Cruisers Forum

Thread Tools Search this Thread Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 23-04-2014, 20:41   #1
Registered User
synchronicity98's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Portland, Maine
Boat: Nor'West 33
Posts: 78
Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

Hi guys,

Thought I'd post our Panama Canal experience, since it's hard to find information on Pacific to Atlantic transits, and especially how to do it without an agent! Overall I feel very lucky that we had such a great experience, so I hope this might be useful to somebody out there!

A quick summary:
  • We heard it would be really complicated to do the paperwork without an agent. This is a crock. NOT using an agent saved us $300-$800, depending on who you ask, and a whole bunch of headache
  • Getting lines organized was maybe the hardest part of the logistics
  • We transitted 7 days after first ever contacting the Panama Canal folks -- the exact same amount of time that folks using agents were getting
  • We started the process from Bahia Benao, where we emailed in our information
  • We did NOT hire line handlers, and we had no issues in the locks
  • We were centre-chamber (alone) for all 6 locks, despite everyone saying this never happens!
Here's what we did...

Tuesday, March 25th: Using the instructions and PDF form found on noonsite (Transiting the Panama Canal without an Agent: Cruisers' Report — Noonsite), we emailed form 4405.pdf to the Panama Canal authorities ( from Bahia Benao (just before Punta Mala)

**Mistake: I didn't know that we needed to email a copy of the boat's registration and the Captain's passport with this form.***

Wednesday, March 26th: Having arrived in Panama City, I called the admeasurement office to confirm they'd received our form. They asked me to send the registration & passport scans. I sent those in, and then called back. At this point the office said they could send the admeasurer that morning, or the next day if we liked. We thought we were ready, but then the admeasurer's office asked if we had all lines and tires/fenders ready to show the admeasurer. We did not!

**Mistake: I didn't know we needed to have lines & tires on the boat ready for the Admeasurer to inspect. This set us back 1 day and probably should have been the first thing we tried to organize. I asked on the local VHF net for advice on how to get lines / tires.

TIP: There are lots of tires behind the garbage dumpster at La Playita (and they were already wrapped in garbage bags which was great! just make sure you spray them with roach spray before you bring them out to the boat so you don't have any unwanted visitors!). We rented lines from Rogelio, a local taxi driver with great English & knowledge (507-6717-6745 or

TIP: This is also a good time to start taking out cash. If you're like me, your bank will only let you take out a certain amount per day ($500 in my case), and you need to have $1875 cash ($891 of which is a 'buffer' that you get back) to give to the bank once you're measured, if you're under 50' overall.

Thursday, March 27th: We had confirmed that Rogelio would rent us lines, but we didn't actually have them in-hand yet. Being quite motivated to not lose any time, I called the admeasurers office and said we would have everything organized if they could come that day. They said they'd be at the boat at 11:00. Since we were already in the La Playita anchorage, we did not have to move anywhere. We borrowed somebody else's lines, strung up the tires we'd scavenged from the dumpster (cruising is so classy), and were in the middle of cleaning up the boat when the Admeasurer arrived (on his small pilot boat) at 10:00 am. One hour early!

The Admeasurer was incredibly nice, taking great joy in telling us about his true passion, his BBQ restaurant (go find the "BBQ Love Club", behind Plaza Centennial in downtown Panama -- you won't regret it!). He was onboard for less than an hour, and then his pilot boat picked him up again. He left us with 3 sets of forms, including a bank form to get your deposit back, that we took with us to the bank.

By 12:30 we were at the Citybank in Niko's Plaza. The faster you pay your transit fees, the faster you can get a transit date. I didn't know how far it was from La Playita, so we overpaid the taxi (it should be around $3 -- it's closer than Albrook Mall). 12:30 is a bad time to arrive at the bank though -- the only person who was capable of taking our paperwork was on lunch.

TIP: Have a coffee at Niko's Cafe beside the bank. It was the most delicious espresso we had in all of Panama! There is also an ATM inside the cafe, so you can take out the remainder of any cash you might still need.

