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Worth a detour
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Transiting the Panama Canal

Listed under Sailing in Colón, Panama.

  • Photo of Transiting the Panama Canal
  • Photo of Transiting the Panama Canal
  • Photo of Transiting the Panama Canal
  • Photo of Transiting the Panama Canal
  • Photo of Transiting the Panama Canal
  • Photo of Transiting the Panama Canal
  • Photo of Transiting the Panama Canal
  • Photo of Transiting the Panama Canal
Photo of Transiting the Panama Canal
Photo by Donna Dawson
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The Panama Canal is a fantastic trip to say you’ve taken. It’s historic, people know about it and they’re impressed. The main difficulty is getting permission to cross or ‘transit’ it. Not only is it expensive it’s also bureaucratic. The minimum speed you have to be up to is 4 knots sans sails, which aren’t allowed in the locks, but are allowed on the lakes. The quicker you are the more quickly you’re allowed in apparently, because then you can be counted as a one day transit. Most people pay then wait in dock for a few days before a port inspector checks out their rig, then you have to sign a waver saying it’s your fault if anything untoward happens. Once you get your go you can opt to travel down the centre, be lead by tugs or go down the side.

The locks have quite a bit of work to do, Lake Gatun, which is, if not the actual centre, considered by many to be the centre, is about 26 metres above sea level, and they’re quite impressive bits of hardware considering the size of the ships that use this pathway. You’re not on Camden lock anymore. There are three sets of locks, each with two lanes. You’re under your own steam for all but the time in the locks when you’re attached to a pulley system that makes sure everyone’s moving at the same speed and you don’t get crushed by the QE2. *BR* The jungle meets the canal in some places, but again I have to stress that this is a shipping lane so it’s not clear blue water and parrots calling as some people still expect it to be. Galliard cut is the narrowest section, and along this stretch the canal sort of winds like a river.

On the Pacific side is Panama City. Most boats anchor on Isla Perico, don’t worry about taking notes, you’ll have to have an ‘advisor’ on your vessel for your crossing to advise you how to moor properly in the locks etc., and most likely you’ll still have them at this point and they’ll help you out with directions, this can be a pretty unusual experience in itself. You have to look after them and feed them on your ship – make sure you have ice, if you don’t you’ll lose some of your deposit… Inconveniences aside this still has to be one of the best sailing routes in the world. You can do it in a day if you’re fast but you’re most likely to take two and moor overnight in Lake Gatun.

Panama Canal Webcam.

Written by  Kenneth Hope.

Other expert and press reviews

“The Panama Canal”

This canal is really a marvel in engineering. Nothing has been changed since the original design. The locks have worked perfectly since day one. It is fascinating to be on a ship going through the locks. You wait your turn to enter and sometimes dep… Read more...

Written by  Donna Dawson.

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