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Canal crossing

The Panama canal without agent
For the French speaking, have a look at the end of the VAGABOND page.
For the preparation of the canal passage, most use an agent. It has its advantages, they are doing a good job, but it costs a bit more. The Panama canal is expensive, so we decided to do it without an agent and everything went well.
The costs in US$:



Without agent

With agent

Transit (Boat <50 feet)*






Security fee



Buffer (will be refund 2-3 weeks after the passage)



Lines & fender rental



Bank charges

25.- (will be taken away from buffer)


Agent service Fee



Check out fee



Final cost:




* boats 50ft and under 80ft costs 500.- extra
You have also additional costs for your linehandlers, as you need 4 in total. You can rent them through the agent or other professional, they cost about 100-125.-/person. You can also find linehandlers by yourself (Facebook, notice in the marina…). Usually they come free of charge, but it is normal that you pay them the Taxi back. The cost is around 60 (Uber) - 100US$, but they can share one taxi!
You will also need to feed the linehandlers and the canal adviser. As normally cruisers cross the canal over 2 days, the linehandlers sleeps on board one night.

If after your passage, you go in La Playita marina or anchorage, the marina takes 12.- US$ by the pick-up of the lines & fenders. If you rent them to Rick, he'll pay this fee, if you rent them to the agent Erick, it will be at your charge. I heard the marina also charges for the drop-off of linehandlers, but I could not have confirmation of the amount. We anchored in Las Brisas, it's not a nice anchorage, the water is brown, it moves a bit, but everything was free of charge and the view to the city nice.
How to do it without agent:
  1. Organise 1‘875.- in cash, as the ATM in Panama give maximum of 500.-/day and it has no ATM in Shelter Bay. The amount has to be paid in cash, they don’t accept credit card!
  2. Download the procedures for securing a handline transit as well as the handline inspection formular. Fill the form and send it to
  3.  The next day, you’re supposed to receive a confirmation mail. We didn’t. Call them in the morning (Number is on the form) before 8:30am to receive your appointment. If you call too late, they ask you to call next morning, which will only delay your inspection for a day.
  4.  Go to Shelter Bay Marina or anchor in front of them (new flats).
  5.  An inspector will come to measure your boat, check the security and will fill up some forms, giving you a lot of information and papers.
  6.  Prepare the information you need for the bank form you get from the inspector, but don’t fill it! You’ll have to fill it in the bank!
  7.  Take the Shelter Bay Marina bus (or Taxi) to bring you at the City bank (it’s not a really safe place, so don’t go by foot or so). It’s near to the Christobal docks.
  8.  Make your payment and fill your form in the City bank. Remember, they refuse credit cards!
  9.  The same day, you can call the office after 6pm (number on the procedure sheet) and can arrange your canal passage appointment.
  10.  Organise the lines and fenders. We rented them by Rick: +507 64 27 30 44 or +507 65 73 36 13, for 100.-. He brought us car tires (wraped with plastic), which surprised us at the beginning, but was really good, as they are large. He also came in the Las Brisas mooring to pick them up after the passage.
  11. It has also Taxi drivers around the marina which are renting them. I think that the shop in the marina also rent them.
  12.  Organise the linehandlers (you need to be 4 adults linehandlers + 1 skipper to go through the canal). It has a pinwall at the marina, Facebook (Panama cruisers group) functioned better for can also help. If you don’t find them or prefer profesionnal ones, check with Rick, it’s also part of his business.
Do you prefer an agent ?
If you prefer not having to pay a buffer and go to the City bank, we can recommend you the agent that several friends of us used. All of them was well served and happy with him.
Erick Galvez 
Centenario & Co. S.A. 
Mobile +507 66 76 13 76 
The lasts preparations
  • Make sure your engine goes well, as you will need it during the whole passage
  •  If you have solar panels, cover them (they throw monkey fists)
  •  If you have wind generator, try to protect it (monkey fists)
  •  Organise the meals (hot and not vegetarian was told from an inspector), and drinks (the advisor don’t drink from tanks or watermaker, he needs closed new bottles).
  •  Organise the beds for you linehandlers
  •  That’s it ! Enjoy the passage ! Don’t forget to have a look at the Webcams, the one in Miraflores has a good view on the lock next to it.  
This information is from February 2019

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