We went back to the Citybank at 1:15 and our guy was there. We handed over the $1875 and watched as he counted the money.... and counted it again... and ran it through his counting machine... and counted it again... Not sure what that was about, but I think he literally counted our bills 7 times before he seemed satisfied with it. We then watched him fax the confirmation and then he sent us on our way.

Friday, March 28th: I called the Transit Scheduler folks (507 272 4202) the next morning after the bank. I was informed that we would most likely transit Tuesday, but that I should call back on Sunday to confirm.

**Mistake: I'd read (on noonsite) that you should call the Transit Scheduler folks the same night that you go to the bank, but I thought that seemed ridiculous. Why would they be open late? My mistake. I think they are probably open close to 24 hours/day. I definitely should have called that same night.

Sunday, March 30th: I called the Transit folks again, yes they were open on Sunday, and they confirmed that we would be transitting Tuesday, but said we needed to call again on Monday to confirm the time. We also got our lines from Rogelio on Sunday and confirmed that our line-handlers (friends from another boat) were ready to go.

Monday, March 31st: Called Transit folks, confirmed 7:00 am the next morning.

Tuesday, April 1st: 7:00 am we had the anchor up and were doing loops around the moorings. 8:00 am the advisor arrived onboard, and informed us that we were scheduled to lock through at 9:00 am. The first lock is 6.5 miles from La Playita, and we had a 3-knot counter-current running against us.

**Mistake: We didn't even think to consider the tides. Who would think that you could have counter-current RIGHT UP TO THE FIRST LOCK?? But we did, and it meant we were way behind schedule right off the bat.

TIP: If you can get work it out to transit on a day that has a morning flood, you'd do yourself a huge favour. Especially if you're a smaller boat (like us) that can only motor at 5 knots on a good day!

On this note actually, there were a LOT of rumours about this mythical "5 knot minimum" that they ask for. We wrote down that we can do 5 knots, and we can. Through the water. When we had 3 knots of counter-current and were doing 2.5 knots over ground, we just focused on keeping our advisor happy and calm, and pushing as hard as we felt we safely could.

When we got to the first lock, we were informed that we were too late and had missed our ship. The advisor was on his radio, worried that our "transit may be void" (I don't know what this would have meant, and I'm glad we didn't have to find out!). 2 ships later there was a ship that was small enough for us to lock through with them, so we entered behind them. We were centre-chamber, alone (ie not tied to another sailboat or a tug or the wall). This meant that all 4 line-handlers were VERY busy for both days.

We received the 4 small lines (with their hard monkey fists) no problem, and were ready to send our big lines up right away. The folks working the lines didn't seem very interested in securing our lines quickly though -- they took their time and seemed quite oblivious to our angst! Until the 4 big lines are secured to the bollards you are at the mercy of the lock to keep your boat in the middle of everything.

**Mistake: At one point the advisor asked me to give the boat a shot of reverse to stop our forward progress. I knew this would kick us sideways (we don't back up straight!), but listened to him anyways. The back of the boat kicked to Port, the bow threw to Starboard, and although we were still far away from the wall, we were quite crooked. It took some yelling to get the 4 lines secured on the bollards, and then some serious brute strength to pull the bow back to centre. It was not possible to motor the boat back to centre -- there was too much current.

But no harm, no foul. The 2nd lock the same thing happened -- slightly cock-eyed, but not close to the walls. I explained my problem with giving the boat reverse, and the advisor (bless his heart) had no problem altering directions for the 3rd lock. We coasted in on neutral for this lock, no reverse, and the boat never went sideways at all.

**Mistake #2: Also in this first lock, we underestimated the pull on the lines. I was so sick of people saying that you needed "big strong men" to be linehandlers -- you don't. What you need is people with common sense that will listen and work as a team. Anyways, at one point a line started to slip through one of our line-handlers hands (it was through the chock but not wrapped around anything). I tried to help get the line on the winch, and in the process wrapped my hand under a line. Luckily -- super, super, luckily -- I was able to snatch my hand out from under that huge strain with just a scrape and some bad bruising. For the remaining locks we tried to always have a wrap on a winch (aft lines) or around the cleat (front lines).

