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:
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.