The ACP requires that you have four linehandlers in addition to the Captain

  • It is highly recommended that you join someone else for a transit before taking your own yacht through
  • If you go centre lock you will definitely need four linehandlers. Other configurations may only require two or perhaps none at all, but things can change rapidly and you need four available.
  • There are often people at the yacht clubs who want to experience the Canal before they take their own yacht through
  • The website allows people to apply for the trip, often with no experience
  • An agent will provide line handlers for a fee, perhaps upwards of US$100 each. These people very often have little knowledge of sailboats, knots and physics, and probably only speak Spanish
  • Canal Advisors have told us that linehandlers must be 16 years old, but we are yet to find an official ruling
  • It is better to have someone who understands what is happening, rather than just able to lift heavy things
  • You need to ensure that the linehandlers know how to use cleats and/or winches, rather than try and teach them when things get hectic in the locks
  • During the transit you will need to provide meals, drinks and somewhere to sleep for five people, often involving people sleeping on deck
  • Occasionally an Advisor will suggest lifejackets in the locks but it is dubious whether they would help in this situation. When a big ship enters a lock it pushes the water ahead of it to the end of the lock where it hits the lock gates, submerges, and goes out of the lock under the ship – Don’t fall in!!

You will usually pay transportation costs for the volunteer linehandlers:

  • Taxis to the various marinas at Panama City are cheap and easily available
  • An air-conditioned bus from Albrook Mall in Panama City to Colon is under US$4, and takes approximately 90 minutes
  • A taxi from Colon to Shelter Bay Marina is US$20-$30 and takes approximately 30 minutes. However, at the time of writing, a vehicle ferry is being used to cross the Canal so the wait can be anything up to one hour depending on traffic
  • The taxi between Colon and Shelter Bay can be held up for an hour or more waiting for the ferry
  • A taxi from Colon to the Colon Yacht Club is just a few dollars
  • Shelter Bay Marina has an US$8 shuttle to El Rey supermarket in Colon
  • The tourist train is US$25 and leaves Panama City at 07:15, and returns from Colon at 17:15
Picking up and dropping off linehandlers (Caribbean side):
  • You can anchor off Club Nautico Colon and ferry people with your dinghy
  • If you are at Shelter Bay, you will not have to use your dinghy, but you will pay around $25 for the taxi to or from Colon
  • Currently the use of ferries to cross the Canal can make it difficult to judge the time needed to get to Shelter Bay
  • The Flats are not far off the shore, but the only place to land is at Club Nautico Colon, which is a long dinghy ride around the point
Picking up and dropping off linehandlers (Pacific side):
  • La Playita Marina is likely to ask for a US$50/week landing fee from the yacht, regardless of whether the yacht is stopping
  • This fee includes four coloured wristbands for the crew, which should be worn when using the dinghy dock – extra money is required for more wristbands
  • If you take a mooring at Balboa Yacht Club, the launch service is free
  • Balboa Yacht Club might ask for US$25 to get two people to step ashore or US$12 to take them in their water taxi.
  • Ask the Balboa Yacht Launch to take you to the office where you will probably pay $3 per person
  • Sometimes you can get alongside the fuel quay and the crew can sneak off

We have yet to convince the ACP to take us ashore on their crewboat!

Six people on a small yacht can be cosy

On to ACP Canal Advisors or back to Transit the Canal