Once we were through the 3rd lock, we had the long motor through Gatun lake ahead of us. For boats going to the Atlantic from the Pacific, what this means is a 28nm motor that is primarily against the wind AND against the current. Yes, there is current in the lake. Don't ask me how!

TIP: Read the book "The Path Between Two Seas". It's long, parts are hard reading, but it made the whole process and the motor through Gatun lake so much more meaningful. It is INCREDIBLE how much work went into this canal!

We arrived at the mooring ball at 9:00 pm. We'd fed everyone lunch and dinner, and were more than ready to be tied up for the night! If we had made our first ship we would have been 1-2 hours earlier, but still after dark.

Wednesday, April 2nd:
We'd heard that there can be lots of confusion about when your advisor will show up on the second day. I started calling "Cristobal Traffic Control" at 6:30am, and they were able to tell us when our advisor would arrive right away. You could also call them to confirm if anything was seeming off.

Down-locking was much easier. We knew (more) what we were doing, we were excited to see the Caribbean ahead of us, and we knew that family was watching at home on the live webcams (Multimedia -

I tried to explain to our 2nd advisor that I would strongly prefer to not put the boat in reverse; he didn't like this. In the first lock, when he said "Reverse!" I simply did nothing. He got agitated and yelled "REVERSE LEAH!" so at the last possible moment I quickly switched in to reverse, waited 10 seconds, and popped it back in neutral. This earned me a nice lecture from the advisor ("I am like your doctor, what I say to do you must do!") but I didn't care.

Lots of people say this and it's true: YOU know your boat better than they do, so do what makes sense to you!

We continued this silly charade through the next 2 locks (I don't think our advisor was too keen on dealing with a woman Captain, but that is fairly par for the course down here!)... in the end I think I won him over because we stayed completely centered, no issues, all the way through. Our advisor was especially nervous about the last lock, as apparently he'd had a boat go squirelly on him the day before. It was smooth for us.

Once we were out we dropped the advisor off just outside the locks and then proceeded to Shelter Bay Marina. We tossed the tires in the garbage (nobody wanted them which was too bad -- it would have been nice to pass them on to another cruiser going the other way!) and emailed Rogelio who organized the pickup of his lines. Just a note, the internet at Shelter Bay is very slow (and costs $10!) but the laundry is cheap ($4/load) and the showers are great.


And that's it! Way more information than you ever wanted on the Panama Canal :P

I wouldn't have bothered to write all of this, but honestly the number of cruisers we know -- and know personally, not just 2nd hand through the cruisers' rumour mill -- that used agents or hired line handlers and had horror stories was just too much for me to not say anything. Everything from agents not properly confirming transit dates (so they were all ready to go and then got told last minute that nothing was happening), to charging huge money ($400 agent fee plus $120/line handler plus bank fees plus who-knows-what-fees), to scaring us with how much work it was going to be (it was one email, one call to the Admeasurer's office, one trip to the bank, and one phone call to the scheduler.... that is NOT a lot of work!!!).

Long story short, the Panama Canal was a great experience, having friends as line handlers made it all the sweeter, it was a very cool milestone in our sailing lives, and it's an engineering feat that we are still marvelling over. Well worth the money!!

PS - The only piece that's missing from this story is the refund of the "buffer". It's been 3 weeks and we are still waiting, but we've been told it can take up to 6 weeks for them to wire you the $891 buffer back. Fingers crossed!
synchronicity98 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-04-2014, 20:55   #2
Registered User

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Santa Cruz
Boat: Boatless Again
Posts: 6,254
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

Were all the calls you made in English or Spanish?
donradcliffe is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-04-2014, 22:08   #3
Registered User
autumnbreeze27's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Cruising Mexico
Boat: 50' Herreshoff Ketch
Posts: 965
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

Thanks for posting. We're a 50' boat so I'm curious how much more painful it will be since there seems to be a divide there... hope it's not too painful
autumnbreeze27 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-04-2014, 23:33   #4
Registered User

Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 522
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

It's all english when in contact with ACP (the canal company)

I can agree that it's super simple doing it all without an agent.
andreas.mehlin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 24-04-2014, 05:37   #5
Registered User
synchronicity98's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Portland, Maine
Boat: Nor'West 33
Posts: 78
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

Autumnbreeze, it will be $500 more (so you'll need $2375 cash instead of $1875), still with the $891 buffer. So a *little* more painful, but still an amazing experience!

