We have heard many stories of cruisers and their sailing adventures. We follow the blogs and vlogs of several cruisers and love to hear about their adventures. One thing we have noticed is that when they go through the Panama Canal, they hire crew. So we wanted to find out why.
The canal is 77km long and connects the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and has been in operation for over 100 years. Most cruisers bring on an Agent to help them transition through the canal. These agents not only help you get your boat through severalf locks that lift and lower your boat due to changes in sea level but they also handle permits, paperwork, scheduling and inspections for the journey. There is an approval process and once you are approved it is about a two week wait until you are scheduled for the transit, or a few days if you use an agent.
If you are going west bound you will likely go through the Gatun Locks and then anchor for the night. Strict rules prohibit you from going on land. At 6:00am another pilot will come on-baord and stay with you until you reach the Pacific.The entire process usually takes about 30 hours. The reason that every vessel requires an Advisor/Pilot is to ensure that each boat is correctly secured along the Canal wall with ropes. Without the ropes the boat might move while the water swells beneath it, causing it to capsize.
One reason the canal is so special is because it is built up higher than the oceans on either side by 25.9m. The reason for this is because the oceans have an eight-inch difference in sea level between them. This why the previously mentioned lock system is in place. In addition the canal itself is fed from a fresh water lake, Lake Gatun, which is also man made.
Every single boat, without exception must go through this process, even ships and cruise liners. With all of the permits and paperwork and the hired help, we have heard of cruisers spending upwards of $7,000. But, its well work the costs to sail around the world.