Panama Canal – Colon to Balboa


In 1524 the king of Spain,Charles V ordered the feasibility of a maritime route across Panama and decided it would be too hard to do with pick and shovel.
Panama became part of Colombia when it broke away from Spain in 1821 and the French negotiated the Canal Project and started excavation in 1880 under the direction of Count Ferdinand de Lesseps, the constructor of the Suez Canal.
After 20 years fighting the Jungle, yellow fever, malaria and financial corruption the project was abandoned.
In 1903 Panama became an independent nation and at the same time signed a treaty with the US giving them authority to construct and operate the Canal for 100 years.
The lands along side the Canal where controlled by the US including the ports of Balboa and Colon. The Canal was completed in 1914 and the first ship passed through on the 15th August.
The Canal and infrastructure passed under Panamanian control on 31st December 1999.


The transit of the Canal of Panama for leisure boats is generally done over two days and the process for me was as follow:

Lots of paperwork is done including copies of passport, Boat registration, cruising permit and visa.
The a date is set to measure the boat by the Canal authority to calculate the charges.
Once the boat is measured and the fees paid in cash plus a refundable bond the date of the transit is set. (The bond is refundable provided that you do not cause any delay to their operations)
The Add measurer checks that your boat is fit to cross and that you have 4 persons on board to handle the 60 feet long lines that will hold your boat steady during the rising and lowering of the boat while in the Loch.
Also you need lots of fenders including tires in case you go near the concrete wall.
We started the transit at that Flats which is a departure point in the port of Cristobal in the Atlantic side of Panama.
The Canal Authority provide an adviser that tell you all you should know and expect during the crossing. He also has the time and number of boats that will be together in the loch.
The Gatun Lochs are 3 chambers in line and will raise the boats 26 meters to Lake Gatun.
That night is spent tied to a mooring until a new adviser arrives to take you across the lake and various cuts to the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Lochs that will lower the boats to the Pacific Ocean.


About Paco

I am living my dream of sailing around the world, and to visit and meet as many places and people time will allow me.
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2 Responses to Panama Canal – Colon to Balboa

  1. Justin says:

    Thanks once again for the history lesson. hope all is well and you continue enjoying your adventure.
    Regards. Justin

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