And yep, everything was done in English, including talking with the Advisors who actually come through with you... I would sometimes start with a "Buenos Dias", but that was about the extent of the Spanish

One other tip I forgot to add -- It's *really* helpful if you have a local phone. We didn't, so we relied on Skype and friends' phones, but it would have been nice to have a number we could give out, etc

synchronicity98 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 24-04-2014, 06:44   #6
Registered User
s/v Moondancer's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Miami
Boat: Boatless
Posts: 1,565
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

Synchronicity is to be congratulated on getting through the Canal without an agent but it is definitely the harder way to transit. Having a good agent has several advantages. Our agent was Stanley telephone 507 6680 7971. He charged $400 and his brother $150 as a line handler.

1) They do all the paper work and certainly on the Caribbean side save a lot of taxi fares and time. Our agent took care of the zarpe on departing.

2) With an agent you get 'full faith and credit' of the agents experience. We were measured without the lines on board the day Stanley visited. The lines and fenders appeared when we needed them and were taken off at the end of the transit. He also spent an hour briefing us on all the potential problems including the currents.

3) No deposit was required because of the agent and his brother's experience and status which saves the problem of waiting for a bureaucrat to send you your $891.

4) The professional line handler was invaluable. He came on board before the transit and guided the entire process and kept it on schedule. He had been a big ship line handler for 15 years before going to work for his brother, a true expert and not one of the less experience kids who do the job.

He made sure that our line handlers knew how to handle the lines bruised hands. When the Canal people wanted us to go alongside the wall he let them know in no uncertain terms that we would be mid-lock. Going up against the wall is very dangerous. It is actually safer to go through safely tied alongside another boat mid-lock. It makes you a twin prop boat and eliminates getting sideways but our line handler ensured that the other boat handled it's lines properly.

If you have time it is certainly worth volunteering as a line handler on a another boat before you transit. We went through late Sunday on another boat. The Canal people on the wall did not have the personnel to handle our boat and we went up against the wall...Very dangerous and definitely to be avoided. For the other locks we went alongside a tug.

"Remember, experience only means that you screw-up less often."
s/v Moondancer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 24-04-2014, 08:03   #7
Registered User
synchronicity98's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Portland, Maine
Boat: Nor'West 33
Posts: 78
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

Originally Posted by s/v Moondancer View Post
Synchronicity is to be congratulated on getting through the Canal without an agent but it is definitely the harder way to transit. Having a good agent has several advantages. Our agent was Stanley telephone 507 6680 7971. He charged $400 and his brother $150 as a line handler.
Moondancer I think you bring up a great point -- if you're transitting from the Atlantic to the Pacific, an agent may be worth it since it saves you having to taxi around the quite unfavourable Colon.

From the Pacific to the Atlantic, we felt that saving the $400++ cost of an agent was well worth the 2-3 hours of our time. Especially since the positive agent stories were being overshadowed by the negative experiences.

This may all speak more to our limited budget than anything else, mind you!!
synchronicity98 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 24-04-2014, 11:55   #8
Registered User

Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 322
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

Great post thanks for sharing!
marlinmike is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 24-04-2014, 17:36   #9
Registered User
capt-couillon's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Onboard (Boot Key Harbor)
Boat: Cornado 25
Posts: 494
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

Great post... It can be a real trial without prior information.

Having made 7 transits of the canal in a sailing vessel, I would like to add a couple of points...

If your plans make it at all possible, anchor out on either end of the canal, and make a trip (or 2) as a volunteer line handler. Nice to learn the ropes (as it were) on someone else's boat. Fore warned, is fore armed.

Remember your "adviser" is just that... These are junior pilots who are still learning the business themselves. YOU as the captain are responsible for your vessel. On the big ships, the pilot has the command, on yachts, YOU have command, and the advisor is only responsible for communications and coordination. If it goes south... YOU are responsible.

