We've been on the go all morning and my last two jobs, which are outside, are
just going to have to wait a few hours until it gets a bit cooler.
Sandy is ploughing on with getting the boat spick and span and if I don't
lift my feet they're probably going to get vacuumed. I've just heard the
generator go on so that's a warning sign.
We're in Shelter Bay Marina, a bit of a difference for us because we far
prefer being out at anchor, and marinas are expensive. But here in Colon there
are not a lot of choices. The designated anchorage is far from everything and
there is no reasonable dinghy dock anywhere close. There is a bit of an
anchoring area near Club Nautico, which isn't a functioning club. They just have
one office open that takes $3 per person if you tie your dinghy there. Tie it
anywhere else around here and that's probably the last you'll see of it.
But I should probably go back a few paces.
We've decided to do all our own legwork as far as transiting the canal is
concerned. After I contacted a few agents and saw a few items in their cost
estimates we thought we may not need, their services were actually closer to $800
than the $400 they listed.
The rules here seem to be interpreted so differently by different offices and regions
that we figured we'd play dumb and pay for things as and when they're needed.
So far we've checked in through immigration and no official has asked us for our
visas or told us to get them, at $105 each.
We also checked in with the Port Captain and no mention was made of needing a
cruising permit, at $193.
I'm fully expecting someone to ask to see ours and then we'll be told we have
to have them, but so far it hasn't happened.
I called the Admeasurer's office from Portobello and was told I'd need to
bring some ship's papers in to the office in Colon before they could book an
appointment to get Wind Wanderer measured.
Colon, which is the city at the Atlantic end of the canal, has a bad
reputation for crime and we've been warned to take taxis everywhere after
getting off the bus. It's not bad because most taxi trips are between 1 and 2
The trip from Portobello was on a red devil and took about 90 minutes. ($1.60
each). Red devils are old US school buses that have had their mufflers removed and
have big chrome pipes reaching skyward up the back of the bus. They are bouncy
in spite of the axles feeling like they've been welded to the chassis, and while
the outsides are wildly decorated, the insides are just plain old and run down.
The music blares and there is no maximum limit to passenger numbers. They also
have highly tuned engines and roar along at breakneck speed.
We had the added 'benefit' of a preacher getting on. The music was turned off
and he must have spent 45 minutes standing at the front of the bus preaching in
Spanish at the top of his voice. He hardly drew breath as he berated the sinners,
broke into song, prayed and collected an offering, amid clapping and cheers from
the passengers. He obviously put on a good show.
We eventually got to the office, showed our papers and booked the appointment
for Monday. No charge and done in 5 minutes.
We decided to motor down from Portobello on the Sunday afternoon and anchor
at The Flats which is where the Admeasurer would come between 8 and 12 to do the
measuring. It took about 4 hours and was a rolly ride without having the sails
up to steady us, but there just wasn't enough wind to sail. The poor old AIS was
clanging away, not just for the ships that were coming up behind us or
approaching, but for about 20 that were parked outside the breakwater waiting
for their slot to transit.
That night we shared the anchorage with a tug and a small coastal cargo
vessel. The anchorage was good holding in spite of the wind picking up, and
Salvador arrived at about 8:30 am on Monday.
He really liked our boat with all it's timber and a decent desk where he
could work. He also turned out to have a keen taste for chocolate chip cookies!
He was very friendly and gave us all kinds of tips, and his cell number should
we need any assistance with anything to do with the transit.
Our big surprise was that we measured just a fraction under 65ft. I thought
we'd be just over 60. Had we been over 65ft we would have been obliged to have a
pilot on board as opposed to just the advisor that everyone has to have. A pilot
would have added $2400 to the cost of the transit.
But we now have an official SIN - Ship Identification Number, and can use it
every time we transit the canal. Our certificate is 3013143.
With our SIN our transit fee could be calculated and paid, so we decided to
go straight into the office and pay. Salvador had shown us on the map where Club
Nautico's dock was and it didn't look too far away.
Well, it took us a good 40 minutes, and we passed 6 or 7 big cargo ships that
have ended up on the rocks. I doubt it was bad navigation. More likely the owners
had gone broke and the crew abandoned them. There is not much sadder looking
than a shell of a ship, up on rocks and leaning over at 45 degrees, unless it
was the one at 90 degrees.
The Canal office where you pay the fees, in our case $2375 including an $891
bond that gets returned if there are no 'events', is located right inside Citibank.
I know that Canal De Panama has to be paid in cash, so I'd made sure I
had funds enough to draw the cash right there in Citibank. No risk,
no muggings... pretty obvious stuff.
Well, this Citibank doesn't do withdrawals on debit cards, or cash advances
on credit cards! Citibank, one of the biggest banks in the world!
There was nothing else to do but walk down to the next bank, HSBC, and they
can't do debit card withdrawals, and a maximum of $1000 on a credit card, which
I took, in $20 notes. As I was leaving HSBC I saw they had an ATM, so I used
both cards there and it let me draw 2 lots of $200, both in $5 notes. Back to
Citibank where Sandy was waiting to offload the $1400 so far. As I got to
Citibank I noticed they had an ATM outside. So I ducked back out and it let me
have $500 on each card, in $20 notes. We'd made it, with $25 to spare.
All that was left to do was get a date from the scheduler, get line handlers,
tyres and lines. All of this could be done for a price with 'Tito' whose number I had.
I follow a few sailing blogs, and a few cruisers follow ours.
Heather and Ron on s/v Sundancer have been on the Panama City side of the canal
for the last 7 months and it looked like we may cross paths, but we'll miss them
by a week. http://www.highseasandlowlatitudes.blogspot.com/
However they have friends who are doing a yacht delivery through the canal.
To cut a long story short, we're taking the crew back as line handlers who have
some experience of the canal, and we get to use the tyres and lines too.
I've actually just seen their yacht pulling into Shelter Bay Marina virtually opposite
us as I'm typing.
So it is all falling into place. Tomorrow Sandy and I will take the marina
bus to the shopping centre to get provisions to feed the hoards during the
transit, and on Saturday we will motor out to the anchorage to pick up our
advisor at around 2pm.
We will go up the first 3 locks and anchor or moor on Gatun lake for the
night. On Sunday the advisor returns and we motor across the lake where we go
down one lock, motor some more, and then drop down via 2 more locks to the
It's all a bit nerve wracking and we've heard some horror stories, but
obviously most go through without too much trouble.
Until next time...