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
  • 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 sometimes only speak Spanish
  • Line handlers must be older than 16 years old and should have enough strength and skill to make knots and control lines during times of turbulence
  • 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 and drinks for six or more people
  • For an overnight you will need somewhere to sleep for five people (this may involve 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.
  • A taxi from Colon to the Club Nautico Colon (Yacht Club) is just a few dollars
  • Shelter Bay Marina has a shuttle to El Rey supermarket in Colon, but it varies as to whether they allow people who are not staying in the marina, and they might charge for the service

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
  • If you are anchored at The Flats you can take your dinghy from Shelter Bay

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