Train your line handlers... In his efforts to expedite passage your "advisor" may blow his whistle for the lock line handlers to cast off before you are ready... If your line handlers are trained not to slack lines until YOU say so, the lock handlers cannot release the lines from the bollards. Applies to center ties only. I always preferred to side tie to a PanCanal tug if possible.

Going "down hill" in either direction, be aware at the last lock , there is a major current (2-5 kts) flowing out of the locks caused by the inflow of denser saltwater under the fresh water. As a yacht you will usually be first in line going downhill, and if your engine is not warmed up and ready for "full ahead" you can loose steerage exiting the partially open gates. One does not wish ones boat to exit with a lesser beam than it entered

One last tip... The heaving lines the lock line handlers use, have a heavy! monkey's fist... Cover any exposed acrylic hatches or other vulnerable points with cushions, life jackets etc... They will usually overshoot the deck with no problem, but S.... happens.

Also, save your admeasure certificate... It does not expire, and will save you time and money on your next transit... My original "PanCanal tonnage certificate on my old boat, the "Escape" was from 1979, and allowed me to bypass the admeasure hassle from then thru 1999.

Congrats on a safe passage, and kudo's for passing along your experiences.
capt-couillon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 24-04-2014, 18:12   #10
Registered User
capt-couillon's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Onboard (Boot Key Harbor)
Boat: Cornado 25
Posts: 494
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

Up the stick on the "Escape"... Getting ready to haul out at the old Pedro Miguel Boat Club. Pedro Miguel locks in the background.

capt-couillon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 24-04-2014, 19:15   #11
Registered User

Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Surrey, BC
Boat: Valiant 40-169
Posts: 175
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

Thanks for the post. I am going to print it and save. I don't think I am going to go East but plans do change and maybe I can pass the info along.
gordwedman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 25-04-2014, 07:22   #12
Registered User
synchronicity98's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Portland, Maine
Boat: Nor'West 33
Posts: 78
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

UPDATE: I just got the $891 buffer back (3 weeks + 2 days after our transit), transferred directly into my account.

So here's our final breakdown of costs:

Panama Canal Fee: $984
Line Rental: $60
Friends' Return Fare to Panama City: $55
Taxi to Citibank & Back to the Anchorage: $8
ATM Fees: $12

TOTAL: $1119 USD
(well worth it, especially if you consider the alternatives! )
synchronicity98 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 25-04-2014, 07:49   #13
Registered User
denverd0n's Avatar

Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Tampa, FL
Posts: 4,982
Images: 6
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

Originally Posted by synchronicity98 View Post
And that's it! Way more information than you ever wanted on the Panama Canal.
No, actually. Just the right amount. Excellent writeup. Thank you.
denverd0n is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-05-2014, 10:47   #14
Registered User
OliveOyl19's Avatar

Join Date: May 2014
Location: Canada
Boat: Spencer 42
Posts: 1
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

This is a great thread, lots of good advise and sharing of experience. I was one of Synchronicity's linehanders. I want to thank Synchroncity for providing my boyfriend and me with the opportunity, not only with the actual transit, but learning about the paperwork and prep as well. Like Synchronicity, we did a northbound, Pacific to Atlantic transit, 10 days after them.

Prior to line handling with Synchroncity, we were considering using an agent, but seeing how easy it was, we decided to fly solo. No issues, no gotchas, nada. The whole experience was smooth and even fun! All the canal personnel were helpful, knowledgeable, and spoke excellent English. Since we are visitors in a Spanish speaking country, I would open a call or meeting with; "Buen día. ¿Habla inglés, por favor?" They would reply, and at times, without a Spanish accent "But of course!"

We emailed the 4405 form on April 4th and transited on April 12th and 13th, another quick turn around. We did not have to provide the boat registration nor captain's passport at that time, maybe because our boat had a SIN (Ship Identification Number) from earlier transits with her previous owners. We did have to provide copies of these documents to our Admeasurer.

