Amongst a lifetime of memories that I have stored on brain shelves like an old LP record or music tape collection, there are some that you take down every so often and revisit.

One of those is the magical, few times in a lifetime experience of going through the Panama Canal.

It is one of those slow-moving kaleidoscope events in life that haunt you, outwardly so simple yet you are sure you missed a lot... if you have not received your "Order of the Ditch" certificate, or anchored off the entry ends of the canal to watch the activity, way down below at the bottom is a 7 minute time-lapse tour of the 12+ hour experience... for you to make.

Nowadays everything from Aircraft Carriers to Mega-Container ships transit the canal (along with "little guys" like So...fea), whether you go in at the Balboa side or Colon, the fun is the same.

I recently heard there are many new rules and equipment needs for transiting, and that much has changed since I was last through in 1988, but,  here are the costs today if we were to take the 40 foot So...fea through:

  • Transit toll: $1,600 (same all boats up to 50’) 
  • Inspection by an ACP Admeasurer: $54 (fixed)
  • Security charge: $130 (fixed)
  • Panama cruising permit: $197 (fixed)
  • Panama visas: we paid $315 ($105/adult)
  • Other formalities: $55
  • Agent fees: $350 SEL  Maduro
  • Line handlers: four required in addition to the skipper/helmsperson. use locals...$400
  • Lines/fenders: Rented 125 foot tow lines, and large Panama fenders  $75
  • Bank commission for ACP payments handling: $60
  • Water taxi fee for lines/fender pickups: $12
                                                     Total cost to transit the canal: $3,248
Plus, there are other expenses, like passport, moorage, stores, insurance, some pet problems, and shots, medical certificates, customs, and fuel. $300+, all in all it is a $4,000 dollar bill blown !
So, these memories you are putting up onto the brain shelf had better be good-remembered-and vivid, there are sunken cities, and gorgeous birds, at over $325 an hour ... take advantage of the view.  There is an exhaustion period at each end, so plan on making it a 4 day trip, 1 1/2 days  to prepare, and 1 1/2 days to recuperate.  the night life, music,  people and alcohol make it all painless.