Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Panama Canal Countdown

encountered between shelter bay marina and portobelo panama
This freighter pilot leaned on its horn when Wayne guessed
incorrectly where it was headed.  Wayne adjusted course rapidly.
“Small yachts look out of place on the Panama canal lock,” notes our Panama Cruising Guide.  With three days left to our Panama canal transit, it was time to leave our lazy days in Portobelo behind. 

cruiser planning, passage making
Playing freighter slalom was required
on our return to Shelter Bay Marina from
Portobelo.  Each circle on our AIS
represents a ship – all were huge
freighters -- within a 5 mile radius of
our little sailboat.  Of course, many
were on the move – fast!

Here’s our canal prep checklist,
done without an agent,
in early part
of canal transit busy season

  1. Feb 1 2015 Download required forms and submit to Panama Canal authorities with desired canal transit date of Feb 13, 2015
  2. Confirm paperwork received
  3. Feb 2 2015 Set up appointment for Admeasure
  4. Feb 3 2015 Admeasure
  5. Feb 3 2015 Visit designated bank in crime-ridden Colon to deposit $1800 cash for canal transit – unsuccessful as our cash included Euros which the bank would not accept or exchange*
  6. Feb 3 2015 Contact friends and family to coordinate logistics for their availability as line handlers
  7. Feb 4 2015 Return to crime-ridden Colon to find place to exchange Euros* and deposit $1800 cash for canal transit*
  8. Feb 4 2015 Contact canal authorities to confirm desired transit date
  9. Feb 4 2015 Arrange for rental of fenders (tires) and special lines for canal transit and pay RSVP deposit*
  10. Feb 9 2015 Beg on Facebook to see if anyone can catch us on the live cams when we come through the canal locks (thank you Terry Toland & Bertie Weaver if you can!)
  11. Feb 10 2015 Confirm delivery of fenders and lines
  12. Feb 11 2015 Receive fenders and lines
  13. Feb 11 2015 Stock up on provisions for us, line handlers and canal advisor (7-8 aboard for 2 days)
  14. Feb 11 2015 Top off water supply
  15. Feb 11 2015 Get laundry done (& take real showers land-based showers!)
  16. Feb 11 2015 Move closer to Colon, outside Club Nautico anchorage (if room)
  17. Feb 12 2015 Confirm canal transit date and time
  18. Feb 12 2015 If internet available, update potential live cam followers of our ETA
  19. Feb 12 2015 Prepare some transit food ahead of time
  20. Feb 12 2015 Make final arrangements on when and where to meet friends and family
  21. Feb 12 2015 Do another provisioning run?  TBD
  22. Feb 13 2015 Meet friends and family coming in as line handlers for canal transit
  23. Feb 13 2015 Queue up for canal transit in the Flats
  24. Feb 13 2015 Go!  (then the real excitement begins! Transit takes 2 days)

These pilings were added to the original rocks to form the
protective breakwater into the canal and as well to
Shelter Bay Marina. While they were bathed in
lovely sunset hues, Wayne was squinting into the sun
on our way into the marina.
*For ~$450, these are the only steps that would be skipped if we went through an agent.  We would pay the agent, who would handle the payment to the canal authorities, and also would provide our fenders, which we are paying about $100 for to rent them through Tito
cruising planning
Panama canal map, courtesy Wikipedia.
Start to finish, the canal is 48 miles,
as it traverses the Atlantic/Caribbean side
of Panama to the Pacific.  At least, that’s
the direction we’ll be taking it.

near panama canal cruising planning
Miraculously, we were eating dinner in our
cockpit by sunset at Shelter Bay Marina.
The temperature was perfect, though the
no-see-ums drove us inside our cabin
as we finished.
Location Location
We’re back in Shelter Bay Marina, PANAMA (N09.22.033 W79.57.097) as it’s the easiest spot to receive our fenders and lines.  Once that’s squared away, we’ll anchor North of Colon outside Club Nautico – if there’s room!  That’s closer to the canal and an easier spot to meet friends and family and bring them out to our boat.


  1. Good luck!! The whole thing sounds very intimidating. Can't wait to see your pictures and read your description of the trip through.

  2. Thanks! Both excited and looking forward to having it behind us!