Sychronicity and Capt-Couillon covered the majority of our lessons learned and here is my 2¢.
TIP#1 You get to choose how to lock your boat, your opportunity to let the canal authorities know is when the Admeasurer comes out to your boat, NOT when you are about to enter the lock. We told our Admeasurer "no tug tie ups, no large ferries and no wall tie, yes to centre chamber solo or rafted with other sailboats". Locking up, we were rafted to a sailboat, she was rafted to a canal authority launch which was wall tied. Locking down, we were centre chamber rafted with the same sailboat without the launch. A fellow cruiser, who had done the transit a number of times, preferred wall tie up to tug tie up, just be prepared with 6 foot poles to keep the boat off the wall. He had found the tug turbulence too much and the tug crew difficult to work with. Knowing your boat, your experience and the abilities of your line handlers will help you decide what is best for you.

Prior to the Admeasurer arrival we got the tire fenders very easily and for free from boats coming south. When arranging for the Admeasurer appointment, the Canal Authorities said I did not need to have the lines on board as I had a call into Tito, one of the well known cabbies that rents lines.

TIP#2 There are line rentees charging $120 per set. Tito(6463 5009) and Rogelio (see original post) are charging $60, the current going rate; same type of line, size, length and condition.

TIP#3 If you're planning on transiting from the Pacific, check the tides and find a good flood in the morning before calling the Scheduler, she was open to our preference. Luckily for us, the first opening had a favourable flood from 08:02 to 14:15EST and we easily made it to the lock on time. The tides on the Pacific range 18+feet, I can see that it not a factor coming from the Atlantic, where the tide range is 2 feet.

Once you know your transit date, you can get your national zarpe. The national zarpe is an easy matter in Panama City, it is a 15 minute walk from Las Playitas to the port captain's office and 5 minutes of paperwork. You have 48 hours to leave the port.

TIP#4 Talk to your advisor, even if you don't have questions or are clear as to what will be happening, so that you know what he is expecting and vice versa. Get him to walk you through how the lines will be used; timing and the order they should be released. Make sure all the line handlers are clear on what is expected of them. Let the advisor know beforehand about the boats characteristics, such as reverse pulls to port, better to slow to stop and not reverse to stop. Synchronicity's first advisor, Guillermo was excellent, he had been a line handler for eight years before becoming an advisor. Our uphill Advisor, Roy was also very good.

TIP#5 For the line handlers, a couple of things; 1) keep an eye on your canal guy on the lock wall, the one that has your messenger line, as well as what is happening with the other line handlers to ensure coordination of releasing and taking in slack. Even tension helps prevent the boat from spinning. The canal, machinery and freighters are all very interesting and it is so easy to be distracted. For instance, the chamber was emptying and we had dropped 3 feet already, I had to give a heads up to the experienced hired and volunteer line handers on the sailboat we were rafted to, they were chatting and the line was still cleated off. 2) Wear gloves and keep the line wrapped around the cleat horn while releasing and taking up slack, once the turbulence starts, you'll know why.

On the downhill side, we rafted up to another sailboat before entering the chambers.
TIP#6 Before entering the locks, practise manoeuvring, forward, reserve, turning while rafted up; not only will you see how the raft-up will behave, but you get to checkout if the bow/stern/spring lines are good and fenders are adequate. Our skippers coordinated who is doing what and the Advisors on both boats were very impressed with how well they worked together.

It seems like the circumstances and definitely the logistics on the Atlantic side are different from the Pacific, and as Moon Dancer sees it, enough to warrant an agent and hiring line handlers. Luckily, northbound, Pacific to Atlantic is easily done without an agent or hiring line handlers. There seems to be a shortage of volunteer line handlers on the Atlantic side at Shelter Bay, I can see a need to hire.

I would like to thank Synchronicty and her crew, especially the cook.

