get the extra surge of the Pacific bound boats and increase your odds it's probably December-March or April. The jump off to the South Pacific is usually March/April so there's an extra batch of boats going through Atlantic->Pacific to get that timing.
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Old 09-10-2017, 20:13   #6
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Re: Panama Canal

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Originally Posted by latestcaper View Post
So do you think if I just show up at one end or the other of the Panama Canal I could catch a ride as a line handler? If so which end Atlantic or Pacific? I know one end is safer but not sure which side. I always wanted to do it on my own boat but that may not happen.

Randy
One end safer than the other? In what way? Do you mean Colon?

Agree that most small boat traffic probably flows N-S, so Shelter Bay most likely end to catch a ride. People there all the time volunteering as line handlers. Section of the bulletin board just for that.

No harm in posting your contact info on both ends though. Fly into Panama City, go to Balboa Yacht club, post your info there, then cross over to Shelter Bay...the train is a cool travel option.

Hanging out waiting at Shelter Bay could be an expensive option though with rooms at about $100 per night. No other lodging nearby...unless you want to camp near Ft Lorenzo...some do.

Of course, dont show up till hurricane season is over...not much small boat traffic now.

Pics from a couple of transits:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/3sjr4w8rz...2Pq4QXd4a?dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/5tn8ohvsk...QXeoODEaa?dl=0
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Old 09-10-2017, 20:58   #7
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Re: Panama Canal

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Originally Posted by latestcaper View Post
So do you think if I just show up at one end or the other of the Panama Canal I could catch a ride as a line handler? If so which end Atlantic or Pacific? I know one end is safer but not sure which side. I always wanted to do it on my own boat but that may not happen.

Randy
Shelter bay will be the best spot for a ride, as it's a marina. Boats all need 5 crew (skipper and 4 line handlers), so there's a big need for help, particularly if you have some experience. You should be able to do as many transits as you want.

The notes on season are correct.

The Caribbean side is far worse as far as being a nice place to visit. By this, I mean that the town of Colon is just awful. Shelter bay is way out of town and just fine.

I think that it will be harder to catch a ride from S-N, as most boats are anchored. It will be trickier to meet crews.

Anyway, you should have no problems.
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Old 10-10-2017, 04:32   #8
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Re: Panama Canal

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...

The Caribbean side is far worse as far as being a nice place to visit. By this, I mean that the town of Colon is just awful. Shelter bay is way out of town and just fine.

...
Much of Colon is indeed pretty awful...a full on slum in some areas, but (for the OPs benefit) there is no need to go to Colon except maybe for a quick transit if taking bus or train. By contrast the area around Shelter Bay is quite nice if you like hikig, wildlife, history, etc (more below) and Shelter Bay itself has nice amenties like hotel, resturant, swimming pool, etc.

If taking the bus over from Panama City, you can avoid going into Colon by getting off at Cuatro Altos....which is on the outskirts of Colon proper and not a bad area. Several shopping malls there where you can provision before continuing on to Shelter Bay...because Shelter Bay is very isolated with no places to buy food except the onsite MiniMart and (overpriced) resturant at Shelter Bay (...or Shelter Pay as its also known).

To get to Shelter Bay you can take a taxi or, if the timing works out, catch the Shelter Bay shuttle. Technically its for marina guests, but I doubt they would stop you from boarding...especially if you looked like a grungy cruiser carrying groceries. 😆

If taking a taxi, many taxi drivers dont the area as Shelter Bay, but as "Sherman" after "Fort Sherman". Its a long trip and costs about $25-30.

While Colon is not so nice, if you like hiking, wildlife, and history, the area around Shelter Bay is pretty cool. Its on the old Fort Sherman grounds so there are lots of abandonded military structures including several large gun battlements on the coast. Being part of the base and the exclusion zone for over 100 years had the unintential affect of protecting a large swath of jungle and coast line and the wildlife that lives there.

Wildlife in the area includes many species of tropical birds, several varieties of monkies (howler, cappuchin, spider), coatimundi, agouti, vested anteaters, sloths...

There are several good day hikes and you are likely to see wildlife on all of them (early AM is best). You can hike the acess roads to the old gun battlements easily from Shelter Bay. These are short hikes which make for a nice early AM stroll. You can also make a longe hike from Shelter Bay to Fort Lorenzo (an old Spanish fort at the mouth of the Rio Chagres). This hike is along a road that runs thru the park area. The road is very lighty travelled and the park is teaming with wildlife.

You can also hike to and along the coast. There is a large flats area and reef which extends off the N shore to the W of the Canal breakwater. Lots of tidal flats exploring and good fishing.

So, there is much more to do around Shelter Bay while waiting for a transit than just drink in the bar...though the bar is cool too because you get a very international mix of sailors passing thru.
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Old 10-10-2017, 04:39   #9
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Re: Panama Canal

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Randy.
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Old 01-10-2019, 17:50   #10
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Re: Panama Canal

Try Atlantic side. We took ours there. There were many and none waited too long. Excellent experience and well recommended adventure.


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Old 01-10-2019, 18:33   #11
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Re: Panama Canal

On the Shelter Bay Marina side, almost everybody is going one way or another. On the Panama City side, the boats are scattered all about and it's harder to figure out who is going where. It would be way less expensive to stay on the city side. You can travel back and forth to to Shelter Bay Marina in a day with local trans.
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Old 02-10-2019, 06:28   #12
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Re: Panama Canal

I just returned from crewing a Curacao to Panama passage which ended in Shelter Bay Marina. Upon arrival, I asked the dock master about line handling opportunities and he remarked that it normally takes a bit of time to find one this time of year. I booked my return flight home and went to the marina office to make arrangements for a Taxi to the airport. I walked out of the office and saw a notice on the bulletin board of a boat leaving the next day that was looking for a line handler. Fortunately, I was able to cancel my flight and make the transit with them. Five minutes after I agreed to go on the first boat, a crew member from another approached me asking if I was looking for a line handling position. It may be hit or miss but it worked out easily for me.
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