News » Cabot's Log

Cabot's Log

Panama Canal -- Back and Forth!

Posted: January 24, 2000 January 24, 2000
The only way to accomplish the paper work for transiting the canal is to hire one of the experienced taxi drivers to walk you through the process. Why the canal authority makes it so complicated and then complains that yachts are a nuisance is beyond me, but not much has changed since our first transit in 1987. The Panamanians have inherited the archaic system and attitudes of the old American "zonies". The officials remind me of the book, ANIMAL FARM. The builders of the canal were amazing people, but after the culture of the "zone" set in, the caretakers were less than stellar with their bureaucracy and inability to grasp the trends and lead the way into the future. They let a lot of the wonderful infrastructure fall into disrepair and although the writing was on the wall concerning containers as the means of shipping, nothing was done to encourage the business for American concerns. Their only concern was to protect their way of life which insured that it was lost.

January 29, 2000
We transited the canal, leaving at 5:00 am and taking the pilot on board in the harbor of Cristobal. The operator of the pilot boat forgot that we were not a big ship and clobbered us on the bow roller. It was an easy transit after that and we had a lot of fun with our Panamanian friends, Jorge and Isabelle, who helped as line handlers. It is clear that the easiest way to have line handlers is to hire the local men who are trained and take some pride in a safe transit. If something goes wrong, there is no language barrier and the shore line handlers jump a bit quicker. It is a great benefit to have Panamanians aboard when transiting as they are the first to address the problems that might be occurring. Our arrival at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club on Miraflores Lake was like old home week. Fresh water, good friends from our first time through, and a new group of cruisers. This is an ideal place to use as a base to see Panama.

May 15, 2000
We had left CHEWINK at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club until May when we returned after Alex and Drew's graduation from University of Vermont. Instead of a quick dash to the Marquesas, we had decided to stay in Panama and leave for the Marquesas in June. This allowed a trip back home and also gave us lots of time to explore Panama.

June 10, 2000
We turned around fifty miles out into the Gulf of Panama. Flat calm and fully loaded for several months we decided that we were not enthusiastic enough to take the next step. We simply wanted to be home. So back to PMBC and in three days we had the winter cover on and a plane ride back to Maine. The fresh water and secure conditions made this an ideal place to leave CHEWINK. We seem to be taking a bumpy road to the cruising life.

January 6, 2001

I arrived in Panama a few days before Heidi to get the boat ready, take the winter cover off, etc. CHEWINK had done well! There is nothing like leaving the boat in fresh water. I was pleased with the facilities at Pedro Miguel Boat Club.

January 24
Transited the last two locks to Balboa in the Pacific, where we picked up a mooring and got the boat ready to haul on the funky old railway. There was some excitement hauling with a swell running and CHEWINK being too big for the railway. But just some quick paint on the bottom and a small repair to the rudder and we were off. The small repair could have been a major effort if it had not been for Paul on RENEGADE and his expertise as a welder. To have found a Panamanian with a portable welder and the expertise on a Saturday afternoon would have been impossible. The expertise within the cruising world is awesome at times.

Where to now?

Previous Log Entry: San Blas Islands & Lots of Visitors
Next Log Entry: Perlas Islands

Have questions or want to share experiences?

If you have questions about their voyaging, or would like to share similar experiences, email Cabot.

What is Cabot's Log?

The following log and pictures are from Cabot and Heidi aboard CHEWINK, their Lyman-Morse Seguin 49 which Cabot built in 1987 and has sailed more than 62,000 miles. The log follows them as they began their second circumnavigation in 2000 through their current adventures in the Caribbean.

Part VIII: Off Again!

Part VII: Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Mexico, Key West, Bahamas, Bermuda, Home

Maine or Bust!
Belize and the Keys

Part VI: New Zealand, Dockwise, Golfito and Rio Dulce

Back in New Zealand

Part V: New Zealand

New Zealand

Part III: Society Islands, Western Samoa, Tonga & Fiji

9/11 in Tonga

Part IV: Through the South Pacific to New Zealand

Part II: Marquesas and Tuamotus

Off to the Tuamotus

Part I: San Blas Islands to Galapagos

Perlas Islands

Back to Top
YBAA Association of Yacht Sales Professionalsfonts