Transiting the impressive Panama Canal is a dream of many people, water based or land based. Going from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean via this short cut takes about 12 hours and the cost depends on the length of the vessel and the urgency to go through. All boat things considered it is not that expensive for a 40’ sailboat to do the transit. If you don’t use an agent, the fee is well under $1000. The best news about transiting the Canal is that anybody can do it. You don’t need to go on your own boat. As a matter of fact, it is way less stressful if you don’t.
The monkey fist is attached and returned ashore © Liesbet Collaert
All year long, pleasure craft (and massive cargo ships) transit the Panama Canal. March is the busiest period for cruising boats to go “west”, because it coincides with the best period to cross the Pacific Ocean and explore the many idyllic islands on the way to New Zealand or Southeast Asia. Every boat going through is required to have four line handlers, in addition to the captain. Most crew on sailboats consist of two people, so owners of sailboats are constantly looking for extra hands, and notices are found on bulletin boards of marinas, hostels, supermarkets, restaurants and bars near the Canal facilities on both sides. If you would like to be a line handler, it is not hard to make it happen, especially if you are already traveling in Panama.