Swimming in the canal and paying the fee

Well… I can check “swimming in the Panama Canal” off the list. Didn’t even know it was on there. Don’t recommend it. Here’s the story:

colon club nautico

Our challenge: transiting the canal without an agent

So we’re trying to do this on a budget. The least possible amount you can pay is $1875, with $891 coming back after 3 weeks if you don’t hit anything, or cause a big delay.

The problem is, in every guide, noonsite, article, and blog post I could find they reference anchoring outside “Club Nautico” and paying $3ea to dock your dinghy. Easy, right? Wrong. They wouldn’t let us dock there. It’s illegal now. Fan-damn-tastic. So the manager suggests we try the port dock at “street #6”. Nope. Cruise ship dock? Tried. Big fat negative.

There is no where that a private sailboat can dock their dinghy to get to the bank to pay the fee! They make it extremely difficult for cruising sailors to do this on their own. Oh, you can get a slip in the marina, for $40/day with a 3 day minimum. BS.

So in true “Livin La Vida Broka” fashion. We found a beach. Kim dropped me off… with $2000 cash in my pocket. They only take cash. In one of the most dangerous places in Central America.

Luckily I wasn’t alone. There was a brit boat captain that had the same idea, and we went together. It really wasn’t that hard, albeit a bit sketchy walking through a construction area (or maybe it was just a place to dump dirt, I really can’t tell).

Needless to say, we made it there and back, unscathed. Kim spots us waiting and hops in the dink to pick us up… but it dies halfway. Crap. At least the wind was on her back. So… being the gallant captain that I am, I swim back to the boat, through some of the most polluted water I’ve ever seen. With boats everywhere. Big boats. Boats that aren’t looking for some idiot swimming around.

Anyway, it was a good swim, and the waves were bigger than I expected, and I ended up swallowing a bit of the canal (another bucket list item?).

That was only the beginning of the day. We also left our passports at the supermarket… I’ll tell you that story next time. Equally funny and stupid. It’s amazing how good your Spanish gets when you’re desperate. lol.

Side note – I have drone video and pics of the path we took, I’ll make an updated how-to: panama canal. Hopefully it’ll help someone.

This is a crazy adventure.
-James

5 thoughts on “Swimming in the canal and paying the fee

  1. johnjuliano

    Just binge watched all your vids. Good stuff. You have a very good on camera persona and a great narrative style. Delos and Vagabonde are starting to get a bit stale. You have a very fresh approach and possibly good timing. (Do learn from each of them.)

    Glad to see you’re in the lake now. If you come back to Seattle, look us up: CaroBabbo.com

    Liked by 2 people

      1. admin

        Just read your blog. LOVE it! You’re awesome brother! Thanks for the kudos. Glad you like my vlog. Can I send you some stickers?

        Like

  2. Ricardo Nunez C

    Man, your videos and stories are getting better and better, this is frist time I enter your website blog and I like it a lot. Your writing is like for a book…I read something similar and also I went throiugh same kinda of adventure bringing my boat back in the seventies!…a 37 Trimaran…with just mail navigational lessons, couple of friends who knew nothing about boats, me laser experience and surfing…luckily we found a real good friend at MIami (Coconut G) pier who came with us and he saved our asses not killing ourselves…to make it short..my friends went to jail twice in the process to cruising to Panama and crossing the canal…In those days costs about $800 I think and returned around 400…not a scratch in the canal…:)….LOve your writing and videos man and your adventure..also your boat and guten tag friend…my best…Please fix those rudders well and keep them well checked before crossing any bog ocean bro…tcare

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