Here are photos from our transit to give you a visual of the transit. Copernicus Through the Panama Canal - oliveoyl
OliveOyl19 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-07-2014, 07:49   #15
Registered User

Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Now limited to seasonal NE sailing
Boat: PT-11
Posts: 1,540
Re: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic - Lessons learned & tips to pass on

Thank you Synchronicity for this guide. We used it and successfully transited the Canal (July 5, 2014) sans agent and found it easy.
Here are a few update/tips for those doing this on their own.
*This is our 2¢, we found it to be straightforward, but if you want an agent, use an agent*

1. When filling out the 4405 form requesting measurement you will see on the second line that they ask you for a SIN#. This is the number the Canal assigns to your boat after inspection. So if your BOAT has never been through the Canal leave it blank. But, if your BOAT (even with a previous owner) has gone through the Canal before you can fill in the number. If you don't have the number call the Canal office (Balboa 507-272-4571 Colon/Cristobal 507-443-2298) and ask them to look up the SIN# (you will need the boat name when it transited) This was our case and they easily found the SIN# for us. This also meant they did not have to measure us only inspect the boat which took all of ten minutes. They didn't "inspect" anything and never asked to see our lines.

2. Form 4405 will ask for crew names, passports, etc. You only have to include known crew, don't worry about linehandlers.

3. After filling out Form 4405, email it along with a copy of the captain's passport and your boat documentation to (this is a different email address than posted before).

4. After the inspection the inspector will give you a form to take to Citibank in Balboa (next to Niko's cafe) (right on the Amador bus route or easy cab ride) Make sure you fill out the second page of this form. This is where you will fill in your info so the Canal can wire your deposit/buffer back to you. If you have questions call Lynne Wolff at the Canal office at 507-272-7857 (she deals with the deposits)

5. 18 hours after you pay the Canal fee call the scheduler and schedule your transit , phone number is 507-272-4202 This is also the number you call to confirm your transit time.

6. Every person I spoke to at the Canal offices was extremely polite, friendly, helpful and suffered through my bad Spanish and spoke English.

7. If you have to reschedule or cancel your transit date, make sure you do it a minimum of 24 hours ahead of your transit date to avoid fines.

8. There are often delays and reschedules throughout the day(this goes for boats with and without agents), sometimes making it difficult to get through in one day(Pacific -Caribbean). We were delayed in starting - getting to the Miraflores locks at nearly 1100 - and just barely made it in one day. We averaged about 7.5 kn through the cut and the lake. There was a stiff opposing wind, so we had to push hard. Be sure your engine is up to snuff.

9. Line handlers. We had two friends come along and paid for two professionals. Hire at least 1 or 2 pros. Their experience was hugely helpful. This task is not just about knowing how to handle lines. The advisor is willing to boss paid line handlers around to get things done. I can imagine he would be more gentle with crew/friends, but doing things properly would suffer. The paid line handlers know in detail how the canal works, how to tie in various situations, when to cast off, etc. They also got us safely into Shelter Bay Marina in the dark after we dropped off the advisor. They took away the tires and the lines. Feed them well. Also in several of the locks we tied to a tug and shared cookies/drinks with their crew. Don't know if this helped, but the tug departed smoothly with minimal prop wash.

10. It was possibly the time of year, but this whole process only took a few days and we could more or less pick our transit date. We had a sweet and knowledgeable advisor (almost felt like a tour guide at some points) fun loving and competent line handlers and a crew with a great attitude making for a phenomenal experience. We wish you the same for this cruising milestone.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf 4405 Canal Form.pdf (62.1 KB, 59 views)
SVNeko is offline   Reply With Quote

Panama, Panama Canal

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Big Sarasota Pass (Big Pass) velero Atlantic & the Caribbean 6 21-03-2013 10:02
Crew Available: Panama to Honduras, Panama Canal Line Handler, Atlantic Crossing baslovesailing Crew Archives 0 22-04-2012 21:27
Class 40 Capsize, North Atlantic - Lessons Learned barnakiel Health, Safety & Related Gear 6 18-01-2010 08:13
Great Sail, Great Gale, a Little Carnage and Lessons Learned CharlieCobra Seamanship & Boat Handling 7 08-12-2007 17:05
Lessons Learned, dont leave port without them seanseamour Forum Tech Support & Site Help 4 31-07-2007 14:25

Advertise Here

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 18:51.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2023, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2023, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.