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Panama Canal - Using an agent

By doina — last modified Jun 26, 2006 09:01 AM

Published: 2006-06-26 09:01:26
Countries: Panama

Planning to transit the canal at the end of January 2006 we opted to use an agent. After a recommendation by a fellow cruiser, we contacted Enrique Plummer several weeks before our transit, giving him the information he required for the paperwork and the dates within which we hoped to transit the canal. We cleared into Panama at Porvenir, San Blas and got a sample of the amount of paperwork involved, so were more than happy to hand over this responsibility.

Within 48 hours of arriving in Colon, the papers were all in order, the boat had been measured, we were issued with our ID number & transit date, whilst the boat next to us waited for their agent to show up. In the meantime we had a crewmember joining us & Enrique made all necessary arrangements to get him safely to us.

We also hired lines &, despite the cost, opted to use one of his line-handlers. Everyone that Enrique recommended offered an excellent service. Alfonso turned out to be invaluable, handling all radio traffic, (a big help as our Spanish isn’t very good), was quick to help with any job required and took all the guesswork out of the transit.

We were unfortunate to have Ernesto Cooper as our advisor for the evening passage through Gatun locks. When we needed our advisor the most, he was chatting on his phone, so it was Alfonso who directed us through the pitch darkness & helped a very tired & hungry crew tie up to the large mooring on the lake, where Mr Cooper departed. Apparently you can request not to have a particular advisor, however they are in short supply so the request may delay your transit.

The next morning a different advisor gently stepped aboard, carrying nothing more than a fully charged radio & a pack of cigarettes. Miguel was charming & helmed for the rest of the transit. On our approach to Miraflores Lock, he radioed ahead to arrange for the web cam www.pancanal.com to be aimed at us during our passage. This really enhanced our canal experience knowing friends & family could watch us and we also have some great pictures of us which they saved a result. We were rafted to a tug then a passenger ferry at each lock. Both were fine & made things a lot easier. At the other side of the Canal, Enrique had arranged a mooring for us at Balboa Yacht Club where Alfonso departed, taking the lines with him, plus a sandwich & a beer or 2 for the bus ride back to Colon.

There is a surcharge levied on any credit card payments, so we used cash (this includes the refundable security deposit). The day after our passage Enrique returned our deposit after deducting his fees. He was happy as he is paid straight away & we were happy as we didn’t have to wait & worry about getting the security deposit back. Once again all paperwork was dealt with swiftly and without any fuss. The charges for the lines & line handler are standard, however Enrique charges less for his services but offers better value for money. He’s a mine of information & couldn’t have been more helpful. He can be contacted on eplummer10@hotmail.com

Vicki

S/V Papillon

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